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Our D.Min. cohort has finally gotten to one of the most challenging and divisive topics for contemporary Christians: sexuality (specifically homosexuality). Our assigned texts were God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction by Adrian Thatcher and Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. Thatcher lays out an intellectual ‘theology of sexuality’ whereas Marin is concerned with changing and elevating the evangelical conversation with the LGBT community.
As I see it, there are two connected, but distinct issues these books typify. The first centers on whether homosexuality can be seen as normative for a faithful Christian. By homosexuality I do not mean orientation, but the practice of (I would guess that the majority of US Christians would not view orientation as the main issue). Thatcher argues that Christians have not done a good job of reading the biblical text faithfully and that they use arguments that are no longer culturally relevant. I find this to be very true among many conservatives and liberals. I’m so tired of hearing about Sodom and other biblical references that even most conservative scholars would agree should not be part of the conversation. But enough about others, what about me? Where do I stand on this issue specifically? To be honest, this issue is and has been a journey for me, and there’s nothing that is making me more conservative. I’m somewhere in the middle and depending on the day I shade to one side or another. I understand the arguments on all sides, but I’m still not firmly planted. I struggle with the intellectual side of the issue. I struggle with the Romans 1 text. I also struggle with the church history aspect. Up until the last 40 years the church has always had a univocal voice in its understanding of homosexuality (unlike, women, slavery, etc..). But, what makes the most sense to me are the lives of my brothers and sisters who are faithful Christians and who also happen to be a practicing homosexual. There lives are a testament to Christ and challenge me in the best ways. I am thankful for them.
The second distinct issue centers on how we relate to others who disagree with us. I think both sides of the argument can improve on this front. Last year I was at conference on human sexuality and one of the speakers belittled those who disagreed with him (he was a gay Chaplin), saying the biblical and theological issue was settled ‘as judged by the bow of his bookshelf’ from the weight of books proving his point. His presentation came off as arrogant, and there was no room for those who disagreed with him. Of course the exact same thing can be said over and over about those who believe practicing homosexuality isn’t reconcilable to the Christian faith. Though I struggle on the first issue, I struggle a whole less with this issue. I live in the part of town called the Quapaw (know by many as Gaypaw) and have wonderful relationships with several same-sex couples. When people hear that I’m a Baptist minister I’m always quick to avoid the ‘homosexual’ conversation. I want people first and foremost to know that I love them. Any conversations that eventually happen on this issue must always come out of a relationship I have with someone (which is why I feel freedom in writing this blog). Without relationships I try to avoid it all together because the conversation is often always cliché, narrow, and unproductive. I want people to see the best in me, and not some trite caricature that the media often portrays and I want to see others who disagree with me in that same light.
What about you