Friday, July 4, 2008

Dan Kimball Loves Gay People (And You Should Too)

Once again, They Like Jesus But Not the Church is proving itself well worth the time. Despite having still not finished it I am fully ready to give it a hearty recommendation. Read it and let it challenge and convict your approach to interacting with the world.

Kimball’s chapter on homosexuality might be the best one yet, primarily because he writes as someone who has both thought through the issue theologically (and lands conservatively) yet has apparently interacted quite a bit with homosexuals. This includes hours of interviews with both non-Christian homosexuals and Christians who struggle with homosexuality. Much like his approach to the gender issue (see my previous post), Kimball urges increased thoughtfulness, listening, and understanding.

My burden in writing this particular post is to once again pass on Kimball’s challenge to those who are not planning on reading the book.

I need to be upfront that it would be exceptionally difficult for me to buy that the Bible does not condemn homosexual practice in all forms as sinful. I am aware that there is plenty of pro-gay Bible-believing theology coming out at this point and intend somewhere down the line to interact with it. The texts seem plain to me though and that is the truth of where I stand right now.

That said, the church absolutely cannot go on treating homosexuality as a super-sin. The inescapable fact is that generally speaking the church has reacted to homosexuals in stigmatizing, even homophobic ways (and please note the word “generally”). Preaching and teaching on homosexuality tends to be narrow and uncompassionate.

Kimball’s illustration is helpful and deeply convicting:
“Imagine an unmarried couple who are living together and are sexually active. They enter your church and tell you they aren’t Christians yet, but are interested in God and are checking out your church. They begin attending your worship gatherings, and you are happy to see them there, hoping they will come to trust in Jesus. You know they are living together, and you see them respectfully showing their affection by holding hands in church and putting their arms around one another.
But what if a gay couple did the same thing?” (148)

Even at my own church full of Christians who really try to get things like this right, this situation would be tough. And frankly, there is something understandable about that. The two would seem so out of place that it would be awkward. But could we get past that awkwardness?

Do not hear my wrong: I am in no way condoning homosexuality- as I’ve said, the Bible seems clear that homosexuality is utterly sinful. But it is in fact my doctrine of sin that challenges my thinking about this: if I truly believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that all are equally in need of Jesus, that none of us have any merit of ourselves to bring before God, then why would I treat homosexuals any differently than any other non-Christians?

This becomes especially important when we recognize, as Kimball stresses, that there are very likely some in our own congregations who struggle with homosexual urges, just like others struggle with urges to drink too much or have sex before marriage. A Christian who wants to please Jesus but struggles with homosexuality cannot be much different than any other Christian struggling with sin. If we respond in stigmatizing ways we only push these people away from the One Person who can deliver them from their own sinful hearts and reinforce the pain-driven church-hating subculture that is certainly out there.

I find in myself selfishness, lust, pride, lack of love, and lack of care for the poor, to name a few sins. I can only imagine that homosexual Christians find in themselves some of those same things, as well as homosexual desires. My Christian brothers and sisters pray for me, listen to my struggles, and act with compassion as they hold me accountable and lead me to Jesus to heal me and change my heart. The question is, where do we send homosexuals for that same deliverance, and what kind of attitude do we have towards them when we do it?


David A. Carlson said...

Good observations. Homosexuality has become the "unforgivable sin in many ways in reformed Christendom, or at at least it seems the one sin you must repent of before you enter the church.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I got an interesting perspective from the video "Trembling Before God" about orthodox rabbis trying to find a compassionate response to the problem of homosexuality.

I don't think anyone has ever become gay or straight because I did or did not endorse homosexuality . . . so I'm still not planning on endorsing it, but here are some questions I do have about it:
1. Why do we focus so much on that one sin when the biggest threat to the family is the failure of heterosexuals to keep their vows?
2. Paul proposes marriage as the cure for those who struggle with (heterosexual) lust--what is the cure for those whose lust is directed toward the same sex?
3. Why are Jews in general much more tolerant toward homosexuality than Christians--I believe gay people are allowed in the Israeli army? Didn't they invent the prohibition?
4. Most protestants would deny that the only legitimate purpose of erotic activity is to conceive children. Sexual love also has a loving, bonding, relationship-affirming function. So, if all forms of homosexual behavior are sin--what is the reason? Because it is inherently harmful or destructive? Because it is unnatural? Or because "God says so."
5. Are there ways to make it less sinful?
6. Suppose Christians adopted the same moral standard for both hetero and homosexuals--no sex outside of a committed, monogamous, life-long marriage?

Anonymous said...

As one who does endorse (or at least practice) homosexuality, I appreciate the thoughtful tone of this conversation. And I would ask that you give a second, serious thought to the assertion that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual behavior. Truly, it's not very clear at all, because the texts that deal with the subject are scattered and some translation depends on highly interpretive readings. I do think the church would be much better off if we used the story of Peter's vision of clean and unclean foods (from Acts 11)as our guide, and worked harder to both avoid being stumbling blocks to one another and declaring unclean that which God has made clean.

Andrew Faris said...


Let me first say that I am so glad that the tone of my post is appreciated by a Christian homosexual. It is clear enough that I disagree with your lifestyle, but the fact that you are willing to come and interact is so encouraging to me.

I don't necessarily want to get into all of the texts on this, but I do have two questions that perhaps will get us more to the point:

(1) Given that there is no mention of homosexuality in the Acts 10-11 text, what gives you the impression that Peter's vision should be applied to the homosexual issue?

(2) Note that this question is meant with entire respect: if the Bible did in fact condemn homosexual practice, do you, in all honesty, think you'd be willing to obey it (whether that means an attempt to retrain yourself towards heterosexuality or if it means celibacy)? I do think, by the way, that it is fair to ask me the same thing not only about any potential sin that I am practicing (take my thinking that alcohol and tobacco are both ok in moderation for Christians), but also in reverse on the homosexuality issue (i.e. if the Bible did not condemn homosexuality as sinful, would I be willing to accept it?).

Thanks again for your interactions.

Unknown said...

As a Christian who sees clear statements in the Bible that God opposes homosexuality and created us male and female for a reason, I find it hard to show love to gays without showing approval. It seems to be a "love me, love my lifestyle" kind of thing. Very hard to separate. When dealing with drug addicts and alcoholics, we make it clear that we want to help them and expect them to participate in getting sober. With gays, wouldn't it be insulting to suggest a lifestyle change? Don't they feel that that's exactly the lack of acceptance we're being indicted for? With all other sins it's okay to try and rescue the person from themselves, intervene, etc. But with this - not my experience of success! And I've worked amicable alongside gays in the airline industry and in the theater so it's not like it's just a theoretical puzzle for me.

Unknown said...

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