Monday, June 3, 2013

Evangelical Homosexuality

LifeSiteNews published an article last week, Homosexuality: No Truth without Love, no Love without Truth. The gist of the article is that
The homosexual rights movement understands that the evangelical church is one of the last resistance movements committed to a biblical morality. Because of this, the movement has adopted a strategy of isolating Christian opposition, and forcing change by political action and cultural pressure.

Can we count on evangelicals to remain steadfastly biblical on this issue? Not hardly. Scientific surveys and informal observation reveal that we have experienced a significant loss of conviction among youth and young adults. No moral revolution can succeed without shaping and changing the minds of young people and children.
Now, there's a lot of truth in that. The author blames the erosion of "biblical morality" on a lack of preaching, or catechesis, if you will.

Our churches must teach the basics of biblical morality to Christians who will otherwise never know that the Bible prescribes a model for sexual relationships. Young people must be told the truth about homosexuality–and taught to esteem marriage as God’s intention for human sexual relatedness.
There's only one problem with this, which became apparent in a Facebook discussion. I belong to a Facebook group, "Catholic-Protestant Debate" where the question was raised "is polygamy a sin?"

From a Catholic perspective, it is an open-and-shut case. We know that Jesus said in the synoptic Gospels "But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” St. Paul tells us "Deacons may be married only once and must manage their children and their households well." We know the Church Fathers taught monogamy to be virtuous, and the Church declares this as her teaching. The Catechism says:
2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law." [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive."180 The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children. 

And yet the Protestants in the group have gone on for days debating one another over interpretations of various passages, pitting Old Testament against New Testament, and arguing the authority of one book of the Bible over another.

So, not to get too far afield, assuming Protestant preachers don't shy away from teaching "Biblical morality" about homosexuality, what would they preach? I went looking for Christian resources on Biblical teaching on homosexuality and found some interesting things. For the record, Romans 1:26-27 reads:

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

This is far from the only psssage in the Bible condemning homosexuality, but it is one that at first glance appears to be rather clear cut. However, books don't read themselves. I was prepared for the argument I had heard before, that Paul was not a moral authority, only Jesus, and He didn't speak directly about homosexuality. I was not prepared for the arguments I found.

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance notes the following objections to Paul's writing:

...the persons involved in the orgy were former Christians, and were heterosexual. Romans 1 condemns them because they went against their nature -- their heterosexual orientation -- and engaged in same-gender sexual behavior. By the same reasoning, lesbians and gays who went against their fundamental nature -- their homosexual orientation -- and engaged in opposite-gender sexual behavior would also be sinning.

Wow, so it's a sin for same sex attracted people to have non-homosexual relations? The most ridiculous may be this one

in his book "The Deliverance of God." Campbell suggests that in Romans 1:18-32, Paul was presenting an argument by others that actually oppose his own beliefs.

But wait, there's more! In Pro-gay Arguments about Romans 1, the author notes several more arguments presented to refute the "traditional" reading for Romans 1:
  • Paul is culture-bound, either to his Jewish culture or to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture.
  • Paul borrows a legalistic list for Romans 1 that he as an anti-legalist does not fully support, just for rhetorical effect (Edwards 1984).
  • Paul speaks about perversion (what heterosexually oriented folks do when they commit homosexual acts) instead of true inversion (what homosexually oriented folks do).
  • we today have no reason to treat the Bible's condemnation of homosexual acts any differently than we now treat the Bible's endorsement of certain forms of slavery. "It was fine for then, but we know better now. "
  • sexual acts that homosexuals do are condoned by evangelicals when done in a heterosexual marriage, so obviously it is not the acts that are at issue.
  • arsenokoitai "man-bedding," and malakoi "soft" unclear, words that are usually translated "homosexual."
  • Paul is condemning lust, condemning sex-centered exploitation, but not committed caring emotional same-sex relationships.
So, in other words, it's not necessarily a lack of preaching, but also what is being preached that undermines the moral authority of Protestant preachers. Without an authoritative interpreter, the Bible really can be taken to mean anything. Morality becomes a matter of tradition, not revelation.

I know Protestants like to paint a picture like they are all "one" and that Catholics are the outsiders (perhaps not even Christians at all), but the reality is the only thing any two Protestants are guaranteed to have in common is a rejection of Catholicism.


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