You’ve seen this happen before: A pastor sits for an interview. He’s asked what he thinks about homosexuality. Not wanting to be lumped in with known bigots — the Falwells, Warrens, Driscolls, and the like — he says it’s not his position to judge. It may be a sin, but so are a lot of things.
But should gay marriage be legalized? Are civil unions acceptable? Do people choose to be gay? Can gay people be leaders in the church? Are gays and lesbians going to hell (assuming they act on their sexuality like everybody else)?
Dodge. Pivot. Change the subject.
Christian blogger Tony Jones had a conversation with a pastor recently and the topic came up. When Tony asked him some of those questions, the pastor was upset that he was being put in that awkward position — he said it wasn’t “his issue” so why bother asking him?
Tony’s response is exactly the right one (emphasis his):
Clearly, the issue of gay marriage — and, more broadly, the issues of human sexuality, gay ordination, and how to treat persons who are gay, lesbian, transgendered, and queer — are vexing the church. And, I would say, they are vexing the church poignantly, immediately, and like no other issues. As I said to my friend at lunch, LGBT issues are a wave crashing across American culture right now, and you don’t get to not have an opinion about it.
I feel the same — If you’re a Christian, you don’t get to avoid this subject just because the topic makes you uncomfortable. You better have an opinion one way or the other. You can’t play the “I don’t know” card more than once. You can’t preach every Sunday and not address the elephant in the room that everyone outside the church is always talking about.
These are not theoretical questions. They’re not “gotcha” questions. Peoples’ lives and families and emotional well-being hang in the balance.
I — and I would think most others — assume that Christians have a default set of responses to all of these questions:
Should gay marriage be legalized? No.
Are civil unions acceptable? No.
Do people choose to be gay? Yes.
Can gay people be leaders in the church? No.
Are gays and lesbians going to hell (assuming they act on their sexuality like everybody else)? Yes.
Obviously, there are many Christians who don’t agree with those answers. That’s great. You should say that publicly. If you don’t, I have to assume you’re just another bigot. There is no “tension” at play here. You can love people and still think they’re going to hell. If that’s the case, just say so.
I don’t do debates, but I have had conversations with Christian pastors on stage where we can ask each other questions about each other’s beliefs. Asking them about their stance on homosexuality is a great question, because a lot of pastors usually try to avoid talking about it. I like putting them on the spot and forcing them to admit that they hold an uncomfortable, unpopular belief.
It’s like asking if Anne Frank is burning in hell. If they’re Christians who believe you have to accept Christ to go to heaven, the answer has to be yes. But, man, do they squirm when answering that one. (The worst response: “Well, maybe she accepted Christ before she died.”)
By the way, it is possible for Christians to come out on top even if they hold anti-gay views. If you buy into the Bible babble, you can always say that you believe homosexuality is a sin but that the government shouldn’t take a stand on it — allowing you to support civil rights and marriage equality while still maintaining your adherence to Scripture. You can also not vote against civil rights legislation.
In any case, evading the question is no longer a viable option for Christians. We know you have an opinion on the matter, so don’t act like you give it little or no thought.
(image via Shutterstock)