Some Thoughts on The Church

Tony SigWell, as it so often happens online, certain topics get latched onto and engage more conversation than others.  I guess it’s my fault since I posted this piece, which sparked this piece, then this one.  Well now it has progressed, and before I move on with my seminary pieces I wanted to weigh in again on homosexuality, especially “marriage.”

I believe that this issue is easily and quickly gets entered into haphazardly and without a systematic approach, so I hope with my posts not to “seal the deal” so to speak, but I want to dust out the cobwebs of what seem to me to be lazy arguments, manipulative language, and un-theological frameworks of discussion.

But first, I want to start with a defense of the homosexual Christian.  The reason that I want to do this is because I think that until gay Christians are free from the sin and hypocrisy of homophobia in the Church then I always want to assure them that I am not “out to get them.”  So much Christian damage has been done on this because of what I feel to be reactionary fear-filled rhetoric and just plain immature and unChristlike “ick” factors.

I take it to be true that:

–  Of course, a gay Christian is not “half” or “3/4” of a Christian.  That is, by faith, baptism, faithful partaking of the Sacraments, and faithfulness to the Church’s teaching there should be no question of a “lesser” status.

–  Any person who by fear, ignorance, hatred, immaturity or any other reason, ends up communicating anything less than the piercing love of God in Jesus Christ  to a gay person has done what Christ condemned when he said that those who cause siblings to stumble are in a heap of trouble.  There should be no “but” attached to any soteriology, either what Christ has done is what he has done, or we all have to start earning our salvation.

–  Any speaking of gay relationships means ONLY completely faithful monogamous relationships.  The Church’s teaching is that sex outside of marriage, regardless of “love,” is out of bounds.

–  “How can I be wrong if I’m so sincere” is not a Christian maxim.

–  Words and abstractions like “lovemust be drawn from larger scopes of Scripture than the Johannine Corpus alone, and even these must take exegesis and proper theological interpretation into authoritative account.  Christian theo-logia must be set within a Christian framework so that words and concepts do not lose their meaning.

–  Just like those in favor of accepting homosexuality get to ask the hard questions, hard questions must be addressed to them in a thoughtful and respectable manner consistent with Christian charity otherwise this whole conversation is a conversation about emotions.

Having said that, and meaning every word, I want to move on to start clearing brush.  And I want to get at this by a different route than is normally taken.  Before I mention anything about homosexuals and the Church, I want to speak first of Christians.  How is “diversity” and “different gifts” meant?  How does the Body function?  And how are people “equal and unequal?”  Are these appropriate terms to be using?  How has the surrounding culture perhaps warped our understanding of the Kingdom and our responsibilities?

We will cover a lot of ground, but I hope the end will refine the conversation, on this site at least.

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14 Comments

  1. Tony,

    I enjoy your framework for the development of thoughtful discussion. Where do you hope to go with this? Can you expound further on the theo-logia? I think it is the essence of the world we are trying to delve into.

    Reply

  2. I am familiar with josh’s use of the latin “logia”. I am curious about Tony’s thought on that interchange of dialogue.

    The major issue I saw in the thesis, which I spoke to Josh about, is how logia could be used despite our lack of communal linguistics. Josh answers this in his paper with his ‘language games’ thesis, which I continue to see as problematic – as an all encompassing forum must be available to the community.
    ie: one must know what the other means by “dog” before they can properly interpret “hot dog” – a subject that wouldn’t exist in strictly theological nor ecclesiastical (ecclesiological for you Joshy) dialogue.

    Reply

  3. “a gay Christian is not “half” or “3/4” of a Christian. That is, by faith, baptism, faithful partaking of the Sacraments, and faithfulness to the Church’s teaching there should be no question of a “lesser” status.”

    Agreed.

    Reply

  4. Dan,

    I meant only “words about/of God” But, with Josh, and going all the way back to my Christian Identity thesis, the language and meanings we use must be consonant with Christian meaning. So a word in itself need not be infallable (obviously Christians in Asia don’t say “God”), but it needs to be framed in such a way as to encourage dialectical exchange and not speaking over each other.

    Reply

  5. Tony,

    I appreciate the clarification, though need some more …
    What I appreciate about Josh’s paper on the theo-logia is the relative subjectivity it gives to each community of believers – that they might grasp god in their way.

    I am interpreting your logia to be both ambiguous and objective. Perhaps you can clarify what you mean by ” … consonant with Christian meaning.” I am interpreting “christian meaning” as something we can grasp fully, do you mean a very subjective for of Christian meaning?

    But I especially like your last part, “… it needs to be framed in such a way as to encourage dialectical exchange and not speaking over each other.”

    Reply

  6. “The Church’s teaching is that sex outside of marriage, regardless of “love,” is out of bounds.”

    This is precisely why the discussion over SSU is such a heated debate for fundamentalists, traditionalists, homophobes, etc. They are terrified that SSU is going to turn into Same-sex marriage in the church, and then they won’t have a reason to treat them like second class citizens (or beat them to death) anymore.

    Reply

  7. I found this whole discussion to be very interesting. While, I myself probably come from a more fundamental stance regarding the issue of homosexuality, I agree with much of the discussion and thoughts.

    There is no doubt that the issue of homophobia, bigotry and hatred have certainly been demonstrated by those in the Christian community. However, I would caution to not fall into the same trap as those you are speaking against. It is very easy to villify those who do not share our theological position on just about anything.

    Personally, I have homosexual friends. They are people who I love deeply and regard as wonderful people. While, I do not believe that practicing homosexuality is acceptable from a biblical stand point this does not mean that I minimize or judge their love for Christ. In this regard, I would not view them as a “second-class citizen or beat them to death”. By the way, using such charged rhetoric is the very issue you are speaking against those who disagree with your position.

    Ultimatley, it is not my job to change the anyone sinner or saint which is the sole work of the Holy Spirit in a persons life.

    My heart breaks for those who have been wounded by the church. However, let us be careful in assuming that the church is always meant to be a safe place. It should be a welcoming place for those who seek to be transformed into the image of a loving God. But lets be honest, when God is speaking into our lives it is anything but safe. By safe I mean without pain or challenge.

    I am not terrified by SSU. Personally, if it happens it changes nothing for how I view the church, the Kingdom of God or my brothers and sisters in Christ. My greatest fear is that God’s Word is no longer the plum line for truth. Rather, I am.

    The problem becomes that if culture or my own thougths and feelings dictate truth what happens when our moral compass is off.

    I want to close with this. I am grateful for such conversations. I have no doubt that what drives them is a love for Christ and a love for people. For that I praise God. My greatest desire as a believer, husband, father, pastor, friend and anything else is to be a person in process both in my theology and in my character.

    Reply

  8. Jason,

    Welcome and thanks for sharing.

    As a matter of fact I agree with you on several points, especially the use of language. In my next post on this topic I aim to show how the use of language like “equality” “second class” and “inclusion” fail to attend to the issue as it is- and as a result the words end up being used in a power struggle. That’s why I put “second-class” in quotation marks.

    But I would disagree about the Church being “safe.” Absolutely, there is no question that we are brought to judgment before the risen Christ, and this often requires a stripping of those core parts of us that are in conflict with the Gospel; but, because we are all in the same boat, we should recognize our shared status as “sinners” and give the room for all to grow into the stature of the fullness of Christ. That, for me anyway, means having a “safe” space where the Spirit and sacraments can do their transformative job.

    Tony

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  9. Tony,

    Thanks for your reply. I completely agree with you on the issue of church being a safe place. My point was more to shape the understanding that often times people assume the word safe means to never be challenged confronted or spurred to growth. What I appreciate about your position is that we truly are “all in the same boat”. It is the Spirit’s job to bring change. The safety within a church means that we should all have the freedom to be human, thus in process. I realize that many people, especially the gay community, have been deeply wounded by Christians who focus not on the fact that these men and women are children of God, made in His image and deeply loved by Christ, but rather on the issue of sexuality.

    If these individuals paid more attention to their own sins and the work that Christ needs to do in their lives, I believe the church would be a much different place.

    Blessings

    Jason

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  10. Jason,

    Perhaps more for the sake of breaking you in to our community (If you can’t take what follows I would avoid George at all costs) than “proving you wrong,” I disagree that I have /1/ mischaracterized or demonized fundamentalist Christians, marriage traditionalists, or homophobes or that I have /2/ used charge rhetoric (though, I am certainly apt to do so).

    For the record, again (hopefully George is listening); I am a heterosexual man, I have been married once, I have been married (and still am) for nearly eleven years, I have three children, AND I think that Scripture states plainly that sexuality should be experienced within the confines of a monogamous, marriage relationship.

    Having said that, I think that “Fundamentalist Christians” and “marriage tradionalists” create an atmosphere that many use to make second class citizens out of the homosexual community. Additionally, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that “fundamentalist Christianity” and “marriage tradionalist” provide an atmosphere that is a safe haven for homophobes and their ilk – which are certainly guilty of violence in all forms against the homosexual community. There is nothing rhetorical or false about either of those claims. How am I vilifying my opponents?

    Shawn

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  11. The Jason/Shawn/Tony exchange here raises a very interesting question: Where is the that middle ground for the Church between standing up for truth and justice on the one hand and being horde of judgemental assholes on the other. Clearly the much touted hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner thing hasn’t been working out very well.

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  12. Shawn,

    Thanks for breaking me into the group. I have been in ministry, marriage and life too long to let someone who disagrees with me or seeks to “prove me wrong,” affect me deeply.

    Again, I would not disagree that there are those within the Christian community who cause great harm to the Body of Christ. However, my point was not to argue that this does not happen as much to say that assuming all “marriage tradionalist” are fundamentalist homophobes. I know far more Christians who ache over how some individuals in the church have hurt the gay community than there are homophobes. For the record, most of the “homophobes” I do know, wouldn’t step into a church if you paid them.

    If you do the research, most physical hate crimes are not perpetrated by those who claim to be followers of Christ.

    My intention was not to prove you wrong but to offer another side to the story. Believing that homosexuality does not line up with the biblical view of sexuality does not make me homophobe. I am not afraid of homosexuals. I am not afraid of the Gay Agenda. It is on this point that I feel you went overboard.

    I particularly appreciated jstambaugh’s comment. Is there a middle ground on the issue. The problem is that those who are fundamentalist say no and those who are liberal say no. Either I am for the gay community or I am against it. Such a position on either side is just as radical an fundamental as the other side is arguing.

    Reply

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