I read an article on Rachel Held Evans blog by guest writer Dianna Anderson. While I agree that there is a need for readdressing the current solutions to sexual ethics in our culture and in our churches, I found her assertion that we should have personal ethics to be too relativistic. In reading the comment section, I found that I resonated greatly with the rebuttal Stephen Moss set forth. He was an extremely coherent, polite, and respectful commenter. I also enjoyed the fact that we both have different sexual attractions and yet have understand the biblical indications of sexual ethics in a similar fashion.
I feel guilty for having the conviction that I think homosexuality is a sin. Too often I feel that I’m lumped into the radial conservative sphere which ostracizes and marginalizes the LGBT community. I feel liberals think me intolerant and conservatives want me to bash that community.
Why does having a conviction automatically make me hateful? How does thinking a particular behavior wrong indicate that I want to invoke laws prohibiting the exercise of sexual expression?
I don’t understand tolerance as forsaking my convictions in order that I might agree with another individual. Tolerance is not relativism. Once we enter into relativistic philosophy, we slide the slippery slope of faulty morality. Tolerance is respecting another individual regardless of their beliefs. Tolerance doesn’t mean I must forsake my opinion; it means that in espousing my ideas, I must not preach hate or advocate for the intentional eradication of any particular group. For me, tolerance is less about sacrificing my ideals and more about loving another person in spite of our differences.
Loving someone doesn’t mean I have to agree with their decisions or actions. To love another person means that I treat them well regardless of their position. How is this displayed? I think it comes about in sharing the truth (which okay, I see the Bible as absolute truth even though I know it can appear contradictory, complex, and scarily relativist in its interpretation at times) with love. It means I can state where I think another person is sinning, but never acting as if I have a moral high ground on which to stand. Love can see me disagreeing, but not in gossip or judgment.
Also, just because I hold a particular belief doesn’t mean I think it should be implemented as law. I firmly believe that a civil union between same sex individuals should be permitted. Same sex orientation should not dictate the liberties or rights we are given. I think there is a distinction between secular law and religious law. A homosexual should be allowed to visit their significant other in the hospital the way a heterosexual individual is permitted to do so, for example. Same sex couples should be granted those rights and just because we disagree with their life partner choices does not mean we should think their civil rights inferior. EVERYONE is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this country. The constitution and the Bible are separate documents. The laws which govern the state aren’t necessarily what God deems as holy. State law was made by humanity and can be flawed. (I’m not saying same-sex marriage laws are flawed as one might infer from these statements. I’m saying that the state shouldn’t necessarily be governed by the church.)
Now I’m actually an advocate for removing government involvement in marriage all together (including heterosexual marriage). I’ve heard it said that if we remove civil laws than people would enter and leave marriage as desired, regulations on the age of partners would be stripped, and people could decide they want to marry an ostrich. I understand some guidelines need to be implemented to warrant consent as a necessary term. There would need to be something that regulated the dispersion of goods should a marriage dissolve (although I’d think this akin to regulating goods when a cohabiting couple splits and that could be our model). Michael Sandel in Justice: What is the Right Thing To Do actually brings up this example while in his chapter discussing libertarianism. I’d say that my approach to marriage laws is libertarian. My belief system would be more aligned with the virtue philosophies as proposed by Aristotle. (You should read Sandel’s book. It addresses a wide range of theories on justice and forces you to analyze why you hold the particular justice theories you maintain.)
I didn’t want to broach this subject for fear of being too controversial. I think the church has done a lot of damage to sexual ethics, especially when it comes to our treatment of the LGBT community. However, I think that we are errant if we start organizing churches that align with our personal preferences rather than reading the original Hebrew and Greek (or listening to scholars who have done so) and deriving an interpretation of Scripture that speaks to the character of God—his judgment and forgiveness, however uncomfortable either of that makes us feel. There is a delicate balance. I don’t have the answers.
In thinking about justice, love, and truth I’ve wrestled. I have ideas, but not answers. I have questions too.
I just wish we’d stop assuming what people think and how they treat others based off a particular opinion or worldview, myself included depending on the topic.
The church has wronged many of the LGBT community, but I don’t think it is in the conviction that certain behaviors are sinful. In the church, we have had too many discussions on the sinfulness of same sex attraction and not enough regarding sexual immorality as a whole (i.e. merely looking at another individual with lustful passion as being an act of adultery, incest, sex trafficking, rape, etc.). The church has emphasized sexual purity as simply refraining from same sex attraction or abstinence before marriage while neglecting to rectify the fact that sexual immorality is running rampant in heterosexual marital relationships as well. There does need to be justice for the LGBT community in the church.
Justice for a marginalized community doesn’t mean we have to approve of the lifestyle choice, but it does mean we need to fight for their fair treatment because they are God’s creation too. I’m not sure exactly how that would appear. I guess I’ve begun to exercise it by loving a person where they are at and letting God change their heart and convict, in his time.
It is not my duty to repent on behalf of another, that would be infringing on their relationship with God and coercing the person to be dependent on me for forgiveness and salvation. I’m not God. I’m not meant to have that role. My duty is to repent of my own sins, to love my neighbor as myself, and to love the Lord my God above all else. I can only pray that I’ll be kind in exercising Christian love, with truth, even in holding to particular convictions.
Love is complex and fighting for justice in love will not be easy or automatically clear at all times. I, myself, am still figuring it out.
*Some might say I’ve been a bit “wishy-washy” in my thread. Hopefully I’ve conveyed a worldview while maintaining respect for opposing views and not been seemingly relativistic in my approach. Although print can sometimes be misleading and the reader infer their thoughts even when the author never meant such things, just saying.*