Throughout America, "gay pride" parades took place over this past weekend in many major cities.
Sadly, such parades are nothing really new. Consider Augustine's commentary about a "gay pride" parade of what he calls "effeminate" pagan priests that he witnessed early in the fifth century A.D.:**
Concerning the effeminates consecrated to the same Great Mother, in defiance of all the modesty which belongs to men and women … These effeminates, no later than yesterday, were going through the streets and places of Carthage with anointed hair, whitened faces, relaxed bodies, and feminine gait, exacting from the (merchants) the means of maintaining their ignominious lives. The City of God, chapter 26.
Viewing images of this weekend's "gay pride" events, the parallels between America in the early 21st century and Carthage in the early fifth century are clear and troubling. Not all the revelers at our own "pride" parades were so garishly attired as those described by Augustine, but is not the impulse essentially the same – allegiance to a pattern of living that elides gender and exalts radical sexual autonomy as the summum bonum of the human experience?
Human sexuality is a gift from God. It is expressed in two distinct genders, complementary and distinct. Consider some quotes about the Christian vision of human sexuality that help explain the Bible's teaching:
… sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully … knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality … Now to state the two points again, this time negatively, in the first place all misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ. And, in the second place, all misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ. Or to put it one more way: 1) all sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but 2) the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption. John Piper, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ
… many, espousing gender liberation in the name of Christ and the gospel, only too late discover a culture "liberated" from the God who, in Christ, both created and redeemed the world. What is often not seen in the debate on sexuality is that we are also in the presence of two "gospels": the one, pagan, preaches redemption as liberation from the Creator and repudiation of creation's structures; the other, Christian, proclaims redemption as reconciliation with the Creator, and the proclamation of creation's goodness. In a pagan world, a truncated gospel of personal salvation will no longer do. Sexuality within the context of creation must be announced as an essential part of the Christian message of reconciliation with God and glad submission to his good will. Peter Jones, Westminster Seminary, "Why Human Sexuality is at the Center of Many Controversies"
When Jesus and Paul spoke about marriage, they referred back to Genesis 2:24 as a foundational indication of the Creator's definition: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). There are presumably many ways in which God could have chosen to create humankind, but this definition implies that he created us as sexual beings whose sexuality is to be expressed only in the exclusive, permanent, social, and sexual union of one man with one woman, publicly pledged and recognized by society in what we call marriage. Christopher Ash, "Christianity and Sexuality"
The early Christians were distinctive from the surrounding cultures in which they found themselves in a number of key ways, but Michael Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary's Charlotte, North Carolina campus focuses on two of particular relevance to Christians in the darkening culture of our time in the United States:
So what was so different about Christians compared to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture? One distinctive trait was that Christians would not pay homage to the other "gods"... This was a constant irritant to those governing officials who preferred to see the pagan temples filled with loyal worshipers (temples earned a good deal of money from the tributes they collected). But there was a second trait that separated Christians from the pagan culture: their sexual ethic. While it was not unusual for Roman citizens to have multiple sexual partners, homosexual encounters, and engagement with temple prostitutes, Christians stood out precisely because they refused to engage in these practices.
Christians refused to engage in immoral practices. They refused to countenance or rationalize them. And they refused to stop speaking the truth about human sexuality, in sermons and personal evangelism, because they loved the debauched and broken men and women all around them too much to accede to the latter's debasing behavior and beliefs. Especially, as Paul reminded the church in Corinth, such had been some of them (I Corinthians 6:9-11).
Are American Christians sufficiently like these early believers that our conduct will draw attention? Will we sustain and encourage moral purity, even as it leads to mockery and marginalization? Will we live-out our faith in the workplace, even if it means fines, firing, or litigation?
These questions are no longer mere fodder for coffee house discussion. They are real and relevant and now.
How will we answer?
** The author wishes to express his indebtedness to Dr. Peter Jones of the TruthXChange for his original insight in highlighting the parallel between the ancient pagan march and the "Gay Pride" parades of our day. See his, "The Body Politics is Queer."