Two years into my doctoral program and the inescapable relational conversation is staring me in the face. Thatcher’s book God, Sex, and Gender dives into the sensitive sex talk, much similar to the one you will be engaging shortly. Yes, my cohort finally gets a chance to share our conviction on sexuality with clear, theological and cultural relevance. Let me start by stating that this was a great book for conversation and relevance but never for acceptance as truth.
Ministry leaders have a responsibility to teach sound doctrine with cultural relevance, which means codependence on contextualization and the Bible. My essay this semester, which will become a chapter in my dissertation, focuses on Biblical Christianity and Cultural Christianity. Biblical Christianity refers to people who subscribe to the Bible as the only source for developing a relationship with God while Cultural Christianity refers to individuals who identify themselves with the Christian faith without following all the biblical principles. In other words, they have the right to choose which biblical principles are applicable to them.
In reading Thatcher’s work, I often wondered if he was a Cultural Christian because the writing sometimes contradicted Biblical Christianity. He writes that he is “a Christian, an Anglican” (162, Kindle), “male, straight, and a grandparent” (162, Kindle). However, he writes that it can be “shown historically that the body of Christ is doubly queer. It contains male and female parts. Moreover, it was never straightforwardly male in the first place” (727-728, Kindle). The author suggests that he would provide an argument from both sides, but I often find his references to be weak or looked for loopholes to prove his theories. The fact that Thatcher had to write he was “straight” gives us an indication of how he would like us to accept him. As Biblical Christians, we have an obligation to ensure that our engagement with people outside our sexual preferences has feelings like the average person.
Culturally, the people in my birth country are not accepting of gays so some of these people or either publicly humiliated or physically abused. My educational influences and denominational tribe do not embrace the same equality for men and women in ministry (only 3.21% lead a congregation). Doctrinally, I am black and white with no gray area. Yes, I draw a line in the sand based on biblical principles and instructions. Thatcher states that “The churches have long taught, and millions of Christians continue to think, that the Bible condemns homosexual practice” (p. 157). I could be mistaken but didn’t God destroy a perverted people because of such practices? The author continues to document his findings to support same-sex relationships by implying that while sexuality could lead to the conception of children, it does not “consist solely of erotic desire” (261, Kindle). He continued with the idea that we “discover our sexuality in relationship to others” (271, Kindle). This ideology would support those who believe in the same-sex relationship. If we were to accept these ideologies, where is the room for conception? Weren’t we conceived as a result of heterosexual relationships?
Clearly, I object to gay practices and regard them as sin; I also object to transgender practices and sex before marriage or sex with someone other than your spouse while being married. However, I also object to lies, killing, alcoholics, prostitution, stealing and regard these practices as sin. I also object to some of the weak theories in this book in regards to sexuality. However, in reading this book as researched my essay for this semester, I embrace a challenge. The doctoral program at George Fox has been teaching each cohort to be both global leaders and thinkers. As a global thinker, I was challenged to think outside the realms of my biblical convictions (right or wrong) to embrace the existence of a new culture. I do not embrace the practices of this new culture; I embrace the reality of this culture…Cultural Christians.
When I think about denominational tribes (Assemblies of God, Methodist, Anglican, Catholics, .etc.), it is not awkward to have a conversation with someone from a different tribe. However, many Christians like myself would find it awkward talking to gays in a dark alley, but this is no different from being frowned upon for being caught talking to prostitutes in the same lobby. Unfortunately, our concern would be about how others would perceive the interaction. Biblical Christians are not condemning the person, although misguided with how we perceive the people who sin.
We have seen people leave one tribe for another because they believe the former was wrong. As a church, we embrace people who subscribe to our conviction and sentence all others to hell. What unifies a murderer and a gay individual…sin. What separates a man from a woman…their sexual organs (among other things). We can never separate people from people, except when they behave differently. My life is governed by the Bible, and those theological practices form my Biblical Christianity. However, I realize that some people believe they are also Christians but behave differently from me. Rather than dismissing them as sinners (which they are) and lose the possibility of a biblical conversion, I must consider the possibility of Cultural Christianity. Yes, these Cultural Christians often sing in the choir and even preach from the pulpit.
The “Rich Young Ruler” was a Cultural Christian (like many of the people in those days). He was ready to brag about his religiosity until Jesus told him to do something different, which made him leave sorrowful. The greatest takeaway from this book is the idea of thinking theologically about sexuality and sex, which is critical in our global landscape. We cannot escape the perversion and the lack of identity that accompanies a person’s sexuality. We should also never forget that a question is only answered when a questioned is asked. Thatcher reminds me of the 5-year-old that brings up a subject in public when you tried so desperately to ignore…until now.