It's messy. That's the only way I can describe to you the public debate between traditional and same-sex marriage. Trust me. Working for a pro-family non-profit in Washington D.C., I learned fast that death threats and harassing phone calls from gay activists were the norm.
Inside church sanctuaries, a similar struggle is brewing. Oh, there are less death threats to be sure. But the struggle to preserve marriage and sexuality between on man and one woman is just as messy on the inside as it is on the outside of our churches.
We can't ignore the "gay Christian" debate. For too long, I've seen pastors avoid the "politically charged" same-sex marriage issue. From the pulpit, they say things like, "Don't worry about marriage out there. Just defend God's design for marriage by living out yours well." These pastors have good intentions. But in their dodge ball efforts to not offend liberal members of their congregations, they have created a gaping hole in theological understanding of sexuality and marriage, especially among young Christians.
This week the sexuality and the Church discussions came full circle. Over at Patheos.com Matthew Vines, author of the new book God and the Gay Christian, hosted a live chat along with other popular liberal Christians chiefly aimed to push a biblical acceptance of same-sex lifestyles. Meanwhile, at the Family Research Council, Dr. Michael Brown discussed his new book; Can You Be Gay and a Christian? and unearthed the historical and Scriptural guidelines for Holy matrimony.
While describing his provocative book on the live chat, Vines (who asserts he is a conservative evangelical) told listeners, "The basic argument in the book is that the type of same-sex behavior condemned in Scripture is significantly different from the long-term monogamous same-sex marriages that you see today." Vines continued, "[P]rinciples of Scripture's teaching on purpose of marriage and human sexuality can faithfully apply to same-sex unions…"
Rachel Held Evans, a popular blogger and author, also joined Vines' live chat. Evans admitted her hesitations to confirm the Bible's endorsement of same-sex practices. After praising and endorsing Vines' book, which happens to reconcile gay sexual sin and traditional Christian teaching, Evans said, "Honestly, I still struggle with that a little bit and it's still fuzzy in my head but all things considered in light of new information I think it's worth reconsidering some of these passages we've assumed we've understood."
Perhaps the most absurd attempt at integrating this sexual sin alongside the Gospel was delivered by a popular blogger, Tony Jones, a Dartmouth and Fuller seminary trained theologian. Jones declared, "We know today something that neither Jesus nor Paul knew. And that is that human sexuality is a lot more complex than people thought it was in the ancient world."
Stay with me here. I know your head is probably spinning from a professing Christian declaring he knows more about humanity than Jesus Christ. Mine certainly was.
Jones explained, "The question is, is there a loop hole here? Because Paul didn't know long standing loving monogamous committed gay relationships. It's true. Paul did not know about that. Paul did not speak about that. That was an unknown arrangement in the ancient world."
Thankfully, another Biblical and linguistics scholar refuted Jones' bizarre statements.
As if directly responding to Mr. Jones' insulting reduction of Jesus and Scripture, Brown acknowledged, "The main thing that we are told is that we now understand human sexuality better. We now understand sexual orientation and these were concepts that the biblical authors did not have before them."
Using sheer common sense, Brown said, "Which, even if that were true, that would mean that until this last generation or so that everyone reading the Bible would absolutely misunderstand it. And that God did not take that into account when He inspired the Scriptures…that is stretching things."
Brown continued, "There is actually no new information. In other words there is not a scrap of textural, or archeological, or linguist, or interpretive data in any way that has been discovered that should overturn our historic understanding of Scripture. Not one shred of it.
Still the question remains, "Can you be gay and a Christian?" Brown answered, "If by that you mean, can you be same-sex attracted, recognize those attractions are wrong, renounce them, not act on them, and follow Jesus? Of course."
"If by 'gay and Christian' you mean can you be a practicing homosexual and follow Jesus at the same time," Brown said, "of course not. Scripture is explicit about this."
With a tone of compassion and love for what is a very personal issue for many people, Brown brought the "gay Christian" debates back into clear view. He reminded all Christians that the emphasis is not on "becoming heterosexual." The focus must be on redemption and wholeness through Jesus Christ, a truth every sinner must seek.
Digging for truth in a hostile debate is messy. But oh how cleansing is the blood of Jesus for all of us sinners - gay and straight alike.