A Christian Response to the PCA Report on Human Sexuality

Image by Gerd Altmann

Mixed Bag of Reactions

The PCA’s report on human sexuality sparked an interesting assortment of reactions when it came out last month. Revoice co-founder Stephen Moss called it a “solid resource for our denomination,” even as Denny Burk, who is publicly and passionately vocal about his opposition to Revoice, similarly praised the report as merely a re-articulation of the Nashville StatementSpiritual Friendship’s Ron Belgau tweeted a link by Kevin DeYoung that was clearly a jab at the report, writing, “This week on Moving the Goalposts.” But at the same time, Kyle Keating participated in drafting the report and is a contributor to Spiritual Friendship.

Pretty much every single “side b” friend of mine expressed a degree of muddled and disoriented feelings about it. Appreciation for some aspects, dismay over others, and general exhaustion at needing to break down the good, the bad, and the ugly—yet again—about another church statement on human sexuality.

I can’t possibly vocalize what everyone is thinking in the side b LGBTQ+ community. But I don’t want to be silent either. Christians of all stripes need perspective as they read this report. Hopefully more responses from thoughtful Christians follow.

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Forthcoming Book! Unpacking the Legacy of LGBTQ Discrimination in the Church

Heavy Burdens (Brazos Press, expected 2021) provides an honest account of the ways in which LGBTQ people experience discrimination in the church, helping Christians face the tragic reality of this legacy and empowering churches to navigate a better path forward.

Some exciting news! The past few months I’ve been hard at work on the beginning stages of a book project with Brazos Press. It’s still very much in its infancy and I’m still drafting most of the chapters (which is why you haven’t seen me posting as much here), but I wanted to share a little bit about it! Here’s a brief summary:

Religious faith reduces suicidality for virtually every American demographic except one: LGBTQ people. Tragically, the church’s long history of prioritizing heterosexuality above other expressions of human sexuality has left entire generations of LGBTQ people desolate, hopeless, and even dead. It’s past time the church confronted the ongoing and devastating impact of this legacy.

To that end, Heavy Burdens (Brazos Press, expected 2021) provides an honest account of the ways in which LGBTQ people experience discrimination in the church, helping Christians face the tragic reality of this legacy and empowering churches to navigate a better path forward. Debate over competing approaches to LGBTQ issues is at an all-time high, and it will only increase in the coming years. It’s past time that LGBTQ Christians and their allies had a resource to inform and educate fellow believers on the real-world impact of this debate.

If you’d like to take a sneak-peek, start reading a portion or download a copy of the introduction. I also plan to share occasional quotes on Instagram as well as assorted reflections on Twitter, so stay in touch via social media to keep updated (or join my mailing list). Excited to see this project take shape!

Living a Theology of Contrast Instead of Opposition

When it comes to gender and sexuality, we can live at peace with our faith without living in animosity to those who are different.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “positions” lately and what it even means to hold a position.

When people ask about my “position” on “homosexuality,” it’s rarely in the interest of broadening their own perspective, understanding my own, or (God forbid) adjusting their beliefs. Instead, it’s usually because they’re looking for a category (“I’m side a” or “side b” or “affirming” or “celibate”) that allows them to quickly box me away into one of two teams: the good guys or the bad guys.

But what if I don’t want to play for a team? What if I’m tired of the good guys and the bad guys?

I think part of the problem is that we’ve allowed ourselves to become unable to conceptualize a belief system different from our own that isn’t also antagonistic to our own. If it’s different, it must be a threat. 

As a result, “positions” become increasingly defined not by the personal convictions that permeate how we live and think and hope but by the battle stance we take in a never-ending war to protect ourselves from “them.” The discourse is not so much about growth and understanding as it is about winning and losing. And if that’s the case, then it makes perfect sense to sort people into the good guys and the bad guys. 

Now granted, good guys and bad guys really do exist. But a lot of times “good guys and bad guys” are just people who happen to see the world differently. And should difference of perspective really be the deciding factor in who becomes the enemy?

Working Towards a Humble Theology

It seems to me that we’ve lost the ability to believe what we believe with humility. Too often, we treat our own viewpoint as though we see through the eyes of Jesus Christ himself. So when people disagree, we act as if they differ not with us but with God. We might as well make ourselves out to be God. 

But the only person who knows how God views the world is God himself. There’s a reason we call our beliefs “beliefs” instead of “knowledge.” We don’t know. We engage the mysteries of life in faith, not certainty, and we trust that God’s grace will redeem our plentiful blindspots, because if it doesn’t, then all of us are doomed. 

Embracing a Theology of Contrast

So I guess I’m tired of living in a world where, “I’m right; you’re wrong,” determines the nature of discourse. What if I’m wrong, and you’re right? Or what if we’re both wrong? Or even more radical, what if we both have a piece of what’s right?

There’s a time and place for telling people they’re wrong, don’t mistake me. But there’s also a time and place for admitting that we could be wrong too. And quite frankly, I see far more of the former than I do of the latter in theological discussion.

My good friend Mary Sue Dauod put it to me this way: at some point we’ve gotta learn how to live in “contrast but not in opposition,” to borrow her language. We don’t always need to oppose perspectives that don’t fall in line with our own. Living at peace with our faith doesn’t require combat. We can choose to live in contrast instead of conflict.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and place for opposition. But there’s also a time and place for cooperation. And when it comes to gender and sexuality, I think it’s time we learned how to cooperate. We can live in diversity without living in animosity. We can do our best to be faithful to the witness of Scripture while, dare I say, affirming the best efforts of our siblings in Christ to also be faithful to the witness of Scripture. Their best is no better than ours. All of our works are like filthy rags.

Letting Go of Battle Positions When it Comes to Gender and Sexuality

So I guess I’m saying, at least when it comes to gender and sexuality if not for a great many other things too, that it’s time to put aside the “I’m right; you’re wrong” nature of discourse and pick up humility instead. Certain things are definitely worth fighting for, such as the ancient creeds of the Christian faith, but other things are worth adopting a posture of humility for. And I’ve become more and more convinced that gender and sexuality are among those things that require grace, not warfare. 

So here’s to living in contrast instead of conflict. Here’s to living at peace with our faith and not casting suspicion upon those who live differently. Here’s to becoming a conscientious objector to the battles we’ve been told to fight and honoring God’s grace as it falls upon all of us. I’m tired of insisting that I’m right. I’m ready to acknowledge that my best is no better than yours. 

Check Out These Resources on Faith and Sexuality

Preston Sprinkle’s Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Ethics recently released a brand-new online resource called The Digital Leaders Forum, a comprehensive course equipping ministry leaders with teaching on faith, sexuality, and gender from a traditional perspective on sexual ethics. I participated as a panelist and found the entire experience to be filled with grace, sincerity, and a true desire to build bridges between LGBT+ people and the conservative church. Check it out to learn more!

The Digital Leaders Forum provides comprehensive training on faith, sexuality, and gender from a traditional perspective on sexual ethics.

 

Also, if you’ve been following my blog for the past few months, you might remember me referencing Kutter Callaway’s book Breaking the Marriage Idol. I recently completed a review of his book that was published over at Evangelicals for Social Action. Check out a snippet below:

“The necessity of marriage is seldom, if ever, questioned in our culture, whether secular or Christian. The centrality of marriage to our anthropology feels ubiquitous. More than once, I’ve heard pastors describe marriage from the pulpit as the “ultimate” human relationship, and rarely in church have I ever seen singleness treated as anything other than a “season of life” before you get married.

But Kutter Callaway dares to challenge such thinking in Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms, shining a much-needed light on the church’s complicity in worshiping romantic love. His book stands out for the cultural commentary in the first section alone, where he provides a devastating analysis of the church’s idolatry of marriage. I would even go so far as to say these chapters ought to be required reading for anyone engaged in the ongoing conversation of Christian sexuality.

However, the remaining two sections of Callaway’s book lack the insight of his earlier chapters. Many of his ideas come across as underdeveloped, and many of his more controversial claims lack an adequate defense. As a result, the book succeeds in exposing much of the problematic thinking behind evangelical assumptions about sex and marriage, but it ultimately fails to provide adequate answers to the questions it raises.” Read more…

Check out the full review: “Bedfellows: A Review of ‘Breaking the Marriage Idol'”

See You at Revoice!

The Revoice Conference is a conference for LGBT+ Christians who adhere to the traditional sexual ethic of Scripture

 

The Revoice Conference in St. Louis starts tomorrow, and I’m so excited to see what’s in store! If you haven’t heard about it yet or don’t know much about it, Revoice is a conference for LGBT+ people who adhere to the traditional sexual ethic of Scripture. The goal is to create a place for sexual and gender minorities to find encouragement as they follow the historic Biblical teaching on sexual ethics — encouragement that countless churches sorely lack.

The conference has generated a tremendous amount of reactionary backlash from conservatives, resulting in countless misrepresentations and falsehoods. I’ve generally refrained from making any commentary on all of it because numerous people, far more eloquent than myself, have done a heroic job at responding to the criticisms with grace and truth. If you’d like to learn more about Revoice, I’d highly recommend reading any of these articles defending and expounding upon the conference:

Plenty more has been written in defense of Revoice, so if you exhaust these links, then please reach out and I’ll send you more! Otherwise, let’s all be praying for the conference this week that God would move in extraordinary ways. And if you plan to be there, I can’t wait to meet! See you at Revoice!

What Everybody Ought to Know About God and Justice

social justice is not just for liberals

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” ~ Deuteronomy 32:4

“For I the LORD love justice.” ~ Isaiah 61:8a

A picture hangs in the hallway of my school, put there by students completing a project. A three-year-old child named Alan lies face-down in the sand of a beach. His lifeless body looks cold and wet. Arms limp at his sides. I pass it every day on my way to the office, and the picture cries out, “Save me!” in haunting lamentations as I walk.

It’s too late, I think in grief. You’re already dead.

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Blogging Through the New Jim Crow: Thoughts on Chapter 3

[Note: This is the third installment in a series on Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. For other posts in this series see:

I’ve moved away from the discussion/commentary structure of my previous posts in this series to instead just listing the main sources that Alexander cites, along with the facts they reference. My impression has been that most people reading this series are scrolling through for relevant information to aid their own research. Hopefully formatting each post to more clearly focus on the sources and facts will be more helpful.]

the new jim crow

In Chapter 3, Alexander focuses her attention on the racial disparities between groups in the criminal justice system that cannot be explained by higher rates of crime, drugs, or other factors. Here are the major talking points and some of the evidence she offers in support:

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Liberal Agenda? Or Real Thing? 4 Ways for the Christian to Tackle Identity

“Hey, look at my eyes!” The girl pressed her fingers to the corners of her eyelids and slanted them upwards, then downwards, then upwards again. “Haha!” She started chanting in a sing-song manner, “Ching-chong, ching-chong!”

We were at summer camp and eating ice cream at a picnic table. I was barely 12 and joined her happily, as did our friends. When she saw that I joined, she dropped her hands and laughed even louder, slamming the table and saying, “You look so funny!”

I didn’t get it. Wasn’t that the point? I thought we all looked funny. But I could tell from her inflection that I was the one who looked particularly funny.

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Three Words Low-Income Children Need To Hear More

The door swung open, and the school counselor pushed a seven-year-old child into the room. As the child’s eyes met my own, his face turned pale white. I groaned inwardly but maintained a stoic expression.

“This one of yours?” the counselor said.

I nodded, and the counselor ushered Dustin to an empty table. He settled down in the back of the room, and I returned to the group of staff members at my own table. These meetings always ruined my day.

Dustin had entered the school a few weeks ago. Quite frankly, I was less than thrilled by his arrival. Thanks to him, my classroom expanded — yet again —to an impossible 28 children, an unacceptably large number for kindergarten. And he wasn’t just the normal addition. He was the kind that liked to curse, punch, scream, run out of the room, hide in various locations, and refuse to listen to any sort of command or request whatsoever.

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Laughing When You Don’t Understand

“Don’t laugh at what you don’t understand.”

Okay, so the words sound a bit harsh, but I promise you that my tone of voice and facial expression clearly communicated warmth, love, and kindness. And yes, I did say this to my students. Because my students needed to hear it.

I have avoided talking about the American election with my Korean high schoolers for most of the past few months. It didn’t seem appropriate or even remotely related to what I was teaching. So I just steered away from the topic.

chalkboard-class-picture
Things quickly turned political in class today, even though I was only teaching conditional sentences.

But then we began a culture exchange, where they communicate by video with Americans attending high school in the U.S., and one by one my students were shocked to discover that many of these American young people were Trump supporters. Or at least had parents who were voting for Trump.

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