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Three Quotes on Homosexuality & the Church

I’m not going to offer any commentary on these quotations, I only want them to stimulate thought.  For those who are interested in my own take on this issue, my theses on sexual identity and Christian ethics should give you a good idea.

Eugene Rogers:

The difference between members of a same-sex couple is not “merely psychological,” but also an embodied difference, if only because sexual response is nothing if not something done bodily. Difference cannot be reduced to male-female complementarity, because that would leave Jesus a deficient human being. Jesus did not need a female other half to be fully human. (This point raises the issue of what singleness is for, but that’s a question for another day.)

If this account is correct, then it turns out that conservatives wish to deprive same-sex couples not so much of satisfaction as of sanctification. But that is contradictory, because so far as I know no conservative has ever seriously argued that same-sex couples need sanctification any less than cross-sex couples do. It is at least contradictory to attempt in the name of holiness to deprive people of the means of their own sanctification,

Conservatives often claim it’s dangerous to practice homosexuality, because it might be a sin. I want to propose that the danger runs both ways. It is more than contradictory, it may even be resisting the Spirit, to attempt to deprive same-sex couples of the discipline of marriage and not to celebrate same-sex weddings. I don’t mean this kind of rhetoric to insult others or forestall discussion. I just mean that the danger of refusing to celebrate love is real.

 Robert Gagnon:

The call of the gospel will make different demands on different persons because every individual carries his or her own set of biological or social baggage and has a unique role in God’s overall redemptive plan. Was it Jesus’ “bad luck” to be the Messiah and to have imposed on him the “added burden” of dying on the cross for the sins of the world? Paul had the “bad luck” of being called to a life of hardship that few, if any, followers of Jesus have had to face. Was it fair of God to impose on Paul the “added burden” of denying, on a daily basis, his basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and protection from severe social abuse and violence, all for the cause of the gospel? Some persons have the “bad luck” of turning out to be exclusive pedophiles, or of having seemingly uncontrollable desires for multiple sex partners, or of growing up without the kind of stable family environment that nurtures a capacity for lifelong sexual commitment, or of finding sexual stimulation only in coercive sexual activity, or of having a strong disposition for alcoholism, or of being afflicted with a strong sense of insecurity and distrust that makes faith in Christ difficult, or of being far more susceptible to feelings of covetousness than most. On and on we could go. It is wrong to be callous to the particular sufferings that people experience as they “work at their own salvation with fear and trembling” amidst God’s gracious work in them (Phil 2:12-13). But it is equally wrong to give the impression that one person’s particular “bad luck”… justifies a circumvention of the gospel’s call or to convey that a particular constellation of intense desires constitutes “who you are” and establishes an inviolable, God-given “destiny.” A person who does not experience homoerotic desires may be beset by other types of sinful impulses that impose even greater burdens on an obedient Christian life. Yet no one gets an exemption as regards death to self, whatever the particularities of one’s individual life experiences.

     The hope of the gospel message is that our identity is not found in “who we are” in the flesh but rather in who God is shaping us to be in the Spirit of Christ. Any other message, including a message of moral-biological determinism, is a false gospel.

Tim Otto:

Both sides of the church find themselves sick of the other side’s lies. The affirming church looks at the lies of the traditionalist church with its modernist “fix- it” techniques of orientation change, marrying the opposite sex, or the claim that homosexuals have a special “superpower” called “the gift,” and says, “If you’ve got to tell so many lies, how can you claim to have good news? You must have forsaken the gospel.” And the traditionalist church looks at the affirming church and says, “Gosh, if you’re preaching sex outside of marriage what you are preaching is just Enlightenment liberalism dressed in drag. You must have given up on scripture.”

… As both sides try to articulate an ethic that “everyone” can do, we end up telling lies and betraying the gospel. As both sides repent, and stop telling lies, then I suspect that the stakes won’t seem so high, and that may make it more possible to actually talk. But just as the Christian criteria for ethics is not that it be possible for everyone, a Christian ethic must be possible for someone, in some specific place. …So the question becomes, if you argue that a homosexual ought to be celibate, is that miracle more possible in your congregation than elsewhere? Or, if you argue for homosexual marriage, is that miracle more possible in your congregation than elsewhere?

6 Comments

  1. scott wrote:

    Hi Halden,

    Scott from the EP here. Thanks for posting these quotes. I treasure Rogers’ book but hadn’t heard the other two before and it’s interesting to think about what they share in common.

    I’ve just added a link to your blog on mine.
    Peace,
    Scott

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 4:03 am | Permalink
  2. goobynelly wrote:

    Hi Halden,
    Thanks for these quotes. I’m a little confused by Otto’s reasoning: how exactly are we supposed to know that a “miracle” is possible for someone? Is that really any easier than finding out whether it’s possible for everyone? And perhaps he’s just being rhetorical w/ “miracle,” but aren’t miracles by nature impossible? How then do we have grounds to speculate on their possibilities?
    ~Chris

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 6:48 am | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Chris, I don’t think Tim is using “miracle” in a technical way. What he’s asking is are the churches in question making a social space available that would allow that event to occur? If my church does not believe in same-sex unions, is that church able to provide a social and relational context in which a gay person, being asked to live a celibate life would not only be able to do that, but would thrive and experience the fullness of life in God?

    I think that’s the perfect question for churches to be asking. And its one that my own church has had to ask in very concrete situations with our members and the results of walking through that have been incredibly redemptive.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  4. Jon Trott wrote:

    I am a member of Jesus People USA, and find myself quite traditionalist leaning on some of this (Gagnon, for instance, has done an excellent book on this topic which largely resonates with what we’ve seen among our own congregation). But in some of the stuff on NARTH’s website, for instance, I find myself highly upset by the apparent importation of anti-woman and right wing rhetoric via pages allegedly promoting neutral scientific data on gender differences. In summation, we at JPUSA do try very hard to “make space” (i.e., practice biblical hospitality) toward same-sex strugglers. We find Stan Grenz’s position which urges “welcoming but not affirming” gays a good place to start. But if a Christian community/congregation is not ready to deal with, for instance, a gay person dealing with HIV/AIDS, I wonder just what legitimacy they have to speak into this issue at all. We ourselves sometimes fail, as one might imagine (!!) in practicing hospitality. Yet as Christine Pohl’s “Making Space” urges us to do, we must all struggle with not only making space, but also with setting borders and standards which safeguard the health (theological, practical, and experiental) of not only those we serve, but also those within the community itself. Very hard, very delicate, and something requiring supernatural help!

    Jon Trott
    Jesus People USA Covenant Church
    Chicago

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    I hold a pretty similar view, Jon.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 9:27 am | Permalink
  6. goobynelly wrote:

    Thanks for clearing that up for me. I’m devoting this summer to learning more about this particular issue, and I agree with Tim and you that such a space must exist.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

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