Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Baptists and Gays

In an earlier post, Nat-Wu debated with a commentor whether conservative evangelicals focus on gay marriage, and homosexuality in general, while paying less attention to other behavior that is also proscribed in the Bible, such as divorce, infidelity or even drug use (the discussion was in the context of Pastor Ted Haggard's removal from his post at New Life Ministries.) The commentor was focused more on how specific churches treat specific behaviors:

It's just my word against your info, but I can say with absolute confidence that whether the issue is illicit drugs, infidelity, or homosexuality, an evangelical pastor would be immediately removed. I don't support everything the Baptists do but I have to give them credit for their consistent treatment of issues like this, especially in regard to sexual issues. Would Haggard have been fired for being gay? Of course. That is unquestionably a hot-button issue. He would certainly have been fired for anything else as well, though.

Nat-Wu also focused on the conduct of specific churches, but also on the conservative evangelical movement as a whole:

I think it's a little disengenous to state that all evangelicals treat all sexual morality issues equally. As you said, your experience is in Baptist churches that do. I have been in Baptist churches that don't, as well as churches of other denominations. Also, the Episcopalians who decided to support gay marriage are not by default less evangelical than those who oppose it. So obviously, there is quite a wide range of evangelical opinions on all these matters. That being said, I think it's important to note that the Episcopal church basically split over the issue of gay marriage, not over divorce or abortion. Also, and this is not speaking specifically of pastors but rather congregants, you typically won't find them protesting divorce or partaking in "divorcee-bashing", whereas I have witnessed evangelicals, Baptist or otherwise, actively gay-bashing. That strongly suggests that they do not regard the two issues equally, even if their actual doctrine treats them equally.

It is of course impossible to deny that there are conservative evangelical churches that treat all issues pertaining to sinful behavior equally, without a whiff of hypocrisy. But it is also impossible to deny that other churches are much quicker to condemn sin related to homosexual behavior. But overall, it is impossible to deny that politically, it is the issue of gay-marriage, and homosexuality in general, that drives conservative evangelical congregations to act thusly:

The state's largest religious denomination will no longer affiliate with churches that embrace openly gay members.

North Carolina Baptists on Tuesday approved an anti-gay measure that prevents member churches from hiring, ordaining or accepting for membership anyone whose action "defies so blatantly the word of God."

"There are a lot of religious denominations that are compromising -- we can't," said Mike Harris, chairman of the convention committee commissioned to study the proposal.

Note, these churches are not splitting merely over the issue of gay-marriage. They are splitting over the mere acceptance of gays into their congregations. Now of course there are many among this congregation who refuted such an approach, but lost the vote on the measure. And there are many more churches that are also conservative and evangelical that would not take such an approach. But it is actions like these, taken quite publicly, that represent the face of conservative evangelism to non-evangelicals, non-Christians, and American society in general. It is difficult to imagine a church splitting over the treatment of divorcees, or drug users, and so this leaves many with what I think is a natural impression that these churches simply do not treat those issues with as much seriousness. To an outsider such as myself, that at best leads one to question their priorities. At worst, it creates more than a whiff of hypocrisy.

Update: Lest you think I'm picking on only Baptists or evangelicals in general, this article reveals that Catholics and Presbytarians are also moving to take a harder line on gays in their chuches.


Fan Boy said...

I am happy you brought up the Episicpol Church. The Church of England and the Episcipol Church broke ties for the first time in two centuries. Why?

Because the Episcipol church of America abandoned a steadfast corner stone of the faith. Leaders must not have obvious ongoing sin issues.

Now, what people have failed to focus on in the split is why thier was no uproar in England that the church was splitting for this reason.

I mean after all the English are a European culture that is much more open and less bias towards sexual options of choice. So why were gay and lesbian groups not distraught and out on the streets protesting against this latest scourge condeming thier life style choices?

The reason is because everyone knows what the Church of England stands for, its doctrines, rights, and choices. No one over their is trying to push down the throat a liberal doctrine that goes against the very moorings of the church. If you are Gay and you go to church they understand what they are giving up in turn for thier choice. They understand freedom of choice does not equate to freedom of acceptance.

The ongoing Gay and Lesbian theatrics in this country as well as the circus front chruch are fighting over acceptance, not freedom.

The Church should not and shall not accept gay leadership and risk the fires of hell by doing so. It is clearly, unmistakenly ordered in church doctrine. It is blasphemous.

Churches should also not reject openly gay individuals. Those who are must understand though that the church is not going to have a couples class for gay people. Because being gay and acting upon it is a sin and we will not support the sin.

As far as other sins, Divorce - churches do everything possible to save marriages from premarital counseling to divorce care. IF the divorce is for unfaithfullness and the other person is unrepentant then under most churches they are kicked out as they should be. But if the brother does repent they are accepted back.

For drugs the church has much more options for witchcraft. However the person using if does not repent and change is kicked out of the body. If the person repents thet are welcomed back.

For being gay if the person does not repent they are kicked out. If the person repents they are accepted back.

The difference is most churches do not have the EI developed to handle the latter. It is most difficult to say a person is gay and working on it. Their are prejudices and misdirection that require help along one namely being allowing a gay childcare worker or youth volunteer. The Church scandels coming out that the gay parishioners have also been the worst child predetors have not helped.

There needs to be more time to change. As America changes so will the church.

However I don't expect the church to ever accept gay leaders and again they should not.

Nat-Wu said...

Well, if you interpret the doctrine that way. I don't think it's as unequivocal as you state, and plenty of scholars could would say the same thing (Bart Ehrman, Burton Mack, etc.) Regardless of that, we're not talking about forcing the church to do anything. They don't have to accept anybody.

The problem is that these churches are ardently anti-gay when homosexuality isn't any greater sin than any other. Again, you're defending these guys with a congregation you're familiar with. Don't do that. They're not the same. It's true that they're concerned with other sins as well. None of us would say otherwise.

But it's also true that if a member gets divorced, he's not kicked out by default. The specific action of this association is to kick out homosexuals and churches that accept them. You make an argument that a person can't actively live in sin and expect the church to accept them without repentance. But defining sinful behavior is an issue here. It used to be, and still is in some churches, that rock and roll was regarded as sinful. My dad wouldn't listen to anything but gospel music. I remember reading a little comic-book tract that talked about the link between rock and satanism. And yet at Ted Haggard's church, they had a Christian "rock" band play for services. True, it's rock-lite, but so is Elvis by today's standards and you don't still see people smashing his records.

The point is, homosexuality, whatever scripture you may point out, is defined to be a sin by the church. And if certain churches or denominations don't define it as a sin, well, that's why they have separate churches.

You have to consider why this issue is treated differently, and what such treatment's implications are. Not that I'm comparing any other church with this one, but let's just take Fred Phelp's Westboro Baptist Church. These are people who want every gay to die. Now, abortion is treated just as fervently by many other churches, but what other single issue is? Equal weight is not given to pre-marital sex, nor divorce, nor drug use, nor just about anything else.

I don't think this is scriptural; this is a fanatical reaction on the part of the congregations. It's an outgrowth of homophobia that has nothing to do with scripture. And that's what needs to be addressed.

Fan Boy said...

What you're really talking about I believe at the root of this issue is the rise of militancy in the American church.

Militancy has its roots grounded in what our differences are and not what are similarities are. It states that we are being attacked by forces that wish to destroy us, our way of life, our beliefs, our God ultimately.

It is a very dangerous trend that has been developing, and it has been quietly growing strength for years but more recently it has socially become more aggressive with the radicals of Islam.

The problem with radicals is that for every radical group a counter group rises to the occassion to counter influence them. I am not saying it started today or on 9/11 it just found a focus, a heart, and a sympathetic ear that day.

Nationalism turns Christians Militant when blindly applied. They hate festering is going to continue to pour out until their is a national reconciliation offering that does not just pay in lip service but gives up its blood sacrificially. That will take some time.

Domestically since the average militant christian has no outward expression to their direct enemy, they put their energy into hot issues that are counter. This is why the movement has legs, is gainig followers, and rising in influence.

This is about hate and injustice, not love and patience. A patient church with loving members would look to God and not their own pettiness.

You're correct that churches don't kick people out for divorce anymore. The reason is because it is happening at an equal rate in churches for the first time.