That last post, a recent quote from Brian McLaren, has got my head spinning. The evangelical blog world seems to be buzzing over this recent event - that McLaren presided over a commitment ceremony for his son and his son’s life partner. McLaren says he no longer holds to the traditional evangelical view of homosexuality, and he lumps this traditional view together with other traditional “white European” positions such as slavery.
Lots of thoughts here. Lots of questions, really.
I’m a little bummed out that those who do hold the traditional views vis-a-vis homosexuality will now be able to easily dismiss McLaren’s voice on other issues - his writings about the meaning of a kingdom-centered gospel, his writings about the possibility of universal salvation, and so on. It’s unfortunate, how this “guilt by association” thing works … it doesn’t matter how right he might be about the issue of hell, people can now just say, “Oh, McLaren, that guy who officiated over his gay son’s wedding, like I’m going to listen to anything he has to say.”
I’m trying to put myself in his shoes, from a practical standpoint. If I were a pastor, and my son wanted to marry another man, would I officiate? Assuming for a moment that homosexuality is a sin, would presiding over that wedding also be sinful? As soon as I’ve landed on that question, I think about the father in the Prodigal Son Story, who handed over a large sum of money to a foolish young man who - just by asking for the inheritance before his father was even dead - had proved that he wasn’t mature enough to be given that responsibility. I suppose you could say the father was complicit in everything his son did next; the father “bankrolled” his son’s immoral lifestyle, didn’t he?
Taking a stance on the issue of homosexuality seems to have become a modern litmus test of sorts. That’s really sad to me, given that it’s rather a “minority” subject in the whole galaxy of morality issues that scripture addresses. I do think McLaren is right about that point - homosexuality affects maybe 6% of the population, while poverty affects 60%, and yet I don’t see a lot of buzz in evangelical churches about how we’re going to deal with that issue quickly and immediately.
I think it was Kirk Cameron who was recently asked by an interviewer about his stance on homosexuality, and he took quite a bit of heat for taking the traditional stance. But as he rightly pointed out, he wasn’t advertising his beliefs or campaigning for that issue, the interviewer asked him to make a statement about it. On the flip side, Joel Osteen was recently asked about his stance on the issue, and he said he preferred not to speak about it, because there are more important things to talk about - and for that response, he was called a coward.
You can’t win.
I think most evangelicals are basically united on the fact that, whether you think homosexuality is a sin or not, these are real people we’re talking about, not abstract theories in a textbook. Real people, real pain, real persecution, real anger, and all the rest. So does the theory (“proposition: the bible condemns homosexuality-as-an-act as sinful”) matter? Or is interaction with and attitude toward the person(s) the only real concern?
If it’s a sin, is it more or less loving to say so? Is it really our place to convict anyone of any kind of sin, or is that solely the Holy Spirit’s domain? I’m thinking of how Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “You have had five husbands, and the one you are with now is not your husband,” and then He left it at that. She was left to work out the details herself. But then again, didn’t He tell the woman caught in adultery to “sin no more?” And didn’t Paul take a pretty hard-line stance with the man in the Corinthian church who was sleeping with his mother-in-law, saying the man needed to be excluded from the church until he ceased from that lifestyle? How do we reconcile that with God’s outrageous grace? Or does grace stop once you become a member of the church? (Some might be tempted to think so, based on experience.)
This is some difficult stuff. And it’s hard to find civil discourse on the subject - usually people are just yelling at each other from either side of the fence, engaged in what NT Wright calls “a dialogue of the deaf.” I would pick up a few books on the subject and study it further, but I haven’t yet found a book that wasn’t obnoxiously agenda-driven, no matter where the author stood on the subject.
One thing is for certain: Brian McLaren continues to force me (and lots of people like me) to think harder, pray deeper, and study further.