EDITOR’S NOTE: In the below blog, I wrongly linked and insinuated that a megachurch pastor had wanted to put gays to death. Thankfully, this was not the truth about what this pastor said. Here is a gay website that is actually clarifying his remarks: http://www.outandaboutnashville.com/story/opinion-defense-pastor-robby-gallaty/50379#.vzvvfd29kji “If we only focus on those eight minutes of sermon taken out of context, we miss the opportunity to engage with the very real issues we have with a man who would, I believe, talk with us constructively if he weren’t at the center of a screeching mob.” I apologize to Robby Gallaty and the readers of this blog for posting something false. I was wrong to do so and should have researched that aspect more carefully.
Unless a person has been stranded on the planet Mars for awhile (the subject of an upcoming Matt Damon film) the Supreme Court ruled in their decision Obergefell vs. Hodges that gay marriage is legalized in all 50 states. “In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.” Nobody should have been surprised by the outcome of this ruling. I actually had a bet with a friend that the justices in favor would be 6. I lost. The ruling was as close as could be.
Among many religious conservatives, including some Evangelicals, one would have thought that a brutal tribulation dreamt up in the vivid imaginations of dispensationalists had come upon our land. This was the end of our country. We would fall like Rome. People Facebooked and tweeted their anger and disappointment. A Who’s Who of conservative politicians and pastors also promised civil disobedience prior to the SCOTUS decision declaring that, “We will not obey.” Among others, they included John Hagee, Franklin Graham, and two presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, was involved in drafting the document titled, “Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage.” I’m not quite sure what Dobson and the rest of these guys are going to do. Are they going to perform sit-ins at gay bars? That part has remained unclear.
More disturbing is the ranting of Glenn Beck and his statement that he has 10,000 pastors who are willing to die resisting anti-Christian persecution in America because of their belief of homosexuality being a sin. Oh, there was also a pastor- Rick Scarborough- who stated he was willing to be set on fire if the gay marriage ruling went through. Lastly for now, a sick, twisted, and hateful Megachurch pastor has declared that “gays must be put to death.” That’s what happens when a person does not have a clue about hermeneutics or the contextualization of the Old Testament which involved a nationalistic theocracy. Or, when a pastor is just batshit crazy. With all of that to consider, the realm of the internet has gotten very heated surrounding this issue to say the least.
I’m an Evangelical. I did not grow up in an Evangelical household but upon my conversion to Christianity as a teenager was adopted into this spiritual brand. I feel the need to offer a disclaimer on that term. Media sources and a lot of people immediately lump the term “Evangelical” in with right wing politics in America. To be sure, as we are seeing, there are many Evangelicals who are conservative in their political viewpoints. However, I want to divorce “Evangelical” from any political viewpoint and instead focus on some core theological principles that should guide us to a helpful definition of this particular expression of the Christian faith.
Evangelicals believe in the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. We celebrate the raising of Christ, three days later, in triumph over the grave. We believe that Jesus is God and that He humbled Himself to become a man. We believe Jesus is coming back again to bring judgment and salvation. There are other doctrinal points as well- the virgin birth, baptism and communion. We believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
As a result of believing the Bible is the inspired Word of God, Evangelicals will naturally feel a conflict with the cultural values that have emerged, largely, from the sexual revolution in the 60s. With the hot button topic of same sex marriage, there are 5 verses in the entire Bible that generally speak about homosexuality. Here they are and people can look up the verses and read the surrounding contexts:
Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Romans 1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
1 Timothy 1:8-10 “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…”
I did not include Genesis 19:1-13 which is the famous Sodom and Gomorrah account nor did I include Judges 19:22-28 as most scholars will maintain that the issue of sin in both of those cases was rape.
In contrast to these 5 verses on homosexuality in the totality of Scripture, how many verses are there for other sins? Like pride or self-righteousness. This website says there are 58 passages condemning pride or conceit in the Bible. When we factor in the sin of self-righteousness, we will have even more passages. One of the top vices that Jesus condemned while He was walking the earth was the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and other religious leaders. He called them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). He told this group of religious leaders that sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes were going to get into heaven before them (Matthew 21:31).
I don’t want to go to this next place but I think I have too. How many Bible verses condemn (what may be America’s favorite sin) gluttony? Ouch. 39.
Maybe there are even more of the above sins mentioned in Scripture as I glanced through the list provided by bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/. The website might have missed a few passages or interpretations that could be a warning against pride, greed or gluttony.
With that spectrum being laid before us, does the reaction of people like Franklin Graham make sense? Mr. Graham said, “God will judge him (President Obama) and us as a nation if we don’t repent (of allowing same-sex marriage).” Many like-minded people have been suggesting a similar idea to that of Franklin Graham. Would God judge America primarily based on a sin mentioned 5 times in all of Scripture versus other sins (pride, greed, gluttony) that are mentioned far more frequently in the Bible? It also seems like pride, greed and gluttony, among other sins, have been celebrated in America far longer than homosexuality.
The truth of the matter is that, in the eyes of God, we are all the same. We are equally made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and we humans, equally as a whole, have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Evangelicals know that this is the bad news before the gospel of Jesus.
The verse that we see in the end zone of football games, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) not only applies to Franklin Graham, myself, other Evangelicals and Christians from various expressions of the faith but the verse also applies to those in the whole world including the LGBTQ community. God loves everyone. He is Love (1 John 4:8).
Jesus loves gay people.
Jesus loves lesbians.
Jesus loves bisexual people.
Jesus loves transgender people.
Jesus loves people who wrestle with gender issues and identity.
Many Evangelicals have been focused on a “cultural war” for a very long time. This battle between the forces of secular liberalism and interpretations of Christianity, in a political sense, has drawn much attention and attracted a lot of money to the leaders supposedly fighting this fight. Now, Christianity Today notes that a primary battle in the “cultural wars” has been lost.
But what is lost exactly? Are Christians really so surprised when a secular government does not adopt Biblical values or definitions?
What has not been lost is the opportunity for Christians to have the attitude and perspective of Christ. Jesus preached that the greatest command in all the Word is, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Many of us will have members of the LGBTQ community as neighbors. Perhaps we should adopt the perspective, not of a cultural war against those who have different values, but an attitude of love toward our neighbors.
I’m willing to bet that most American Christians have no idea what the feeling is like to be treated, not even as 2nd class citizens, but third class citizens. From the people I know, the vast majority of LGBTQ people have experienced bullying, slander and abuse for a lot of their lives. Many of them still do. The city that I live in has a scary high number of homeless teenagers. A lot of homeless teenagers are LGBTQ in identity and have been kicked out of their homes by their families. A few years ago, I was getting my haircut in the Greenwood neighborhood and the hair stylist, who was gay, was telling me how he had moved from another state to Seattle. His family had made him not welcome and referred to him as “disgusting”. He had not experienced the unconditional love that a family (ideally) would give a person.
Sure, there will be future court battles pitting religious liberty vs sexual orientation rights. The New York Times suggests a flashpoint in this battle will be religious schools who have standards regarding sexuality specifically in their housing. I don’t know how these cases will be decided or what direction our nation will go in.
With that legal uncertainty, there is no reason to be afraid or think the country is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket. The people underneath all those big media headlines and all the people shouting and writing in ALL CAPS on blogs are human beings. The lesbian couple that moves into the house next door to you. The gay guys who live in your apartment building. The transgender that is one floor down in the condo association you live in. They are our neighbors. We don’t have to agree with our neighbors on everything to be able to reach out in kindness and a humility willing to listen to another person’s experiences.