The recent uproar surrounding the decision by World Vision to hire married homosexuals, and then the decision a couple of days later to reverse that decision, has begun to recede from the social media just a bit, but there is still plenty of opinion being thrown into the arena. I was initially reluctant to add my two cents’ worth because, really, is one more crackle of static in a wall of white noise going to matter? After a while of wrestling with that question I have decided that it probably won’t matter at all, but I am going to do it anyway.
The shouting match seems to break down into a contest between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’, and who is being true to Jesus and the Bible. Or to slice it more thinly, who is being true to the Whole Word of God and who is being true to the Heart of Jesus. It is probably much more complicated than that, but with my limited abilities that is how I see it. If I am not mistaking this too badly, many conservatives believe that guidance for every circumstance in life and society is explicitly provided by the Bible, and if that guidance was followed to the letter our society would look a lot like White America in 1955. It is only fair to point out, and I do so with joy, that many conservatives do not believe this. Many liberals, on the other hand, appear to me to believe that what the Bible teaches on a wide array of issues is secondary to what is perceived to be What Jesus Would Do, and that Jesus would generally do other than what conservative American evangelicals would do. In the best tradition of sitting on fences and marking out territory in the middle of the road let me say, with feet dug in and a backbone of iron, “you’re both partly right and you’re both partly wrong.
Let me begin this discussion by stating that my personal inclination is towards the conservative. If you ask a half dozen conservatives whom I know about that they may beg to differ, but it is I who gets to say what I think that I think and not them. It is, then, with a heavy heart that I say that the presumed Golden Age of America back then was not as golden as one might think, and that if you are pursuing that model you may not be living the Bible that you say that you love quite as much as you think. Nineteen Hundred and Fifty Five Ano Domini was not a good time to be in America if you were Black, Native American, Latino, homosexual, or a woman with aspirations to be other than a housewife, secretary or nurse, to mention just a few groups of people. The church which is supposed to love above all else had little love to spare for those who did not conform, and especially those who did not conform to the All American Family (fictional, mostly) stereotype. I grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s and knew only one family which even came close to that model, and I have no idea what transpired behind their doors when my friend Jeff and I went to our respective homes after playing together for the day.
And what about the family that many conservatives believe to be the only correct model? How does that family look in too much of America today? Men either dominant with wives playing a submissive and subordinate role or men absent by overwork or simply sitting in their chair and checking out on their responsibilities while women are stepping up to fill their absence. Or perhaps women demanding to be the boss and place their needs, which are largely defined by the surrounding culture and not scripture, above that of the family. The children, pretty much neglected and their silence bought with electronic toys or whatever else is important to their peer group at the moment, feel little connection to the adults with whom they live or anything, frankly, that these adults believe. And the divorce rate among those married Christians is no different that that of the surrounding culture.
In my opinion a Christian marriage is one in which the husband and wife love and positively affirm each other, even when they don’t like each other sometimes, and children are included squarely in the middle of the family with love, respect, and guidance (even when that guidance is not welcome; it will be appreciated later). This marriage weathers the hard times which are inevitable. When American Christian marriage and families more nearly achieve that Biblical standard and divorce becomes a rarity resorted to rarely and under unique and very valid circumstances (we all know what they are), I believe that we will have a platform from which to preach on the subject to the culture at large.
In short, I believe that many American Christian conservative evangelicals are confusing the culture of America in the mid twentieth century with the gospel of Jesus Christ functioning on Earth, and are waging a war of culture, not of Christ versus the world (the one He came down to from heaven to die for and save). Jesus Christ is not now and never has been at war with the world. He loves His creation, and He tells us to love it too; all of it, if we have ears to hear.
And that brings me to those who feel that they must leave the evangelicals because there is no place for them there. Their Jesus is more than just the Bible, and they want to be Jesus followers and not Bible followers. What the Bible says about God’s view of the right life of His creation is of less importance to them than Jesus, who just happens to be the same God who inspired the Bible that they give lesser importance to. I’m not sure that I get that. We don’t even know anything that Jesus said or did apart from the Bible. The New Testament was written by people who knew Jesus; walked with Him, listened to Him, and then wrote of their remembrance. Even Paul knew about Jesus and probably heard Jesus preach, although he would not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and God until a bit later. All of these writers of the New Testament were Jews who knew the Old Testament faithfully, and when they write that Jesus said “every jot and tittle is true” they knew what they were writing about, and that has weight with me. And why would’t Jesus say that about the Old Testament? He, as God, inspired it after all.
If I am being asked to put aside the proposition that biblical marriage is between one man and one woman because Jesus said to love my neighbor I say “No”. The commandment to love my neighbor does not negate the Bible’s formula for proper marriage arrangements in any way. In my opinion, in a civil society homosexual people may marry as much as they want and they may enjoy all of the tax and inheritance benefits and physical and emotional neglect and abuse and divorce rates that many modern Christian marriages enjoy. I have neither obligation nor desire to throw bombs at unbelieving homosexual couples. Quite the reverse, I have an obligation to treat those people with justice and with the love of Christ as He commanded.
The marriage of homosexual believers is another and more sticky matter. As I wrote earlier, I am conservative. I believe that the Bible; all of it, even the symbolic and not literal stuff, is the inspired Word of God, who is Jesus, remember! While some of it can get twisted into some certified weirdness, such as the Prayer of Jabez, there is little wiggle room on the topic of God’s view of homosexual activity. I will not bother you with the verses; most of us interested in this topic already know them. And I will not be diverted by suggestions that David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers. The Bible does not say anything like that, and it is in my opinion a fantasy and a rabbit hole intended to divert the discussion from the facts. And the facts are that both Testaments, and especially the Old, do not endorse and in fact seek to discourage homosexual activity.
I would emphasize that the Old Testament is not less valid because it is old. If the prophecy of the coming of the Christ was not proclaimed throughout the Old Testament then jesus was just another slightly demented windbag with a sandwich board crying “The End is Near” on a street corner. It is the truth of the Old Testament which points to the truth of Jesus, and it does the world no favor to pick and choose truths to support some cause du jour. I would have no problem being pastored by a celibate homosexual male or female, and I have no problem calling a homosexual person my friend and a person loved by God and myself. I cannot however ignore that for a person who claims to believe in the Bible and in the Christ whom the Bible proclaims from start to finish, homosexual activity is not viewed with favor by God and cannot be endorsed by His church. I simply do not believe that we get to pick and choose what we do and don’t believe in God’s Word according to our convenience.
All that being said, I have no heartburn with World Vision hiring married homosexuals. If God has given that person a talent which will help me to help clothe, feed, minister health to and educate the ‘least of these’, then I am worse than an unbeliever in my opinion if I deny that hiring, and I am a very demon from hell itself if I would allow a child to be denied those benefits because of some culture war that I am certain makes Jesus’ heart break and makes me want to puke. And that, I suppose, is my two cents.