Time for a Gay Reformation?

Happy Halloween!

Tonight, after dressing up as zombies, vampires, fairy princesses, and Justin Biebers, tons of children will knock on tons of doors and consume tons of candy.  The night air will be scented with glitter, grease paint, and slow-roasting pumpkins.

But did you know that today marks the anniversary of a world-changing event?  494 years ago today, before the idea of sending children out as well-disguised beggers came into fashion, a man named Martin Luther (who came WAY before a similarly named man with a dream) celebrated Halloween by nailing a piece of paper to church door in Germany… and changing the church forever.

The year was 1517.

For years, German Christians – as well as other believers around the globe – sat in church pews lazily listening to priests explain the Bible.  The problem?  Few people had ever read the Bible.  Most Bibles were written in Latin, a language that died long before Martin Luther was born.  Of course, since most people were illiterate, it didn’t matter what language the Bible was written in.  They couldn’t have read it anyway.

That’s why, when church leaders told the people what the Bible said, the people blindly accepted it.  For example, when priests told their congregations they had to pay money to have their sins forgiven, frightened women and guilt-ridden men paid their life savings to keep themselves out of hell.

Martin Luther was furious. He had actually read the Bible and knew that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace… not something that can be bought and sold.

Instead of writing a blog in protest (obviously… blogging wasn’t very popular in 1517), Luther wrote 95 statements (called the 95 Theses) that outlined in everyday language what the people needed to know about forgiveness, scripture, and the church… and nailed it to the front door of the biggest cathedral in town.

This small action – this protest – changed Christianity forever.  In fact, if you attend a Protestant Church (basically any church that isn’t Catholic or Orthodox), your church grew from Luther’s protest.

Many of us in the LGBT community believe the church needs yet another reformation… a redefining of their relationship with the gay community.  Our pastors preach the Bible and our people read the Bible, but few of them have seriously studied scriptures that deal with homosexuality.  As a result, many Christians are either confused or misinformed about what it means to be both Gay and Christian.

We need someone to follow Martin Luther’s example and nail a few challenging truths to the church door.

Patrick Cheng, an openly-gay theologian, minister, and seminary professor recently followed Martin Luther’s example and wrote “9.5 Theses for a New Reformation.”  This incredibly insightful article outlines 9.5 (actually, it’s 10, but Cheng’s trying to be clever) ideas both gays and Christians need to consider so we can bridge the divide between us.

In my opinion, Cheng’s entire article should be read by every Christian (both gay and straight) in America.  Click here to check it out.  The full article goes into more depth about these 9.5 ideas…

  1. LGBT relationships are grounded in love, which is a the very heart of our understanding of God and the Christian faith.
  2. Christian evangelicals often lack compassion toward LGBT people, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for LGBT people to hear the good news of the gospel.
  3. Christian evangelicals establish a new words righteousness when they require that LGBT people abstain from same-sex acts in order to be saved.
  4. Even the Reformers did not treat all biblical verses as having the same interpretive weight.
  5. True proponents of “family values” would not preach and teach values that drive families apart.
  6. If the uncircumcised and unclean Gentiles could be accepted just as they were through the work of the Holy Spirit, then so can LGBT people.
  7. True repentance only occurs as a result of understanding how deeply we are loved, yet Christian evangelicals often fail to show that kind of love to LGBT people.
  8. Focusing on the “sinfulness” of same-sex acts obscures the true meaning of original sin.
  9. “Hating the sin” is essentially hating the sinner.
  10. Christian evangelicals and LGBT people actually have more in common than either side would care to admit.
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12 Comments

Filed under Conversation, Opinions, Partners, Stories

12 responses to “Time for a Gay Reformation?

  1. S.Musick

    Wow! Some of the most powerful stuff I’ve read since diving into this topic in college whilst trying to understand my own, newly confused, place inside or (more likely) outside the church.

    • I wish I could give you a hug. Fare well, do well, and be well as you go down this road further. There’s tremendous freedom, grace, and comprehension to be found… and I’m still on the path myself! How much more to discover, I wonder? God bless.

  2. Anonymous

    So where is the scripture that backs this up?

  3. Bryan

    Anonymous, would you mind elaborating? What is the *this* you’re referring to? Do you want to discuss the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality, the ideas Cheng gave about repentance (#7) or original sin (#8), or are you thinking about something else entirely?

    It might also be interesting to think about whether a lack of scriptural backing necessarily means that an idea is bad or wrong. Is an idea invalid just because it is not represented in scripture?

    • Anonymous

      I was referring more on the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. I have no problem with treating homosexuals with love. I feel that as Christians, we should treat everyone with respect and love so I have no issues there. I do however struggle with the idea that homosexuality is not a sin. I feel that it is, however it is no worse or should be treated as taboo sin! I’m not trying to be judgmental because my life has sin in it is as well. So please don’t be offended here, I”m not trying to to be offensive, just curious.

      • Hi! I can’t claim to speak for Bryan, but I did have just a few thoughts. Like you stressed, I also don’t want to be offensive, so please remember that my thoughts are not meant to be read in a hostile or sarcastic manner at all – only in love and respect.

        There are two issues that strike me here, and I don’t want to make it seem as if you are at fault for them or that you’ve done something wrong by doing so. I simply want to point them out because I think that by doing so it may help you to better understand where we (gay Christians) are coming from here.

        The first thing that strikes me is the Anonymous name. I’m not meaning to pick on you, but just to tell you that as gay Christians we often feel as if we’re being handled with gloves or with tongs, as if we’re not able to meet with people on equal grounds to discuss and dialogue. You can use a name here, you can interact with us honestly and openly. I understand the reasoning for wishing to remain anonymous in certain cases -as yours may very rightly be – but in that case a pseudonym would make us feel much better than Anonymous – especially since on so many LGBT Christian blogs, using anonymous is almost always followed by saying hateful and offensive things. I know – you did not do that, thank you so much! But I just want to make you aware to the fact that anonymous is a loaded term to many LGBT Christians on the internet. Again, I want to stress that I’m not attacking or blaming you, simply helping you understand something. Also, it is not in any way your fault for not knowing this, so please don’t feel guilty or angry.

        The second thing I want to point out is that for LGBT Christians, most of us don’t believe that homosexuality is sin at all, anymore than heterosexuality is. This probably isn’t new to many people, but it does bring up the issue of being careful of the language that both sides use when talking about it. When brothers and sisters use language such as “don’t worry, we have sin too!” it fundamentally fails to register well with us because it shows us that you’re completely missing our point. Our point is that sure, we can dialogue about it, but in that dialogue it would be nice to be treated as intellectual and spiritual equals before our Creator, and failing to hear what we are saying – that we don’t believe it is a sin in the slightest – tells us that we simply are not equals, and are being engaged on a level of intellectual and spiritual inferiority. I’m not saying that you mean or intend this, but it’s what is happening nonetheless. Again, I don’t want to blame or offend you, just inform. This isn’t to say that we can’t discuss or disagree, but it does speak to the need for each side, LGBTs as well, to attempt to listen and understand the other side rather than approach it in a way that seeks to prove their argument is correct above loving people well.

        Also I want to commend you on engaging with us here. Thank you, most ardently. It really touches me deeply that you are, and that you honestly are curious and seeking to learn. Thank you.

        Again, I’m not Bryan, so I’ll leave the issue of actual Biblical arguements to him, and I pray for the Spirit to move and for love and respect to flow mutually to the glory and praise of God.

      • Bryan

        Hi Anon. Thanks for clarifying your question. I think Emark makes some great points below – especially that when “straight” believers say that their sin is no different/worse than our sin, it often makes the LGBT community feel terribly misunderstood. According to the Barna group (a faith-based research firm), one-third of LGBT people attend church regularly and as many as one-sixth “have beliefs that qualify them as born-again Christians” (David Kinnaman, “Un Christian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters,” pp. 97-98). Most of those of us who fall into that category – including myself – don’t feel that we’re rebelling against God. We don’t feel that our sexual orientation is sinful. Instead, we feel that the modern church has misunderstood the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality. Hence your question!

        Honestly, reconciling homosexuality with Christianity isn’t terribly difficult. A careful reading of scripture reveals a lot. Most conservative Biblical scholars work under the premise that scripture cannot say to us what it didn’t say to its original audience. As a result, we must understand the original languages of the Bible (Greek and Hebrew), ancient cultures, and literary context to see what the original writers of scripture were trying to say. For example…

        History, context, and language make it pretty clear that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality not homosexuality, it was inhospitality. Read the story carefully. You’ll see it. Also, read what Jesus says about Sodom (Mat 11, Luke 10, Luke 17) and you may be surprised at what he says the true sin of the people of Sodom was. The Levitical law condemned homosexual sex with male pagan temple prostitutes, not committed relationships. Paul’s comments in Romans were directed at the prostitutes in the temple of Cybele, not at gays in romantic relationships. And the comments in 1 Cor. and 1 Tim are highly speculative translations of words that most classical scholars agree don’t mean homosexual.

        That’s a totally abridged version of the Biblical argument, but it’s a starting point. If you’d like to explore further, below are some notes I put together on this subject for a Bible study I led for my church. I’ve also included a link to a site that, while a little difficult to navigate, has some good information about Biblical interpretation, historical context, etc. Check out the links under “What The Bible Says” on the bottom left side.

        http://www.gaychristian101.com/Sodom.html

  4. In response to the post in general, I want to say that there’s really nothing that I disagree with about it. I agree with it. I do want to offer a thought that, in my experiences, relationship trumps reason nearly every time. It’s true, Luther used the 95 Theses and brought about Reformation. But I hope that we can interact better than he did; Luther’s Reformation was plagued with brokenness and hate on both sides. A distinct lack of love. Even though I feel Luther was right, I still think that the Spirit was grieved in how it was carried out. I hope that we can bring about a “Gay Reformation” in a much better way, a way that honors the Father and our brothers and sisters that don’t agree with us: that we love one another well, and trust in the gospel and its holistic power. That we trust that God is big enough to do this thing, and to do it well, so that all may know that both sides are Christians by our love.

    Perhaps I am too idealistic, but I just can’t shake this feeling that I’d rather do this thing right and well to the glory and praise of God, and if I can’t… ah! I just cannot bring myself to believe that it cannot be done well, if we’re willing.

  5. Anonymous

    Bryan I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation of Scripture. I am theologically trained as well and I don’t see it that way. However, let me do some research and get back with you on the interpretation and about what the Bible says about homosexuality. Again, I will not be harsh or judgmental. Just opening some dialogue between friends who disagree about certain issues.
    In response to emarkthomas, I appreciate your response and enlightenment about how the homosexuality community feels about anonymous posts. Let’s just call me right now “an old friend of Bryan’s” as Bryan hasn’t yet to share with me about his homosexuality. It was a complete shock to me to find out about it and to know of his views now. I just wanted to begin some dialogue with him if he was interested.

    • Bryan

      Anon, I’m a little surprised learn that we know each other. I’m definitely fine with having a conversation, but would rather it be less secretive. If we’re “old friends,” lets attach some names and context to the conversation. Otherwise, I feel a little baited.

  6. Bryan, thanks for condensing and improving my words in my response to Anonymous. You captured what I was trying to say, and you did it better than I, I think. Well done. In response to your second part of that response, I understand the importance of needing to discuss and dialogue on the Scriptures and interpretations and the like, but I can’t help but feel that that particular area isn’t where we’re going to make headway, really. I think it’ll bring in many Christians who are already riding the fence, so to speak, but for people like Anonymous – those who read our reasonings and interpretations and disagree with them – it’s almost a waste of breathe to continue the discussion.

    So very important: I don’t mean waste of breathe in a way that belittles either arguement or any person who holds to them. What I mean instead is this: I once learned from a brilliant and gifted Christian author. She had been to seminary, and had lived out years of attempting to explain, dialogue, and coax people in her Christian communities into accepting her as a church member with a calling to instructive ministry. For lack of better words, the gal was a pastor in every sense but the official title. She spoke, she taught, she wrote, she counseled, she advised.

    Still, the debate over whether or not this was acceptable continued to rage. One day, she said, she simply told people that she was not going to go there anymore. She was no longer going to try to explain or defend herself. It was ground well covered, and no progress was being made. The future lay, she said, in accepting that God was big enough to handle the differences. The future lay in allowing God to be, well, God. To allow him to sort it out. In the meantime, we’re to live and love well with one another. Both sides. And maybe that means accepting that even though we’re at a seemingly impossible impasse here, it doesn’t have to be something that continues to divide us.

    We can step back, grab a bigger perspective, and be about the Father’s business.

    I think that we’ll probably have to find ourselves – you and me and the LGBT Christian community – introducing a similar treaty sooner or later.

    Anyway, that was just my thought as I reread this tonight. I’d love to hear your reaction to it sometime.

    • Just a quick added thought: I think, upon another reflection on this, that this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “As far as it is in your power, live peaceably with all.” We expend every effort to the Christian right to cease and desist all division and attempt to come together in love, as is the will of the Father. We trust. We hope they can trust. And then we trust some more; we trust and expect for the Living God to take two and two and make them equal five.

      Part of me loves the idea of God grinning ear to ear, hoping that that is just what we end up doing, and being ready to show up in magnificent power on that day.

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