Category Archives: Same sex Marriage

Eric Reitan’s, “The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic: Some Initial Thoughts

I’m in the middle of reading Eric Reitan’s book, “The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic” Chapter 5, “Homosexuality, Mental Health, and the Good of Children.”

Obviously, I will only write about what I’ve read so far. Essentially, (and I’m going with the gist of what I’ve read OVERALL) Reitan is making the argument against the more strict argument that it is not realistic to expect people to hold off on their sex lives as well as the argument from stigmatization. The Christian love ethic, Reitan says, requires that we seek the good of others and when you stigmatize and foist upon people such a stringent moral code you hurt them.

There is much to commend in terms of stigmatization that Reitan speaks about. Obviously, Christians should not stigmatize gay people. This is a basic teaching Churches of all persuasions and denominations would, I think, for the most part agree with, except for your Fred Phelps and some fundie types.

However, Reitan wants to go further than the stigmatization that I’m suggesting here. He wants to go so far as to say that homosexual orientation and acts are not sin (after all, that is why he is arguing for SS intimacy and SSM). To suggest this is in itself stigmatization. I find this problematic.

Reitan doesn’t draw a clear line or clearer line than I’d like between the Church and the world.

The formula I have in mind (principled pluralism) looks like this of which the rest of this post will be how it works out.

1. The World
2. The Church (organic and institutional)
3. Christian should not obliterate all sin and should live side by side with it (this doesn’t mean arbitrarily changing reality).
4. The sinful things of the world should not be obliterated (this means SS intimacy/friendships/”SSM” can exist (in quotes as will be explained below).
5. Churches (institutional) are diverse and exist as such, in part, because of theological reasons (theological consciences). Churches have rules, moral codes, codes of conduct, etc.

For Starters—the Church
I want to make two intial points.

First, I come from the position that our sexuality can manifest itself in sexually inappropriate ways. Heterosexuality can be JUST AS sinful as homosexuality. There are desires and urges and drives on both the homosexual and heterosexual dichotomy spectrum that are inappropriate from a Christian moral standpoint.

Second, I want to inject pastor Greg Boyd into this to make a wider point. Boyd has held for YEARS that homosexuality and SSM are sin. However, he argues that the Church should allow it because God accommodates sin, ie., divorce, divorce and remarriage, polygamy, etc. So my question (and wider point) is this: How does stigmatization (that Reitan talks about) work in this scenario? Say for example, all the people who disagreed with Boyd on this question, left his church like they did when he came out with his Anabaptist views on government such that all you have left are people who agree with his views. Now, say you have a gay couple who are married coming to his church. On the one hand, he obviously allows for it. However, on the other hand, he still holds that it is sin. Reitan, I presume, would stand outside of his church and protest like he did with Village Baptist Church in Oklahoma that he talks about in the beginning of his book? How does one feel stigmatized in this situation exactly? If Boyd were to preach about this subject and still call it sin (though God would allow for it), would these folks be stigmatized? Yes, it’s a better situation than full all out condemnation and stigmatization where they are not even allowed in the church, but by having the very sentiment of calling it sin, according to Reitan, Greg would essentially be unwelcoming and stigmatizing. Greg certainly could not hold to his theological position or his theological conscience.

A less hard line/strict conservative position, ALLOWS for people to be gay and have SS relationships AND for people to hold to their religious convictions. Ultimately, it seems to me, that the problem has to do with pluralism (which is usually the case).

In chapter 3, Reitan tells the story of Village Baptist Church and a fellow named “Don” in which Don had protested in front of the Village Baptist Church. One day Don and a blind friend “decide to worship with” the folks at Village Baptist Church. Don, at one point during the service, stands up and tells everyone how he is gay and proud of it and are quickly ushered out of the church. Don attempts to speak to one of the men where the man tells him that the pastor is entitled to his beliefs.

This is an important point for the pluralism I’m talking about. Reitan wants to change Village Baptist Church’s view of homosexuality as he finds this harmful and stigmatizing. What he seems to do is put the importance of their beliefs and religious conscience on the back burner. THAT’S not as important as how we treat people. However, imagined if the pastor of Village Baptist Church went to Reitan’s church and tried to force his beliefs on him and his congregation. Would there not actually be damage done to those who believe otherwise? We’re not talking about cognitive dissonance here. We are talking about having someone attempting to foist their beliefs on others. True love–agape love–the Christian love ethic allows for people to not be force to believe what you believe or want them to believe. It allows for others to come to a place of their own decision making. It allows for them to grow naturally. This is one reason, fundamentalism is problematic and people have left these churches and those teachings and beliefs behind. Think of this with regard to children. You set the moral/theological horizon but eventually, you have to allow them to find their own way with hopefully that horizon in view.

Furthermore, everything passes through my principled pluralism grid of understanding of these and other issues. For example, I don’t believe the government has a right to tell anyone what to believe. It should allow for people to have their own consciences about matters, religious or otherwise. Thus, (and this is Skillenesque here) if a Church wants to believe that homosexuality is a gift and blessing, the government should not dictate the theological consciences of individuals or churches that believe such. By extension, neither should one church say to another church, “Hey! You believe this and this or this and that!” So, in reality, you can have churches that have theological beliefs that are welcoming and affirming and not stigmatizing gay people on ANY level ie., such as the belief that homosexuality or orientation or SSM is sin ie., Greg Boyd’s stance. People can go to these churches and enjoy fellowship and peace and love.

The Church in its organic form can be very diverse (I’ll leave judgment as to whether liberal or progressive churches are Christian for I’m speaking about pluralism at this point) but in that diversity she also exists in institutional form with boundaries, teachings, doctrine, codes, rules of conduct and so on. Is it any wonder that someone like David Gushee has started to talk about separation over this question? Maybe it’s come to that. Maybe this is or will be one of those things that separate and divide us–like baptism, salvation, communion, etc. That’s OK by my Kuyperian standards. I’m willing to let the chips fall where they may. Now does this mean that one church should not try to convince another or denomination convince another or a individual not convince another? Well, I think it’s OK to do that as long as there is MUTUAL DIALOGUE. In other words, there is a willingness to listen. But if that is not there, then it really isn’t going to get anywhere is it? Also, how would this tribalism play out in non-church settings? Could I attempt to persuade over social media where I interact with people of other traditions? Yes, but as long as it’s cordial. I could possibly change one’s tradition over time as the old guard moves out and the new guard moves in or it may have no affect. The Church changes to some extent and this is about that somewhat.

Reitan spoke about having the gift of celibacy. This is a question I remember talking with friends and our youth pastor about back in the 80’s and was reminded of again in an article from the, “Spiritual Friendship.” My belief is that there is no such thing as “the gift of celibacy” but rather that celibacy is a gift. And the Bible seems to look at it this way. Marriage is a gift. And singleness is a gift. It’s not some divine will power that over-rides sexual drives. We are all wired sexual beings such that even those who are celibate still have sexual drives. Paul is simply saying that when we are celibate, which can happen for a host of reasons we can view EVEN THAT as a gift.

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen talks about the Kingdom of God as being like a box within a box. You have the Kingdom of which is the largest box and marriage and singleness are boxes WITHIN that box. So everything is relative to the larger box. Whatever station you find yourself in in life what are we supposed to be? Content. You can serve God in marriage and you can serve God in singleness. As a matter of fact being single may be the better of the two options because it gives you opportunities to serve God in ways that you can’t because you have to take care of your family responsibilities. And this brings me to my final related point…

The World (and the Church)
Reitan paints this dark picture of LONG defeat. It goes like this: “Conservatives say: You won’t be able to have intimate relationships for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. Heterosexuals have the opportunity but gay people are not allowed.” I don’t know if I can even call this a strict conservative view. If you frame it as Reitan does I guess you could say that it is. If sex is reserved for marriage and intimacy it should be reserved for the opposite sex and if homosexuality is immoral and wrong then that means that those who hold to this position are saying that gay people are exiled to a sexual Siberia of sorts. Whenever I hear this, I picture closeted gay people sitting in conservative churches loathing their lives while the rest of the congregation get to enjoy their relationships–sex and the whole romantic intimacy and all that fun stuff.But there are several problems with this. We go back to the world and the Church delineation. When you look at the actual sex lives of people you come up with a picture that looks quite different. For example, people “find themselves in a state of celibacy” (involuntarily). They may not want it, but that is what “their lot in life” has handed to them. Those are the cards they’ve been dealt. What do you do now? It’s not voluntary for them. Being in a relationship is not the same as buying clothes or changing your clothes for that matter. It is not something one easily enters into. I’ve always likened being in a good relationship to two things

  1.  Astrology
  2. Shooting arrows at a target.

With astrology, it’s LIKE the stars have to line up to before things work out to where you can say, “I think this is a good relationship. I think I could spend my life with this person.” Things like chemistry, status (from the same basic economic class), compatibility, religion, family, job, distance, and so forth have to be there. Obviously, some of these may be negotiable while others won’t. Liking relationships to shooting at a target is like shooting a bow many times before you hit the right one. In other words, you may go through a few relationships before you can say, “I think this is a good relationship. I think I could spend my life with this person.”

So what happens during the “in-between periods?” What if that in-between period is a LONG time? Perhaps months. Perhaps years. If it CAN be done for an unspecified amount of time, is it not possible that it can be done for life? What about where, in one’s senior years, one spouse has died and the other has to go on without them? I see this in-between period as an extension of the “long life” as a celibate. One is not living in the moment under this view of things.

Lastly, from the paradigm I’m working from, gay folks can establish intimate relationships and get “married” (marriage is in quotes as for a reason. It really is not a marriage on a conjugal/traditional view). This is really a legal point. Under the Constitution, people have the right to associate or not associate with others (marriage is another question). If gay folk want to attend a church which will bless their relationship and hold ceremonies where they “wed” or “marry” each other then both (individuals and church) are and should be free to do so (though the “marriage” would not be legally recognized via the law).

This allows for churches or companies such as bakeries or even private companies such as Hobby Lobby to not have to recognize these relationships as marriage (to hold to their own theological consciences). It allows for churches to hold their own theological teaching about SS relationships and allows them to perform ceremonies in which they could “marry” each other. Thus, gay people are not being denied having intimate relationships on both a religious front nor a societal front. Do I think gay relationships are a sin. Yes. (So does Greg Boyd). Do I believe gay relationships are less than what God’s ideal? Yes. Not God’s plan? Yes. I see them as being a form of friendship (Skillen). If they are this, then the least Christians on all sides could do is think about them in light of a dark, cold wasteland. We all need touch, and relationships and to be loved in a dark cruel world. Why would we deny ANYONE that no matter how far it falls short of God’s idea.

In summary,

  1. People are allow to form friendships and associations. The Constitution allows this.
  2. Churches can hold their own theological consciences and practices.
    This means:
  3. Gay folk can have intimate romantic relationships.
  4. Churches can “marry” (hold ceremonies) and hold theological beliefs where they practice and affirm and bless SS relationships.
  5. Other Churches will have their own theological consciences and rules, and moral codes of conduct which will be able to call certain practices sin, less than God’s ideal, falling short, etc.

If a person wants to feel accepted and not stigmatized by the community then they should go to Churches that accept them. At the end of the day, the stigmatization argument doesn’t hold much water on such a view.

 

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Religious Accomodation: The Case of The Kentucky Clerks Not Handing Out Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Let’s think about this for a second. Corey wants to say Kim Davis has no right to force her religious views on the public through the government. He says: 

“This particular case however, isn’t about Ms. Davis being free to practice her religion and it isn’t about having the freedom to conform into the image and likeness of Christ. Instead, this is about Ms. Davis’s attempt to force her religious restrictions on the general public and an attempt to conform the secular government into the image and likeness of Christ (or her version thereof).”

and

“Every person in America has the freedom to practice their religion. However, we do not have blanket freedom to step into a government role and force that arm of government, no matter how small, to conform to our own religious beliefs.  That’s not what the Bible teaches us to do. We are told to mold ourselves after Jesus– but are never told to hijack the government and force the government to conform to Jesus. Instead, we’re simply to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to be obedient to the authorities as we quietly labor at building the Kingdom of God.”  You can read his whole post here.
A. Is THIS not some Christian vision of how Christianity and politics should (or in Corey’s case shouldn’t) mix? So why accuse someone of imposing their version while you do the same? Granted, I agree government should not make theological statements honouring one belief above another ie., padeo-baptism for all citizens regardless of whatever branch of Christianity you are from or religion you are but there are ways of going about this without being accused of what Corey is saying and and accommodating religious belief at the same time. Linked below.

B. The problem with what Corey says here is that because it flows from this anabaptist view it tends to be convoluted. For example, if you are a principled pluralist, you say that God is above everything else. The rest is government and civil society. With each sphere having their own role to play. God above and the rest of civil society below. So THAT understanding should has implications for both government and the public. I guess Corey would accuse someone like me of imposing my views on the rest of the unbelieving world? Seems so.

So essentially, here’s how my religious view would work out in this situation: you accommodate Kim Davis and others like her by saying, “YOU PERSONALLY don’t have to give out religious licenses. Someone in your office who doesn’t have that religious conviction can do it.” Easy stuff you’d think. Read Ryan Anderson’s piece here.

But alas, it would seem, according to Corey, that for the government to accommodate Ms. Davis and her kind that would be imposing your religious views on government. The thinking is so convoluted I wanna cry.


Distinctions, Distinctives, Differences, Differentiation And Inclusion

I want to expand on my last post a bit.

It may be argued by some that we should be accepting and inclusive of the marginalized as this is what Jesus would do. Here’s my issue with that but let me first tell you what I’m NOT saying.

First, I’m NOT saying that folk should go out of their way to abuse, oppress or hate on others. If the child on the playground is being picked on, then one should personally come to their defense if it is prudent to do so. In some situations it might be better to wait for the teacher or the “authority”– the person in charge to come to the rescue. This may be an instance of the “greater good” argument that is spoken of in open theistic circles. So some circumstances call for wise action before actually doing ANYTHING which is to say that great harm could come to those while they/you are waiting for assistance. In some instances, it may call for getting rid of all protocol or what you should do in order to be of assistance to those who are helpless or oppressed or marginalized. However, in situations which are political (governmental), shedding the rules is for the most part not the wisest thing to do and so, one must work from within the political system to achieve certain objectives and goals. It’s simply the nature of the game.

Having said that, let me tell you what I AM saying. I am saying that not everyone is called to the same thing. Many progressives flip between “Church” and “church” effortlessly and without much thought which ends up, in my mind, confusing matters. What I mean is this. Should the “CHURCH” (capital C ie., universal Church, Bride of Christ) help the poor, relieve the oppressed and seek out the marginalized? Yes. Should the “church” (small c) help the poor, relieve the oppressed and seek out the oppressed? Not necessarily. What I mean by this has everything to do with what I said yesterday about relationships coming together naturally and what I’m going to say now: GIFTING.

Let me give an example of this. When I was growing up, my church started a food bank and clothing center across the street from where our church building was located. What happened was some people felt God laying it upon their heart to start such a ministry. In so doing, they wanted to have the blessing and assistance of the church leaders and the church as a whole. Well, my pastor (who has since passed away) was one of the coolest guys around. He was open to all kinds of things and “sending forth” the “labourers.” And for many years that “ministry” thrived.

But here’s the thing. Not everyone “felt called” to this particular ministry. As a matter of fact, not one pastor on the team was involved in that particular food and clothing ministry other than blessing it and giving any needed assistance to it through church funding, etc. And why were they and many others in the church NOT involved? Because it WASN’T THEIR THING. They didn’t feel called to it. They felt called to other areas of ministry such as worship leading, youth, cleaning, visitation (of the elderly and the sick in retirement homes), preaching, etc. You know why you do something that others don’t do and why others do something you don’t? Because of gifting. Everyone has different personality traits which are conducive to one thing and not another.

Now, can we HONESTLY say that though the pastors weren’t PERSONALLY involved in that food bank and clothing ministry that they REALLY weren’t involved? Can we honestly say that because only a few folk from the church were involved that the church (as a whole/other parishoners) WEREN’T involved? No. There was indirect support.

Well, let’s bring this up a level. So often today, there is this flipping between usages of Church (capital C) and church (small c). So when we speak of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage there are some churches that are not as accepting as other more progressive type churches (speaking mostly of evangelical churches here). They have rules and policies and faith statements for how they deal with this issue. So what is the problem with churches not accepting or being as inclusive in the way you (a progressive) would want? There are plenty of Christians who are “cut out” for that. Like those in that food and clothing ministry. There are plenty of CHURCHES cut out for that. Not all churches NEED to be inclusive. Why? Because all churches, like all Christians are different. What sets this church apart from that church are particular emphases of belief and rules, etc. Some churches are more accepting and inclusive than others and they have their reasons for being so.

Now, you may ask how this gels with the picture in Revelation where all peoples and all nations are before the throne. You may ask, “How would can you shoot for that sort of inclusiveness when you speak of so much distinctions, distinctives, differentiation, differences and people who are supposed to “naturally” get along or naturally “find themselves.” Well, that is the problem. Because the question assumes “inclusiveness on steroids.” Most everyone sees that eschatological picture and assumes that we are all going to love each other in the great by and by. Well, as a evangelical universalist, ultimately we will. Some will get to the other side and are not totally purged of ill feelings towards others. God will make them heaven ready. But aside from that, won’t those distinctions and distinctives and differences remain? Why assume that the Church universal is going to be some huge melting pot in THAT sense? Why not assume that this is simply stating that all will be there and that we will worship God in our OWN UNIQUE WAYS? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we will not ultimately love each other “naturally” because we will eventually get to that point. But that should not entail that we will not prefer to worship and celebrate Christ in our own unique ways we feel most comfortable with.

So to make this clear this relates to the issue of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage how? Well, there are distinct churches that are more inclusive than others. Gay folk can find inclusion there. They more than likely won’t find inclusion in a more conservative congregation. God has inclusive churches and non-inclusive churches just as God has non-inclusive Christians and inclusive Christians who are more than willing to accept and affirm gay folk in ways that non-inclusive churches won’t. I say, let each serve God in the way they see fit as well as according to their strengths and giftings.


In Love Again, NATURALLY

Really not getting this. Why does Vines insist that everyone be inclusive? For example, why do I have to have gay friends? Listen, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against having ANYONE as a friend but I do happen to choose who they are for various reasons ie., everything from whether they are involved in crime to whether there are personality conflicts. There are going to be sub-categories of reasons within these as well. For example, the personality conflicts might be based on biases and/or prejudices. They might be based on cultural relevance, political views, etc.

What if my church doesn’t go along with Vine’s interpretation of the Bible? Why can’t Vines find acceptance in a community that accepts him and other gay folk as they are? The idea of pressuring folk through a constant barrage of questions like these is like the “corporate pressure” that churches put on their parishioners to give tithes. They don’t come right out and say it, but you can certainly feel it.

Listen, don’t try to convince me to befriend folks I don’t want to befriend (for the various above reasons). I’m not saying that, say, gay folk should not be “accepted.” I’m not saying that gay folk should be abused or oppressed. As a matter of fact, I think gay folk should find people, and communities and churches that will accept them and be a safe place for them. There are PLENTY of people and places around that will be open to and accepting of them. But please, don’t try to convince the rest of us to be AS accepting. Relationships have to come naturally and can’t be forced. But also, why not just let people and churches be? Forcing them to accept you and all your beliefs is akin to the attempt to eradicate natural ways of people falling in love.