Well, now that some have had their fill of chicken, let’s talk consequences to the church, gay people, and the reputation of Jesus in the aftermath of the great chicken slaughter.
Yesterday on Facebook I shared Rachel Held Evans’ status:
“Disappointed by the images and taunts coming from Christians supporting Chick-fil-A today. Is this what mobilizes us now? Is this what following Jesus is all about? I wholly support freedom of speech, of course, but I am and frustrated on behalf of my LGBT friends who see these long lines and packed-out restaurants as yet another reminder that they are not welcome in the Church.”
Her status prompted this response from one person:
“It is called freedom of speech…we all have it and can use it. It (“tolerance”) doesn’t tilt only in one direction. People on both “sides” taunt and are embarrassing reps…we all know it.”
My first thought was, did this person even read the status to which he was responding? Rachel was clear, I thought, that she understands people’s feeling the need to exercise their freedom of speech. Her concern was the implicit message that that expression was sending to gay people who feel abused by the church already. My second thought was, we are ambassadors of Christ first, citizens of America second. We don’t get to express ourselves any ol’ way we want to. We have to bear in mind how our expression will be understood by those who are watching us. Having the right to say something is not the same as being right in saying it. As Christians, we are not called first to express ourselves but to love. Love God, love people: the two greatest commands. Nothing about freedom of speech in there. And there was nothing loving about what happened yesterday. Only SELF(ish)-expression. Embarrassing and sad.
Another comment I received:
“Matt, what will your commentary be on the ones that have been rumored to be planning to have a “same-sex kiss-in” or show up in drag at CFAs later this week?”
My concern is with the reputation and witness of the church, not with what someone else might do to strike back at the church. It seems that so many in the really hard core conservative element of the church rush to support a cause with little thought of how the very people they’re supposed to love will receive their actions. Of course you have the right to buy hetero chicken and support traditional values and so on. But that’s not the point. Neither is what some other group may do to retaliate, whether it’s same-sex kiss-ins or drag shows. The point is that the church’s main mission is not to align with some restaurant chain or to oppose gay marriage. And the classless, smug, self-righteous photos that were popping up in social media yesterday only serve to perpetuate the feeling most gay people have, that the church hates them with a deep, deep hatred. But some in the church don’t seem to care one hoot about that. They don’t seem to care about loving, or even being perceived as loving. They seem to care chiefly about making a point and winning a war. Imagine if Mike Huckabee had said, “Let’s have a ‘show your love to a gay person’ day.” How many of the people in Chick-fil-A yesterday would have stood in line to do whatever one might do to show love to a gay person? (And handing them a copy of “Leaving Homosexuality” doesn’t count.) I’m going to guess the line would have been–well, there wouldn’t have been one. That says something terribly sad about us, I think.
One person commeted yesterday:
“…The real issue is all about…. is homosexuality wrong? As a Christian, do you and the person who wrote this article agree with the practice of homosexual behavior? I don’t understand how a Christian who reads their Bible can deny the clear teaching that homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord and those who practice it without ever repenting of it will perish.
Now, this is the main issue which the Chick-fil-a thing and puts it front stage in the public arena. And as a Christian, (and I’m sure I can speak for many, many customers at the restaurant today) I desire to love and show compassion for homosexual people and all other people who practice sin without repenting. I love them enough to accept them just as they are but pray for them and desire to share with them the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to save them and make them more like Christ.”
So many points to address here. I’ll hit just a few. First, what does it mean to “practice” homosexuality? If people are going to “perish” for it, we ought to at least know, specifically, what it means to practice it. At what point is a person practicing? When they see a cute member of the same sex and find that their body enjoys looking? Do they need to repent right then and everytime that happens? Or does practicing begin when you imagine undressing that person, or having sex with them? Or does practicing begin when you actually DO have sex with that person? And by sex do we mean anal, oral, or both? Is mutual masturbation okay as long no intercourse of any kind takes place? Or is a person “practicing homosexuality” by simply not seeing it as a sin? I’m not trying to be contentious. I’m being very serious here. If you are going to hold the threat of eternal damnation over someone’s head, you need to be very clear about what you mean by “practicing” the thing that’s inviting the damnation.
To answer the question, though, no I do not believe homosexuality is intrinsically evil, so I do not believe the “practice” of it, whatever we mean by that, is inherently sinful either. The commentor says he cannot understand how anyone who reads the Bible can deny the “clear” teaching of Scripture that homosexuality is an “abomination to God.” When I read this, it reminds me of the time in the Gospels when the religious leaders kept asking Jesus, “Are you the Messiah?” He said, “I’ve already told you but you did not listen.” I hear, ya, Jesus. I spent months laying out the reasons I no longer believe homosexuality is intrinsically evil. I did so under “The Gay Posts” on this site. They’re still on here. People can read them anytime they want. And yet still, I constantly get comments from people to the effect of, “But the Scriptures are clear!” It occurred to me this morning that not once since I wrote The Gay Posts has anyone who disagrees with me offered a serious response to the arguments I made. They simply tell me I’m wrong. They tell me I’m being deceived by the devil. They tell me I’m hanging around with too many liberals. They tell me I’m just believing what I want to because I’m gay. They appeal to strong emotions, but they never respond to the merits of what I wrote in The Gay Posts. I’ve repeatedly said that I might be wrong, and I acknowledge that real possiblity here again. But if I’m wrong, please explain how. If you are so clearly right, and I am so clearly deceived, bring forth your reasons. Tell me why I’m wrong in what I think about the Greek words “arsenokoitos” and “malakos.” Tell me why the idolatrous and pederastic practices of Rome could not have been what Paul was really opposing in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Show me, please. But if you can’t, then please stop telling me how clearly wrong I am. It’s insulting to the two years of study I did on the issue, and it’s insulting to the many terrific scholars and theologians I read in the process.
As for gays going to hell if they don’t repent … I shared my thoughts and feelings about that in the post immediately preceding this one, about a church confused and a gay Christian (me) frustrated. I’d suggest going back and reading that. Not only can the church not agree as to whether homosexuality is a sin; it cannot agree how serious a sin it might be. Can you imagine what it’s like to have all these people who all claim to follow the same God giving you such utterly different pictures of him? One Christian told me recently how proud God must be of me for putting my heart out here like this. Another told me I’ll be burning forever in hell if I don’t repent. Which is it? Can you imagine the psychological damage being done to me and all the other gay Christians out there who take the Bible seriously? I’m sure if I weren’t on medication and weren’t somewhat used to confronting all of this by now, I’d be a big ball of confusion and depression.
At the end of the last commentor’s statement, he says he wants to share the transformative gospel with gays that can save them and make them more like Christ. More like Christ? So, like the people who stood in line for hours at Chick-fil-A yesterday? Because I gotta tell ya, I can’t imagine that Jesus would have been anywhere near a Chick-fil-A yesterday. He never let politicians like Mike Huckabee talk him in to joining their agenda. Jesus SET the agenda. He never spoke about defending values or freedom of speech. He loved people. And since it’s pretty hard to argue how yesterday was a loving expression, I think it might be the church that most needs to experience the transformative gospel, so that IT may look more like Christ.
My bottom line on yesterday? I do hope all those little deep fried chicken sandwiches were yummy, because they sure have been costly, as once again some in the church have drawn lines between “us and them,” perpetuating the belief among gays that we really do just hate them. When that happens, everyone loses. Except Chick-fil-A, of course.