Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Desiring God on Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins: A Response

As Broderick Greer points out, they're finally saying what many of us have known all along they think, as they preach their "good news" to LGBTQ people: homosexuality isn't the only sin in the book. But it's different. It's different right now.

So we need to focus on it, bear down on it, confront non-heterosexual people with their sinfulness.

We need to single them out. 

We need to inform them that they are sinners.

(And we are not.)

We need to proclaim "good news" that depends on targeting, singling out, a minority group and its unique sin.

We need to build laws that allow us to deny goods and services to this minority group — and call this institutionalized religious bullying "religious freedom" — because their sin is so much more heinous than all other sins. Right now!

We need to do this right now!, because everything in the "good news" we want to proclaim to the world depends on doing this — literally everything, everything we have to say to the world. It all hinges on our right to single out and abuse a minority group.

And to call that abuse "love" and "good news."

The article to which Broderick is pointing is by Rev. Jonathan Parnell, pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In it, Rev. Parnell leads with one of the tiny handful of bible verses that anti-LGBTQ Christians love to cite — a very small, handpicked handful of verses whose meaning has long been exposed as murky by exegetes — to clobber gay folks over the head with. As "good news."

The passage Rev. Parnell cites is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. 

He uses the passage to argue that "men who practice homosexuality," as he asserts that the text reads, are engaged in sinful behavior that is "different from all the rest, at least right now."

And so the church needs to bear down right now! on this unique sin and this unique group of people, not all the other sins enumerated in the Pauline list, including adultery and sexual immorality. 

Rev. Parnell's conclusion:

[Y]ou're wrong and youre loved. We get to say this. 
That's why homosexuality is not like other sins.

But, of course, the clobber text around which Rev. Parnell builds that message of "good news" to gay people doesn't, in fact, talk about "men who practice homosexuality." Nor is this a new insight: biblical scholars and theologians have been discussing this matter for a very long time, and Rev. Parnell is surely aware of those discussions.

The Pauline text could not have talked about "men who practice homosexuality" because the words "homosexual" and "homosexuality" were not coined until the latter half of the 19th century. The concept to which they refer had no name until this point in human history. 

The word rendered as "homosexuality" in this Pauline text did not mean (and could not mean) what we mean by homosexuality today — hence the King James translation's rendering of this word (which refers to "soft men") as "effeminate" — not "homosexuality." 

The recognition that some people have a more or less fixed attraction to members of their own sex — an innate one — was not part of people's mental baggage at the time the biblical text to which Rev. Parnell points was written.

His "good news," which depends so urgently — right now! — on singling out homosexual people and denouncing their sin, is based on a biblical text that does not even say what he desperately wants it to say. (Nor is there a single statement by Jesus — anywhere — suggesting the urgent fixation that Christians of Rev. Parnell's ilk have right now! on homosexuality. Zilch.)

Rev. Parnell's "good news" depends with utmost urgency on urgently the presupposition that we must denounce a "sin" that is not even envisaged by this Pauline text, while — and isn't this curious? — it doesn't depend a whit on the presupposition that we can and must — right now! — do anything but give mulligans to powerful men who break their marriage vows (made to women), who engage in serial adulteries and serial marriages, and boast of grabbing women by their private parts.

Those men don't need to be clobbered over the head with the plethora of bible verses — they're not a murky handful that aren't even about what we now know as homosexuality — right now! The entire "good news" messsage of the Christian church does not depend on denouncing their sin.

It depends on denouncing someone else's "sin." It depends on denouncing someone other than myself, a heterosexual married man.

It's always easier to denounce the perceived "sins" of others.

Not my own sins. Especially not my cruelty, smugness, arrogance, sense of bible-based unmerited entitlement to use and subjugate people I see as lesser than myself, sins denounced all through the biblical texts and never in murky language at all.

It's always easier to use the bible to justify my domination of others — of heterosexual men and women, of all women, who are made for my delight as a heterosexual men. Who are made for me to use and subjugate and clobber with bible verses about how women need to submit to men.

This is really some "good news," isn't it?

Well, for heterosexual males it is. For everyone else in the world, not so much.

Hence the mass exodus from churches and their message of "good news" at this point in history.

No comments: