Thank God for Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for laying down the gauntlet and clearly articulating the evangelical view of "homosexuality."
He focuses his lastest “On Faith” guest column for The Washington Post on how conservative Christians should respond to the fearsome idea that “the full normalization of homosexual relationships seems just around the corner”:
Evangelical Christians have every reason to feel left behind. Thoughtful evangelicals must realize the depth of our predicament. Political parties have platforms, but Christians must be driven by biblical convictions. Platforms may change, but convictions remain. Evangelicals do not believe that homosexuality is sinful because it is part of our platform, but because it is a conviction drawn from Scripture.
Later, Mohler proclaims this stance will push them to the margins. As even an evangelical friendly organization like the Boy Scouts move toward LGBT equality, they will continue to find themselves even more be out of sync with the secular culture:
Thrown back to a posture of working from the margins, evangelical Christians will find themselves in familiar territory. Our task will be to bear witness to the truth, to tell the Good News about Jesus Christ, to be faithful in our marriages, to raise our children and to reach out to a world filled with people—gay and straight—who desperately need our message of God’s redeeming love.
Progressive evangelicals continue to insist that Mohler does not speak for all evangelicals. However, I am continually troubled by the insistence by porgressive evangelicals who claim to love their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters but hold firm, like Mohler, in their biblical interpreation that homosexuality is a sin.
Jeffrey Hoffman, Executive Director of BJUnity, an affirming alternative for LGBT alumni and students of Bob Jones University, articulated the problems with this view in a response to Mohler's article. In his comment, Hoffman challenges the way evangelicals like Mohler demonstrate “God’s redeeming love” to gays and lesbians:
Evangelicals have spent the last four decades demonizing gay people. Millions of dollars in fundraising resulted from declaring war on the "homosexual agenda." Trouble is, many LGBT+ people come from evangelical and fundamentalist homes. It seems clear to all (or at least many) who know us well that we didn't choose our sexual orientations and/or gender identities, given the vicious rhetoric of our childhoods.
I am not a sex act, an agenda, or a lifestyle choice. I am a human being, created in God's image, loved by God, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
It is no wonder that many of us who are LGBT+ have migrated to churches that affirm our human dignity and focus on the teachings of Jesus rather than 6 disputed verses of the over 30,000 verses in the Bible. Most Evangelicals certainly have not observed the laws of Leviticus with anywhere near the fervor they wish to impose on LGBT+ people, by cherry-picking a single injunction in the midst of many they freely ignore. The word "abomination" is used in relation to men who share the marital bed with a spouse in her menses, a farmer who grows more than one crop in the same field, anyone who eats pork or shellfish (or cheeseburgers, for that matter), and those who wear clothing made from blended fibers, to name but a few of the very strict laws that are found in the exact same section in Leviticus.
It is no wonder, likewise, that many LGBT+ people growing up in homes and churches where this hateful rhetoric is spewed have abandoned Christianity altogether. Evangelical Christianity is supposed to be defined by the word "Evangel" which means "a bearer of good news." The last forty years of evangelical activism have NOT been good news to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and other queer people: our relationships have been trivialized, our lives threatened, and our human rights ignored. If Evangelicals want to be effective Christians, they need to take Matthew 25 seriously once again and follow in the way of Jesus.
Here Mohler and Hoffman offer two clear alternatives for evangelical Christians to ponder.
In the nearly two years since Sojourners rejected a Believe Out Loud welcoming ad, I have not seen much shifting in terms of advocating for full, legal inclusion of lesbian and gays in our churches and society.
So far, the majority of those progressive Christians have chosen to ignore Mohler's aforementioned post. Maybe they hope he'll go away and stop portraying evangelicals as anti-gay and out of touch. Perhaps they wish to exert their efforts on other noble efforts like immigration and poverty, a move that conveniently ignores how other those issues also impact the LGBT community.
Silence speaks volumes. If progressive evangelicals do not agree with Mohler's position on homosexuality, it is time to articulate an alternative theology that addresses the concerns of the LGBT community.
If there is no response, we can only assume that the evangelical community supports statements from leaders like Mohler, an indication that Christian evangelicism will stand still in time as the rest of the nation embraces progress. This is why in December 2012, I declared right wing evangelicalism dead after select leaders blamed both Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook shootings on the gays, and I failed to see the evangelical leadership rise up to challenge this hate-filled speech.
I will continue to look hopefully toward those evangelicals who choose to walk away from this toxic theology and march forward in faith, creating communities that truly welcome all. For those evangelicals who feel they are walking alone, check out the Believe Out Loud guide to finding a welcoming community, and find out how you can lend your voice of support for ALL.
Photo via flickr user James Thompson