Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A challenge from within: God and the Gay Christian

Evangelical Christian Matthew Vines has written a book called God and the Gay Christian.  Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Convention took the strong step of releasing a rebuttal ebook on the same day Vines' book was published.  "They" appear to be running scared, trying to keep Vines' message from being read.  What's the deal?
Vines’s book, unlike most of the titles that have made similar arguments over the years, offers the non-traditional biblical theory using simple language, personality and thoughtful prose. In other words, it’s a good read. And easy to understand...
In an email exchange with Vines, the author explained that “most books written on this subject in the past have come from a more progressive or moderate theological bent, so they haven't found an audience among conservative Christians. But given that my book takes a conservative theological approach, it is much more likely to gain a hearing from evangelicals."...
According to Vines, somebody from Mohler’s camp requested an early copy of God and the Gay Christian, but Vines didn’t learn of the ebook until last Tuesday, the day that both books released. Yes, that’s how afraid of Matthew Vines they really are, so scared that they’re fully willing to purposefully sabotage not only the success of Vines’s book with a rush-to-press response but also the conversation he’s hoping to spark. 
 And because Vines is himself a conservative evangelical, he may have "legs".  Randy Potts at the Box Turtle Bulletin tells us more:
There are two positions Vines’ book hinges on: 1, that celibacy has never been forced on Christians but instead has always been a choice, seen as a “gift” that some have but that most do not, and, 2, that orientation cannot be changed. ...Thus, the checkmate – if you believe orientation cannot be changed and you are also persuaded by Vines that celibacy has never been forced on Christians, it follows that there must be a Christian expression of sexuality for gay people. There must be and, according to Vines, there is: covenantal marriage.
Potts also has more existential issues:
What’s somewhat unsettling to me as a former evangelical is to watch a very intelligent gay man accept the entire framework of the most conservative Christian churches in America. For many, the siren song of gay rights was really queer rights, the right to be different, to be outré, to buck norms. The marriage equality movement and the dismantling of DADT are two legs of a very different stool and Vines provides the last leg, a way for gay people to completely assimilate within even the most conservative Christian communities if they so choose. In this sense, Rachel Maddow was right when she expressed her fear that the fight for marriage equality would end gay culture as we know it. What Vines will represent for some is the last nail in the coffin for Harry Hay’s idea that gay people are their own separate culture with their own distinct mores and attributes.
The End of Gay Culture, as Andrew Sullivan calls it.

Well, I never have lived in "gay culture".  This is a feature probably of coming out later in life.  One of my gay men friends, an older man, asked where BP and I go to "be with lesbians".  We don't.  We don't live in a gayborhood, and most of our friends are straight.  So assimilation and acceptance is to me all about gains, and not about losses.

And if we gain acceptance by the young evangelicals thanks to Matthew Vines' book, all the better.

1 comment:

JCF said...

While I am very glad that Vines book is reaching those who need to hear LGBT-acceptance in the language they understand, then great (Too bad, so sad, Albert Mohler).

Though I understand ambivalence on the part of Potts (et al), not just from a secular perspective.

The essential controlling ideology of conservative Protestantism is Manichean, not Christian. That is, it is DUALISTIC: ALWAYS looking to define itself against The Enemy (even if that Enemy keeps changing). Belief in Eternally-Hostile Enemy is so pervasive, that conservative Protestants will make enemies out of their intrinsic friends (see re every other kind of Christian!) *IF* they're seen to be impure in their hatred of The Enemy.

So if they come to accept partnered lesbians and gays (I'm less sure they'll accept bisexuals and trans people)? ONLY if they're also conservative Protestants! We Episcopal heretics---nevermind Jews, Muslims, atheists---can still expect to be on their Enemies list.

Marcus Borg put it so (ironically) well a couple of decades back: conservative Protestants need to "meet Jesus again for the first time". Until they get to know Jesus's ***universal*** love---instead of their pseudo-Christian Manichean ideology---only the title of their Enemy will change. As long as you have an Enemy, EVERYBODY will tend to look like it.