My Fellow Evangelicals…We Have an Opportunity Here

I don’t have a lot of love for CCM these days.  One of the reasons for my growing cynicism toward CCM is the view held by many evangelicals and CCM promoters that Christians must glorify God in all things, including the music they listen to.  But apart from Christ, the human heart is thoroughly corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9 and other places in the Old Testament); ergo, it is impossible for an unbeliever to glorify God.  Ergo, it is impossible for anyone outside the CCM establishment to glorify God with their music.  Ergo, Christians must not listen to anything outside of CCM.

As a result of this, many CCM artists were marketed by setting them up in relation to well-known secular artists that they sound like.  Focus on the Family actually went to the trouble to put out a chart listing which CCM artists sound like which secular artists (i. e. if you like Pearl Jam then you will like Third Day, if you like Sheryl Crow then you will like Susan Ashton…you get the idea).  If you have shopped at a Christian bookstore you may have seen one of these somewhere along the line.  I pushed back from this, saying basically:  “Since when does the fact that I am a Christian mean that I am required to listen to Third Day instead of Green Day?  Toby Mac instead of Toby Keith?  Margaret Becker instead of Beck?  Sonic Flood instead of Sonic Youth?  Lincoln Brewster instead of Linkin Park?  If I want to listen to Pearl Jam, then I will listen to Pearl Jam, not some CCM copycat trying to sound like Pearl Jam.  If I want to listen to Sheryl Crow, then I will listen to Sheryl Crow.  And if I want to listen to the Spice Girls, then I will listen to Abba, because if not for them the Spice Girls would never have been possible in a million years.”

Okay.  Don’t stop me and tell me that I’m living in the wrong decade because most of the groups mentioned in the last paragraph are so 90’s.  I already know.  Which only serves to underscore the point of how longstanding my cynicism toward CCM has been.

Which brings us to Jennifer Knapp.

I remember seeing Jennifer Knapp on those Focus on the Family charts back when she first started out; she was billed as one that you need to listen to if you like Melissa Etheridge.  Turns out, Jennifer Knapp is like Melissa Etheridge in more ways than just the sound of her music.  Just this past week, she gave an interview to promote her upcoming album; during the course of this interview she admitted to being in a lesbian relationship.

Some of you may have already heard about this little news item.  And some of you are, like me, no doubt anticipating the carnage that will be strewn all over evangelical Protestant-dom by the time this story plays all the way out.

You see, there is a culture of fear within evangelical Protestant-dom concerning homosexuality.  To many evangelicals, homosexuality belongs in a special category of sin.  The Bible is quite clear on this; there is only one way to think on this issue.  The nature of this sin is such that if you are gay, you cannot be a Christian.  Anyone who disagrees with this is a rank liberal who is guilty of compromising the Word of God and is probably not a believer.

Come on, people.

Homosexuality is a much more complicated issue than what you may have been led to believe if you have heard the way evangelicals talk about it.  So before we go any further, let us clear a few things up:

–First, homosexual behavior is not consistent with the will of God.  Scripture is remarkably clear on this point, both the Old and New Testaments.  Nothing I say following this changes, invalidates, or in any way challenges this point.  So let’s just start with that.

–We live in a fallen world.  Research has consistently shown that anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent of the population has a predisposition (genetic or otherwise) toward homosexuality.  Evangelicals, who believe that homosexuality is chiefly behavior-driven (it has to be, otherwise there is no way in hell that God could hold a person accountable for the choice to go down the road to homosexuality), are very disconcerted by such research.  But if we live in a fallen, broken world where things do not work the way God intended for them to work, then the findings of this research make perfect sense.

–Can a gay person be a Christian?  I expect this question to get a lot of play as this Jennifer Knapp thing unfolds.  And it is an excellent question.  But there are a number of other equally compelling questions which I fear will not get the attention that they should.  Questions like:  Can an angry person be a Christian?  Can a prideful person be a Christian?  Can a gluttonous person be a Christian?  Can a jealous person be a Christian?  …you get the idea.

–Seriously though.  Do we really believe that when a homosexual person comes to Christ, part of what has to happen is that they must become heterosexual?  For most people, this would require LOTS of psychological hardwiring to be undone and reprogrammed.  There are very few people out there who can successfully pull that off.

–The reality is that there are at least a few people running around out there who for whatever reasons are more comfortable pursuing intimacy with members of the same sex than with members of the opposite sex.  Some of these people will wind up in our churches.  This is not consistent with God’s design, but tragically, we live in a fallen world where things do not always work according to God’s design.  In light of that, shouldn’t we rethink some things and figure out ways to accommodate such people?  Wouldn’t, say, allowing such people to live in committed same-sex relationships as long as they agree to forgo the sexual component be a viable possibility?  (Remember, it is homosexual behavior that the Bible condemns.)

–Okay, that last one may have been a little out there.  But the reality is that we need to be talking about this.  As I said just above, there are at least a few people running out there who, for whatever reasons, find it more comfortable to pursue intimate relationships with members of the same sex than with members of the opposite sex.  Some of these people will wind up in our churches, whether we like it or not.  Which means that somewhere along the line, this issue is going to become real, whether we want it to or not.  So we really need to be talking about this.

–My fellow evangelicals, we have an opportunity here.  This Jennifer Knapp thing is going to bring the issue of homosexuality close to home for many of you, if it has not already done so.  This is our time to show that we can talk positively and fruitfully on this issue.  This is our time to show that we are capable of loving and accepting those who come our way seeking Christ–regardless of what kind of personal (and yes, sexual) baggage they may bring.

Matthew Lee Anderson over at Mere Orthodoxy has a post on how the person of Jennifer Knapp is likely to get lost in all of the arguing and shouting as this story gets out there, and how that will not do anyone any good.

Michael Spencer shares his thoughts on what gays and lesbians are hearing from those of us in evangelical Protestant-dom.

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10 thoughts on “My Fellow Evangelicals…We Have an Opportunity Here

  1. Great post. I’m surprised there aren’t a lot of hateful comments already; kind of disappointing.

    I think a typical evangelical response to something like this says a lot more about evangelicals than anything. They have interpreted the Scriptures as saying homosexuality is wrong, therefore anyone who is an “unrepentant” homosexual must be outside of Christianity until they repent and change their ways. (I’m not even convinced the majority of evangelicals would accept a celibate homosexual as a Christian, but I may be speaking out of ignorance.) It would be a rarity to hear such a thing about an unrepentant glutton; can you imagine someone suggesting a fat person could not be a Christian until they had lost some weight?

    To me, this is a Gospel issue. Are there some sins God refuses to forgive? Must you work out all of your flaws before coming to the Cross? Can you be a Christian and yet still be a sinner? In certain cases, evangelicals seem to be accepting of sinners, but in others, and especially in regards to homosexuality, there is virtually no openness among conservative evangelicals.

    (Of course, I realize that my own unrefined position is probably offensive to homosexuals. I would love to hear other perspectives. Educate me.)

  2. It took Mike F. leaving a comment to make me realize that he was not the author of this post. I read the whole thing, and just assumed he wrote it (since I didn’t). Wow! Welcome Joe. I’m going to respond to this post and Mike’s comment, then figure who you are.

    Yes, an angry person can be a Christian; so can the prideful, the gluttonous, and the jealous person be Christian. Is homosexuality a special category of sin? And I believe it is.

    Homosexuality falls under the category of sexual sin. The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of sexual sin in general. Our relationship to God is often analogized with the sexual relationship between people. Consider Hosea and his marriage to Gomer. When the nation of Israel began worshiping pagans, God considered the covenant broken, much like a disloyal spouse. He refers to them as “whoring after other gods.” David started down a slippery slope after lusting for Bathsheba. The New Testament continues to extend the metaphor, saying that the church is prepared as a bride for her husband. Paul commands that husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.

    So, sexual sin is of particular importance to God. What then is the difference between me cheating on my wife and two guys having sex with each other? Both are sinful; they violate God’s commands relating to sexual relations. But… if I’m found committing adultery, then my wife, pastor and other church members would expect me to stop. Repenting of my sins (lust, adulterous relationship, lying to my wife) and asking the church family to forgive me would be one thing. If I explain to the church that there’s really nothing wrong with what I’m doing, perhaps suggesting they consider David and Solomon who had many wives in the Old Testament, then that’s another matter. If I not only go on having multiple sexual relationships – heterosexual relations with women – then the church would have no choice but to remove me from my position of leadership.

    Homosexuality is a special category of sin because the participants would like us to consider what they do as not sinful. Pride, anger, lust, theft, drunkenness, etc. are all sins that Christians commit. From time to time I think about other women; I certainly notice they’re around. But by the grace I God so far I have not slept with any of them, save my wife. To live the alternative lifestyle of homosexuality is to refuse to repent and turn away from a particular sin. To be gay is to say that this particular sin will not be given up, and often argue that such a lifestyle choice does not violate God’s law. If one accepts such a lifestyle, and encourages others to accept it as well, then that behavior is not Christian in nature. Homosexuality is unrepentant sin.

    When an alcoholic joins AA, the first thing they do is admit they have a problem. When a homosexual man or woman insists that they can continue that lifestyle and live a life pleasing to God at the same time, that’s a problem. Evangelicals have an opportunity to deal with this or any situation with compassion and understanding. Fred Phelps and his “God hates fags” signs are certainly not sharing the gospel. But deciding that openly gay and lesbian couples make as good a Christian as anybody else is not biblical by God’s standards.

  3. I wish I had read the post “Who is Joe Derbes” before commenting here. I did in fact meet Joe on the day of Michael Spencer’s memorial. Furthermore, he is my friend on Facebook. Open mouth, insert foot.

    Some days I only open my mouth to change feet.

  4. Pingback: Can a Homosexual be a Christian? « The Master's Table

  5. Well, I’m not an evangelical but I’m not a liberal either. So I’ll answer both ways. Yes and No. Yes, a homosexual can be a Christian if he / she is willing to accept that homosexual acts are wrong and repents and makes the effort to refrain from sin – even if they fail at times. No, a homosexual who insists on actively pursuing a homosexual lifestyle can not be authentically and fully Christian although they may be in the process of conversion.

    I don’t believe that sexual sin is its own special category. I do believe that sexual sins are some of the most pervasive and challenging to overcome. But I don’t think God reserves a special vengeance for sexual sins. Satan will however use our sexual weakness. Also, as for sexual sin, I don’t think homosexual acts are any more sinful than pornography and masturbation or adultery or even contraception.

  6. Clark, here’s where I think we agree: that unrepentant sin is a problem for a Christian, and that acting as if something God condemns is not a sin is a pretty big deal. I also agree with you that sexual sins are different than other sins, with attendant social and moral consequences. Paul makes that very clear in 1 Corinthians 6. On that (I think) we have common ground.

    However, there is much that I disagree with. Instead of going through a point by point argument, which I’m not sure anyone would be interested in, I would like to ask a simple question. You seem to be saying that an active homosexual cannot be a Christian because they are engaging in a sin that God condemns. Because of a refusal to repent, and saying it is not a sin, they are behaving in a way that suggests they are not a true believer.

    If that is true, then is someone who was either once divorced and remarried or married to someone who was divorced also incapable of being a Christian? Jesus makes it quite clear that except under certain cases, divorce is wrong and that to divorce and remarry is to commit adultery. Suppose someone divorced and remarried, then became a believer, or became a believer which led to a divorce and then remarried. Would you say that behavior is not Christian in nature? Is this something they can repent of when they are still married to the second spouse?

    My point here is not an attempt to make the Scriptures say what they do not say, but, as I said before, I believe it is a Gospel issue. Are there sins that are incapable of being forgiven? For the Christian, if you refuse to acknowledge something you are doing is a sin, does that mean you are not really a Christian?

  7. Wow Mike, do stay up late nights thinking of these things?

    This is a sticky issue, and I’m going to have watch carefully where I step. The Bible in general and Jesus in particular take a stance against divorce. We are told that what God has joined together, do not let man put assunder (separate). The best I can do at this time is this: when asked about a written certificate of divorce, Jesus said that Moses allowed it because of the hardness of people’s heart. At no point in the books of Moses did he or God allow homosexual relations. Romans 1 deals more harshly than any selection of scripture on just what happens in the homosexual mind (of both men and woman). God no longer restrains them from evil, such that a person cannot tell good from evil. A host of others sins follow, all bringing more condemnation on that person. There’s an old saying about giving a person enough rope to hang themself, and that appears to be what God does in this case.

    I’m certainly not going to say that a guy married to his second wife is not and cannot be a Christian. Jesus says that in remarrying one commits adultery, but that sin like any other can be forgiven. David was judged for his adultery with Bathsheba, and for the conspiracy and murder of Uriah. God punished him with the death of the son their relationship produced; BUT, they stayed together and their next child was Solomon. Paul describes the proud homosexual as being turned to a reprobate mind; I’m just not sure that person can pray in faith to God with a repentant heart. Romans 1 takes a hard line on homosexuality in a way that the Bible doesn’t take on any other subject.

    I would like at this time to go on record as saying that I do not know everything, nor have all the answers, nor claim to. This is my interpretation of the scriptures based on years of studying them and attempting to get into the mind of Christ. The disciples asked Jesus who can be saved; his response is that “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Can God save a homosexual? Absolutely. Are any of the marchers in a gay pride parade saved? I don’t see how. But I would rather share the Gospel with any of them willing to listen than carrying a sign proclaiming “God hates fags.” Let’s start a discussion on whether those guys are Christians. They’re certainly not acting like Christ.

  8. And the only sin for which there is no forgivness is refusing to accept the salvation that God offers. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but if we wait until the day of judgement to do so then it’s too late.

  9. Almost right off the bat the comments got off topic (the blame is squarely mine), but Clark brought it back at the end. “But I would rather share the Gospel with any of them willing to listen than carrying a sign proclaiming “God hates fags.”” This is true.

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