TIME: God and Gays
Jon Meacham at TIME writes about the
pathetic debacle celebration of hope that was the Episcopal Church’s 77th General Convention, and unwittingly reveals the central flaw in liberal Christianity.
In his counterpoints to Ross Douthat’s piece the other day (“Can Liberal Christianity Survive?”), Meacham writes:
As I read it, his argument, shared by many, is that the church is essentially translating liberal views of sexuality into the language and forms of the faith. If the Bible speaks out against homosexuality, then a church that moves to embrace homosexuals must be acting not according to theological thinking but to political factors. Put another way, the Episcopal Church has taken the course it has taken on sexuality because it is politically fashionable to do so, not because there is a theological reason to open its arms wider.
The problem with this argument is that it ignores a long tradition of evolving theological understanding and changing scriptural interpretation. Only the most unapologetic biblical fundamentalists, for instance, take every biblical injunction literally. If we all took all scripture at the same level of authority, then we would be more open to slavery, to the subjugation of women, to wider use of stoning. Jesus himself spoke out frequently against divorce in the strongest of terms. Yet we have — often gradually — chosen to read and interpret the Bible in light not of tradition but of reason and history.
Given that sexual orientation is innate and that we are all, in theological terms, children of God, to deny access to some sacraments based on sexuality is as wrong as denying access to some sacraments based on race or gender. This is not about secular politics (though the secular political world is coming to share these views) but about the perennial human effort to follow the ancient commandment to love one another as ourselves.
Meacham is making two deeply flawed assertions. The first is that being gay is exactly like being black, or being a woman.
This is flawed because the Bible, to which Meacham appeals to buttress his case, is very clear about the difference between having same-sex attraction, and indulging those attractions in the form of gay sex. The difference can be illustrated even more starkly by realizing that one can be gay, and not commit the sin of gay sex. The same can’t be said of Meacham’s other examples: One cannot be black, and not be black. One cannot be a woman… and not be a woman.
The second assertion is the central flaw in liberal Christianity, and it is this: Because God made our sexuality, then all manifestations of it must be good; thus to call any of them sinful is to reject Jesus’ command in John 13:34-35.
Surely Meacham would reject my characterization of his stance as “all manifestations of our sexuality must be good,” because to accept it means approving of things (I assume) he knows are wrong (incest, for example) or downright evil (pedophilia), but in doing so he illustrates the flaw in his own position: All expressions of sexuality are not good, and the Bible is very clear about those which are not (1 Corinthians 6:9).
And this is liberal Christianity’s central flaw: It proceeds from a rejection - sometimes outright, sometimes implied - of sin, as though it’s forgotten entirely about the Fall, or has rejected it outright.
In this rejection, liberal Christianity descends immediately - and irretrievably - into incoherence. Absent the Fall, what need do we have of a savior? Without sin - without the admission that all of God’s human creations are fallen - what is Christ’s death on the cross but a cruel joke? And what is the Resurrection but a fiction, and what is the faith but a fraud?
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