Wandering the savage garden…

Does Christianity hate homosexuals, or what?

Yesterday I read a post on CNN, “When Christians become a ‘hated minority’.” In it, CNN attempts to summarize a situation in which Christians are refusing to identify homosexuality as a sin, and as an added bonus (thanks, CNN!) some Christians claim that maybe it’s not so bad.

It’s not a particularly focused article, but it has a lot of useful statements.

I’d rather know I’m wrong than suspect I’m right. I don’t know I’m wrong unless I put some stakes in the ground: I make an assertion, with the full knowledge that someone wiser than I might come along and tell me what a fool I am. I’m okay with that; the delivery isn’t important, but the message is.

So what’s happening here is good, in the long run: it defines a problem (dressed in frilly clothes of “Christians are becoming a hated minority”) and describes a lot of issues in the Christian community concerning a specific issue (namely, homosexuality).

One thing that stood out – and actually inspired me to write about the article, which seemed rather “me-too” at first – was this passage:

What the Bible says

What about the popular evangelical claim, “We don’t hate the sinner, just the sin” – is that seen as intolerance or hate speech when it comes to homosexuality?

There are those who say you can’t hate the sin and love the sinner because being gay or lesbian is defined by one’s sexual behavior; it’s who someone is.

“Most people who identify as gay and lesbian would say that this is not an action I’m choosing to do; this is who I am,” says Timothy Beal, author of “The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book.”

Beal, a religion professor at Case Western University in Ohio, says it should be difficult for any Christian to unequivocally declare that the Bible opposes homosexuality because the Bible doesn’t take a single position on the topic. It’s an assertion that many scholars and mainline Protestant pastors would agree with.

Some people cite Old Testament scriptures as condemning homosexuality, such as Leviticus 18:22 – “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” But other Christians counter by saying they are not bound by the Old Testament.

Oh, my. This block of text is horribly written, as a series of assertions.

Let’s be clear: first, we should all reject all sin.

13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13, ESV)

Second, ain’t none of us innocent in and of ourselves:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:21-25, ESV, with verse 23 highlighted)

So let’s look at the crucial part of that: all of us have sinned and fallen short. We are justified by His grace as a gift, the gift of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Ain’t none of us better than any other. In the eyes of God, sin is sin is sin is sin; while some sins carry greater consequence from a human perspective (murder’s worse than lying to someone about what you ate for dinner, right?), all sin carries with it the separation from God’s Will.

So: “hate the sin, not the sinner” is alive and well. As Christians, we can’t hate the sinner – that’d call us to hate ourselves as well.

It may be that homosexuals are who they are, that they have no free will in the matter. I don’t know; I’m not homosexual, last I checked. 🙂 But that’s of no account; we’re called to go unto all the world, to witness to everyone who sins. Therefore, they get included in that set; their homosexuality is irrelevant when it comes to “do they need Christ?”

And now we get to the statement that really hit me:

Beal, a religion professor at Case Western University in Ohio, says it should be difficult for any Christian to unequivocally declare that the Bible opposes homosexuality because the Bible doesn’t take a single position on the topic. It’s an assertion that many scholars and mainline Protestant pastors would agree with.

Really?

That’s horrifying. “Many scholars and mainline Protestant pastors” are ignorant of the Bible, then.

Leviticus 18:22 is, indeed, a starting point. And it refers to the sin as an “abomination.” That’s pretty relevant. And Paul, in the NT, makes a lot of reference to homosexuality – not pederasty, even though the Greek in which Paul wrote had both words available.

If Paul had meant pederasty and not homosexuality, he could have said so. He didn’t. Therefore: he meant homosexuality, because that’s what he wrote. It isn’t difficult to figure out.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27, ESV)

Sorry, Mr. Beal. You can claim that Jesus said little about sex; that’s because the Torah said it, and Jesus saw no need to echo everything about the Law, except that He fulfilled it. (See Matthew 5:17 and Romans 3:31.)

Some, of course, choose to rewrite the Bible: they say that Christians are not bound by the Old Testament.

Oh, my. Let’s run back to the Bible, but let’s use the New Testament, since they say the Old is no longer relevant:

31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31, ESV)

Wait, that says we uphold the Law. (And yes, this is one of the verses to which I referred a paragraph or two ago.) And if we uphold the Law, that says the Law is the standard by which we’re to consider ourselves moral (gosh, see Romans 2 and 3.) And the Law serves to convict us of our sin, which is why we need Christ in the first place!

Christians who say the law has no importance for us are wrong. Do away with the Law, and you do away with Christ. Do away with Christ, and you do away with the basis for calling yourself a Christian.

And honestly? If you’re going to do away with Christ, do Christians a favor and stop self-identifying as one; when you say you’re a Christian, you make it harder for actual Christians to witness to you properly. We tend to assume you know at least a little about what you’re saying about yourself.

Lastly: I mentioned a while back the use of the word “abomination,” תּוֹעֵבָה. This is a heavy, heavy word.

Sin is bad; it separates us from God.

Abomination is worse. Abomination causes God to push us away from Him. It marks behavior God rejects. It’s not for nothing that Paul goes on and on about certain sins; not only were they pervasive, but they were abominable.

This doesn’t mean the homosexual is a worse sinner than any other person; sin is sin, remember? And we all need Christ. What sin leads us to that condition is irrelevant to the condition itself.

But it does speak to the severity of the sin.

Eating a cheeseburger is wrong (as long as it’s beef and you’re using cheese from cow’s milk: see Exodus 23:19, and the reasons I say “wrong” are too complex for this post – let’s just say that it’s gross to think about in the context of that verse) but it’s not an abomination.

The sin is still sin; we’re freed from the punishment of the Law, but not the consequences of it.

I believe there are actively homosexual Christians, and by that I mean fully saved, covered by grace Christians. I also think that a homosexual act (not being homosexual, but engaging in homosexual acts) is a transgression to which Romans 6:1 applies:

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1, ESV)

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