The following started as a Facebook post in response to my friend’s post. I suggest you read it first ( http://www.janetteplatter.com/2015/06/trust-belonging-advocacy.html ) but after I noticed it became long, I thought I might as well post it here. Thanks to Janette for her advocacy and for speaking up her thoughts in a spirit of love, we need more people like her in the world!
Janette, I agree with you… and with your mom as well! Love… essential! Human dignity… essential! Civil rights and protection… essential! Biblical standards in morality… essential as well! I celebrate the fact that gay people are being recognized as human beings worthy of protection by the civil state; I celebrate as well that more and more people are recognizing the sanctity of life and the fact that EVERY single human being is a bearer of the creator’s image. Nevertheless, I do not celebrate the fact that all of these changes bring along with them a political and religious agenda to force people into accepting new definitions in spite of their own beliefs.
You know I have been a student of theology and Scripture for more than 10 years. What you may not know is that for many years I have had plenty of gay friends, this are not just mere acquaintances, but good friends whom I treasure and respect. Nevertheless, as a Christian who acknowledges the authority of the Bible I just can’t bring myself to say that the Christian worldview accepts homosexuality without restrains. There have been a lot of attempts to harmonize the message of the Bible with homosexuality. Nevertheless, the interpretative explanations that Christians who are gay give, are too forced and just do not respond faithfully to the simple and clear message of the text, in fact they constantly overlook the hermeneutical principles of textual interpretation to insert their own ideological agenda. Now, do not get me wrong, I am as skeptic as it gets for a Christian (my wife and close friends can attest to this), so I try to get the most objective truth I can even if it does not fit with the “most spiritual version” that others would prefer. This is why Janette I tell you from the bottom of my heart and unashamedly, that after reading the Bible cover to cover several times, I am sure that the biblical perspective on homosexual practice is that, it is a sin and requires repentance, not affirmation.
Now, how do I harmonize this with the reality that I love my gay friends? Honestly I do not see the two as being opposed. In fact, all throughout the Bible we see that Christian love is manifested in many different ways, some times as an affirmation of human value, some other times as a call to valiantly fight against human tendencies. I like the example of Jesus and the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). In this case, the woman was oppressed and rejected by her society much more than gay people are nowadays. The text indicates that Jesus went down to the floor, I like to think of this as he lowering himself physically and also socially. When everyone was ready to judge and kill, he was writing on the floor, connecting with the woman at a level none of the judgers even perceived from their positions of authority. This is love Janette! This is advocacy! We know how the story goes and at the end everyone leaves and the woman’s life is spared. (“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I.“) Such a powerful display of love, isn’t it? But how does the passage end? To me this is the part that we are slowly but clearly overlooking in our honest desire to help the oppressed: “Go and sin no more.”
You see Janette, Jesus did everything to offer an opportunity to this woman, he saved her from the claws of society and religious hypocrisy, but the one thing he did not do is to overlook her sin. He saved her from death so that she could keep on fighting to live a better life. As a seminary student you know that sin is every willful transgression of a known law of God; as a student of the Bible I hope you can be honest enough to recognize that the biblical testimony places homosexual practice as a sin, and honest enough to communicate that truth to those you love. I think that as much love and support I am willing to give to my gay friends, I would be stepping on the territory of the “essential” the moment I would say, “your struggle is over, all you have to do is to embrace who you are and be proud of it.” Where then would be the narrow road? Where would we place the cross we all are to carry? Even if I were honestly “born this way,” am I called to remain the same? Homosexual practice is no more of a sin than drunkenness, lusting, or lying; we all have sinned. Nevertheless, each person has different “thorns in the flesh,” different areas we must struggle with in our pursue to become Christlike. What is sad to me is that the atmosphere in your country seems to be that of saying, “don’t struggle any longer, embrace who you are, for we will make sure others embrace it as well!”
I propose a thought experiment, an imagined scenario, and please bear with me for I am sure it may sound obnoxious to you. What if someday, not too long from now, three people decide they really love each other enough as to have a three-person marriage. People would arguably tell them, “you guys are wrong, marriage is clearly the union between two people!” They would form advocacy groups and find more people who also want multi-spouse marriage. The law would persecute them on the basis of polygamy. They would be thrown to jail and oppressed by those around. Eventually, they would raise enough awareness to demonstrate that in fact a lot of people want to willingly enter a polygamous marriage. They would go around the streets with polyamory pride parades, and would even come up with a flag to represent their cause. Eventually the Supreme Court would pass a law and everyone should be forced to modify their understanding of marriage, for if you are not willing to recognize the polygamous marriage, it would be you who is breaking the law. What a victory! Polygamous people would not be ever oppressed again in that society, love has won!
But see Janette, here is the catch; when does tolerance become the basis for moral relaxation? Or even for oppression on a different group? Some people tend to underestimate the relationship between civil law and morality. Human laws reflect and mold to a great extent the morality of a society. The very reason we have governments is because as humans we have been on earth long enough to know that it is really bad when every one does as they see fit. Yet human laws (especially in systems like democracy) also respond to the general opinion of people. Therefore, they become dynamic parameters that reflect the perceptions of people, and reinforce such perceptions in doing so. And here is another thing Janette, if laws determine what is legally good or bad, is there such thing as an absolute moral standard? In our time, and under the influence of post-modernity, the answer everyone wants to hear is “no, there is no moral standard, each person should be allowed to do according to what they see fit.” Of course most people in their right mind would add a disclaimer, “…as long as it does not hurt others.” But how about God? What hurts God? These days I have been reading the book of Judges and I am under the conviction that God hurt, every time I read that “Israel had no king; [and] everyone did as they saw fit.” (which is the staple sentence in this book). God hurt because Israel failed to recognized God as king, and years later when their stubbornness finally managed to get them human kings “like the nations,” God hurt because most of them did not represent God’s will firmly. In fact, the only ones who were deemed good kings were those who upheld God’s law without giving in to the pressure of the neighboring nations, or the desires of the Israelites, those who followed the tendencies of the time did not live up to their responsibility.
My thought experiment on polygamy shows that the interaction between law and people does not have to innovate much in order to bring about further changes to civil law. In fact I think such polygamous-marriage scenario is very possible in our lifetime. But from minister to minister I ask you Janette, where do we stop? If we define our moral standards based on what our societies want, then what will stop this same method from being used for things that we radically disagree with. You see, homosexuality has been around for thousands of years and it was widely recognized and accepted even in the Roman Empire. Yet the same was true for pedophilia… Whatever the case that empire is gone. You know why Janette? Because countries, laws, and empires all pass away, “heaven and earth pass away.” But that also means that our morality cannot depend on the laws of the temporary society where we dwell, much less on the opinions of the people who form that society! We need an anchor, and if we call ourselves Christians, we must recognize this anchor in God’s word, for it is the only thing that does not pass away (Matthew 24:35).
Janette, I have gay friends who have given in to their homosexuality and, openly or secretly, practice it and have one or several partners; I love them, yet I don’t think what they are doing is right. I also have gay friends who have embraced the struggle, have taken the narrow road and recognized the truth and authority of Scripture, they have decided to keep celibacy (and please do check about Henri Nouwen and his own struggle with homosexuality which is a tremendous inspiration for me and millions around the world), or some of them have even gotten into heterosexual marriages in which they are happy and they have found supportive spouses and children. I love them all Janette, they are people and friends, they are much more than a label. Nevertheless, I am very glad that some of them have recognized that homosexuality is not the problem per se, but that God through his Word clearly speaks against giving in to homosexual practices. I know from our talks and walk together that homosexuality is a huge struggle for them, and it is true that since I am not homosexual I do not understand the struggle to the same depth. Yet, I do not need to run into a wall with all my might in order to know that it will hurt, just tapping it shows me that I am not supposed to go through it. Furthermore, I do have a “dark side,” I know myself and my passions, my animal instincts; I have tremendous struggles of my own, as I am sure you do Janette. It is precisely because of that that I see the need to “deny myself, take up my cross, and follow” Jesus day after day. You are right in saying that all of us humans share in God’s image, but please do not forget that such image is invariably marred in all of us, in different ways we all struggle to be more like Christ, and less like ourselves, isn’t that the call of the Christian life after all?
Thanks for being bold, I always get excited when I see people using their God-given talents for the betterment of the world. I hope I was able to re-affirm the Christian commitment to love you upheld on your blog post. But I also hope I made my thoughts understandable about the many dimensions entailed in being committed to Christian love; we will not always show that love as the world wants us to, and deeming us as hateful or non-loving would be extremely wrong. Anyway, topics like this are discussed better in person and around good food, any plans to pay me a visit in Japan? 😀
Your fellow minister and friend,
Ánderson Godoy Salguero.