Friday, April 18, 2014

A Better Conversation about Homosexuality (Part 1)

Photo by Burstein!
Obviously, homosexuality is one of the hottest and most controversial topics of our time. We have experienced rapid social change both in secular society and in the church. (See my discussion about World Vision for more on these changes.)  
However, it seems to me that we are not actually having this discussion with grace and wisdom. First of all, our debates are very muddy. We are arguing and arguing, but we are meaning different things with our words.  People are anxious and confused and angry on all sides, but most of us don't even understand what the real issues are and where the real points of debate exist. Secondly, because gay marriage is so polarizing, we tend to veer to extremes of both emotion and logic. We can quickly descend into name calling, judgmentalism, fear tactics, and personal attacks - often without even realizing how far we've fallen.
For the next few months, I'm going to write about how to have a better conversation about homosexuality within the church. I'm just one voice among many, but I feel compelled to add my voice - not to the debate itself but to the shaping of the conversation. When we have this conversation in the wrong ways:
  • We add to the polarization that is already ripping us apart.
  • We can push people away from Jesus and the church.
  • We can make people feel that we are attacking and condemning who they are as people.
  • We can unnecessarily divide and damage the church.
  • We can cause people to hate or to discount the Bible.

However, if we have this conversation in healthy, grace-filled ways, the conversation itself can do all kinds of good things:
  • It teach us respect for each other.
  • It can give us a fresh love and honor for the Bible.
  • It can teach us how to work through difficult issues while maintaining Christian unity (something the New Testament actually talks a lot about).
  • It can humble us by reminding us that our way of understanding life and the Bible is not always the only way an intelligent and holy person can understand the same things.
  • It can actually connect us more deeply with the God who loves us all.

Toward that end, I'm planning to write one post a week on how to have a better conversation about homosexuality. I'll try to hit all of the most important issues which frame the parameters of the debate and how we debate. Here are some topics that are already on my list.
  • The debate in the church is not about the laws in secular society.
  • The debate is not about homosexuality as an orientation.
  • The debate is not about nurture vs. nature.
  • The debate is not about whether some people are good or bad.
  • The debate is not about promiscuity. 
  • The debate is not about Sodom and Gommorah.
  • The debate is not about whether we still believe in the Bible.
  • The debate is about whether the biblical prohibitions of homosexuality were culturally limited or in different words - whether marriage must be heterosexual only.
  • The hardest question for an evangelical pastor.
  • How polygamy in Africa and Asia might inform this debate.
  • How transgender people might inform this debate.
  • How to have this debate without being insensitive or unnecessarily offensive.
  • How to make this personal in the right way (hint: friendships).

Remember, I'm not going to argue one way or another. This is a conversation about the conversation, so I hope you'll join in with comments and questions. Also, I hope you'll share the posts and invite others to participate. This is one of the biggest issues of our era, and we have got to start having a healthier conversation.  
What are your questions or concerns? What do you hope I'll write about?
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