Where Gay Apologists Go Wrong

I really hesitate to write this post, but a confluence of factors has prompted me: Carrie Prejean’s Miss America drama, the CA Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold Prop 8, and a friend’s thoughtful response to that decision. Furthermore, now that I am done with C.U. I am free to write my opinions without fear of institutional reprisals (25 demerits and dismissal/expulsion).

When we talk about gay marriage, I think it’s best to drive straight to the heart of the issue. By that I mean that gay marriage, while an interesting subject in itself, is usually just a red herring: nobody who sanctions homosexuality will be opposed to it, and some who condemn homosexuality nevertheless won’t be opposed to gay marriage (I was once one of these for a long while). So the thorniest issue isn’t really marriage first & foremost, but homosexuality itself.

The friend I referenced in my first post is Bryce Bahler, who — it’s worth noting — was tremendously generous enough to host me for a day or two when I hitchhiked to Seattle. Bryce is also in charge of Facebook’s “Believers for Equal Rights” group and a staunch defender of gay rights. In light of the most recent Prop 8 news, he wrote a very good essay on why, as a Christian, he feels compelled to affirm homosexual believers. (I’m unsure, by the way, if this link will work if you’re not “friends” with Bryce on Facebook, but try it anyway).

Bryce’s note stirred up the usual responses, which often includes great consternation & befuddlement from the Cedarville crowd. I have a lot of sympathy for that kind of reaction, having spent most of my life with that mindset. I find Eugene Cho to be among those who’ve articulated this viewpoint in the most compassionate & thoughtful way possible. 

Yet I diverged from this path more than a year ago as a result of a paper I wrote for a C.U. Bible class on human anthropology (the professor, while disagreeing with me, nevertheless gave me an ‘A+’). I entered my research with an open mind, though with certain biases, but when it was all said & done I concluded quite differently than what I expected. You can read that paper in full right here: “Romans 1:26-27 and the Pauline Condemnation of Homosexuality” (pdf).

For those who want the summary: I concluded that Paul does in fact condemn homosexuality as we know it today, but that this moral principle need not necessarily be normative for us Christians today. (FYI, this one line would’ve technically been enough to dismiss me from Cedarville). The first half of that sentence is exactly where Christian gay apologists go wrong. With all due respect to Mr. Bahler, I think he’s inviting hermeneutic dissonance by continuing to insist that the Bible does not condemn homosexual acts. I came to see that the key to bypassing dialogical deadlock is to re-focus the debate on revelation: “A difference in one’s position regarding homosexuality proves to be linked with a differene in one’s view of revelation” (Pim Pronk).

In other words, Christian gays and their straight allies (of which I am now apparently one) need to stop contorting Scripture to make it say what it does not; rather, we ought to be going about the business of articulating a coherent, faithful, Christocentric theology of revelation. As I pointed out in the paper, a number of theologians have already done this, and much of contemporary theology that gets labeled “Emergent” is simply theology that rejects the Modernist views on revelation (and its scarier cousin, epistemology) that have been dominant for the last century thanks to Fundamentalism & Evangelicalism. 

And so this is the odd, precarious position I’m left with: a theologically conservative, heterosexual Christian who agrees with the Right that Scripture condemns homosexuality, but also agrees with the Left in not seeing this as an obstacle in affirming loving, consensual, Christ-centered gay relationships.

4 thoughts on “Where Gay Apologists Go Wrong

  1. Hmm… intriguing position.

    I’d like to say that I hope you don’t get too much shit flung at you from either side of the debate, but knowing the current state of things I know that it’s basically a given. Walking down the middle is never the easiest path.

    P.S. Not to be too pedantic, but you mentioned something about hermaphrodites in the first page of your article. People with sex development disorders usually take offense to that term and would prefer to be called “intersex” individuals (http://intersexinitiative.org/articles/intersex-faq.html).

    Sorry about the extreme PCness 🙂

  2. I’m in a weird position myself… I have a feeling that homosexual sex is probably morally wrong. It seems entirely consistent to me that a group who insists that sex between heterosexual unmarrieds is wrong can also insist that sex between homosexuals in any form is also wrong.

    Still my mind isn’t made up on the issue… and probably never will be. I’ve come to the realization that I don’t actually need to have a position on the morality of homosexuality. As a heterosexual, I have the luxury of not “struggling” with the issue personally, and as a Christian I understand that I should treat homosexuals, right or wrong, the same way I should treat everyone else: as more important than myself.

    It’s a cop out, but by now I’m OK with going through my life risking that I’m wrong on something I just can’t be sure about.

  3. Bob — sorry for the delay, my spam filter inexplicably blocked a couple of your comments.

    I don’t actually think your position is a cop-out… it almost sounds like Vattimo’s “weak thought,” or more colloquially, “intellectual humility.”

    But you & I also have the luxury of not being pastors. When a friend comes out to a friend, the dynamic is probably very different than when someone comes out to their pastor/priest, where the latter is supposedly equipped to tell them what “God’s will” for their life is. Of course, this could just be an effect of how, right or wrong, we view the pastoral role. Perhaps consumerism has taught us to seek the quickly-digestible theo-nuggets: “Tell me your stance on the rapture: go! Now defend your position on tongues: go!” etc. Think about how much flack Brian McLaren took for saying viz. homosexuality something like “There’s no way for me to answer this question without hurting or offending someone.”

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