Monday, August 17, 2009

What do GLBT people hear from Evangelicals?

I stumbled across the evangelical blog InternetMonk and this post, on what GLBT people hear when Evangelicals speak. I have excerpted the Big Points. I don't agree with a lot of it, especially the focus on "repentant homosexuals", but I recommend going to see what he has to say. Author Michael Spencer is quite measured, unlike most on his side, and I think is actively trying to figure out how to make sense of sexuality and also how to get away from a "Them vs. Us" dynamic. He's trying to keep his brand of faith from being subsumed by culture wars, and for that I'll give him credit. Remember his target audience is other Evangelicals amidst the din of politics.
What do gays and lesbians hear when they listen to evangelicals?

1. They aren’t there.
Many evangelicals speak about gays and lesbians as if they are not present in church or ministry gatherings.....The important fact is this: There are no places in evangelicalism–whether over coffee in a university setting or in church in a small southern town–where we can afford to act or speak as if homosexuals are not present. They are, and most of us know this.....

2. Their sexual orientation is entirely chosen.
Despite the fact that no intelligent person would make the case that heterosexuality is entirely chosen, it is common to say this about homosexuality......

3. Gays and lesbians are the political enemies of Christians.
......What are the chances that gays and lesbians hearing this threat announced are involved in the political actions described or even are sympathetic to them in any way at all? Very small, especially in most places......

4. Gays and lesbians must change (and want to change) their sexual orientation, not just pursue chastity.
... The goal of purity and chastity is hardly achieved by any of us, and it is unfair and unbiblical to assign special conditions to the repentant homosexual....

5. Gays and lesbians do not consider themselves to be Christians, and those that do are not really Christians.
Many evangelicals, apparently operating on the stereotype that all gays and lesbians are hostile to Christianity, consistently say that gays and lesbians cannot be Christians.....
Unrepentant gays and lesbians who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior present a dilemma for evangelicals. Most evangelicals, like myself, believe the teaching of scripture is clear in regard to the subjects of marriage and sexuality. Most of us do not believe these teachings are culturally conditioned, but reflect basic Trinitarian sacredness in the entire area of sexual relationships.....
On the other hand, evangelicals like myself also understand that many gay and lesbian Christians read the scriptures differently than we do, and have a serious and sincere personal faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is nothing less than heart-breaking and painful when these values come into conflict in regard to our relationships with individuals for whom we have personal respect and affection. ....

6. The reporting of sexual scandals involving gays and lesbians is done with an unmistakable agenda.
.....What this says to the gay community is simple: evangelicals aren’t interested in the truth as much as they are interested in an emotional response. ....

7. We don’t get how hard it is to be gay among evangelicals.

8. The culture war more than the Gospel.
....
One last note that is very important.
Many evangelical young people no longer share the attitudes of their parents and grandparents toward this issue. If you don’t know that, you aren’t paying attention......

Author Spencer also is a critic of the Evangelical connection with the hard right in politics, what he describes as "believing in a cause more than a faith". Needless to say, he's not too popular with the right.

But as I said, I'll give him credit for this post. Any conservative should think hard about what he says. And if they do, and are honest about it....I think they become more reachable on issues of civil rights.

One big problem with the marriage equality and other gay rights arguments is that we've got a relatively small potential group of swing votes, the malleable middle, to try to convince of our views. We have to build alliances which by their nature are not going to be perfect. But if we don't find a way to reach people where they are, we will be long gone before we earn equality. So I liked the internet monk's comments, because frankly it's one of the most "hopeful" things from an Evangelical that I've read ever.

8 comments:

Paul Martin said...

I find it enormously encouraging to see this conversation taking place. At the same time, I have no idea how influential this guy is, if at all. If there is any hope for evangelicals to see the light on this issue, it is the simple passage of time. The old guard will pass on in time, and be replaced by the younger set. It is just going to take a long time.

Erp said...

Someone who often pulls in 100+ comments on blog posts and often linked to is not a nonentity.

I would read the comments also. He does tend to moderate aggressively but allows for well-supported dissent. Be ready to bang head against wall for a few and weep for others. Be also aware that not all comments appear on one page and the newest comments page appears first.

He has blogged elsewhere on this (search for Marin Foundation on his blog).

Revd Ivan Ackeroff said...

An excellent post!

IT said...

Thank you Revd Ivan, and welcome. Hope we'll see you around here regularly.

JCF said...

This is important:

Unrepentant gays and lesbians who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior present a dilemma for evangelicals. Most evangelicals, like myself, believe the teaching of scripture is clear in regard to the subjects of marriage and sexuality. Most of us do not believe these teachings are culturally conditioned, but reflect basic Trinitarian sacredness in the entire area of sexual relationships.....
On the other hand, evangelicals like myself also understand that many gay and lesbian Christians read the scriptures differently than we do, and have a serious and sincere personal faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is nothing less than heart-breaking and painful when these values come into conflict in regard to our relationships with individuals for whom we have personal respect and affection. ....


"Heart-breaking and painful" "a dilemma" "On the other hand"

Mr. Spencer is undergoing cognitive dissonance, and MAY be on the verge of---if he'll let himself have---a breakthrough.

As it is, he's still hung up on the concept of "unrepentant" . . . despite the fact that everything else he states is indicating that (in the area affirming one's sexual orientation, and a common standard of sexual behavior thereto) homosexuals have NOTHING to repent of!

It'll be interesting to see where he goes w/ this. I wish I could say otherwise, but it's JUST as likely he'll retreat into denial, as follow his cog-diss to its logical (breakthrough) conclusion.

[Does anyone else wish Grace were around to give her 2c re this guy? I wonder if she wouldn't recognize herself in Spencer's trajectory, from just a few years ago!]

IT said...

Grace didn't follow the Friends over to this blog, JCF. You're right; as we discuss some of the more Evanglical topics, her perspective would be interesting.

The Werewolf Prophet said...

JCF said... "Mr. Spencer is undergoing cognitive dissonance, and MAY be on the verge of---if he'll let himself have---a breakthrough."

Thank you for naming what I sensed but could not identify in Spencer's writing. I've seen similar in the book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons. Paraphrasing Amazon.com, Kinnaman, president of the Barna Institute, was commissioned by Lyons to find out what young Americans really think about (conservative / right-wing) Christianity. Much to their surprise they found that Mosaics and Busters (late teens to early 30-somethings) believe (conservative / right-wing) Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, sheltered, hypocritical, and too political.

What I sensed (but again was unable to name) was that the authors kept saying "this is what they say / believe about (conservative / right-wing) Christians" and "we must do a better job with our image (read as 'marketing')" without ever gain9ng the break-through understanding that it's not just what the young think, it's the TRUTH - (conservative / right-wing) Christians ARE INDEED judgmental, antihomosexual, sheltered, hypocritical, and too political. I'd also add "ignorant" and "anti-science" to the list but IIRC, they didn't survey for those two characteristics.

The Werewolf Prophet said...

Side note : cognitive dissonance in a work of non-fiction is likely to create cognitive dissonance for the reader trained in reading logical arguments! But FWIW, this exercise has helped me "catalog" what CD feels like when I'm feeling it, and so can more easily recognize it in the future. In addition, I've gained a useful tool for critical reading, especially as (conservative / right-wing) Christians struggle with the full acceptance of GLBTI folk.