• The day after …

    August 2, 2012

    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.

    Posted in: More Gay Stuff

Recent Comments

  • Jeramiah Snyder said...

    1

    Poignant.

    08/2/12 12:56 PM | Comment Link

  • Sara B said...

    2

    Long distance hug!

    08/2/12 1:01 PM | Comment Link

  • Caleb said...

    3

    Well said. Thank you.

    08/2/12 1:25 PM | Comment Link

  • Jamie said...

    4

    Ahhhhhhh…..sigh of relief to read your very, well written points! The point of exactly how was yesterday suppose to help heal and love from the church to the gay culture was one I was lamenting over last night as I laid out my points to Daniel. It’s just like Americans to “vote” using food as the source….so American, and so glutenous. Let’s talk about the fact that while so many were literally getting fat yesterday on their smug ideas of what they know nothing about, so many children around the world were dying of starvation or preventable diseases. Costly, for sure.

    08/2/12 1:34 PM | Comment Link

  • Jason Butler said...

    5

    Yes, you are right here. We all lost in this exchange. I am saddened that we have allowed a chicken sandwich to speak for us, we are forming our theology around a fast food restaurant. Really? My response is not one to condemn or justify homosexuality in this response – but rather, a critical look at the church. We line up at a fast food restaurant that will give us a heart attack in order to “prove a point.” But yet – those same people who profess Christ will go nowhere near our hurting cities, go nowhere near the oppressed and marginalized, go nowhere near a prison or the homeless, and indeed go nowhere near a homosexual. This is why the American church is losing its voice, because we are failing to love, because we are choosing self-satisfaction over the way of the cross. We have lost our voice because our mouths are stuffed full of self-satisfaction! How many of those people in line yesterday would line up to engage and sacrifice for a poor African-American woman living in the hood suffering under the weight of poverty watching her children be taken by the evils of crime and drugs. People will say, “But that’s not the point!” Oh no, it is the point, it has been the point all along.

    But Jesus – we never saw you naked or in prison or hungry or alone, we didn’t see you in line. We didn’t just eat chicken yesterday – we became goats.

    08/2/12 1:43 PM | Comment Link

  • Angie said...

    6

    What happened yesterday was a horrible travesty. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    08/2/12 2:06 PM | Comment Link

  • Charlie Lanier said...

    7

    Matt, you’re a talented writer who takes the time to carefully think through your arguments. I have not had a chance to read your books, but I have read your blog – specifically the Gay Posts.

    “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.”

    I confess, I did eat at Chick-fil-a yesterday. I don’t seek to antagonize, but to offer my reason. Being my favorite fast food joint, next to Moe’s, all the talk on the news made me crave some chicken, although, I admit that there was more to my motive. I can honestly and humbly say that I have a clean conscience about my lunch choice. I chose to eat there yesterday to support the CFA’s president who was attacked by the media as being the most vile of bigots. Honestly, I went to encourage a brother in Christ and his chain who was (from my perspective) being persecuted for merely expressing his stand on traditional marriage. As I examine my heart, I am not convinced that it was a selfish motive. I did not join the ranks of the Westboro Baptist Church, and I harbor no hate toward any group.

    08/2/12 7:03 PM | Comment Link

  • Charlie Lanier said...

    8

    “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.”

    I sincerely read through the Gay Posts with an open mind. I bought many of your arguments and was challenged to rethink my own presuppositions. Thank you for that.

    This is where I ended up. I know this has been a painful struggle for you, and I wish not to make it personal. I’m merely responding to your statement, and willing to think through a challenge to my own understanding. If I were to give you every single argument that you made with not contest in the Gay Posts, I still take issue with changing traditional marriage. There is no mention, no reference, no foundation laid in Scripture to support anything but the traditional marriage. Jesus and Paul both use the words “husbands and wives.” Even if we can take away the references that have been used to condemn homosexuality, there is no positive statement in Scripture about the practice and/or non-traditional marriage. I support traditional marriage because I see it as the way that the Scriptures teach. I do not support nontraditional marriage because I do not see it in Scripture.

    08/2/12 7:21 PM | Comment Link

  • Matt said...

    9

    Hey there Charlie! I miss you, man. In NO WAY would I ever think you are, or were, in league with the likes of Westboro. Good heavens! I know you better than that, friend. I also know, and probably should have stated in the blog, that I’m sure there are people who went with good motives, or just because, dangit, they wanted some chicken. I don’t think every single Christian who went to the establishment that shall not be named is a selfish, thoughtless person. I know motives and life in general are more complicated than that. I simply feel that, as a whole, knowing how people the church has hurt many times would respond, the event was selfish, unnecessary, and unwise. But I appreciate your thoughtfulness, Charlie, and your taking time to respond calmly and kindly. Miss you, friend.

    08/2/12 7:48 PM | Comment Link

  • Dorothy said...

    10

    Our culture has accepted two huge lies. First that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle that you must fear them or even hate them. And Second, that to love someone you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. Rick Warren

    This entire debacle was stirred by the media. Everything was taken out of context and blown WAY out of proportion. It breaks my heart on several levels. My brother is gay. I love him very much. I know this has caused some deep pain for him. While I did not go to Chick Fil A and hardly ever. I believe that Mr. Cathy’s entitled to his opinion. And that’s all it was until the media played havoc.
    I am sorry that as a Christian, this has hurt people that I do love. I like what Rick Warren said.

    08/3/12 2:29 PM | Comment Link

  • Denise DeMoulin said...

    11

    I posted a picture, you have probably seen it that said something like “wouldn’t it be nice if all these Christians spent their time at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen?” And boy howdy did I get some angry comments from friends who took it as a slam against all Christians. But that was not the intent at all. This is a political argument, not a religious argument, Jesus preached love and acceptance not hate. I didn’t mean to offend anyone other than the hate groups who wish to perpetuate the anti gay philosophy. Being straight, I can’t begin to understand the gay population, but I support their rights to live their lives in a way that makes them happy, and believe it is up to God to judge them, not us. I find it even more difficult to understand the hatred people feel for gay people. Who they fall in love with does not effect my life at all.

    08/4/12 1:55 PM | Comment Link

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