Actually, What If I Do Understand Trump Supporters – But Still Disagree?

We are now all being told that the biggest problem with with our national discourse on the election is that we don’t listen to each other. On the surface, this is a good point because listening is usually always a good idea. However, it seems that this good idea is being served with an unhealthy side dish of “if you are disagreeing, it is because you are not listening and understanding.”

We tend to accept this side dish because we are taught that our problems would all be solved if we just realized that we are more alike than we are different.

But what if we all start listening to each other right now and find that…. we are all still different on many key issues?

I have lived in Texas all my life. My parents are not very conservative, but probably 90%+ of all people that I have known are. I know and understand the conservative position as much as any conservative does (and sometimes even more so). And because I understand, I disagree. Bigly.

However, I don’t believe that the conservative viewpoint should be silenced or removed from the national discourse on and topic. Many conservatives feel like their viewpoint is not being heard because the liberal media and biased system is keeping it out. To advocate for those feelings to be ignored will just cause them to grow stronger.

But at the same time, I know that there are factual problems with that last paragraph. There is a conservative side of the media that tells their story and technically gets more viewers than the liberal side. The system is a mess that causes many problems with many people, not just conservatives. And even those two sentences are greatly oversimplifying some complex issues.

But the current drift of our national narrative is heading towards an attitude that will label me as not “listening” or “understanding” just because I disagree.

Its not really one way or the other. Sometimes listening leads us to realize we are more alike than we realize – on some issues. Sometimes listening leads us to realize we are really different on some issues and that can’t be changed.

The other side of this problem are those that say that all opinions on all issues are valid, and that we should stop telling anyone that they are wrong. This, of course, is followed by a long list of exceptions to this all inclusive declaration: except for racism, except for sexism, except for religion discrimination, except for heterosexism, except for ableism, etc. This whole package sounds good on the surface, until you dig in and find out that its not that people don’t want you calling out any of these exceptions as much as they want to re-assign everything to different categories so that nothing falls into any negative area. For instance, people will acknowledge that racism exists, but any specific instance of racism is labeled as something else – misunderstanding, social media hype, personal feelings, etc – and therefore moved into the category of “personal opinion” rather than societal problem. Racism exists, its just that there are no racists. Somehow, its magic.

I know people by name that have made racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, etc statements and jokes on social media. So I am not saying they are any of those because they voted for Trump – I knew that they were long before Trump was even considering running. I just didn’t see anyone that had inflammatory statements before the election posting on social media about how they voted for Clinton, Johnson, Stein, or no one after the election.

And so when I also saw people that never posted or said anything prejudiced declaring their support for Trump, you can maybe now see why it confused me. Did you know what you were voting for? Did you care? Why did you not point out that you disagreed with Trump’s sexist, racist, ableist, heterosexist rhetoric until after someone asked you how you could be okay with that? Before the election, I had one cousin that pointed out how much he hated Trump but as a Republican only wanted to vote Republican and felt trapped. I believe him. A few other connections that stated a general discomfort with “some” of Trump’s rhetoric. I believe them as well. These people are unfairly getting labeled many things they shouldn’t be.

I am not a huge fan of blanket statements. I try to avoid them even in the few cases where I suspect they might be true. But I also have listened to many Trump supporters enough to know where a majority of them come from, and I disagree with a majority of their reasoning for voting for Trump (and technically, all votes are for someone – the ballot did not say “against Hillary Clinton” on it). Additional listening on my part will not change my disagreements (even though I will still be listening because that is just who I am).

And for that matter, I don’t think getting Trump supporters to listen to me will get them to change their mind on many stances wither (even though it would be nice to stop being personally accused of killing millions of unborn babies with my own hands because I voted for Clinton).

metamodern-faith-avatarSo this is the challenge we are facing in America. Understanding each other is not going to solve all of our problems. Some, maybe, but not all. It will lead us to realize there are some things we just can’t agree on. We will need to find a way to agree to disagree and then work towards a system where everyone’s rights are protected. This will not be simple or easy. And the incoming administration seems to think there are simple one-solution-fits-all answers for every problem more so than not. I hope we don’t have to go through a large number of national tragedies and hardships for them to realize this is not the case.

America Doesn’t Need Unity. It Needs Marriage Counseling.

Has anyone else listened to the current political debates playing out on social media and feel that it all seems familiar? Not as is “this argument happened last time,” but some thing even closer to home than that? Am I the only one that thinks the two sides are beginning to resemble a couple in the midst of a divorce going at each other? And I’m not talking about the “oh, they are just drifting apart” kind, but the “should we get the police here before we have to call an ambulance” kind?

Yeah, America needs marriage counseling pronto.  And I say marriage counseling for a reason. When two people don’t get along, you don’t just tell them they need unity… they are already united whether they want to be or not (just like we are in America). You don’t let them blame external forces for dividing them. You tell them one thing: they need to sit down and listen to each other. And not just listen, but learn to practice what is called active listening:

According to experts in the field of communication, active listening means that you possess and have developed a specific kind of communication skill that allows you to fully hear what another person is trying to say.

There are many ways to do this, but the article that I quoted above lists five good places where America (aka “you reading this”) could start:

  1. Let your partner speak”This simply means that you should refrain from arguing your case until your partner finishes stating her or his position.”
  2. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes”During times of conflict, you should enter the conversation with specific goals of what you would like to learn from your mate – and not your talking points.”
  3. Don’t jump to conclusions”Even when folks are trying to listen, they sometimes assume that they know what their mate will say before the words can escape their mouth.”
  4. Ask questions”Avoid asking questions disguised as accusations. Instead, focus on knowledge that you truly need in order to better understand your partner’s position.
  5. Paraphrase what your partner says”Be aware there is a big difference between paraphrasing and parroting. In other words, don’t engage in a verbatim account or take on a litigious tone.”

Notice what this advice doesn’t say: “Quote Bible verses that say you should listen more than speak to the one you need to listen to” “Tell them that other factors are dividing you and there are the reasons why you can’t get along.” “Minimize their point of view by saying your point of view is just as important or more so than theirs.”

Look, I believe in unity. I believe in speaking in love and not hate. But too many times we use the ideas of unity, speaking in love, letting no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, we are all the same on the inside, the world is changed by your example and not your opinion, the media is dividing us so turn it off, etc to silence the other “side” rather than to actively listen to them.

To put this another way, even good responses can be the wrong responses when utilized at the wrong time or with the wrong intentions.

I hate to have to bring it up, but those in power usually use the concept of “unity” to force their political stance on those that they have power over. And even if you don’t buy that, any concept like “unity” has to be defined, and different people will have different definitions. If the goal is unity, then one definitive version of what that means will have to win out. And everyone else will be forced to follow the winner.

metamodern-faith-avatarTherefore, unity is not really a great goal at this point. Maybe someday, but not now. Besides, we have had unity forced upon us in America already. It hasn’t been working all that great, especially in recent years. We don’t need to ignore our differences, or even acknowledge them and then gloss over them in pursuit of one side’s view of unity. We need marriage counseling. We need to understand each other. We need to see each other as humans and not as sides to be opposed. To some reading this, that is unity. But to those that haven’t benefited from the majority’s view of “unity” so far in America, it is actually a much higher goal. Equality.

How to Destroy a Nation

Capturing millions of people and selling them as property to support business through slavery will not destroy a nation.

Latter declaring that these people have no legal rights and therefore can not even be citizens of your nation will not destroy a nation.

Forcing native inhabitants to move from their homelands to horrible living conditions – killing thousands in the process – will not destroy a nation.

Sending hundreds of thousands of people into internment camps just because they are the same ethnicity as the country that you are fighting with will not destroy a nation.

Dropping bombs that instantly kill hundreds of thousands of people in an instance will not destroy the nation that dropped the bombs.

Denying equal rights, voting, pay, voice, and other basic aspects to over half of the population of a nation just because they are women will not destroy a nation.

Hundreds of years of atrocities, murders, lies, cover-ups, unethical experiments, hatred, greed, mistreatment of the poor, abuse of children, and many other sins will not destroy a nation.

What is finally going to get God mad enough to destroy America (or let America destroy itself)?

Marriage equality and transgender bathroom access.

Two issues not even directly mentioned in the Bible… unlike all of the things above. But sure, God is going to finally hit that smite button because we let people marry who they want, and go pee where they feel comfortable.

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What if We are Just Starting to get Gender and Sex and Sexuality and All of that Right?

Many of my conservative friends are lamenting on Facebook this week how our world is becoming more confused about gender and sexuality issues, based mostly on marriage equality and transgender bathroom access. Their general point is that our children are losing their innocence because of the changes that our society is making regarding these issues. They feel that society is declining morally and calling what is evil good. They feel that our culture is out of control and getting everything wrong, because we had it so right in the past.

Or did we?

For hundreds of years, our society thought it was okay to look at people of color as less that human, leading to racism, slavery, hatred, and lynchings. We got that wrong for most of our time as a society, and are still struggling to get it right.

For hundreds of years, our society thought it was okay to look at women as property, leading to patriarchy, sex slavery, inequality, and gamergate. We got that wrong for most of our time as a society, and are still struggling to get it right.

We thought smoking was good for you for a long time, leading to cancer, death, and massive health problems.

We find out every year that the way we have eaten for years is wrong.

We find out every year that the way we teach our kids and ourselves is wrong.

We find out every year that we know less about the universe than we thought we did.

We are finding out that the way many of us sit and work all day is bad for us. That the way we treat our spouses is not healthy for them. That the materials we make our stuff with is killing us. That all kinds of ideas are not helpful but harmful.

And let’s not forget that almost all of these societal constructs we got wrong were adamantly supported by people claiming that the Bible was “clear” about these issues. Oh, and let’s also add in the problems caused by one religious interpretation forcing their beliefs on others, causing witch trials, inquisitions, and holy wars.

metamodern-faith-avatarSo suddenly certain parts of society can claim that what our culture has claimed is “normal” about sexuality and gender for centuries is completely okay, when it has a horrible history of getting so many other things wrong? Pretty much every time that a religious male forced their image as standard on others that were different, we see horrible things resulting: sexism, racism, slavery, religious cleansing, genocide, etc. But let’s also not forget that these men are also heterosexual cis males. What has been the result of the society that heterosexual cis males have created? Bullying, hate crimes, murder, and rising suicide rates among those that are LBGTQA. Have I made the pattern clear yet?

What if we are just now getting sexuality and gender right? What if the “right answers” are not as simple and clear cut as we would like them to be?

Trangender and the Garden of Eden

When dealing with the issue of transgender bathroom access, many people attempt to connect gender issues in general with various parts of the Bible. Probably one of the more common questions I read is something along the lines of: “if God created intersexual and transgender people, then why was there only a male and a female in the Garden of Eden?”

So let’s look at this question at face value, putting aside debates about whether Adam and Eve were real people or literary devices. Let’s look at this question from the side of a person that believes that Adam and Eve were real, and that all humans are descended from them.

Therefore the question is a valid one from that mindset, so lets take it to its logical conclusions. Two people meant there were only two sexes. That much we can read. But what else does that mean? Two people in the garden means that at most, there were also only two ethnicities, two hair colors, two eye colors, two adult heights, two personalities, etc. And this is all at most – Adam and Eve might have had the same hair color for instance, or might have both been introverts (wouldn’t that have ended the whole human race pretty fast, huh?). If our physical, mental, and emotion states were limited to only what was present in two people at creation, that means that every aspect of humanity is would still currently be limited to two possibilities.

But that is not what happened in reality. Now we have more than two possibilities for all physical, emotional, and mental characteristics in the world today. Think about it: whether you are born male or tall or black or cranky or genius is all coded in the same genetic strand. If you can have a different nose length than either Adam or Eve did, then you can also have a different sex or gender than either of them. Its all part of the exact same process.

metamodern-faith-avatarGod creating something in the garden means just that – God needed those parameters for creation. That does not necessarily mean that what God used for creation is what is also decreed as the only options for all times (basic genetics proves that). To say that what God used for creation is also a decree for what must be for all time is adding to what the Bible. God needed male and female for creation, and now creation is over.

Is Same-Sex Marriage Unjust?

One of the more prevalent attitudes today about marriage equality is that people should just mind their own business and not get into legislating religious beliefs in the bed room. This stance is obviously a good step to take towards living at peace with people that disagree with one’s personal beliefs. However, one of the problems with the whole issue of marriage equality is that this compromise is not enough for one side of the debate.

James S. Spiegel has published an article titled “Why Same-Sex Marriage is Unjust” in the Cambridge Journal. I have tried to get a copy of the full-text through the two top-tier research University libraries that I work with, to no avail. This really means that: 1) I can’t comment on the full article without reading it; and 2) It’s not a widely read journal, so the impact will probably be minimal. However, the abstract is being circulated on social media because it represents a widely-held set of beliefs within evangelical circles:

Proponents of same-sex marriage often defend their view by appealing to the concept of justice. But a significant argument from justice against same-sex marriage can be made also, as follows. Heterosexual union has special social value because it is the indispensable means by which humans come into existence. What has special social value deserves special recognition and sanction. Civil ordinances that recognize same-sex marriage as comparable to heterosexual marriage constitute a rejection of the special social value of heterosexual unions, and to deny such special social value is unjust.

These thoughts represent a major logical failure on (at least) three fronts, all of which I will touch on here. Maybe Speigel deals with these in the article, maybe not. However, all of the points below would still stand even if they were dealt with in any manner.

First of all, not all heterosexual unions produce children. I’m not just referring to those that choose not to have kids. Many people know that they are not able to produce children before they even get married. Other people get married after they are too old to have children. There are many heterosexual marriages between people that biologically can not produce children from that union. Some know before hand, others don’t find out until after they are married. If the special social value of heterosexual marriage is that they can produce children, then allowing people that can’t have children to get married is also a rejection of the special social value of heterosexual unions. But if one allows exceptions for heterosexual people just because their attractions could have led them to kids if they were born differently…. that is pretty much the same logic for allowing marriage equality. The same logic that would allow for an infertile or older couple to be an exception to this special social value would also apply to same sex marriages.

Second of all, someone being born with a certain ability does not automatically give it “special social value.” I was born a tall person. Every where I go, I am asked by strangers to get various items off the top self. I provide a special social value in that aspect, but that doesn’t make it unjust to equalize the reach of others. I could fight against laws that require stores to have step ladders in all aisles, claiming my height is a special social value that should be protected. But its just silly to think that because I am born in a way that makes me able to do things a certain way, than this is special social value of some kind. “But wait”, you might say, “we are talking about having kids here! That is not reaching a can of soup on the top shelf at the grocery store!” Well, of course. I am making an exaggerated example to show how you can’t just say “this is special, so we must keep others that are different from having it!” You see, the thought represented in the abstract above conflates two things that I will deal with in the next point: it confuses producing kids with raising kids, as well as confusing being pro-marriage equality with being anti-traditional marriage.

The third and final point is that support for marriage equality is not a rejection of the “special social value of heterosexual unions.” No one is trying to stop heterosexuals from getting married and having kids. Being pro-marriage equality is not the same as being anti-traditional marriage. Its is only adding to those that can already get married and raise kids. It is expanding the other social values that marriage brings (security, shelter, belonging, etc) to people in society that desperately want them (recognizing, of course, that not everyone needs marriage to find those – there are just many that do). It is also not about producing children, or making it so that heterosexuals can not have children. That is paranoid extreme right-wing weirdness. The world population is still increasing, and marriage equality is not slowing it down.

metamodern-faith-avatarThe special social value in heterosexual union is producing children. That is happening at such a rampant rate that thinking that producing babies needs some kind of protection is ludicrous at best. We need more people (single and married) to raise the number of children our world already can’t keep up with. The reality is that the “special social value” in marriage equality is creating thousands of more families that can legally adopt and raise all of the kids that heterosexual unions are producing. To me (and most people), raising children trumps having them, therefore in any case same-sex marriages have more of a special social value that heterosexual ones because they actually meet a real need. Producing children is not a social need at this point in time. Raising them is.

Response to Kevin DeYoung’s “40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags”

Yesterday I came across a post by Keven DeYoung titled 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. Looking through the questions, I decided to answer all of them. Of course, since this was published on The Gospel Coalition website, the questions were a hodgepodge of good questions, bad questions, and misinformed questions designed to “expose” sinful Christians more than start a dialogue.. Even the title itself reveals the first major misunderstanding: using the word “Now.” Many Christians have been waiving the rainbow flag while loving Jesus for decades. The questions weren’t that hard to answer, so here are my answers… if you really want to dig through all of them :). However, I would warn that if you do not read through all of these, then you are not qualified to respond to any Christians that take this same position because you do not understand our position enough.

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

A misleading question, since the Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice as part of our outreach to the world. So any happy event that the people around me rejoice in, I will rejoice with them. But celebrating something is different that determining if it is sin or not. I have celebrated the wedding of friends that had premarital sex. I have celebrated the marriage of family members that were on their third marriages. You are probably asking about a grander idea of “celebrate”, but that grander idea will also be answered in the following questions.

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?

It never really changed, but the verse would be Romans 12:9-21

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

See the response to numbers 1 and 2. If they get married, they will hopefully have sex. The question should not be about sexual activity, but marriage. This will be addressed in several of the following questions.

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

I’m assuming this is a reference to Ephesians 5:22-38, where Paul makes a metaphorical comparison between marriage and the Church. Of course, this is not a command for marriages to depict the Church. It is using a metaphor, and all metaphors break down at some point. The concept of “depicting Christ and Church” is a complimentarian ideal, one that not all Christian subscribe to. If you believe in the equality of men and women as well as the scripture that says “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” then a same sex relationship can also fulfill the metaphor of Church and Christ since in Christ we are neither male or female.

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?

If they are married, I do believe so.

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

There is no definition is Genesis. Genesis 2:24 gives a reason why a man would marry a women, but is not written as a definition or command (nor is it a direct quote of God). Jesus in Matthew 19:1-12 is responding to a question about divorce, and it would have been really confusing to say anything about the concept of homosexuality at that moment (especially since the concept and word “homosexual” emerged 1800 years later in 1869). To see those scriptures as a “definition” is adding something that is not technically there. Nothing about marriage equality changes those scriptures – that is still a reason why a man and woman would get married, and once they are married they should not get divorced.

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

Sex outside of marriage (more specifically, what the Greek word means – losing your virginity or purity). As the Strong’s Concordance puts it (as well as what most Christian and non-Christian Greek scholars agree on): “properly, a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity; promiscuity of any (every) type.”

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

They exchanged their heterosexuality for homosexuality by choice. They were born heterosexual and made themselves homosexual due to idol worship. Even marriage equality advocates do not support heterosexuals pretending to be homosexual. Your question, of course, assumes that homosexuality is a choice. Since it is not, the issue discussed in this scripture is clear. These people worshiped idols and pretended to be homosexual when they weren’t. To read anything else there is adding to what is actually written. Remember, in Greek language lists like Romans 1:18-32 are written in that order for a reason. If the first things in the list are not present (“they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” than “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” and so on), then you can’t pick out the following things in the list separately.

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

Heaven is a complex topic, with many churches disagreeing on what that means. A better term to use might be “eternity,” to cover those that believe in floating on clouds up in the sky, a future earthly Kingdom of God, and so on. As far as “keeping someone out,” that is a complex topic that touches on many different church doctrines. If you believe in “once saved always saved” or not, for instance. What I believe about eternity or whether a person can sin enough to lose their salvation (or not really be saved in the first place because they didn’t repent properly) is outside the bounds of the topic at hand. But I can comment on what those two verses are counting as sexual immorality.

The word used in Revelation 21:8 is pornos, which according to Strong’s Concordance is a “male prostitute.” There is very little disagreement among Greek scholars on this So this is not a pertinent scripture for this discussion.

The problem with I Corinthian 6:9 is two fold with this area. First of all, many translations use the word “homosexual” there, or expand that one term to “passive and active participants in homosexual acts.” There is disagreement among scholars over whether this simplification is proper. The word “homosexual” first appeared in print in 1869 in a German pamphlet by the Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny. As a concept, “homosexuality” has been through decades of modernism and post-modernism, construction and deconstruction. To reduce the idea to “passive and active participants in homosexual acts” and then place it in scriptures that were written nearly 1800 years earlier is very, very problematic. Just because we have a clear idea of homosexuality today, that does not mean that ancient Roman and Greek culture did.

You can read more about ancient Greek views of homosexuality, but this quote sum sit up best: “The ancient Greeks did not conceive of sexual orientation as a social identifier as modern Western societies have done. Greek society did not distinguish sexual desire or behavior by the gender of the participants, but rather by the role that each participant played in the sex act, that of active penetrator or passive penetrated.”

You can also read more about ancient Roman views of homosexuality, but this quote sums it up best: “Same-sex attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome often differ markedly from those of the contemporary West. Latin lacks words that would precisely translate “homosexual” and “heterosexual””

So, even if you can justify simplifying I Corinthians 6:9 down to “passive and active participants in homosexual acts,” the idea that it could have been two consenting adults that felt they were in love with each other is just not possible based on what the culture would have understood at the time. So what would the culture of the time have understood?

The term in question is arsenokoitai. Greek scholars (both Christian and non-Christian) are more than a bit unsure exactly what Paul meant by this obscure word. The Tyndale’s New Bible Commentary and the Catholic Study Bible both point out that this term possibly only referred to male temple prostitution, since that was the only form of homosexual activity that they the culture of the time was familiar with.  So one highly likely possible translation for the word would be “male prostitutes or the men who sleep with them.” This link details more of this possibility.

(It’s important to note that there are responses to the position above. And responses to those responses. And so on. So it really comes down to which scholars you want to believe. There is no airtight refute on either side. However, both sides have to deal with cultural understandings of homosexuality, which they should be used to doing when they, say, allow women to speak at all in Churches in direct violation to certain scriptures).

Its important to note that the liberal/progressive position on this verse is not that this translation possibility is the one, obvious, clear interpretation. It is one of two likely translations, with liberals leaning towards the male prostitution angle while acknowledging that a more general idea of all gay (but not lesbian or bisexual) sexual activity is also possible. This is in stark difference to the conservative side, where the majority feel there is one, clear, obvious translation and all others are wrong, deceived, or incorrect. Of course, there are a few liberals that take that hard line stance for their side, but they are few and far between.

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

Revelations 21:8 was referring to male prostitution.

I Corinthians 6:9, if only taking into account what the culture at the time understood and what the words probably said, would be referring to male prostitution and the men that bought them or slept with them. To add to that would be to add what is in the Bible. Which, of course, we all do with some things, but due to the very low number of verses that refer to this concept, I am not comfortable adding to what the Bible says here.

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

Interesting that you should bring up Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther – four people that are famous for disagreeing with the long-standing understandings of certain church scriptures. Even the Evangelical movement owes its existence over the past few decades to coming up with different interpretations of scriptures that had stood for over a thousand years. The problem with this kind of question is that it focuses on one scripture while missing the fact that Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists all owe their existence to taking a different interpretation of scriptures that had stood for centuries before they came along. But now suddenly you are saying you are the last ones that can do that? So, yeah, whatever gave you the right to re-interpret the scriptures you did to create your movement.

Also, to be clear – it is not what I understand. It is what I have learned from reading many other experts, praying, and following the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

I have been to Africa and Asia, and don’t remember the churches there having a unified stance on much of anything, including homosexuality. I met many people that held what is considered the “liberal” view on most scriptures and were still winning people to Christ every week. I would point out the same thing I did in the last question. I would also point to many resources that have examined the scripture on this issue, including:

Its also interesting that you ask about “culturally conditioned” views of homosexuality. As was covered earlier, the word “homosexual” is a modern word, and using it as you did in the question is also a culturally conditioned view of the concept. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to now look at that term without cultural conditioning in one way or the other.

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

I am not God, so I can not speak for their motivations. I did not vote for Barack Obama, and will not vote for Hillary Clinton. Very odd, misguided, politically-motivated question, though. Why is this even here?

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

Not always. Abuse is always the worst option for a child even if both a mother and father are in the picture. An abusive mother and/or father would be worse than a loving same-sex couple. Children do best in a loving environment. Almost all of the research points to how parenting is carried out, not what gender makes up the parents. Single parent households can produce great kids. If the mother and father are loving and follow good principles of parenting, then yes that is best. If there is only one parent that is loving and following good principles of parenting, then yes that is best. If there are multiple sets of parents due to divorce that are loving and that follow good principles of parenting, then yes that is best. If there is a same sex set of parents that are loving and follow good principles of parenting, then yes that is best. Of course, use of the word “best” is problematic at best, which I will explore in the next question.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

The research is all over the place, but the problem is more with your use of the word “best.” Research on parenting is often opinion-based and biased towards certain styles, methods, and ideals – with multiple versions of “best.” Many lists of parenting tips don’t mention the need for a Mom and Dad; they just tell what to do IF a Mom is in the picture, or IF the parent has a partner, and are usually only one or two parts of a longer list that any configuration of parents can follow.

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

That’s a weird question that is too vague to answer. I would not support taking kids away from single parents if that is what you are asking. I would not support taking any children away from any family configuration that is providing them with the love and support they need.

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

The purpose of marriage is a socially defined construct that changes from culture to culture throughout history. Love is actually not always part of that construct in all of those definitions. But another weird and vague question. Most people don’t subscribe to these post-modernist either/or’s. Marriage can have several purposes and ends all at the same time.

18. How would you define marriage?

The legally or formally recognized union of a two adult humans as partners in a relationship.

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

Depends on how you define “close.” I support current rules forbidding certain family connections from getting married, but as far as how far removed a cousin has to be before they get married, I defer to current laws on that.

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?

Two adults, yes.

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

As far as relatives are concerned, that is a usually based on Science and what could happen emotionally to the couple and physically to any children. Current laws already cover this, so I have nothing to add to that. Those are there for a reason, and I support those. As do most who support marriage equality.

Marriages between more than two people creates an inequality. For example, if there is one wife and two husbands, the two husbands become less equal in a legal and practical sense than the one wife. No one has ever been able to create a practical set of rules to create legal equality in polygamy that doesn’t come down to a set of rules that even the most left-leaning liberal considers to be too much government involvement. Its just a principle of simple math. Two or more spouses are usually attracted to one other spouse. He or she gets all of one half of the love, and the others have to split the other other half two, three, or four more ways. That’s an inequality.

Sometimes adults choose to violate the freedoms of others, and that is what I am talking about here. The law has to create an equal foundation to build on. If others choose to build on that foundation a dominance-based relationship, they are misusing the equality they are given. How much we legislate that depends on how much you want government control of your life, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the law has to create an equal foundation.

For example, let’s take a look at the laws that would be required to create an equal foundation for polygamy. Whether people follow these or not is another issue. Traditional marriage laws are built upon the idea of two marriage partners, who basically say they fully love each other sexually, romantically, emotionally, etc. With two people, an equal foundation is assumed and there is no need to legislate more for the foundation (but there are, of course, already laws that spell out repercussions if you break that equal foundation too much into the realm of abuse). Once you introduce a third, fourth, etc partner, that equality becomes a bit more difficult to ensure as a baseline and more laws have to be created. The people that are plural in the relationship (the two husbands, the 3 or 4 wives, etc) would have to be required to be bisexual to ensure that all partners have an equal baseline for sexual and romantic equality in the marriage. That would have to be legislated by law. How does one do that? And even if you can, too much government control for my tastes. Then, you would have to legislate that the 3rd, 4th, etc person in the relationship is equally in love with everyone else already in the marriage. Easy to do with two, near impossible with 3 or more. But necessary in order to create a foundation of equality. Like I said, they may not follow that in reality, but the law is concerned with creating an equal foundation. Not only that, you would have to require that the people already in the relationship love the new person coming in as much as they love the people currently in it. Again, easy when there are two, near impossible when there are more and waaay too much government intrusion.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

Yes, and most jurisdictions already have that. This would tie into question 19 and the first paragraph of my response to question 21.

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?

Kind of redundant, see my definition of marriage above and the response to question 21. I assume you are referring to marriages between people and animals or objects. This would also create an inequality, as you can not create and equal foundation between humans and animals or objects including robots).

24. If not, why not?

See the reasons I listed above.

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

Depends on the situation or context (as does any freedom – “your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins”). For example, government workers can not deny services to anyone protected under law. If it would be wrong to deny your services based on skin color, then it would be the same for those that are LGBTQ.

Christians serve people that fornicate, lie, get divorced and re-marriage multiple times, and so on. If they suddenly decide to draw the line at homosexuality, they are hypocrites plain and simple. Churches, of course, are not businesses and that is a different issue. Churches are allowed to operate within the bounds of their personal beliefs within their property.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

If it is truly threatened because they were just holding a different belief, then yes. If they are being a hypocrite by not serving someone that is LGBTQ when they served all kinds of other people they call sinners, they will get no support from me. It is just silly to not serve people because you disagree with something they do. Christians have no room to refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings, or refuse to give out marriage certificates for gay weddings, or so on. That is just pathetic. Just admit that you don’t even want to evangelize certain lost people and move on. Or at least quit serving the 90% of your existing clientele that are committing a sexual sin.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

This is something I have personally researched and published on. Another bad question. When Evangelicals and Catholics are bullied, many people usually speak out. When those that are LGBTQ are bullied, very few to no one speaks out. People that are LGBTQ are bullied and assaulted at least 4 times more than people that are heterosexual. They are also more likely to commit suicide. So basically you are asking if I am going to speak up for people that are least likely to get bullied but most likely to have someone speak up for them when they are bullied. It saddens me that you would diminish the suffering of millions here in the U.S. by misdirecting the question. I am against all forms of bullying, but the research is clear that one group does not need my voice, while another desperately needs all the voices it can get. The real question is, when are you going to speak out in depth and specifically about the bullying, assault, suicide, and murder of those that are LGBTQ that happens too frequently in this country?

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

Another self-answering question. I would teach them what the Bible teaches on divorce and extra-marital sex. That would apply to all same sex marriages as well (since not all same sex marriages are between people that are gay).

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

If by “open” relationships, you mean those that allow marriage partners to have sex with people they are not married to, then yes – same sex (not all are “gay” by the way) couples should be treated as opposite sex couples. Most churches get church discipline very wrong by going over the line of discipline into systemic abuse, but that is a topic for another conversation.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?

Yes. It is also a sin for the 90% of heterosexual Christians that engage in sex outside of marriage.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

Prophesy is most often encouragement to love and follow God more, so your question is an answer in and of itself. Speak against these issues, since they are clearly outlawed in the Bible (except for the conditions on divorce as listed).

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

See number 33 below.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

1 John 4:7: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Romans 13:10: “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

1 John 4:20: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Hebrews 13:1: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”

Romans 13:8-10: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

…and many, many more – but you get the point.

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

We should shape our understanding of love to how God defined love. See #33. Getting pretty redundant here… to make an even number of questions I guess?

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?

I’m not so sure. Most Christians go beyond disagreeing. Let me put it this way. If you think bacon is bad for me, we disagree on that. If you make it a national law that I can’t have bacon while you can, and keep saying how much my bacon eating is destroying our country, and tell me I can’t come to your church as long as I eat bacon – that is not “just disagreeing.” You may say “but my bacon is real bacon and yours isn’t, so its different.” But to me, if its all bacon, I won’t feel like you are stopping at “just” disagreeing. So it is possible, but most conservative Christians go waaaaay beyond disagreeing.

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

It was not a change for me. But as Jesus, Paul, and others have encouraged us, I am constantly praying, studying, and growing in my understanding of faith, since I am an imperfect human that will never have perfect understanding this side of eternity (like all of us). So if my understanding of faith is not constantly changing and growing, I am not following God and my pride is probably a huge sin that needs to be dealt with.

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

Many of the lost are turned away from the church because of their consonant bullying of those that are LGBTQ. I have convinced more people to go back to church and God in the past 5 years than I ever did in the 10-15 years before coming out as an ally (I generally had to keep my ally status a secret during that time). The more I study this issue, the more I dig into the Bible and what it really does (and doesn’t) say. I am more clarified than ever in my understanding of the Bible, in my love for Jesus, and in sharing the love of God with the lost world (in addition to all issues stated in the question).

But then again, because of my stance on several issues, I am usually told I am not an evangelical. I try not to use any descriptors other than “Christian.”

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

Many “open and affirming” churches are doing all of that, and many aren’t. Just like many conservative Baptist churches are doing all of that and many aren’t. Or many conservative AoG churches are and many aren’t. I would look at the churches that Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evens, Justin Lee, and Matthew Vines go to for places to start. They have also covered many churches that are doing all of that. But you are probably already aware of what they have to say on this, and I doubt you would agree with any of those churches that I would look up. However, here is a good long list of churches to look into if you are really interested.

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

Yes, I do. Even though many churches are making it hard to keep that commitment. Many of these questions are just poorly veiled attempts to “expose” sinful Christians, because that is what you assume we are. Strawmen smokescreens that hurt the conversation more than they help.

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

See question 8.

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metamodern-faith-avatarLook, I know that this list of questions is just a snarky attempt to make people feel bad. Your hope was probably that one of three things would happen: 1) people would not be able to answer any questions because they are not “real” Christians and are just following the cool crowd; 2) real Christians would read a few questions, get convicted, and change their position; or 3) liberals would answer all of the questions incorrectly and just prove that they don’t really know the Bible or that really don’t follow God. The number of redundant, poorly worded, and misleading questions just backs this up. You were not expecting Bible-believing, God-fearing, Jesus-loving Christians to be able to correctly answer any of the questions, even though millions of us can. This just highlights the level of disrespect you have for people that take a different position than you do. Of course, people on all sides of issues do that, including myself. But I hope that someday you will realize this problem and that will help you to choose to have a much more productive conversation around this topic (and many others).