Popular (and controversial) evangelical pastor Rob Bell appeared on Oprah's Soul Food Sunday this weekend and shared why marriage is so important - for gay and straight people alike.
Said Bell: "One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness....Loneliness is not good for the world. And so whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It's central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with."
When Oprah followed up by asking Bell when Christianity would "get that," he responded: "We're moments away...I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defence, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbours and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone."
OK, so apart from the fact that Bell has just said the Bible is irrelevant and not authoritative, what's the problem here? Well, the problem is that, using the name of Jesus Bell is defining a code of ethics that suits his preferences, and making culture the defining measure of ethical authority.
Does that disturb you? How would you respond?
For myself, I frequently encounter three arguments in relation to this hot-button topic:
- Why shouldn't the church endorse gay marriage if it helps loneliness, and the couple are truly and monogamously in love?
- Why should a few statements from the letters of a [perceived] chauvinist who lived 2000 years ago be relevant?
- Jesus never said anything about gay lifestyles!
The answer, I believe, does not lie in direct rebuttal (even though I think these arguments are reasonably easy to rebut). Direct rebuttal usually leads
to confrontation which is a small step away from condemnation. Instead my approach is usually to steer the conversation toward the assumptions. Then we can see if the arguments have strength.
- The first point assumes love is all you need, yet it avoids the necessity that perfect love requires perfect justice.
- The second point is little more than chronological snobbery, and assumes age makes old wisdom less true (yet paradoxically people will often quote "The Ancients" as if their wisdom was absolute).
- The third point, persuasive as it is on the face of it, ignores the fact that Jesus is a person, and as such the totality of who he is, and the completeness of his story is what should define Jesus' view.
And on that last point, Jesus stands for holiness, perfection, and the intended normality of our originally created nature. Jesus teaches that our created purpose is to be in relationship with a perfect God, the same God who defines the created normality, and its clear that practising gay relationships are not part of God's intended normality.
Lastly, many arguments presume on the inner goodness of man, and deny the fallen nature. Therefore, when an action (e.g. practising gay lifestyles) co-opts a good value (e.g. love), this presumes that because there is love in the action it can't be wrong. This reasoning simply fails all common sense tests.
I do not condemn anyone in the LGBT community. I stand with the LGBT community as an individual who equally has to deal daily with the complexity of being a failed creature, however this is manifest.
In this my focus is to (re-)become the creature I was intended to be, by the grace and the strength I find in Jesus. My focus is not on where I've come from, or where I am, but where I am headed - its my trajectory that’s important, not so much my current position.
If you take exception to that, I suggest (genuinely) talking to God (after all, He's the one who created normality).