Open & Affirming Panel Discussion One

Tomorrow I am speaking on a panel about issues associated with being an open and affirming church. I am planning on giving the blog’s address as a place where people can go to discuss further. Here’s the first topic:

Is it right to accept gay people (or more completely gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people)? By is it right, must means is it compatible with my Christian faith.

ReligousTolerance.org has a marvelous article on the topic, providing a careful examination of the Biblical issues in play. It’s a good article. Strangely, on the first page of Google, this, was the best anti-gay site. It seems to pretty casually dismiss the issue that gay people feel that they are born gay and that it is not a choice. I’m sure there is better stuff out there. Maybe someone gay post something.

This is how it breaks down for me. Jesus completed the old testament law by bringing infusing it with love. Look at the Sermon on the Mount we’ve been reading. At each point Jesus says the important thing is love.

I cannot deny the love between two consenting adults. Although many who have a different view certainly know gay people, having friends who are gay makes it impossible for me to maintain the opinion that there love is a sin. So, I think it is right to throw our doors open to the GLBT community and to affirm their place as a part of God’s creation.

What do others think?

11 thoughts on “Open & Affirming Panel Discussion One”

  1. JimII,

    “Tomorrow I am speaking on a panel about issues associated with being an open and affirming church.”

    I hope your talk went well.

    “Is it right to accept gay people (or more completely gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people)? By is it right, must means is it compatible with my Christian faith.”

    As a Unitarian Universalist I can say without reservation that it’s right to accept GLBT people but I believe liberal religious congregations could benefit from a bit more consideration about what it means to “accept” people.

    “I cannot deny the love between two consenting adults. Although many who have a different view certainly know gay people, having friends who are gay makes it impossible for me to maintain the opinion that there love is a sin.”

    Again, I agree, but what does accepting love between GLBT people mean for a liberal religious community? What does it mean for heterosexual people? What is a religious congregation saying when it agrees to marry a heterosexual couple? Does what this ritual/ceremony/sacrament says say anything different to an unmarried heterosexual couple with children (or aspiring to have children) in the community? If not, then why perform the marriage at all?

    And what, if by chance, this love happens to occur between more than two people? Or is there something “special” about the love between two people, straight or gay, that should be denied for/about/to a trio or a larger group?

    I look forward to hearing about how your panel discussion unfolded.

    Be well,

    David Johnson
    Chandler, Arizona

  2. Besides me, a Disciples of Christ layperson, the panel included clergy from the United Church of Christ and the Independent Catholic Church, her church is here http://www.guardianangelsiccw.com/, and there was another layperson from the Presbyterian Church.

    On the score of whether we should accept gay people and affirm them as a creation of God as they are, there was no explicit dissent. The members of the panel, and the questions from the listners seemed to indicate unanimous support.

    This isn’t fun from an intellectual standpoint, but it is so affirming for me to be around groups of Christians that feel this way.

  3. And what, if by chance, this love happens to occur between more than two people? Or is there something “special” about the love between two people, straight or gay, that should be denied for/about/to a trio or a larger group?

    David, I haven’t had a chance to get back to you on this, but I think it is an interesting comment. I mean, intellectually we can see how that would be the next extension. And of course, in the case outlawing laws that specifically target homosexuality (Lawerence v. Texas) Justice Scalia presented such a slippery slope as a reason to oppress gays.

    I personally think there is something special about two’s. I think there is a level of intimacy that would be hard to recreate with three. I also think there is probably some hardwiring for monogamy. But that is all off the top of my head. When I was 18, I believed that gay people were loved by God and should be treated well, but thought a man loving another man was ultimately wrong. I no longer have that opinion, as I said, largely from knowing people who are gay. I suppose there is no reason I couldn’t be convinced similarly about polygamy.

  4. JimII,

    Let me read something back to you a bit differently than you put it:

    “I personally think there is something special about [a man and a woman]. I think there is a level of intimacy that would be hard to recreate with [two people of the same sex]. I also think there is probably some hardwiring for [heterosexuality]. . . . When I was 18, I believed that [polyamorous] people were loved by God and should be treated well, but thought a man [and a woman] loving another man [or a woman] was ultimately wrong.”

    Once we say that what’s important–indeed, all that’s important–about the institution of marriage is “shared (adult) consent” I don’t understand how we can dismiss the idea that there’s something “special” about “a man and a woman” and yet claim there still is something “special” about just two people. I think trying to maintain such a position is simply generalizing our own subjective experience, which is all many of the folks who are uncomfortable with homosexuality are doing.

    Unlike Justice Scalia I don’t ask these questions to imply that polyamory is “wrong” but I do ask them to help us to think about what the purpose of the institution of marriage is in a religious congregation (and, indeed, in a civic community). Is it simply about the community affirming “love between (just two?) consenting adults” or does it have some other purpose?

    David Johnson
    Chandler, Arizona

  5. David,

    You are right that giving couples a special status is not a logical distinction in the sense that it does not follow from the rule that consensual love is the principal component of a valid romantic relationship.

    I like to bring in the emperical from time to time. I don’t see any healthy polyamorous relationships. It is indeed possible, that like homexuality, those who are best served by polyamorous relationships have been forced to hide their needs, and thus end up in less healthy relationship: such as infidelity, or casual sexual encounters with a stranger or person not a part of the relationship.

    It’s possible. And if my daughter came to me 10 years from know and said, “Dad, I need you to understand that I’m in love with Sarah and Mike, and we are going to enter into a committed relationship with each other,” I could probably handle it. Although, I think I’d have more questions than if she said she was entering into a committed relationship with Sarah or Mike.

    I’ll save the more logic based argument for the next comment.

  6. Rule: All relationships based on shared romantic love are valid.

    Example application: Two adult men who are in love with each other have a valid relationship.

    With this rule, that I think many of us hold in our heads if we don’t express, we sometimes let shared or consensual do a lot of work. For example, a man doesn’t get to claim a valid relationship with his 14 year old cousin who the Prophet has presented to him. That’s because while she might make affirmation that we would otherwise call consent, she is too young to consent. Similarly, we reject NAMBLA’s claim that a 10 year old boy & 30 year old man can have a valid relationship because we believe the 10-yr-old cannot consent.

    Frankly, it is a twisting of the word consent, but I think it is a good result. (I secretly believe it is an effort to import our a posteriori data into our apriori discussion.)

    I question whether three people can be in love with each other at the same time. I think exclusivity is a crucial component for a trusting relationship and I don’t understand how that need can be satisfied in an polyamorous relationship.

    But, as I’ve said all along, I am not closing my mind to the possibility of it.

  7. JimII,

    A religious community may indeed wish to “recognize valid romantic relationships” but is recognizing valid romantic relationships a part of–or even principally–what a marriage ceremony is about in a religious congregation? If this is so, why are some heterosexual couples in a religious congregation married while others are not? Are these unmarried heterosexual couples not in “valid romantic relationships”?

    I believe you’re correct to point to (adult) consent as the principal value in a “valid (or recognized) romantic relationship.” And I think you’re beginning to see that there is nothing more strange or odd about a polyamorous relationship than there is about the relationship of a homosexual (or heterosexual) couple.

    Yet I believe there is more to the institution of marriage in a religious congregation (and indeed, in a civic community) than merely the recognition of valid (i.e. consent-based) romantic relationships. So far though the public discussion about gay marriage hasn’t really touched on these other aspects of marriage. Rather, marriage has merely been “adopted” as the mechanism for religious congregations (and, in some people’s minds, civic communities) to “recognize valid romantic relationships” between gays and lesbians (and by implication thereby to demonstrate acceptance of gays and lesbians more generally).

    I believe this a laudable symbolic gesture but I’m not sure marriage is the best institution/ceremony/ritual by which religious congregations (much less civic communities) can accomplish the larger goal of accepting GLBT people.

    Be well,

    David Johnson
    Chandler, Arizona

  8. >> I cannot deny the love between two consenting adults. << There is nothing wrong with two men that love each other or two women that love each other. When it is taken to the level of sexual intercourse, that is where the sin lies. In the Law contained in the Old Testament, homosexuals were to be stoned. No if ands of buts. Even Romans in the New testament clearly shows that homosexuality is sin. Many claim that Jesus did away with the law, however Jesus Himself said that he did not come to do away with the law but to establish it. In fact, all the laws of how we should relate to God and man are still intact (worship no other gods, do not steal, murder, covet, etc.) The part of the law that was done away with was the sacrificial offerings because that which was perfect (Jesus) was sacrificed once and for all. So back to the “love” argument, like I said, two people can love each other but only a man and a woman who are married are to engage in the act of sexual intercourse. That was God’s original design and He does not change. Many gay people use the Bible character David and his love for Jonathan to condone homosexuality. While it is true that David loved Jonathan and even said his love was better than that of a woman, where does it ever say they had sex?

  9. David,

    This is an old thread so I doubt there it will get much attention, but in case you’re checking back–

    Let me begin by telling you honestly that I disagree with the way you read the teachings of Jesus. I think that Jesus did much more than eliminate the need for sacrifice. That is a new idea, and it is fine. But it is certainly not what Jesus taught. Read the Sermon on the Mount and ask yourself what he was saying. What was Jesus doing with the Law.

    Next, I want to tell you that if you hope to convert folks to your way of thinking, you need to address all of the portions of the Old Testament & the letters that we ignore. We don’t eat Kosher. We allow women to speak in church. We don’t kill people who disrespect their fathers. We don’t allow polygamy. We don’t require every give everything he or she has to the community.

    If you’re familiar with the scriptures you’ll recognize each of these. Now, I don’t do those either, but, if you say that we need to tell people they can’t express their romantic love because the Bible says so, you have to have an answer about why we can ignore the Bible’s acceptance of polygamy and condemnation of eating pork.

    Finally, ask yourself this question: Did I read the Bible and develop an opinion that homosexuality was wrong, or did I have the opinion that homosexuality was wrong and went to the Bible to justify it?

    We both know that you can use the Bible to authorize everything from slavery to a belief that the Earth is at the center of the universe to the notion that rich people are evil.

    I guess, one more thing. Jesus taught us about love, not about sex. Your conclusion that men can have romantic love for each other, but cannot have such is pretty hollow.

    Love,
    JimII

  10. >> We don’t eat Kosher. We allow women to speak in church. We don’t kill people who disrespect their fathers. We don’t allow polygamy. We don’t require every give everything he or she has to the community. << These are more relative to how a community functions. Homosexuality is just so unnatural. What is next – allowing people to have sex with their pets because they “love” them and wish to express that love? How about adults who love children? Will we allow them to have sex with children so as to not deny their right to express that love? We don’t stone adulterers any longer as well but does that make it okay? Also I wish to clarify the fact that people can do anything they wish. If a man wants to have sex with a man, then so be it. However, if someone professes Christ as Lord and Savior, then they have also agreed to live by His Word. It is so tiring to see people God’s word follow so haphazardly, justifying this and that simply because they do not want to fully surrender their lives under the holy rule of Christ. Thanks be to God that He is patient with our limited knowledge and understanding of things. However, the day will come when we will have to answer for our lives and what we did with Christ. I certainly would not want to be in the place of one who justified homosexuality as “okay” in God’s eyes, especially distorting His word to do so.

  11. David,

    I think I will bring this discussion to the front of the blog in the next few days. I can use Huckabee’s comments as a jumping off point.

    You wrote, “These are more relative to how a community functions. Homosexuality is just so unnatural. What is next . . .”

    One thing that is next is polygamy. The Bible implicitly accepts polygamy. Does that mean we as Christians should accept it? The Bible also doesn’t prohibit an adult male from taking a 12-year-old girl as his bride.

    As people 2000 years removed from the writing of the Bible we must use our hearts and souls to understand the teachings from that time. I propose that love is the key. Real love. I don’t think an adult man and a 12-year-old can have that, no matter how common such a relationship may have been in 30 A.D.

    Keep reading & writing.

Leave a Reply