Yesterday, I talked about a comment I’d received that said those who do not repent of “practicing homosexuality” will “perish.” I assumed by perish he meant “go to hell,” and that seems to have been correct. But I was unclear what he meant by “practicing” homosexuality. Simply finding yourself attracted to the same sex? Perhaps enjoying said attraction? Holding hands with another dude? Kissing him? REALLY kissing him? Planning your day around Michael Phelps’ and Ryan Lochte’s televised swimming events? (Oops.) Or does practicing homoSEXuality begin with, well, sex? If you’re going to threaten people with the eternal death penalty, you need to be clear what invites it.
Last night I received, first, an apology from the commentor, which seemed clearly sincere and contrite. He acknowleded he’d been insensitive and asked forgiveness. He also acknowleged he had not read The Gay Posts on this website, and from what I could gather from his message, he does not really understand how I interpret or apply the Scriptures concerning the issue. I very much appreciated his message, and believe me, I understand being insensitive. That describes about the first five years of my Christian life, and I still, at age 35, have a tendency to state my thoughts too strongly or in an unkind manner. So, I get it, and I hold no ill feelings. Apology accepted, forgiveness granted.
Second, the commenter attempted to clarify what he meant by “practicing homosexuality.”
“As far as what does “practicing” mean in these verses it refers to unrepentant approval in an active or passive sense and clearly Paul is not saying all who struggle and have desires, inclinations, and temptations towards these will perish. We all would have no hope then.”
Sounds like we have very little hope, regardless. I’m not sure which verses he means, whether the relevant passage in Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6, but the key phrase here seems to be “unrepentant approval in an active or passive sense.” I assume by “passive” he means people who simply approve of gay people doing gay things, and I assume by “active” he means people who are actually doing the gay things. Either one, in his mind, causes a person to perish (i.e., go to hell). This would include, if I’m understanding him correctly, straight allies of gay men and women, moms and dads who affirm their gay sons and daughters, your average joe sitting in the pew on Sunday who has never uttered a word in support of gay marriage but passively gives his consent by not opposing it because deep down he thinks it’s fine–and, it would include me. I’m not in a relationship currently, not doing any gay things (except watching every minute of men’s synchro diving that I can), but I believe and espouse that gay may just be ok. I came to this conclusion honestly, based on Scripture and what I understand of first century pagan culture, so there is no God-defying motive in what I believe, but, according to the commentor, I am guilty of practicing homosexuality in an unrepentant manner. So, that makes me fuel for the eternal fires, I guess.
This commentor, by the way, is no Bible hack. If I remember correctly, he has some seminary training. (And at this point I should state that he is not from Blacksburg and never worked for or attended my former church there, so please don’t send hate mail to any of my friends or former coleagues there. Thank you.) This commentor, at least to some degree, knows the Scriptures, but his belief that people like me go to hell unless we recant our beliefs is confounding to me, and disturbing. I have so many questions for him.
1. Where does Jesus figure into this? Does a person (me) saved by Christ 20 years ago this November forfeit eternity with God by believing homosexuality is not intrinsically a sin? Or does my believing this mean I never really was saved? If we could forfeit our life with God by something we do, doesn’t that also mean we are kept in his “grace” by what we do, and isn’t that what Paul opposed in Galatians, saying that anyone who would teach such a thing, let him be eternally damned (Galatians 1:6-9)?
2. Suppose I marry a man, and have lots of glorious gay sex, maybe even adopt a kid with my partner, because I came to the conclusion that it was ok to do so–if it turns out I was wrong, albeit sincerely, is this enough to cancel out Christ’s work on the cross on my behalf?
3. Really, the mom and dad who may deep down think homosexuality is wrong but choose to affirm their kid rather than see that kid commit suicide at their rejection–that mom and dad go to hell for “practicing homosexuality”?
4. Where in Scripture does the commentor see his understanding of “practicing homosexuality,” or, for that matter, the tenuous nature of salvation, expressed?
5. Has the commentor spent much time seriously thinking this stuff through, agonizing over it, considering the effect his words have on me and everyone reading them, especially the many God-loving gay people I know who want to follow (and who believe they are following) Jesus?
I promise I’m not sharing any of this to pick on the commentor. Again, he was very sincere, I believe, in his apology for sounding insensitive the first time around. I’m sharing this because I think he is far from alone. I think a large swath of the conservative Christian church today believes as he does, often for no real reason other than, well, they just do. They haven’t examined their beliefs because there are no consequences to them for believing as they do. All the consequences are to the gay people “out there.” Oh, they may know a gay person or two, but my guess is most of them have never walked closely with a gay person who’s trying to figure this stuff out.
And as many Christians as there are who believe as the commentor does, there are as many, I believe, who are horrified by what they see as this terrible abuse of the Bible. As I shared yesterday, one Christian told me how proud God must be of me, and another, in the same day, told me I was going to hell. Which is it? And this gets back to the problem I have with the church universal today, which I wrote about a couple entries back. The church is so fractured today, so confused on this issue, so incapable of agreement, that it sends utterly opposing messages. Gay people hear, from representatives of the same Jesus, that God affirms their gay relationship and that God will send them to hell for it. Christians, do you understand the psychological and spiritual toll this takes on those of us who find ourselves gay in the pew?
I don’t know what the solution to any of this is. Maybe if we all took time to read, think, and feel more than it sometimes seems we do, that’d be a start.