Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Book Update

I'm still working through To Continue the Dialogue: Biblical Interpretation and Homosexuality. Homosexuality is obviously a huge issue in the Church today, and I don't see it being settled any time soon. The debate continues to rage, churches continue to divide, and, as society becomes more and more interested in "tolerance," those churches who choose to treat homosexual practice as sin are going to be viewed by outsiders with suspicion and anger. It is my contention that we all need to think deeply about this issue, if only to "be ready to give an answer" to our belief and practice. If a gay couple walks into my church, I want to be ready to speak to them from the wrestling I've done, not from a pamphlet I read somewhere.

Unfortunately, so far at least, this book has not been the help I thought it might be. There have been a few small nuggets here and there, but, at least in framing the discussion, it's left me wanting more. The general feel through the first eight chapters has been almost passive-aggressive. Perhaps that's the Mennonite way showing through - above all, desiring to be "nice" and not offend anyone. Thus we read "The Bible says homosexual activity is a sin" but then "so we must still be open to hear all sides of the discussion and be willing to change our position if necessary."

One particularly troubling chapter was the one attempting to lay out the biblical framework for the discussion. The logic essentially went like this:
- All the verses supposedly condemning homosexuality (and all the reasons why they actually don't)
- All the ways to rightly interpret those verses, thus showing they have nothing to do with homosexuality
- Now let's look at the two options and decide which is the right one.

In other words, it wasn't a fair framework to begin with.

I was also surprised by one author using Richard Hays, who actually concludes that same-sex sexual activity is outside the will of God, to support his position that there is nothing inherently wrong with homosexual activity.

I'm trying hard to have an open mind and not bring all my presuppositions into the reading of this book, but it's hard when I watch people posturing and refusing to take their own stands. Maybe it's just me; I prefer to see two well-defined positions, hear their supporting arguments, and then decide between the two. That's not what is happening here.

However, let me share one of the better passages I've read:
From either perspective, however, I am often deeply offended by the rhetoric I hear and the things written by my brothers and sisters in the church. I find the attitudes expressed, and the lack of respect and care for the gay and lesbian person, disappointing, and at times very painful. Too many times people speak on this subject out of ignorance. Too many who speak have never held a significant conversation with gay or lesbian persons in order to understand their experience and to care for them. Too many of our gay and lesbian sons and daughters in the church have no one in the church who cares for them as persons, no one who prays for them, no one to express interest in their spiritual life.

Instead, I hear people in church circles again and again reflect the anger, fear, and disgust of our society. When I as a parent hear judgment without genuine care for the person, I feel deeply disillusionment and grief."

1 comment:

Linda Anderson said...

Difficult issue in the minds of many. The simple concept is this: if homosexuality is viewed as a sin, the we are obliged to treat the sinner as we would any other - with love and prayer and a fellowship (friendship) that will lead them to trust and a place where God can work in their lives. Our responsibility is the Christ-like behavior. It’s God’s responsibility to change hearts and lives.

I have two lesbian friends here on the Peninsula who have often visited our church. I am happy to say that those in our congregation who meet them and have known them have welcomed them with warmth and made them feel like human beings, not diseases. No, our members have not condoned the lifestyle. They have simply obeyed Christ and welcomed these women.

One of the women has been involved in the ECC for many years, having been a member of a remote church in Alaska at one time. The other has a Seventh-Day Adventist background. It is interesting that the former, in particular, is confident in her salvation and studies God’s Word regularly. We have had many lively discussions. She has been convinced that “this is the way God made me, therefore, He accepts me as I am.” Also interesting is that they have church-shopped with this result: the churches that accept their lifestyle do not give them adequate spiritual teaching, while those that do not accept their lifestyle reject them from involvement. So, sadly, they fellowship nowhere regularly. They fully understand that should they chose to regularly fellowship where they are welcomed but their lifestyle is opposed, eventually they will have to confront opposition and they shrink from that. You may occasionally hear one arguing with Thor Tolo on the radio.