Are We Turning a New Corner, Where Orthodoxy is Treated as Sin?Posted: July 15, 2013
Recently I was surprised by a comment I heard from a liberal Christian. The person is a gay activist and said that if you are not fighting against oppression, you are not Christian. Granted, Jesus opposed oppression (Luke 4:18) and the Bible depicts this as core to his principles. But since when do liberal Christians draw a line in the sand about who is Christian and who is not? Arnt these the people who proclaim ‘inclusivity’ as one of their driving forces? I remember years ago when the Episcopal Bishop John Spong, a key gay activist, said that he would no longer debate whether gay sex was sinful. I may be under-informed, but I dont recall him ever going so far as to referring to those who took the orthodox position, as inherently ‘unchristian’.
Then I came across Matthew Vines basically saying that it’s sinful to believe that gay sex is inherently sinful. He said that those who believe such things need “to repent.” Others have said that evangelical teaching shouldnt be tolerated (eg here and to a lesser extent here).
There have long been people who have argued that gay sex is not sinful. But since when do such people tell those who hold to orthodox doctrines, that they are sinning and need to repent? However such a view is gathering adherents (EG). When liberal evangelical Tony Compolo announced in June 2015 that he supported “the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church”, his words were met with a lack of enthusiasm by some religious gay activists. More than one blogged sentiments such as –
“It is not enough that Christian leaders simply step forward and announce their support for gay and lesbian Christians. It’s also important that they acknowledge the harm that has been caused by their use of an un-affirming theology and that they publicly repent for their sin of exclusion.”
More recently there was a case of a vice principal at a Catholic school, who called himself a Catholic, but not only was he encouraging the students to reject Catholic teaching, he was also suing the school for not allowing him to violate Catholic teaching.
Those in the political arena have long pointed out the hypocrisy of how the political left wing made a mantra of calling for tolerance at the end of the 20th century and then as they gained ground they actually became intolerant (ref. 2) of those who disagreed with them. But it’s news to me that this is now happening within church circles too. Are Christians who hold to a straight-forward and historic interpretation of Scripture, now going to be rejected from liberal churches, and be told that God himself disapproves of them?
There is evidence of this scene arising. Washington National Cathedral, belonging to The Episcopal Church, has been recognized by congress as “the national house of prayer” and is known for supporting liberal ideology (EG using it for Muslim-led events). In October 2013 it hosted a weekend of events to honour “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who have suffered hate-inspired bullying, discrimination, and violence”. Fair enough – Jesus too would offer comfort to those who have suffered. But the Cathedral is sponsoring these events with organisations including the Human Rights Campaign, and GLAAD. These are oranisations that oppose orthodox Christian teaching on homosexuality, with the latter of the two often referring to those who adhere to orthodox teaching, as bigots. And to clarity their position, the dean of the cathedral preached at the event, saying
“Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin. Shaming people for whom they love is a sin. … It is not only just OK to be gay, straight, bisexual, or transgendered. It is good to be that way, because that is the way God has made you. And the Christian community, the world community, needs you to bring the totality of your being—including and maybe especially your sexual and gender identity—to the table. … Your sexuality is good. The church not only accepts it. The church celebrates it and rejoices in it.”
As others have pointed out, this sets a tone where committed followers of the Bible, are not going to feel welcome. And yes some of those who stand for a Biblical perspective on homosexuality, have actually been told they are not welcome.
Below is a transcription of my above reference to the statement from Matthew Vines. I found it jaw-droppingly alarming. This transcription is from this audio interview on the (subsequently renamed) Gay Christian Network, about the discussion within the broader church about whether gay sex is inherently sinful. I have edited out some sentences to avoid the quote being too lengthy. Note that when he refers to “Side B“, he means Christians who believe that homosexual sex is inherently sinful.
Interviewer: “…you dont even think this is an argument that the church should be having. Ultimately you would like for this to be a settled issue, or no longer an issue. Of course GCN, the Gay Christian Network, is an organisation devoted to building bridges …”
MV: “… I think bridge-building is incredibly important. …. And I think that the work of so many Christians who are in similar – living in similar tensions – is the phrase that Andrew Marin likes to use; that that’s really important and beneficial. However, I do think that those bridge building efforts and relationships are inherently unequal, just in a different way than some people might argue. Because being gay is an utterly benign human difference, and so for a gay person to have to defend their orientation – their very existence at the level of their sexual orientation – for them to have to fight for the basic dignity of having what everyone else takes completely for granted in their lives and what so many straight people think is of immense value to them – for gay people to even have to have the conversation about whether or not that is acceptable, is degrading. And so yes that is unequal because for the most part you are pitting straight Christians – and there are some gay Christians who think this too, but the overwhelming majority of people who think that homosexuality is wrong, are straight and do not have to engage fully with the consequences of what they’re saying. And so that is not fair. It is not equal. … from a religious standpoint Im not gunna say that it’s okay to think that same-sex relationships are wrong when that viewpoint is destructive, incredibly destructive to the lives and the value of gay people. So yea that’s why I think what it means to love someone in this conversation is have that conversation, respect who they are, respect where they are and respect their motives. But that doesnt always mean respecting their beliefs. Because not all beliefs are equal. And if you believe in objective truth, as I do, then you cant have two positions that are of equal moral value. And so what it means to love someone who is side B; … I think you need to engage in substantive meaningful relationships with people. Actually care about people. Dont just focus on this. Dont just talk about this. And be there for people. Really learn from people. Respect them as individuals and as Christians. But when we are discussing this issue, dont pretend like their views are valid, in the same way. They are valid in the sense that their motives I can very frequently respect. And I know that they’re coming from a good place. But the views are inherently wrong, and in that sense inherently sinful. And so we need to encourage people to move away from them, to repent.”
Vines has also gone on record saying that some with anti-homoerotic views should have their public platforms removed. Others have said that churches should be forced to no longer regard homosexuality as sin.
On facebook in 2016, Vines promoted a post from the personal blog natejlee.com. The post was addressed to Pastor Houston of Hillsong, and claimed that God had “told me to keep you out” of San Francisco. The blogger detailed various reasons why he didnt want Hillsong to move in and change the city, and noted in an apparently sarcastic way that San Francisco is “also a demonic city because oh, we have gay people.” Vines response to the blog post was to describe it as a “prophetic critique” that “should be read and shared widely”.
Vines frequently points out that he was formerly a student at Harvard University. Another student at that same university, hit the news not many years after Vines quit, for recommending draconian restrictions on academic freedom. That student reportedly wrote an editorial that demanded an end to academic freedom if that freedom allowed ideas that may be regarded as objectionable to gays. The student wrote, “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?” Is this level of intolerance and restriction to freedom of speech, going to be hoisted upon the church too?
Update – more of the same: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-mcfarlane/fundamentalists-world-vision_b_5036935.html