Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hot Links w/a Side of Political & Spiritual Opinions

An open letter to my brothers & sisters in Christ from a conservative evangelical Southern Baptist pastor...

Let's keep this simple, shall we? Because so much of what's being posted this morning veers between political hay-making & ad hominem argumentation... and it's just making me tired & cranky.

First, before anybody types ONE MORE STINKIN' SENTENCE, go read the actual transcript of what President Obama said (and quit relying on soundbites & clips for news, for crying out loud.) 

We've learned some very bad habits from both the mainstream media and from conservative talk radio regarding the "art" of yanking quotes out of context - if it's bad Biblical exegesis (and it is!) to prooftext, then it's bad form to do it with our political discussions as well. 

Of course it's OK to quote public figures in order to expose their hypocrisy - there's no ethical, moral or Biblical problems with that. But we must do so while preserving the context & tone of their original remarks.

Second, you MUST re-read what I wrote nearly 2 years ago here on this blog. If necessary, read it twice.
What in the world makes us think that by attacking our political opponents that people will suddenly say, "Oh, wow - you know, I've never seriously considered the claims of Christianity... but hearing you trash the President I voted for has totally opened my eyes to my need for grace & forgiveness"?
This, by the way, is what ad hominem means - it's a logical fallacy (that's philosophy talk for "argument that doesn't hold water") that attacks the person rather than their actual point. When we focus on President Obama's "evolving" views as if it were some sort of fatal character/leadership flaw, that's exactly what we're doing.

I am not suggesting that you "shut up & sit down" - there are very big questions about Biblical marriage & religious freedom that need discussing in public forums - but I am strongly encouraging you to discuss the issues in question rather than figure out ways to sound like a SuperPAC attack ad.

Third, the most thoughtful response I've seen so far is from Ed Stetzer... I'll quote a bit here but you need to follow the link & read his whole post: President Obama, Same-Sex Marriage & the Future of Evangelical Response.
Building bridges and showing grace and love is needed, lacking, and essential when dealing with people with different views and values.
Some Christians seem driven by the need to take every opportunity to condemn homosexuality. Instead, I do not think you or I need to begin every conversation with a statement of our opposition of homosexuality. We can, indeed, show grace and friendship to those who struggle, while believing and teaching what the scriptures clearly say. Without hiding our beliefs, we need to look for opportunities to have conversations, build relationships, and show grace.
Finally, I've been clear over the years about my views on same-sex marriage... I wrote a long series of blog posts entitled Framing the Conversation that was my attempt to present a Biblical position without resorting to name-calling or fear-mongering. So I'll end with quoting a large chunk from the first post in that series,
How To Get Yourself Fired From An Ultra-Traditional SBC Church:

I've actually been fired from a ministry position. OK, that's not the way the Personnel Committee phrased it - they favored the weenie dodge of "we're eliminating your youth minister position in three months for financial reasons" which had the equivalent effect. Either way, I don't have a job & you guys just spent the last 45 minutes telling me about all the mistakes I've been making as youth minister while my senior pastor sits there like a bump on a log. (Table ready for Bitter, party of one... we can seat you right now.)

 One of those "mistakes" (if you want to hear more of the story, you can check out How The Heck Did I End Up Here?) was some teaching I'd done about sexual sin. I'd explained to the youth that adultery (a husband or wife engaging in a sexual relationship outside their marriage) and homosexuality (a man or woman engaging in a sexual relationship with someone of their own sex) were both sins - and that one wasn't more or less sinful than the other. BTW, the "mistake" wasn't the content what I taught - it was that the teaching itself cut a little too close to the bone for one of the committee members.

But that teaching is at the heart of anything else that I write about same sex attraction & marriage. I really do believe that:
  • pornography
  • heterosexual sex between two unmarried people (fornication)
  • prostitution
  • heterosexual sex between a married person & someone who is not their spouse (adultery)
  • polygamy
  • group sex
  • homosexual sex
...are all sexual sin of equivalent weight, regardless of the orientation and/or inclinations of the person(s) involved. They may have different consequences in a temporal sense - what effect they have during our lives on this earth - but they all have the same spiritual consequence. A quick example to clarify: someone who downloads pornographic pictures is less likely - at least at the early stages of the behavior - to have less emotional & physical health consequences than a prostitute. But both the streetwalker & the upstanding businessman with a hard drive full of downloaded videos are in the same boat spiritually - they've sinned.

Sin, btw, is not simply "doing bad stuff" or "doing stuff Mark doesn't like" or "doing stuff that is distasteful to someone/thing who has set themselves up as a moral authority." Man, I wish it was that easy - we could just change authority figures & get a new set of rules to live by.

According to Ephesians 2:1, you were "dead in your trespasses & sins." The two Greek words are paraptoma (trespasses) and hamartia (sins). The definition of paraptoma means "to go off the path, to wander," while hamartia means to "miss the mark or target." The implication is that sin is failing to be the people we were designed to be - people of purity & honor & integrity.

I'll get into this in more detail in another post, but God created man & woman and the marriage relationship not only for our pleasure & for procreation, but also to act as a picture of His love for us... and same-sex marriage warps that picture just as surely as adultery does. We've missed the mark... we are, as the old hymn writer put it, "prone to wander."

This means that we have to approach the conversation in a different way - this is NOT about "homosexuality vs heterosexuality." It is about marriage between a man & a woman vs a plethora of lesser & more destructive options - one of those being same-sex marriage. 
Comments & questions are welcome... but as always, I'll blow up stuff that is rude and, because of the nature of this discussion, I will not tolerate anonymous postings.


ooogene said...

Mark, excellent post. A friend of mine asked a question on Facebook of Christian's who were around in the 70s & 80s (not saying you are that old, but maybe you have some insight) when "no fault" divorce laws were being passed. He wanted to know if there was any such uprising about it as there has been about same-sex marriage. Basically saying that as Christians we've eroded the sanctity of marriage way before this same-sex marriage became a hot issue. Because as you said, it is not so much about the same-sex marriage, but about how we as Christians view all sins in marriage. Anyways, just thought I'd comment. Thanks again for the post.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Not quite old enough (1969 was the year then-Gov. Reagan signed no-fault divorce into law in CA)... but I did write about it some years back on this blog:

MommyLydia said...

I can remember, growing up, my dad railing about no fault divorce and how it was just opening the flood doors. So yes, at least some were.