The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: Gay Marriage

Myths about Homosexuality, America, and the Kingdom of God

Introduction

It is with some hesitation that I share the following thoughts, because I am not really a very controversial guy and thus, like to avoid talking about hot-button topics. And homosexuality is certainly a hot-button topic in today’s society.

From a Christian perspective, I think homosexuality is a complicated issue, and part of the reason that it’s so complicated is because there are so many myths, so many false ideas floating around that confuse us and prevent us from making progress in any of this with people with whom we disagree.

So today, I want to look at several myths regarding homosexuality and to try to clarify our thinking on those, in the hopes that in the future, as we continue to deal with this issue (because it’s definitely not going away), we’ll be able to do so in a more productive and Biblically-accurate way.

Myth 1: The Bible Doesn’t Really Condemn Homosexuality.

Now, before we get into this one, I should note that there are a lot of people out there who don’t care what the Bible says, so with those folks, you’re going to have a lot of trouble finding common ground. But increasingly, there are people who call themselves Bible-believing Christians who will claim that the Bible doesn’t really condemn homosexuality. That claim is false. It is a myth.

I could spend a long time on this, but as you’ll see, this is going to be a long post already, so briefly:

In Genesis 2.18-25 we have the beautiful account of the creation of Eve, and the clear, direct idea is that woman was created for companionship with man. Man was incomplete without her. This fact has strong implications, and we’ll return to it later, but for now, the idea is that God had a plan, God had a design, and that design was for man and woman to be together.

Later in Genesis 19 we have the destruction of the city of Sodom. Now, people who claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality will try to argue that the city of Sodom was destroyed because they showed a lack of hospitality toward the men/angels who visited Lot. And certainly that was true—it was not a hospitable place!—and I have no problem acknowledging that inhospitality was one of many sins that Sodom was destroyed for. Other sins include: violence, rape (or attempted rape), oppression of the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16.49), and, yes, homosexuality. If you were taking a multiple choice quiz about the sins of Sodom, the answer would be “E. All of the Above”. It was a wicked place.

Homosexuality is also explicitly condemned in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 18.22; 20.13).

Moving on to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul forcefully addresses the issue of homosexuality in Romans 1.18-32, and he also includes it in lists of sinful practices in 1 Corinthians 6.9-11 and 1 Timothy 1.8-10. Arguments that Paul is referring to some other practice in these texts and that he was unaware of consensual homosexual relationships like we have today are supported neither by the Greek text nor the testimony of history.

Sometimes you’ll hear people argue that Jesus never specifically condemned it, but even that is inaccurate. Jesus did condemn sexual immorality (Matthew 19.9) and fornication (Matthew 15.19), which would include any sexual intercourse outside of marriage…and Jesus defined marriage as being between one man and one woman (Matthew 19.4-6) just as God created it in the Garden of Eden and as it was described in Genesis 2.

If you study the Bible and are honest about what it says, you have to reach one of two conclusions: either homosexuality is wrong, or the Bible is wrong. You can’t claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality.

Myth 2: Homosexuality is the Chief of Sins.

Now, you might not actually hear someone say this, but if we’re honest about it, this is how we act sometimes. We sure get a lot more worked up about this sin than a lot of other sins.

Those sin lists that Paul makes where he includes homosexuality in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 8? They also include sins like adultery, greed, drunkenness, lying, gossip, envy…When was the last time you saw a bunch of Christians up in arms on Facebook because of gossip or greed or envy?

Or even if you just want to narrow it to sexual sins, there are a lot more heterosexuals than homosexuals in this country who are violating God’s laws about sexual behavior. We don’t seem to get as upset about that for some reason. Maybe because that’s a temptation that many of us understand better, or maybe because our culture has already compromised on that sin a long time ago!

A lot of times, if you hold to the biblical teaching on homosexuality—that it is a sin—you are branded as a hateful bigot. And that’s too bad. I don’t hate homosexuals; I don’t think most Christians do either. But when we use all of our moral outrage on this one issue, and we’re not consistent in the way we oppose other kinds of sin (including the ones like gossip and greed and lying that we tend to wink at), I can understand how some gay people could think that we hate them, because to them it seems like we only focus on their sin.

But homosexuality is not the chief of sins. It’s just one of many that we need to oppose.

Myth 3: There is No Difference between Homosexual Attraction and the Practice of Homosexuality.

This is a huge myth, because there is a huge difference: it’s the difference between temptation and sin. It’s the difference between orientation and behavior.

When you go back and look at those sin lists that Paul writes which we’ve already referred to a couple of times, he talks about practicing homosexuality, the physical act of it. That is a sin. We need to distinguish that practice from the temptation. Temptations are not sin. I know that because the Bible teaches that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, and yet was without sin (you can read about some of those temptations in Matthew 4). So it’s not sinful to be tempted; it’s sinful to give in to your temptations.

Sometimes in these discussions I think we get on shaky ground when we try to argue about whether or not people are born with a homosexual orientation. And honestly, if you keep up with this stuff, the science is still out on this. Scientists don’t know; they argue it both ways. We do know that our genetic makeup greatly influences our lives, but that also the environment in which we are raised greatly influences us.

But I’ll be honest with you, if science came out and definitively said that yes, some people are born with an inclination toward homosexual feelings, it really wouldn’t bother me, because my experience already leads me to believe that some people are naturally more inclined towards certain temptations than others.

For some who are reading this, the temptation for greed is so high. It’s so easy to find yourself thinking about how you can get more money, more possessions. For others, the temptation to gossip is so strong. When you find out information about someone—maybe a brother or sister in Christ—it is such a struggle to not gleefully pass that on. For others, the temptation of drunkenness or lust is a strong one, while others may never feel those temptations at all.

The point is, we’re different! Sins that are really tempting for me may not be tempting for you. Sins that are really tempting for you may not be tempting for me.

But we need to realize that homosexual attraction is a temptation. It’s giving in to that temptation that is sin. Christians who struggle with this temptation—like all temptations—need our sympathy, our compassion, and support, not our derision, or our judgment, or our cruel jokes.

Myth 4: America is a Christian Nation.

The United States was established on certain Christian principles, and there is a respect for the sovereignty of God and the teachings of Scripture that run deep within the heritage of our country. And if that’s what you mean in saying that America is a Christian nation, I get your point, and I agree.

However…

The United States of America is not a Christian nation, because as a nation, we don’t live according to the principles of Christ.

If America was a Christian nation, we wouldn’t have an economy based largely on greed where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. If America was a Christian nation, we wouldn’t legally permit the slaughter of nearly one million of our own unborn children each year and call it a medical procedure. And yes, if America was a Christian nation, we wouldn’t be debating about whether or not we can “re-define” marriage when God has already clearly defined it. And we could go on and on.

But at an even more basic level, America is not a Christian nation because “Christian nations” do not exist. 

God doesn’t have a country; He has a kingdom. And by the way, if you are a Christian, that is where your primary allegiance should lie—not the United States! God’s Kingdom—or God’s reign, His rule—will one day extend over all that is. But for now, the Bible teaches that Satan is the ruler of this world. Sure, God is ultimately in charge and the Bible teaches that He is involved in the rise and fall of kings and nations…but right now, God’s Kingdom, His reign and His rule, is seen primarily in the Church and in the lives of individual Christians and the light that they shine.

It is not seen in our government or our laws. The United States is not the Kingdom of God.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t be upset over the direction that our country is going. If you care about the US (as I do), then that’s a natural response. And we see in Luke 13 and Matthew 23 that Jesus lamented over the city of Jerusalem because of the way that it rejected prophets and was going to reject Him and the punishment that would come as a result—the city was leveled in AD 70 by the Romans. It’s okay to be sad when our country makes decisions that go against God’s laws and desires.

It also doesn’t mean that we can’t desire or use our political voice to try and reflect Kingdom values in our country. But I think it does mean that we should quit expecting our country to look like the Kingdom of God. Because it’s not that. I think as Christians, we need to quit being surprised when lost people act like they’re lost. How else are they going to act? We should expect the world to act like the world.

To me, that means that engaging in culture wars and arguing with people about gay marriage shouldn’t be our primary concern. Don’t misunderstand me: if someone asks me my opinion on gay marriage, you better believe that I’ll tell them. If I have the chance to vote on it, you can rest assured that I will use my vote to reflect the values of the Kingdom.

But what I’m not going to do is obsess over the fact that the U.S. doesn’t look like the Kingdom of God, because why would it? It’s not that.

Instead, I need to focus on making and maturing disciples to be like Jesus Christ! That’s what my mission is. That’s how I expand the borders of God’s Kingdom; not by arguing with people on Facebook.

Myth 5: The Direction in which America is Heading is Bad for the Church.

Related somewhat to the last idea, I think there is a general feeling that the direction our country is headed—a direction away from the teachings of God and Scripture—is a bad thing for the church.But I’m not sure that’s true. Hear me out…

I expect that as time goes on, the policies and laws of our nation will increasingly stray from the teachings of Scripture. I expect that to happen. As a result, I think our country will increasingly become a hostile environment for Christians.

And I firmly believe that God will bless us in that environment.

For one thing, it says that in Scripture. Jesus says in Matthew 5.11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

But also, this idea is borne out in history.

Starting in the Book of Acts we see that when the church was persecuted, it didn’t put an end to the church—it just enabled the church to spread! What began as a movement in Jerusalem spread throughout Judea, Samaria, Asia Minor, Greece, Rome and beyond when Saul of Tarsus and others like him began to persecute the church.

That continued later on. Emperors like Nero and Domitian persecuted Christianity and tried to stamp it out—they had Christians beheaded and burned at the stake—but the church continued to grow. Tertullian, a Christian of the 2nd century, said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” When the church is persecuted, fair-weather lukewarm Christians are weeded out, and those who remain do great things!

But keeping our gaze on the past, we also see the reverse is true.

In 313 AD, the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity all across the Roman Empire—no longer would Christians be persecuted—and soon thereafter, Christianity became the official religion of the Empire. And that sounds like a good thing to us, but really it wasn’t a healthy thing for the church at all! Christianity became trendy and popular; it was something that people signed up for like a social club.

Lukewarm faith, questionable motives, and pagan backgrounds combined to produce a lot of practices which led people away from the truth of Scripture. Christianity was a name they wore, but not a cross they carried daily.

Fast forward hundreds and hundreds of years…when I look around at our culture, our so-called “Christian nation”, that’s what I see; a nation of lukewarm Christianity filled with people who claim the name of Christ but don’t really follow Him. People who instead worship money, or success, or a flag.

An American government that has largely been friendly to the values and ideas of Christianity for the last couple of hundred years hasn’t really been great for the church; it’s just made it easy for Christians to get comfortable living in this world and to forget that we are supposed to be citizens of another.

If our country continues to turn away from God’s commandments and teachings, I think it will become increasingly hostile toward Christians. And maybe that’s exactly what we need to wake us up!

If what we care about is our comfort, then the direction in which our country is headed is certainly troubling. But if we care about the health and growth of the church, then I think we need to look to the future with a bold confidence in what lies ahead.

Conclusion

We’ve been talking about myths:

  • Is it true that the Bible doesn’t really condemn homosexuality? No, the Bible does condemn it. As Christians, we need to know this truth and be able to share it.
  • Is it true that homosexuality is the chief of sins? No, it isn’t. And if we want to have a witness that the world will listen to, we have got to be consistent. We have to speak out against all sins, not just this one.
  • Is it true that there is no difference between homosexual attraction and the practice of homosexuality? No, there’s a huge difference: the difference between temptation and sin. People who struggle with this temptation need our support and our prayer, not our condemnation and our disdain.
  • Is it true that America is a Christian nation? No, God has a Kingdom, not a country. The fact that our country doesn’t look like the Kingdom of God shouldn’t surprise us; it should make us seek to spread the borders of the Kingdom and look eagerly for our home with God.
  • Is it true that the direction in which America is heading is bad for the church? I don’t think so. The Bible teaches and history bears witness that when we are persecuted for the sake of Christ, the church is blessed. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or comfortable, but it should fill us with courage and purpose.

This post has talked extensively about the Kingdom of God; it’s God’s mission to save the world through His Son Jesus, and as Christians—as citizens of God’s Kingdom—we join with Him on that mission. Inherently, that means that we don’t live hidden and cut off from our culture, but rather, actively engaged in it. I know this is a complicated and emotionally-charged issue, but I think it is incredibly important that we get the truth about these myths straight in our minds if we are going to be salt and light and engage our world in the proper tone and from the right perspective.

Christians and the Sanctity of Marriage

A Chick-fil-A in Huntsville, Alabama on August 1. Photo by Glenn Baeske/AP Photo
So a couple of weeks ago there was a pretty big political/cultural/religious firestorm concerning gay marriage and Chick-fil-A. Perhaps you heard something about it.
I didn’t write anything about it at the time because (a) I was traveling, (b) Everybody in the world seemed to be writing something about it, and (c) When it comes to emotionally-charged issues, I think it is sometimes less helpful to talk about them when we are so fired up. So I have waited until now to post a brief thought for reflection.
I have no problem with a company executive expressing his views on marriage. I happened to agree with his views, but even if I didn’t, I support his freedom to express what he believes—that’s one of the neat things about our country. And speaking of freedom, I also support the freedom of those who disagree with him to boycott his company, and the freedom of those who agree with him to Eat (even) Mor Chikin than usual to show their support.
But here is what I wonder: in a society plagued by divorce, where Christians don’t do that much better than non-Christians at staying married,1 what is the most effective way for Christians to protect the sanctity of marriage? Is it by eating at Chick-fil-A (or getting in debates on the internet, or holding up picket signs), or by actively cultivating healthy, God-glorifying marriages with our spouses?
Of course, it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision—you can affirm the value of biblical marriage by working hard to make yours conform to those standards and at the same time, you can also use your political and economic voice to support it as well. Unfortunately, I think that the tendency is for a lot of people to follow the latter options (which, admittedly require less effort and less sacrifice) instead of the former rather than in addition to it.
By all means, let’s protect the sanctity of marriage—but let’s also admit that homosexuals aren’t the only ones who are bringing damage upon it.

• • •
1This article talks about how the oft-quoted fact of Christians divorcing at the same rate as non-Christians is a myth. However, even this article puts the divorce rate among American Christians at about 42%, while that of non-religious Americans is about 50%. As Christians, are we really going to pat ourselves on the back about that level of difference?

Abortion, Part 3: How I Vote

This is the third part in a series on abortion, and specifically on why I feel abortion is the single most important issue when it comes to voting. My views on abortion are based on certain philosophies and premises, which you can catch in Part 1 and Part 2.

In this post, I’m going to shift gears a bit and try to explain how I vote in general. It’s been a difficult post to write in a lot of ways, but it’s been good for me to flesh out my thoughts.

Abstaining From Politics

As a quick note, I should mention that there are some who believe that Christians should abstain from politics and voting altogether. After all, our true allegiance is to Christ, not some earthly office or entity, and Christianity is about being salt and light, not about getting others to do what God wants via legislation.

While I respect that view, I also believe that the thinking behind it is flawed—I’m confident that God wants us to use every avenue we have to influence others for good and inject the values of His Kingdom into the world, including our political voice.

Political Parties

On my Facebook profile, my political views are listed as “Inconsistent”. I described them as such not because I consider them to be inconsistent with each other, but because I consider them to be inconsistent with either of the two major parties that dominate our political landscape today.

Generally, I have conservative views on economic issues. As a product of (among other things) Harding University’s Belden Center for Private Enterprise, I believe that capitalism, low taxation, and limited government regulation of business are generally good things.

That being said, those views (some of which are pretty strong) don’t really impact my vote that much because at the end of the day, no matter which party is in control, as Americans, we are among the wealthiest people in the world. If our economic recession lasts longer than expected and cuts deeper than expected, as Americans, we will still be among the wealthiest people in the world.

Instead, the side of politics that matters more to me are the “social” issues, or maybe a better term (which I’ll use for the rest of this post) would be “moral” issues. From a Christian perspective, it’s fundamental that morality is more important than money—how good you are is more important than how rich you are.

And that’s my major problem with the Republican Party—while they may agree with me on many moral issues, when push comes to shove, they just don’t consider those issues to be as important as money. And worse, I think some Republican candidates don’t care about them at all, but just pay lip service to them in order entice me to vote for them.

Of course, on the other hand, you have the Democrats, who I disagree with on a lot of moral issues and disagree with on economic policies.

So here I am, inconsistent with both major political parties, determining my vote based on the issues that I think are most important—the moral ones.

Moral Issues

Christians (and others) who support pro-choice candidates are quick to point out that there are a lot of moral issues besides just abortion—and they’re right. There’s a bunch of them, and I could probably do weeks’ worth of posts covering them all, but instead, I’ll just briefly mention a few in order to illustrate that my views are somewhat scattered across the political spectrum (I won’t mention abortion, since that’s the subject of the next post).

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, the teachings of Jesus on the “Least of These” influence my thinking on a lot of these issues:

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25.41-46.)

Environment

God created this world for us to use, and also for us to take care of. This idea of stewardship represents a balance that I think a lot of people miss.

Having said that, I think the case for Global Warming (or, “Global Climate Change” now that statistics show that we’re not warming as originally predicted) is unconvincing, and has become overly politicized, as evidenced by the fact that the significant number of scientists who have refuted global warming have been silenced and ridiculed.

Gay Marriage

God defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and as Christians, I think we should do what we can to support that definition. To me, that certainly includes opposing gay marriage, but at the same time acknowledging that, with the divorce rates we have, American heterosexual couples are doing a good enough job of destroying marriage without help from anyone else. Let’s protect marriage, but let’s also admit that homosexuals aren’t the only ones who are bringing damage upon it.

Immigration

The Bible is pretty clear as to how we are to treat the foreigner—with hospitality. Because of this, I have very little patience with the general position of the Right on immigration.

I realize that we have a lot of illegal immigrants in this country, but I’m also virtually certain that the vast majority of them would choose to become legal if it were easier for them to do so. That’s what I call the iTunes Effect: when the iTunes store gave people an affordable, legal alternative to stealing music, many, many people immediately took advantage of it. I may be naive, but I think immigration would work in much the same way.

Furthermore the U.S. has always been a country of immigrants. It’s how we got our beginning, and it’s what gives us our identity. The Statue of Liberty actually says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free…” but all too many people seem to want to add an “unless they’re from Mexico” clause to the end. I think that’s ridiculous. And sad. And not biblical.

Poverty

I feel convinced in my own mind that ideally, it should be the job of the Church, not government, to take care of the poor, but considering that Christendom as a whole hasn’t done a very good job of that, government helping out might not be a bad idea.

I question whether or not the typical policies of the Democratic Party really help out the poor that much, but at least, in theory, their heart is in the right place. And to those with more conservative views who think that taxation basically amounts to stealing (a view I’m sensitive to), I think it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t say, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s—unless he asks for more than you want to give him.”

At the same time, I see a lot of inconsistency regarding political views on poverty. If poverty was such a big deal to the Left, you would think they would also oppose things like state lotteries (which statistics have shown feed off of the poor) and alternative fuel sources such as ethanol, which take food (corn) and turn it into fuel when thousands of people around the world starve every day. It makes me wonder if poverty is the Left’s lip service issue just as abortion is the Right’s.

War

I know that this is a major issue with some people, so I may not do it justice in my brief comments, but I’ll try.

I’m not a pacifist. I think war is a terrible thing, and should be avoided when possible, but I also think it can be justified. I think that’s a Biblical view, although I respect the opinions of those who disagree.

Regarding our current war, I know it’s very unpopular, but if we’re honest, I think we’d acknowledge two things. First, back when war was declared, the vast majority of politicians (although our President-Elect is a notable exception) and the vast majority of American citizens were in favor of it. I think too many people are trying to deny responsibility for that. Secondly, having made the decision to go to war, it’s incredibly irresponsible to just pack up and leave in the middle when all indications are that things will get worse if you do. That might be the case now, and it certainly was the case back when the Left first started demanding a pullout.

Having said that, if all the Iraq War accomplished or all it was about was removing a dictator from power who had committed genocide on his own people, then I think it was justified. Similarly, if Hitler had decided not to invade every country in Europe but had still gassed every Jew he could get his hands on, I think war would have been justified in that situation as well.

Conclusion

Once again, my point in bringing up all these issues is not so much to convince anyone on any particular subject, but rather to illustrate what I believe is a consistency among my views on different moral subjects, but an inconsistency between the moral views I hold and the views generally held by either major political party.

So what does that leave me with? Since there are clearly a lot of moral issues, and my views on these issues don’t all line up neatly with a specific party, how can I ever choose to vote for one candidate or another?

Well, if all issues were created equal (you can see where I’m going with this), I wouldn’t be able to—I’d be locked in a stalemate of conscience. But that’s not the case. Sometimes, the magnitude of a particular issue can make it so important that it should take preeminence over all others.

Slavery was such an issue, and abortion is another.

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