“[P]erhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty ‘Amen’ to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor...
“If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.”
Fair enough, Kevin. After the jump I will take you at your word that you are sincere in your desire to understand why we believe what we believe.
For the rest of you, here are the Beatles going to work...
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
From the moment I realized that sexual orientation was either innate in most human beings from birth; or if acquired, acquired at such a deep emotional and psychological level as to not be an act of free will on the person who has it. It is not something that can be “cured” or even needs to be cured or changed, even if such a thing were possible. (I am aware there are those who claim reparative therapy does work but they are in the minority and in the cases of the few who do claim to have changed their sexual orientation, I humbly submit we don’t know if there’s another shoe left to drop in their lives. Evidence from other people who claimed to have been “cured” would suggest there is.)
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
First and foremost, the Golden Rule. The Two Great Commandments, which Jesus quoted directly from Rabbi Hillel, who was no slouch in things Talmudic. John 3:16-17. Jesus' teachings on eunuchs, who had been banned from communion with God under Jewish law, and his teaching that some people are indeed born that way. The woman at the well, who was married and divorced multiple times and currently living out of wedlock with a man, and yet Jesus without judging her used her exactly the way she was to spread his gospel, nor did he demand changes in her status afterwards. Peter’s vision in which God laid aside Moses’ holiness taboos.
More importantly, like Sherlock Holmes’ observation on how significant it was that the dog didn’t bark in the middle of the night, the lack of any mention of same sex relations from either God when He was offering the entire nation of Israel the covenant from Mt. Sinai, or from Jesus during his entire ministry.
Couple that with the fact that the Torah documents two cases of Moses adding to or changing God’s words to him, first by adding a sexual prohibition that God never mentioned, then contrary to God’s instructions by taking credit for bringing the water from the rock (I would even go so far as to say any reference to Moses being the meekest of men is either him dictating how the text will read, having a faithful hagiographer writing it, or an incredibly snarky comment re how he actually behaved viz beating an overseer to death, beating up rude shepherds, and while on the road throwing hissy fits that resulted in piles of corpses).
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
Well, by definition half of the marriage between Christ and the church is a same sex marriage…either that or we who were born male have become transgender.
Or maybe it’s just a simile or a metaphor and not something that is literally factually true.
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
He was throwing a Bible quote back at the Pharisees who sought to trap him in a contradiction.
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
You refer to Matthew 5: 31-32, the only time Jesus uses this term, IIRC. It is translated by Monce and others as “sexual immorality” and by the KJV as “fornication”.
However, languages and cultures shift over time, and it is difficult to grasp the precise meaning that was to be conveyed. For example, today “fornication” refers to any sexual act between or among two or more people involving somebody’s genitalia; in and of the sense it carries no moral meaning insofar as by current definition married people in a loving relationship fornicate all the time.
“Adultery” is a modern term verse 32 is most commonly understood to be referring to, but both today and even then “adultery” does not mean exclusively a discrete physical act: Two people who carry on a long distance love affair via e-mail behind their spouses’ backs would be considered to be adulterous even if they have never had physical contact with one another.
It is the betrayal of the marital relationship that is the problem, not the physical act. That’s why Jesus taught it was just as bad to desire a woman when either party was married as to actually commit adultery.
It should also be noted that Jesus spoke of marriage in the terms that it was understood in Judea at that time. His references to marriage and divorce reflect a culture that saw women as commodities to be bought or traded for; marriage was the culmination of negotiations between families, not two people falling in love and marrying (the stories of Jacob and Rachel or Ruth and Boaz, even though they feature couples in love at the core, still require family negotiations before the unions can be consummated).
It was good that such arranged marriages would result in love and lifelong companionship, but that’s not how traditional Old Testament marriages started typically. Christ’s teachings on this matter are specifically aimed at men who decide to “trade up” and acquire a hotter / younger trophy wife at the expense of the security and status of their previous wife. In Matthew Jesus teaches that a wife should not be divorced unless she had committed some betrayal of her husband (interestingly enough, Mark and Luke have him banning divorce flat out full stop Period no exceptions).
If there is neither male nor female in Christ, then what’s sauce for the goose is gravy for the gander, and men are as accountable as women for betraying their spouses.
We today accept The 4 As (abandonment / abuse / addiction / adultery) as a betrayal of one’s spouse, but Jesus -- even in Matthew -- would rather see love and forgiveness prevail than retribution.
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
The famous “gotcha” verses are a set up to the punchline in Romans 2:1. Paul starts by talking about how the unrighteous first turned from following the moral precepts of the one true God (which Paul likens to an innate understanding of the moral universe) to worshipping animals and idols, and that worship of idols then led them to expressing their passions not in loving fully consensual relationships, but first as expressions of worship in pagan congregations and then as a presumption of correct social behavior based on those pagan beliefs.
But then Paul lowers the boom on the Christians in Rome with this!: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”
9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?
1 Corinthians 6:9 follows an exhortation against believers suing one another in civil courts; if there’s a problem among them it should be settled internally by brothers and sisters in the faith, not outsiders to it. Paul then segues into how these civil cases were a result of believers defrauding other believers.
From there Paul gives us a laundry list in verse 9 that ties back into the idea of lawsuits, specifically the unrighteous (i.e., those who defraud their brothers and sisters) will not enter into the Kingdom of God because they are following pagan, not Christian morality -- and then he lists other things pagans do as well.
But in verse 11 he lets former pagans know that they are sanctified by Jesus and the Holy Spirit when they turned away from those things.
And in verse 12 he adds “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
That verse, and the rest of the chapter, indicate that it is not the individual discrete actions that are the problem but the motivation behind them. And believers who claim to be pious but satisfy emotional needs through prostitution and other forms of casual sexual relationships (what we call hook-ups today) are undermining their relationship with God.
So in chapter 7 verses 1 to 16 he discuses Christian sexual ethics, and while he (like Jesus) saw that the highest devotion to God would cause a desire for romantic / sexual love to pass away, for those who could not reach such levels it would be better to marry and have relations with a spouse who enjoyed them as well.
As for Revelation 21:8, it describes the activities of those who resist God’s call: They are already self-condemned by their refusal to respond to an invitation to live a loving and just and fulfilling life, followed by engaging in a variety of activities that seek to fill that void. (And you’ll notice John includes whoremongers -- i.e., pimps and johns -- but not prostitutes themselves, perhaps because in the world of the first century many women were forced into such lives and did not choose so willingly.)
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
Any sexual act conducted outside of a loving committed fully consensual relationship.
A master or mistress who forced their attentions on a slave of either gender was raping them because the slave was incapable of refusing. Rape is an immoral act.
Those who engage in sexual relations in the hopes of gaining some reward -- financial in this world, spiritual in the next (i.e., pagan temple prostitution). That’s coveting, and coveting is an immoral act.
A person who submits to another’s sexual gratification to save a third party (say a mother submitting to an invading soldier to spare her child from being raped) is not committing an immoral act.
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
Seeing the long history of the church’s gleeful use of violence against those who defy them in any shape / fashion / form, I’d say the small “c” church (as opposed to the Church as in the body of all believers) needs to remove a sequoia size log from its eye before peeking into other people’s bedrooms.
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
Every person approaches God through the lens of their understanding. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13: 9 – 12 “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
Both the Old and New Testaments were used to justify slavery and racism back in the day, but we know that was wrong now.
Same-same re opposition to LGBT rights.
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
They were motivated by their desire to get elected.
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
Do you think children do best when they feel safe and secure and loved, when they are tended and protected by people who truly care for them and want only the best for them? Because there are some awfully shitty biological parents and some truly wonder single parents and same sex parents raising kids.
Seriously, this is one really colossally insulting question. I know a gay single dad and a same sex couple who did wonderful jobs raising kids who had been abused by their biological parents. Three of my own grandchildren came from horrible biological parents and entered our lives through adoption by my daughter and son-in-law. How #%@&ing dare you suggest that all moms and dads are equal and that no other familial groupings are worthy?!?!?
(okay…calm…calm…deep breaths…he wasn’t attacking the grandkids…calm...calm…calm)
Sorry, I get a little testy on this matter (i.e., take it real personally).
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
With a loving and caring mom and dad? I sure hope so -- but even atheists can be wonderful parents and raise great kids. Muslims and Buddhists and Jains and Sikhs and Hindus do, too.
The state can help by granting full marriage and adoption rights to same sex couples -- oh, wait, THEY ALREADY DO!
The state needs to help those who seek to adopt children who need a safe loving home more than they need to make sure at risk children are co-habiting with their egg and sperm donors.
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
That’s a simplistic question.
Earlier this year I paid one last visit to a friend dying from cancer.
He was heavily sedated; I’m not at all certain he was even aware we were there.
But his wife was by his side, and though she was wracked with anguish she was determined to be as uplifting as possible for her husband even as he lay dying.
She tended to him and talked cheerfully to him and made sure his breathing tube was clear and did everything she could to look after him as he slowly slipped away.
She loved him, and if there is one joy any of us could take away from his passing, it’s that he went with his good and loving mate by his side, staying with him and supporting him as best she could under the most adverse conditions.
Do you think God smiles on their relationship while condemning another of equal strength and integrity and compassion just because it’s between two members of the same gender?
18. How would you define marriage?
In the United States and Europe in the beginning of the 21st century, a loving emotional partnership between two fully informed consenting people with the intent to remain so married for the rest of their natural lives.
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
You mean like Abram and his half-sister Sara?
Seriously, I think there are certain relationships where one party is at an emotional disadvantage to the point where they may not be able to determine if they are capable of making a fully informed opinion regarding consensual relations.
We prosecute doctors who have relationships with patients, pastors who have relationships with congregants, military leaders who have relationships with subordinates, lawyers who have relationships with clients, etc., etc., and of course, etc.
Certain close relationships -- parent and child, aunt/uncle and niece/nephew, siblings -- fall in that area: The familial emotional relationship is so close that at least one or both partners is incapable of giving truly independent fully informed consent.
For that reason -- same as doctors and lawyers and military chiefs – we should argue on the side of caution and discourage such marriages.
But where to draw the line? We allow first cousins to marry in some states.
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
Another simplistic question. We have triads and polyamorous relationships going on right now; some of them are quite happy and stable, so who are we to interfere?
But I acknowledge there is a whole host of serious legal questions regarding such relationships that need to be addressed before a simple yea / nay answer can be given.
Who decides who gets to join the marriage? Who decides how such a marriage can be dissolved; i.e., if Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice are all married, but Bob wants to divorce Carol is she still married to Ted while Alice remains married to both Bob and Ted?
Tell me what the legal parameters would be and I’ll give you a more definite answer. Right now, today, I would recommend against entering into such a relationship.
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
#1 with a bullet: Lack of fully informed consent among all the parties.
By “fully informed” I mean everyone knows what potential pluses and minuses there are to entering into such a relationship (i.e., does someone have an STD or children from a previous relationship or other prior obligations or once served time for shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die; those are all important things to know and would affect other parties’ choices).
By “consent” I mean a person who, being fully informed, has the capacity to agree to enter a relationship with one or more other persons. We presume children lack that capacity until a certain age, we presume a mentally incapacitated person -- be such incapacity temporary or permanent -- is incapable of consent.
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
All persons 18 and over should be considered old enough to obtain a marriage license on their own.
In some cases a 16 or 17 year old may be allowed to get married if they have their parent/s permission.
(I recall hearing of a case in which a younger teenage girl with only weeks to live was allowed by a judicial waiver to marry her boyfriend; I’d call that comfort to the dying and say it was okay, but those sort of cases are few and far between.)
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
24. If not, why not?
See above re fully informed consent.
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
As long as they do so in the privacy of their own home or place of worship, sure. Not if they are doing business with the public.
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
Your question is unclear. I’ve stood up for lots of people who were being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. Why, until last week there were millions of people who believed that there was nothing spiritually / morally / religiously wrong with marrying a person of the same sex, and yet they were being denied the right to do so -- imagine that!
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
I am against shaming people who are not harming others. For example, I don’t think Bristol Palin should be shamed for being an unwed mother two times in a row. I do think she should be shamed for being a hypocrite about it and causing real pain and emotional suffering to others because of it.
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
Well, first off, as of last week there no longer are any “gay marriages”, just plain old vanilla marriages.
And the steps I would take now are the steps I would take then: Urge people to think before they commit to a relationship, weigh all the factors, don’t be quick to bail if things get rocky (but also be willing to walk away if the situation becomes dangerous), always give more to your spouse than you take in return, etc.
Just common sense stuff.
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
If they are members of a church or denomination that sets certain rules of conduct for membership, yes.
But they shouldn’t be singled out: Straight couples need to be under the same discipline.
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
Are you saying it’s not a sin for straights to do so? Man, you must have one swingin’ church! Brings a whole new meaning to “after service potluck”.
Seriously, I think fully informed consent includes knowing what both partners see as boundaries in the relationship.
That may not be moral but it is ethical, if you catch my drift.
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
How are you defining “prophetically”? “If you do that crap, it’s gonna whip around and bite you on the ass”?
Whenever possible, reconciliation rather than divorce, but that means true forgiveness and repentance for any wrongs. If one is abandoned by a spouse, if one is abused, if the spouse is too involved in their addiction to recognize the harm they are doing, if the spouse unilaterally betrays one, then I’d say divorce is clearly an option.
Fornication means sexual relations. Period. Full stop. I am not opposed to sexual relations among fully informed consenting adults (for example, people who are married and have six kids).
I am against the commodification of sex (and religion as well, but that’s a different topic). While I think most people would agree that at its core, porn depicts in explicit detail sexual activity between / among / by human beings, I also think the definition is elastic and one person’s Godless perverted porn is another person’s Sears catalog.
(Full disclosure: I once worked as an editor for Penthouse and have seen stuff that would make a Southern Baptist’s head explode. I have also worked with major Christian publishers and based on my personal experience would say Bob Guccione was of a higher moral character than many people involved in Christian publishing. Make of that what you will…though for really sleazy behavior nothing beats the comic book industry.)
As for adultery, I define that as betraying one’s spouse regardless of what physical acts may / may not have been done, and betraying a spouse is never a good idea.
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
We all look after one another, and whenever we can see to it that others have a chance for peace and happiness in their lives so long as it puts no one else at risk.
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
We cannot love God if we do not love our fellow humans beings.
In fact, the only way to love God is to love our fellow human beings.
There’s nothing we can give God except our hearts.
God wants compassion and mercy for all His creation.
Therefor it is more important to show compassion and mercy than to follow empty rituals and cultural taboos.
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
I have come to realize that as far as God is concerned “it ain’t what ya do but the way that ya do it”.
By this I mean if your actions are guided by love, you will refrain from acts that inflict or run the risk of inflicting unjust harm on someone.
If your actions are guided by love, you will seek opportunities to be of help to those who need it.
For this ex-Southern Baptist, that’s a pretty broad leap of faith.
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
It’s all baloney if we don’t love one another.
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
Not my circus Not my monkeys
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
I am more committed to the Church (i.e., the body of all believers in Christ) than ever before.
I am dubious about the worthiness of many local churches and denominations, but won’t stop anyone who finds meaning in them from worshipping there.
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
See above re my answer to question #8.
Finally, in closing, Kevin, I appreciate your sincere attempt to learn more about how other Christians think on these issues, I recognize and applaud your effort to be courteous and respectful, and I also respect your differing viewpoint.
But, frankly, several of these questions are rather presumptuous. “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?”