As happens more times than I can remember, things pop up on the radio or in news articles that make me stop ignoring the white noise and pay attention. Such is the case with this short NPR Radio interview this week with Justin Lee on his book,
Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate.
Justin Lee is an online friend from way back and I’m looking forward to reading his book (I’ve probably heard/read most of it in conversation with him.) I may not agree with everything he has to say (how boring that would be) but his evolving method of religious thought is inspiring and worth giving a look-see. Spiritual thought in general, and quite specifically Western Christianity is a growth industry for one’s brain cells. This begins with the three legged stool of Christian belief that (a) The Bible is the inerrant word of God vs. (b) Maybe it is, but it’s edited by humans, vs. (c) everything that we need for “salvation” is found within. Christians are big – in general – on speaking of things in trinities.
I’m glad he mentions in this brief interview CS Lewis‘ remark on the separation of state marriage and church marriage, because of an online debate that ground away at my patience with the GayChristianNetwork “Side A“ vs. “Side B” Christians (I can’t remember which letter is which) debating “premarital” (same sex) intimacy vs. “waiting for marriage.” I saw the great spiritual danger in that debate when we speak of “waiting for” something that in many states – constitutionally – will not happen. (In their defense, the debate centered around “waiting to be in a relationship” rather than being a gay person who is single and sexually active.)
This then leads to a very large spiritual question of: what to do?
This point makes me want to take a look at his book because: what, indeed? There are as many different types of sexual humans as there are spiritual humans, and the two needn’t be mutually-exclusive. To hold on to some theologically-irrelevant heterosexist theory on “adultery” among people on a marriage path is too facile: if gay people either by law or by choice do not have the option of state supported and church-blessed marriage, why are we – as gay Christians – tied to an impossible to achieve ideal?
The point is to go back to one of those versus above (not verses,) remembering that “all that is necessary for salvation is found in the Bible.”
I probably wouldn’t have responded to his interview except that he mentions one of my favorite thoughts on the topic of sin and salvation (etc.) from Tony Campolo who says that Jesus never said (or implied) “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” To believe that, I have said, goes against the singular foundation of Christian thought based on the teachings of Christ, as presented in this Bible, above, which has everything within that we need for … etc.
Jesus taught that we should “Love the sinner and hate your own sin,” and illustrated this by the famous analogy of not pointing out the speck of dust in your friend’s eye until first you have dealt with the large stick of wood pointing out from your own. I agree with Lee that this is how this discussion/debate should happen. If you want to show me some missionary zeal, before you can stand and preach on a street corner or fly off and wave your Christian flag, please do some homework – at home – first. All of life is a perpetual growing and learning process. The addition that Christians face is that great chapters of that growth happen in public view. And when we open up our hearts and minds (and too often we pre-open our mouths) things can get messy.
Lee says “I don’t blame people for coming to other conclusions than I have” on the topic of Gays and Christianity and Gospel and Commandments (pronouncements.) The great underlying adventure of the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) is showing us what a covenant looks like. Without that covenant, we cannot have a relationship with the God that is mentioned throughout the many books of the Bible. And guess what: we also cannot have relationships with those around us: friends, co-workers, family (even the ones we don’t like,) lovers.
Any good spiritual belief set flows forth from conversation and discussion and even argument. The best spiritual belief sets are formed when each of those arguments and discussions come from a place of respect for the others’ thoughts. They come from an inside knowledge that my telling you what I believe and how I believe it is certainly not going to sway your thoughts, but, in conversation, perhaps we can teach each other. And something will come from that. Something far greater and much stronger than the compromise of “we agree to disagree.”
Compromise without growth and improvement is a lose-lose situation.
Nobody ever said this stuff was easy. Even more so when you have to do that second coming out of “I am a gay christian,” and suddenly all your traditional Christian friends think you’ve lost your soul, and all your gay friends think you’ve lost your mind.
If you listen quite carefully, and speak quite calmly, and ask good questions, you will make great gains in both mind and soul. Whether or not your friends in either camp agree… well… that’s another parable from Christ we will save for another day.
Someone will likely ask you this year what you think about… and what you believe about….
Think first. Teach (the Baptists call it “testifying”) second. Always listen with your heart.
And from that teaching, you will learn.
Keep the faith!
Just in case you didn’t click on the link above, here is the link to Justin Lee’s NPR interview about his book.
more about Tony Campolo on Gay People and the Church: