I was talking about this with a Baptist pastor friend the other day (you know who he is) , so I decided to finally put some of this down. I've thought about it for awhile, but I've been avoiding it. Then I shot my mouth off about "blogging through" One Punk Under God. And really, this is the only thing I've got to say about what I saw in Episode 2.
One of the major reasons that "liberal," "progressive," or "revisionist" Christians argue for the validity and necessity of blessing same-sex unions is a failure of imagination.
Stay with me - I didn't say "only," but "one of the major reasons."
Most often, when I talk to Christians who have revised their view on the matter from the traditional to the progressive stance, the narrative goes something like this:
"I was always taught that homosexuals are bad people who are rebelling against God. But then I actually talked to some gay Christians who don't understand themselves to be in rebellion, and have loving, monogamous relationships that seem to mediate God's love and grace to them and their partners. These were not bad, evil people at all! After meeting these people and seeing this, I can't support any reading of the Bible that says God doesn't love them, and that they should be driven away from the Church."(This was essentially the story Jay Bakker told in One Punk Under God.)
In a sense, this is a good and legitimate "conversion" story. We have a narrative of somebody turning away from a "reading of the bible" by which they could justify hateful behavior toward gay people, to a "reading of the bible" that forbids it. That's important. That's an important move in discipleship. Where the failure of imagination comes in, however, is where one's sexual ethics must change in order to love homosexual people instead of hating them.
For anyone outside of Christ's Church, their problem is this: everybody is fallen and separated from the life of God, and are even enemies of God. The good news is that Jesus has and inaugurated God's rule over the whole earth and begun its restoration (and ours!) by taking on the full consequences for our sin and alienation from God. Everybody is invited to get on board with his Kingdom agenda and place their lives under the present and coming Reign of God here and now.
That's a universal thing. It has nothing to do with gay, straight, or anything else. It's just human. If somebody's sexual orientation or lifestyle presents a stumbling block to whether and how you present this story, you have a problem understanding and living out this story. So where does "gay" start to matter? It matters when we start talking about chastity, which in turn is only meaningful for people who have chosen to live in the Jesus way. Christian chastity is a bodily expression of our belonging to Christ. It happens to be the case that the vast majority of Christians in the vast majority of all times and places have considered homoerotic relationship of any kind to be outside the boundaries of God's creative and redemptive intentions for humanity. The two options for chaste living are Christian marriage or celibacy. The gospel calls all Christians to live chaste lives, and for people who understand themselves to be homosexual, that means celibacy.
(This does not require one to say that homoerotic partnerships are completely devoid of "real" love or grace or the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians to heal and restore us.)
Now here is the place where many "liberals" and "conservatives" are on the same page: they think that what follows from such a position is that non-Christian people must be told that their orientation or sexual activity separates them from God in a way that is more significant than the general "fall" and sinfulness of humanity, and that gay people must be straight to be loved by God. And of course, that the culture must be shaped to make it harder for everybody to live lives the Gospel declares to be sinful. Fundamentalists assume this and have no problem with it, while liberals make the same assumption and so insist upon re-writing their sexual ethics. This represents a failure of imagination on both sides. I have a big problem with this perversion of the Christian story, but as you might suppose, I think that my summary is consistent (surprise!) with the traditional Christian story about sex as well as the Gospel's imperative to love in real and meaningful ways.
If you think - as either a "conservative" or a "liberal" - that you have agree with somebody's story about themselves as a prerequisite to being a neighbor to them and being friends and loving them well, and sharing some important things in life, you don't really get the Gospel yet (see this also).
In addition, because one can't really have relational holiness if one is all about rules and "separateness" more than commitment and peace - if one says to gay people that they are the Church's enemies in the culture wars and that they are the harbingers of the destruction of Western Civilization, one is not treating them like real people who are loved by the the Trinitarian God. Such a story draws the "battle lines" of the Kingdom in a very different place than does the Gospel story.
Being a Christian is hard. It means taking on some commitments that we might want to fight for most of our lives, and giving up some ways of living and thinking that we treasure - like the silly story about the Culture Wars, or some kinds of sexual practices. If you can't hack it, don't be a Christian. I won't hold it against you. I'll even understand, and appreciate your honesty. Seriously. Either way, Christians are required to learn to love you well, whether you are an enemy by declaration, or by subversion.
(N.B.: if this upsets you, read the piece at least twice to make certain that I must be saying what you think I'm saying. I might not be. Remember my policy: comments that suck will be deleted.)