Flies in the ointment
Snippets of a letter to a younger church leader...
I facilitate a Bible study at work and I really enjoy it. Today, we studied Ecclesiastes, and 10:1 speaks to why [insert famous Christian televangelist]'s good deeds are overlooked by his strident anti-gay legislation posturing, One dead fly makes the perfumer’s ointment give off a rancid stench, so a little folly can outweigh much wisdom.
I used to think that if I learned the original languages I could get a better understanding of the things that were highly valued in our fundamentalism yet contrary to popular opinion, science, and research. I took 2 years of NT Greek and a year of Hebrew. I can still read the Greek but not the Hebrew anymore. But that knowledge, although good, showed me that the original language is not the end zone. Context is huge. See my brief study on a verse of Paul's. Historical studies are huge. Genre is huge. Text critical studies are huge as well. So I keep reading and learning. But the more I learn, the less I know. A couple evangelical text critical books I mentioned before showed me how influenced by culture and events our Bible is.
Currid teaches OT at RTS and is not an enemy of fundamentalism. But I learned from him that one of the Psalms is a rewrite of a Canaanite song to Baal, among other things. I learned from Sailhammer that the longer version of Jeremiah in the LXX is the older version and the newer Hebrew version modifies verses in light of developments after the LXX was completed. The new Noah movie has more to do with Book of Enoch than Genesis, but Enoch is so popular in the 1st century that Jude references it. Parts of the ancient church in the Horn of Africa recognize Enoch as canonical today.
I enjoy reading history. I also am intrigued how the church has accommodated the Bible to culture/science. I just read this quote today from Luther.
Scripture . . . simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed . . . in the firmament of the heaven (below and above which are the waters) . . . The bodies of the stars, like that of the sun, are round, and they are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire. . . We Christians must, therefore, be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension (like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens), we must believe them . . . rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works: Lectures on Genesis, J. Pelikan, ed.(St. Louis: Concordia, 1958 ), 30, 42-3; my italics).
To me, that's no different from what I would hear from Answers in Genesis. They may be beautiful people, but their science is completely wrong. But I had to read outside of my fundamentalist tribe to learn that.
I just read Mark Noll's book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, in which he shows how American evangelicals argued forcefully for the Biblical justification for slavery with NT proof texts, The rest of the church in Europe had turned their backs to it, mostly based on big picture biblical themes instead of proof texts. Now we have evangelical organizations that seek to help slaves escape and would never apply Paul's teaching that escaped slaves should return to servitude. Paul was right then, in that specific context, but it's wrong now.My childhood church did not enforce women's head coverings, though it was expected. But Paul commands it. It meant something then that it does not mean now.
So homosexuality...my friend did try to go straight with prayer and white knuckling it. He had Christian girlfriends, but the gay did not go away. I think the unreasonable expectation for him to stop being gay was a big contributor to his loss of faith. I also do not read anywhere in the Bible that one can't be saved if they are gay. It's not a salvation issue. I no longer think it's a sin issue either. I think promiscuity is sinful, but not intimacy in a marriage. The first couple in Genesis is the ideal, but in our broken world, not all Adam's are attracted to Eves. Nor all those gay Adams, possibly the eunuchs Jesus refers to as those made from birth, gifted with celibacy. So let's celebrate life long commitments in marriage.
"But if the church embraces gays we'll be conforming to the world and God won't like us anymore." I don't like slippery slope arguments. There is always someone else who thinks your position is too far down the slope already. There are still geocentrist christians today. Catholics think we protestants slipped down this slope for leaving the Holy, Catholic church. Orthodox think the Catholics slipped away too. Rethinking and re-framing the discussion is not a slippery slope, it's hermeneutics. The Bible does this with itself. Jesus does it too. But he affirms one thing above all else, love. That's one of the things I can still say I know, We are called to love one another.
That's where I'm at. Love. It defeats fear. Slippery slope arguments are usually about fear. Love is about tending wounds. Gays are wounded in our culture and by the conservative church. I share so many links on Twitter from gay people, because I think it is extremely important for conservative Christians to hear gay voices and gay perspectives. The gay agenda is to be treated like a human being. When we, as religious clubs, make it unnecessarily harder for some people to come to Jesus, or be part of our club, we add flies to the perfume. When all we have to say in our "compassion" is our gratefulness that we don't struggle in their way, we are no better than the Pharisee who thanked God he wasn't a tax collector. Gay people are today's gentiles in the church. As Ken Wilson, a Vineyard pastor in Ann Arbor recently described it, we can have a church posture towards gays of "welcome and wanted." We have an opportunity to bind or loose. I think the way of love is to loose them.
Feel free, if you want, to ask me lots of questions if any of this intrigues you. Most likely I will point to books I read and gay voices, who need to be heard directly and not interpreted by opponents. Here are some of the gay christian blogs I read, Sacred Tension, Crumbs from the Communion Table, A Queer Calling, Dance Like No One is Watching, and Grace Rivers. I follow on Twitter some of the same and more. Click for that list. As far as I read, none of the bloggers are in gay marriages or gay sexual relationships, which means they won't contaminate any conservative readers with gay sex cooties.