An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part I)

A few days ago, Annie "Amba" Gottlieb, prompted by comments on a post she wrote about a gay Christian marriage ceremony, issued a challenge to me via email. I accepted and ended up having in interesting exchange with her about gay Christians and homosexuality in general. At her suggestion, we've decided to make our conversation public in its entirety (The only bits that have been cut out were irrelevant to the topic at hand.). I couldn't have written a better introduction than hers, so here are some highlights.

"[T]he stark irreconcilability of the two world views contending, is not new….What is new – and an emergent characteristic of the blogosphere at its best — is that, beginning in the Comments, passionate, open disagreement does not descend into a flame war. We can reject and even despise each other’s world views, yet we’re still talking, with respect – even with friendship. And this is a principle we hold almost as strongly as our convictions about religion, homosexuality, and marriage."

Without further ado, let the conversation begin. :)


Before we turn one another away, do we have the faith and fortitude to see more deeply?

Funky my friend — do you have the faith and fortitude to read [this blog post] all the way through?

I'm curious to know why you believe either of those virtues is necessary for reading that piece. I'd think patience would be a more likely virtue.

I wouldn't expect it to persuade you, but I wonder if you'll even hear it out.

Do I really seem to be that obstinate and arrogant that I'd be unwilling to hear a reasonable argument out? One my oft-stated goals of blogging is to get people to stop talking past each other and really listen to what each other has to say. I don't like echo chambers and I long for constructive dialog. If the way I present my beliefs gives the impression that I am not open to fruitful discussion, then I am failing in living up to my blogging ethos as well as in my duties as a Christian.

Anyhow, no the piece did not persuade me. It was beautifully and eloquently written. It's also very nearly orthodox. It is only the matter of gay love that stands outside orthodox Christianity.

I found the piece pleasant to read, due to its skillful articulation, but ultimately anticlimactic. Much effort is made to summarize orthodox Christianity and briefly point out errors in liberal theology. However, the same care and attention were not put into the defense of gay love. I applaud the author's preference for celibacy or monogamy, but he made no effort to explain why the latter is as valid an option as the former. In fact, no argument was presented whatsoever to support the notion that homosexual activity should be tolerated within Christianity.

I am not persuaded because the author made no attempt at persuasion. The closest he gets is a bit of a pity party at the end in which the woes of gay Christians and their families are briefly mentioned. I have not advocated, nor would I ever advocate, inhumane treatment of gays. I agree with the author that homosexuality is a pastorally sensitive issue. I'll even go farther and say that more priests should teach their flocks that gays should be loved as any sinner should be loved. Nevertheless, there are countless examples of Christ loving the sinner but hating the sin, and homosexual activity is a sin. Indeed it is a grave sin. I do not believe anyone's soul is done any good by pretending it's not.

If the author has written or eventually writes a defense of gay love in the Christian context, let me know.

I don't know what kind of response you were aiming for, so I hope I responded appropriately.

Pax Christi,
Eric

P.S. Do you really believe we are in danger of turning each other away?

Comments 14

  1. Rob wrote:

    FD,

    How many gays and lesbians do you actually know? That began the change in my view on homosexuality, much as I believe getting to know Gentiles changed Paul’s view on them.

    Do you know any Christian gays and lesbians? I do. I see Jesus Christ being glorified, His death and resurrection being preached, the poor fed, the sick ministered to, the imprisoned visited.

    I can see no difference in the Holy Spirit’s working in their lives and in the best Christians I know. I see my own faith as falling short.

    I am forced to reach one of two possible conclusions: Either God has poured His Spirit out on these people, or there is no God. There is no third alternative.

    Given the weridness I’ve experienced in my own life, I really don’t see the second option as a logical possibility, either.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 12:18 pm
  2. Funky Dung wrote:

    “How many gays and lesbians do you actually know?”

    None.

    “Do you know any Christian gays and lesbians? I do. I see Jesus Christ being glorified, His death and resurrection being preached, the poor fed, the sick ministered to, the imprisoned visited.”

    That comes as no surprise to me because God has a habit of using broken tools to accomplish things. I’m one of them. That I am still (I pray) a useful part of the Body of Christ does not excuse my sins. I can seek forgiveness, though, if I recognize my sins for what they are.

    I am thrilled that the good news is being spread by active homosexuals, but doing so does not make their lifestyle any less sinful.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 12:38 pm
  3. Funky Dung wrote:

    BTW, I don’t know any Gnostics or Arians, either, but I don’t think that damages my credibility when I say they’re wrong.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 1:09 pm
  4. John wrote:

    Well, I think that Jon Stewart put it very eloquently when he summarized the whole conflict over homesexuality by saying, “It’s a matter whether you view homosexuality as part of the human condition, or as some bizarre fetish.”

    I think that assessment is very true when thinking about legal issues, and has some theological relevence.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 2:57 pm
  5. Funky Dung wrote:

    Do they have to be mutually exclusive? Does belief in the former require acceptance?

    There are countless congenital defects and diseases that are, by virtue of affecting humans, part of the human condition. That doesn’t make them desirable. Some psychological disorders lead to socially disruptive behavior. The sufferer, as such, may have limited culpability for his/her actions, but that does not mean the disruptive actions should be generally accepted by society.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 3:03 pm
  6. John wrote:

    Well, the former doesn’t require acceptance, but if you agree that it is a natural part of the human condition, and then reject it, you create a difficult situation for yourself.
    When you finally meet a homosexual, are you prepared to look him/her in the eye and say, “nothing against you personally, but your very existence is an abomination before God”?

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 3:14 pm
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    Non sequitur.

    Let’s pick a concrete example: kleptomania. Stealing is socially disruptive and generally regarded as immoral. A kleptomaniac’s culpability for acts of theft is diminished by his condition. I would have no trouble telling someone that stealing is sinful, I’d try to take an appropriately sensitive approach to a kleptomaniac, though. That appraoch need not include societal acceptance of theft.

    The very existence of a homosexual is not an abomination before God. His actions may be, though. Also, it is very unlikely that I would tell a homosexual that his/hers actions are sinful unless that person identified him/herself as Jewish or Christian and/or stated that active homosexuality is not sinful according to Judeo-Christian beliefs.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 3:24 pm
  8. Tom Strong wrote:

    John,

    You’re twisting Funky’s arguments up. He’s been very clear that he doesn’t see homosexuals as any worse than other sinners (i.e., other human beings). So he’s not about to call anybody an abomination.

    I disagree with him entirely on this topic (see ambivablog), but he’s at least arguing with civility and reason. That’s worthy of respect.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 3:24 pm
  9. Tom Smith wrote:

    “How many gays and lesbians do you actually know?”

    This seems to be the primary “argument” of pro-gay marriage Christians. “You’re against homosexual acts? Well, you just don’t know any gay people!” This is more than a little demeaning: in asking whether or not one’s opponent knows personally any homosexuals, one implies that the opinion of the opponent would be different if he did. Which is a roundabout means of saying that the anti-gay marriage debator is a prejudiced homophobe.

    I am a Christian, and I know and am related to several homosexuals. My godfather is a gay former Catholic, and my sister’s godmother is a lesbian former Catholic living with another woman and three kids. One of my closest friends lives with strong homosexual attractions.

    But none of that matters. It’s utterly a non sequitur. My relationship with practicing homosexuals has absolutely no bearing on the truth value of my opinions on the matter. I firmly believe that homosexual acts are unethical, despite the stern protestations of my gay friends and family — I don’t love them any less for it. But that doesn’t mean that I need to approve of their actions.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 3:42 pm
  10. Prefer not to say wrote:

    Pro-gay marriage Christians seem to imply that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is an untenable position. I guess they’ve never had experiences with family members whose actions they disagreed with…

    My brother is a convicted criminal. I certainly don’t approve of his actions, and I don’t believe they’re right. But I love him, and I always will — he is my brother.

    Posted 27 Jun 2006 at 9:30 pm
  11. edey wrote:

    i also know actively practicing gays. that doesn’t change the sinfulness of their actions, though. two gay men or lesbians could love each other in a self-sacrificing way. however, if they truly love each other, they will want what is best for the other which means getting to Heaven. like straight people who aren’t married, gay people are called to avoid certain behaviors. if you truly care about someone (gay or straight) with self sacrificing love, you will have no problem with avoiding behaviors that will lead them away from God. it is unloving to do otherwise. monogomous gay relationships that are sexual are still sinful. if you’re engaging in homosexual actions, that is a sin. it’s not less sinful if it’s monogomous.

    being against gay actions doesn’t mean you are against gay people. on the contrary, you are rooting them on in their race toward Heaven.

    Posted 28 Jun 2006 at 12:57 am
  12. Funky Dung wrote:

    Thank you, all, for commenting. Please consider commenting on the posts at Ambivablog. There are different related conversations going on over there that could benefit from your participation.

    Posted 29 Jun 2006 at 9:45 am
  13. American Phoenix wrote:

    I’ve known several active homosexuals. One of them was my cousin. Another was a college classmate. Both are dead of AIDS. I loved my cousin and the other was my friend. I miss them both. But they are both dead of a disease that they contracted while practicing homosexual behavior. Had they not been doing this, had they remained celibate outside of marriage, there’s a good possibility both would still be alive. Loving them doesn’t prevent me from seeing how they both destroyed their lives when they were both still in their 30s and early 40s.

    Another is a distant cousin. She is a lesbian who is raising a boy with another lesbian. My primary concern is this little boy, who will grow up never knowing what it is to have a father or what it is to see a normal sexual relationship between two parents of the opposite sex. Although she is my cousin and I care for her very much, I don’t think that what she is doing to this child is right. Their behavior is going to have detrimental effects on this child.]

    The argument seems to be that if one only knew homosexuals, then one would change one’s religious convictions out of suddenly being “enlightened”. For me, this has not been the case. I’ve known several homosexuals and it only confirms for me that what the Catholic Church teaches is correct. This teaching may not be popular, but neither was Jesus in his day.

    Posted 30 Jun 2006 at 3:29 pm
  14. Bryan Davis wrote:

    Funky – you’re right on in your exegesis of the post Amba sent you. There was no attempt at persuasion, and it’s only use as a persuasive point would be to familiarize yourself with the plight of homosexuals who are also Christians. That’s nice as anecdotal evidence, but not really any kind of persuasion.

    Posted 30 Jun 2006 at 6:01 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 12

  1. From Imago Dei on 14 Jul 2006 at 3:43 pm

    , I came across the following series of posts. I have to say I agree with Funky Dung, but I appreciate how both sides were able to discuss their differences of opinion without calling names or getting angry. The Post that started it all An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part I) Response to Part I An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part II) Response to Part II An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part III) Response to Part III An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part IV) Both sides are articulate and intelligent. I encourage

  2. From wheat think on 29 Jun 2006 at 4:23 pm

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