Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gay Christian Network (GCN) - Side A

In setting up the gay Christian registered student organization (RSO) on the University campus, I first met with Nick, the guy who dreamed up the idea. Through talking he reminded me of GCN, the gay Christian network. Having not gone for a while, I began to peruse and saw that an essay supporting the Side A and an essay supporting the Side B had been posted. In reading through them, I felt like giving each a little comment.

So today are the Side A comments, and tomorrow (or later) will be Side B. As a reminder of (or initiation into) the terminology, "side A" on GCN are people who feel that loving, monogamous, homosexual relationships are good, rather than a sin, in the sight of God.

To read the Side A essay, you can go here.

Justin writes:
The passages that mention those acts (often called "clobber passages," but I don't care for that term) could be interpreted in two ways. They might condemn only those specific acts and situations, or they might condemn all homosexual behaviors for all time, regardless of situation. For instance, when the Bible speaks negatively of "tax collectors," we realize that it's not talking about modern IRS agents. Tax collectors in Jesus' day were frequently corrupt and cheated people out of more money than they owed. So when the Bible talks about "tax collectors," it's not condemning all tax collectors for all time; it's condemning the specific behaviors of the tax collectors at that time.

I appreciated this example; usually I have reached for women or slavery issues, but this is a much more straightforward example that many people will have no qualms to agree to it.

About the argument that "sex is for procreation", he writes:

The Bible never says that sex must always be used for procreation. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that sex is for other purposes as well; it forms a bond between people (1 Cor. 6:16) and is a marital responsibility (1 Cor. 7:3-5). Procreation is only one part of the reason for sex, and many couples have sex on a regular basis without ever conceiving (sometimes by choice; other times not).

I hadn't thought about the Biblical passages which would refute/bring into question this argument. These few verses will work nicely!

On the absence of same-sex marriages in the Bible, he writes:

Many things aren't mentioned in the Bible, either because they weren't part of the culture at that time (e.g. computer porn) or because they weren't especially important issues to the Biblical authors (e.g. masturbation). In cases like these, we use general Biblical principles to address the issue, relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance.

I concur. For instance, I was having a hard time recently thinking about the Biblical pros and cons of genetic engineering ... probably because people writing the Bible didn't even know what a genome was!

About Sodom and Gomorrah:

The only reason people today think of Sodom as "a gay city" is that passage in Genesis 19 where two angels come to warn Lot of the city's impending destruction, and the men of the city respond to these visitors by forming an angry mob and threatening to gang rape them. What most people don't know is that this isn't an isolated incident in Scripture. Judges 19 tells a very similar story about a town mob threatening to gang rape a male visitor in the city of Gibeah, though in that story they end up murdering his concubine instead. Does this mean that in Bible times, the landscape was dotted with "gay cities" everywhere that loved to rape men? Of course not. A threat of gang rape should be interpreted as an act of humiliating violence - a way of saying to a visitor, "You are not welcome here; we're the big dogs."

I am always baffled when I hear people try to use Genesis 19 as an anti-gay argument ... Lot's response to their demand for the visitors is to give them his daughter. Besides being pretty awful for the daughter, you'd think we'd ask "why would offering his daughter help if they're all gay men?"

About culture, the Bible, and the church:

To be perfectly frank, the only reason we're having this debate now about same-sex relationships instead of about women speaking in church is that our culture's standards have changed.

He goes on to state things I agree with. We don't require men to have short hair, women to stay silent in church, women to wear head coverings, among other things stated in the New Testament. And this is not because those were never followed; in fact, many were quoted at those "in the wrong" throughout the 20th century.

About the fact that not all people fall into gender-normative categories:

You see, although they're rare, gender anomalies do exist. Many people have abnormalities that prevent them from being classified as male or female. Some have both sets of genitals; others have deformed genitals; some have bodies that don't match their chromosomes; others have chromosomes that aren't XX or XY; and still others have bodies that don't match their brains. It's a field that gets more and more complex the more you study it. Most of these people find a way of publicly identifying as male or female, but their bodies may in fact be more like the opposite gender, or anywhere in between.

Most of us are just glad not to have to deal with problems like that, so we simply put it out of our minds. But this is a very real problem that affects many real people.

I like how he states that most of us forget about this aspect which might make black and white, sin versus good judgments difficult. But he brings in the fact that these are people, people who have to find a way to make it in the world even when there are those who want to categorize people in a way that they might not fit into.

On how we can have a consistent standard to judge different passages:

The closest I've ever seen to a clear, consistent standard like this from a Traditionalist Christian is a book by William Webb entitled Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals. Mr. Webb realizes this is a problem for the Traditional View, and his book (published in 2001) is an attempt to fix this problem - to give us a clear, consistent standard to explain why the church has changed its mind on slavery and (to some degree) on women but shouldn't change its mind on homosexuality. When someone pointed me to this book recently, I thought, "At last! Someone on their side has recognized this problem and is trying to fix it!" (note: he then goes on to discuss his objections to the book.)

I am so glad he cited this book! This book is really what Jonas and I read through in great detail before coming to our decision. Yes, there were other books, and the Bible, but this one fed my engineer's quest for thorough and meaningful discussion of every issue in how to determine if a passage is cultural or transcultural. Read it!

After launching into and marching through a look at what God really demands from his rules and regulations, we get to this:

The Scriptures could hardly have been clearer in demanding circumcision for all who would worship God. So when the early Christians began to reach Gentiles with the gospel, they naturally expected these Gentiles to do the same thing God had demanded of all the past converts. The issue at stake wasn't whether Gentiles could become Christians; it was whether Gentiles could become Christians without first having to be circumcised.

The Gentiles were in the position many modern-day gay people are in. I doubt they had much theological knowledge or understanding of Scripture to back them up; all they knew was they were trusting this Jesus guy, and they were NOT about to let someone take a knife to them. The pro-circumcision group was probably a lot more pious and a lot better at quoting Scripture passages to back themselves up, and I imagine they made a lot of good arguments about tradition and the need to endure sacrifice and suffering for Christ's sake. Yet somehow, they were wrong.

I hadn't thought about the circumcision arguments for a while. I think the only reason we never think about it today is because it was settled by Paul at the time, so we just assume that he superseded the previous rules. But it's amazing to think that this one man could overturn the rules of God! And yet, that's what we accept on reading the Bible, all because of our notions that Paul got it all right.

On the passage Galations 3:28 (There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ... note that the italicized part is changed from the NIV to match the original Greek):

That's why I think it’s so interesting that Paul wrote this passage as he did. First he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” and the matter of inviting Greeks (i.e. Gentiles) into the Christian community was the first major controversy of the church. Then he says, “neither slave nor free,” and we know that the issue of slavery and the integration of the races was another huge hurdle that the church had to overcome to be what God intended. Finally Paul says, “no ‘male and female,’” and that’s the phrase we keep hearing in the current debate over gay couples in the church.

Put this way, could gay rights be the fulfillment of this passage by Paul?

And he sums it all up by saying:

But if you're fortunate enough to know a Christ-centered gay couple, you'll notice something remarkably different. These relationships are actually bearing good fruit. The fruit of the Spirit are in abundance in such relationships - love, joy, peace, patience, and all the rest. You can argue all you want about the meaning of this passage or that passage; the fact remains that I know monogamous, Christ-centered gay couples whose relationships are living proof of God's blessing on them. Bad trees don't bear good fruit.

Jonas would say exactly the same thing. Amen!

(Day 310)


Intrepid Wanderer said...

And interesting post however I am slightly concerned with something you brought up and was evident in the book you referenced. If our culture changes over time then should our religion change with it? I mean the Mormons no longer practice polygamy and many Christians use that as an attack saying that they are not true believers because their beliefs change with the winds of the time. Now that can hardly be leveled at mainstream Christians throughout most of history but isn't that also an issue? It seems to me that in addition to accepting gay marriage in the church, which I think is more in line with the biblical principles, we should have a discussion over what amount of reinterpretation is allowable. Should we continue to throw aside wordage in the Bible at a whim? It is a tough question, what do you think?

Also, dude with genetic engineering we can have mermaids, that would be cool, and unicorns.

Also if they talked about computer porn in the Bible I would be more worried about the alien overloads who gave them the computers. :-)

Newscrazy said...

Amazing! Love it! Very thoughtful and well laid out. I'm going to add this to my Happy Hour Roundup today. These are all amazing arguments. I think that more folks need to arm themselves with this knowledge, because too often, when we go up against our opponents, we are ill-equipped to respond to their accusations. Its not that the scripture is flawed, its that we don't know enough about it and they do. The spirituality isn't broken--its US that need the tune-up. Religious texts' overall messages always tend to be love and understanding and peace. Being rooted in love and peace means that pretty much everything coming back to it should have to do with love and peace too, right? You don't write a paper whose evidence doesn't match the thesis. We shouldn't just say "I don't know how I know, but God loves me." We should know exactly where that comes from.

Thanks for sharing this!

Joe Moderate said...

Jonas does agree :-)

Wow: 310 days. Holla! That's so close to 365 :-D Babe, what say we celebrate by going and getting legally hitched in your home state?


Topher said...

Intrepid Wanderer, your question "if our culture changes over time then should our religion change with it?" is a great one and, as you indicate, it is addressed in the book "Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals".

In short, the book's argument is that the Bible (here, a proxy for the Christian religion) contains cultural passages and transcultural passages. Following this division of passages (sometimes both can be seen in a single passage), cultural items can change over time along with the culture, while transcultural items must remain true for all time. In this way, you might say that the trappings of religion are changing, but the core religion does not (or, should not) change with time.

So, for the Mormon example you give, this argument would say that polygamy was a cultural artifact of ancient days, while the concept of devoting your life to someone is a transcultural thing. Thus, you could say this is why Mormons still believe in marriage and devoting their lives to one other person now.

Newscrazy, I like the idea that we need a "spiritual tune-up" :-)

And babe, I totally agree we should get hitched in Iowa. And soon!