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6 things to watch at the Methodist General Conference

One of the two cars in the new aerial tram rises above Portland, Oregon, at sunrise. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Richard Clement Editors: This photo may be used with RNS-METHODIST-ISSUES published May 7, 2016.

(RNS) The United Methodist Church General Conference convenes once every four years to make policy decisions and set the direction for the denomination.

Beginning Tuesday (May 10), 864 delegates, half of them clergy, will converge on the Oregon Convention Center in Portland for 11 days for the General Conference. More than 40 percent of those delegates will come from outside the U.S.

They’ll consider 1,043 proposals listed in the conference’s legislation tracking system.

Here are six of the most talked-about issues:

1. LGBT inclusion

The United Methodist News Service tallied up more than 100 petitions alone on sexuality.


RELATED: Methodist General Conference to discuss LGBT issues — again


Several plans have been proposed to streamline all that legislation, including “The Simple Plan” supported by the Reconciling Ministries Network. That plan would change six paragraphs in the denomination’s Book of Discipline that forbid clergy from marrying same-sex couples and regional conferences from ordaining LGBT clergy. The denomination’s Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The Connectional Table, which coordinates Methodist missions, ministries and resources, has proposed the “Third Way Plan” to allow individual clergy to decide whether to perform same-sex unions. It’s similar to “A Way Forward,” another plan that would allow local church bodies to decide whether to perform same-sex marriages, and conferences to decide whether to ordain homosexual clergy.

2. Abortion

(1976) A fish-eye lens view of the quadrennial United Methodist General Conference at Portland's Memorial Coliseum. During the 10-day meeting the 986 delegates from the U.S. and some 20 other nations charted the denominatino's course for the next four years. Religion News Service file photo *This day in history: On November 11, 1966 the Methodist Church & Evangelical United Brethren Church united as United Methodist Church.

A fish-eye lens view of the quadrennial United Methodist General Conference in 1976 at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. During the 10-day meeting the 986 delegates from the U.S. and some 20 other nations charted the denomination’s course for the next four years. Religion News Service file photo

Seven petitions suggest changes to the wording of the Book of Discipline’s paragraph on abortion. Several aim to strengthen language about preserving the life of a baby in the womb, while others encourage adoption and protection for health care professionals who do not want to participate in abortions as “a matter of conscience.”

Another petition, submitted by five annual conferences, encourages the General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women to withdraw their membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which it calls a “one-sided political lobby that opposes all disapproval or limitation of abortion.”

3. Religious freedom

The General Board of Global Ministries has proposed a resolution calling on Methodists to “honor, respect, and advocate for religious freedom for all faith communities” and urging all governments to do the same.

4. Welcoming immigrants and refugees

At least three pieces of legislation address the needs of immigrants and refugees.

One would update figures in the Book of Disciple about the number of migrants who have died crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico — more than 3,860 between the years 1994 and 2009, it said. It also would direct churches to “welcome newly arriving immigrants into our congregations” and push a path to citizenship.

Yet another proposal would expand a section in the Book of Resolutions on Global Migration and the Quest for Justice.

And a new resolution titled “Housing for Persons on the Margins” would direct churches to work together to create housing for immigrants and refugees, among others.

5. Divestment from companies supporting Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Four resolutions prepared by the United Methodist Kairos Response ask the Methodist denomination to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard — companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands — and end any other investments that relate to illegal settlements. The church already opposes the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Kairos Response isn’t the only group encouraging divestment; an advocacy group called Fossil Free UMC is calling on the church to divest from fossil fuel companies as well.

6. Gun violence

A new resolution calls on Methodists not only to support those who have been affected by gun violence in their communities, but also to advocate for laws meant to prevent or reduce gun violence.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

194 Comments

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  • Trump is the best thing to happen to the GOP since Teddy Roosevelt.

    Trump has taken the GOP Headquarters away from the Land of sleazy RINO’s and creepy evangelicals in Texas. Now the GOP Headquarters is retuning to the land of sanity, Manhattan. Texans are not the conservative mainstream like Manhattan.

    Trump is the quintessential conservative republican

  • For the record, it’s not the “Methodist” General Conference. It’s the United Methodist General Conference. The word “United” is part of the denomination’s official name. It represents the historic German-speaking Wesleyan branch, last known as the Evangelical United Brethren Church, that merged with the Methodist Church in 1968. We are not “Methodists,” we are “United Methodists.” Please learn the differences if you’re going to be covering mainline religion on a regular basis. Thank you.

  • The faithful Methodist laity have been fighting their clergy who have been poisoned in the UMC’s left leaning seminaries for a generation. Thank you for holding the line. If you feel you have to leave, please consider the LCMS.

  • Much of this will not pass as it’s a global conference. Conservative African representatives will not sign off on most of this. It’s a shame that some of the most vocal elements of the denomination are turning their backs on the Bible and Israel.

  • Inherent in your comment is this sentiment: Methodist laity know more about the Bible, and God’s will, and the teachings of Jesus Christ than the UMC clergy who are called by God to go to seminary to study and serve. Your arrogance and coldness are truly mind boggling. Or maybe not, you sort of sound like a Pharisee: “God, thank you that I am not like other men.” Luke 18:11.

  • What a sad commentary on the Methodist Church continuing to debate LGBT issues that are so opposed to to God’s standards for holiness as outlined clearly in the Bible. May God have mercy on clergy who sanction same-sex marriage or condone such unions among their peers. And we wonder why the church has lost its authority in society?

  • Time for a good old fashioned schism.

    And maybe it’s time for the African to realize where the Methodists used to stand on slavery

  • Amazing how gods word always seems to boil down to “get the gays”, not something about specks and beams.

  • So that is what you call attacking and demeaning people these days. “Allowing sinful and deviant behavior”. Trespasses upon personal boundaries has never been a problem for the self righteous set.

    Glad to see honesty or humility are still not in the Christian wheelhouse.

    So who appointed you to be the judge of the sins of everyone else? Nobody. You just want excuses to treat others badly.

    Thank you for demonstrating why people should not look to Christianity as a guide for moral behavior.

  • So was marrying outside ones faith, race, or sect or engaging in polytheism. Tradition is a garbage basis for moral behavior.

    Living in a land which is not a theocratic hell hole means you have to hold back from being an uncivil dbag if you are to function around people who are not in your little group. You don’t get to banish all forms of “sin” from your view or have any say in the “sins” of others. If the existence of a certain group of people offends your “deeply held beliefs” tough luck. Nobody has to live according to your prejudices.

    All you are saying is your immoral behavior is something that has been done for a while. Nothing new here.

  • If God calls an LGBTQ person into ministry, who are we as a church to stop someone from living out that call?

  • Are your words in this particular comment meant to draw people to your church or your god?

    I gotta tell ya, it’s not working. Based on you, I plan to stay far away from the UMC. Whew!

  • If United Methodist delegates from Africa say no, I will not judge my siblings in Christ in Africa for doing so. We are the United Methodist Church. At the same time, I encourage my African siblings in Christ to consider the spiritual impacts of current church regulations on LGBTQ Christians, both in Africa and the entire globe.

  • I am neither gay nor a troll. I do follow the love, grace and mercy that is Jesus the Christ. You on the other hand worship and follow a book. So please, cast that first stone. (But it sounds like casting stones is your religion.)

  • Spoken like a true teacher of the law BuryObama2014. Someties I see the fulfillment of the law being written on the hearts of those living within Western Culture after two thousand years of Christian influence more than that left within the Christian Church.

  • It seems as soon as Christ was taken down from the cross a religious battle began. Who can make the most rules wins. Religions that are always finding ways to hate should be left alone. Nothing will ever change a hate filled person who believes they are God directed. The message Christ gave to the world is simple. Conferences and the like are stupid. If a person needs to have their faith spelled out every few years has no faith. Religions that scour the bible for reasons to hate are not religions. Why a person stays in a religion that does not support them is really stupid.

  • Kindly remember that the Pharisees were exactly like the “UMC clergy called to study and serve.” And like many of the clergy, they came out if it with 1001 ways to “set aside God’s commands to follow the traditions of men,” (Mk 7:8) “because they loved the praise men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43.)

    All who have access to the scriptures have the personal responsibility to study and know it for themselves. It’s because too many don’t that we are in this mess.

  • Thank you for confirming that humanity, decency and moral behavior exist despite the efforts of your church rather than because of it.

  • I don’t seem to recall the Pharisees EVER standing up for a group that had historically been seen as unclean and unworthy. But who was that, in the Gospels, who kept coming to the help and defense of lepers, prostitutes, Samaritans, the downtrodden, the people who were outcasts from pious religious society? From what I recall, showing love for those people ALWAYS seemed to trump religious law, in Jesus’ words and actions. But yeah, you go ahead and have your “correct” opinion on all these matters, because there’s “nothing” in Jesus’ teachings that would suggest that maybe your opinions are wrong…

  • Esef Brewer, you’re on the wrong page. This is about United Methodism, not some charlatan who has boasted about never asking God’s forgiveness.

  • The black Africans at the conference want authentic biblical Christianity. Many of the American representatives want a religious club based on contemporary secular values.

  • Sad to say, according to 2 Peter 2, mercy is probably not the destiny for false teachers.

  • If God calls a drunken philanderer into ministry, who are we as a church to stop someone from living out that call?

  • I don’t know…Jesus told the formerly paralyzed man, “Stop sinning, or something WORSE might happen to you”….what’s worse than 38 years as an invalid?!

    Or the women caught in adultery, to whom he said ‘”Go now and leave your life of sin.”

    John, one of the closest disciples to Jesus wrote: No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

    Some things to think about.

  • The ‘book’ contains the only recorded words of Jesus…I’d say it’s a pretty important book!

    Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

  • If God calls a serial rapist or mass murderer or a child molester into ministry, should we question that calling, or allow them to rape, murder and molest children in the name of God?

    Don’t we try to protect our brothers and sisters from false teachers and ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’?

    Please read some scripture about how careful the early church was to evaluate those who would enter the ministry or seek to lead or teach.

  • Liberals say its all OK, they are just acting the way God made them. Who are we as a church to stop someone from living out that call?

  • Absolutely not. There is absolutely no comparison between child abuse and a loving, committed, lifelong, monogamous, and consensual marriage relationship.

  • Of course. Because conservatives typically only have use for religious calling if they can act badly towards others. Unconditional humanity and decency is not a trait scene by many of a conservative bent. Allegedly such traits are supposed to be ones extolled by the Christian faith. Go figure. Actions and words by many a Christian have shown otherwise.

  • There is if one has no sense of morality and simply feels the need to enforce arbitrary rules for the sake of attacking people. But that is not what Christianity is all about, right?

  • Please do not besmirch the name of the honorable late Theodore Roosevelt with such a connection. Roosevelt held many positions of public service before becoming president. Trump has never served the public a day in his life, nor will he. By your association, Trump and the Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz are alike since they are both from New York City.

  • Heddrick,
    I’ve been where you’ve are, my friend. It was tough to leave the denomination where I was confirmed, married, my child baptized, and where most of my friends attended. But as parents we have such a short time with our kids that I knew finding a Bible based church was imperative for him and my husband. And I was not comfortable with how my tithes were spent when the apportionments were paid.

    We now are members of a Bible believing non-denominational church and the transformation in my family has been amazing. My 13 year old son wishes he could serve the kids at all 5 serves. My family discusses the message each Sunday and I know my son is listening because he participates in our discussion. We no longer “have” to go to church, instead we “get” to go to church.

    I don’t say this as being negative about the UMC. The UMC church played a large part in my spiritual journey and I will be forever grateful. Instead, I say this to tell you if you do decide to leave, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I will be in prayer for you as God guides you. Blessings.

  • Please note: It’s not the “Methodist General Conference” but the United Methodist General Conference. There are other Methodist churches in the U.S. and internationally. And it’s the Book of Discipline, not “Disciple.” I believe those statistics are in the Social Principles within the Discipline, if not in the separate Book of Resolutions.

  • And how did He “stand up for them” and help them? How did He show them love? By offering healing and forgiveness. The whole reason for His coming, according to Him, was “to seek and save the lost.” And the lost (that’s all of us) aren’t lost because of how they’re “seen” but because of sin, and they’re not saved by a pat on the head and an “I’m OK You’re OK” platitude but by repentance and cleansing. All of the gospels identify this as the central message of Christ’s ministry but so few actually read the gospels anymore that it’s usually news to them when they hear it.

  • I agree 100%. I don’t understand why the leadership of the church I love has turned a deaf ear to God and an open ear to the ungodly.

  • Discouraging and sad because we waste effort and time and still we feel as though we have lost something fundamental to our faith, and that is that our leaders are looking to God, listening to God, and leading for God. I am reconsidering mt faith home as well and it is a difficult and painful place to be,

  • Methodism has a history of being progressive. Perhaps you’re int he wrong denomination. It’s time to actually practice our own slogan: Open hearts, open minds, open doors.

  • For they preach, but do not practice.

    They build up heavy burdens, hard to carry, and lay them on people’s shoulders,
    but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything
    they do is meant to be seen by others. They make their prayer books wide and
    the fringes of their prayer shawls long, and they love the place of honor at
    feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the marketplaces,
    and being called teacher by others. But you are not to be called teacher, for
    you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call any man your
    father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called
    instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you
    shall be your servant.

    Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be
    exalted.

    —Jesus, the Christ, Matthew 23:3-12

  • For they preach, but do not practice.

    They build up heavy burdens, hard to carry, and lay them on people’s shoulders,
    but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything
    they do is meant to be seen by others. They make their prayer books wide and
    the fringes of their prayer shawls long, and they love the place of honor at
    feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the marketplaces,
    and being called teacher by others. But you are not to be called teacher, for
    you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call any man your
    father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called
    instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you
    shall be your servant.

    Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be
    exalted.

    —Jesus, the Christ, Matthew 23:3-12

  • or maybe it’s just the opposite– god telling you that for 2000 years, you’ve had it wrong about gay people. but you have hardened your hearts, mistaking a vicious, ancient, and durable prejudice for the word of god. Or may be you just don’t want ot hear Jesus himself telling you that you are not to judge the ALLEGED sins of other people before you have achieved moral perfection yourself.

  • The Catholic church has been doing that for at least 1000 years.
    Protestants and Catholics murdered each other for 200 years over whether god wanted hymn 666 sung in latin or French.

  • OK people, let me put it to you THIS way. God has made his REQUIREMENTS (The TEN Commandments, NOT the ten SUGGESTIONS) well known to those who STUDY His WORD! You can PLAY all the GAMES you want to with what YOU INTERPRET what He has made known. Twisting His words to what YOU want them to mean will FORCE Him to keep you OUT of Heaven.

    God has made clear what SIN is. If you wish to play games with WORDS, YOU WILL LOSE! God defined SIN, it’s NOT up to MAN to redefine what God defined.

    Play with fire, you WILL get BURNED (PUN intended)!

  • I left the Methodist Church over 30 years ago, FOR SEVERAL REASONS. Confirmed I was correct when they tried to remove “Onward Christian Soldiers” from their hymnal, because it “sounded too much like a call to war”! OTHER decisions of the Methodist Church have reconfirmed over and OVER my decision was correct.

    Well, aren’t we IN A WAR AGAINST satan?!?!?!?!?!

    satan wants our SOUL, so does GOD!!!! Who do YOU want to worship?? The God of LOVE or the god of HATE?!?!

  • My thoughts were that the UMC built a good FOUNDATION, but built a “House of Twigs” on that foundation. Too little follow up to keep BUILDING a STRONG faith (house)!

  • So what you are saying is arbitrary and unquestioned subjective interpretations of extremely old text, referring to a society much different than our own today, is far more important than acting morally, with humanity and compassion.

  • If you have LIKE believers, Home Church. That is a solution. You do NOT have to belong to a LARGE church. Small churches are a LOT more “Christian like”.
    That’s what we ended up doing until we found a GREAT Bible preaching leader (Pastor).

  • Gee…he didn’t say anything about rape. Or incest. Or sodomy with camels. I guess Jesus is cool with all that too…right?

    Actually, several times in Scripture, Jesus refers to the evil town of Sodom (known for it’s perverted sexuality) to make known how bad it would be for those who reject him.

    Also, Jesus corrected many, many of the incorrect teachings of the religious leaders of his time. One of the things he did not correct was the traditional teaching on sexual immorality…in fact Jesus was MORE strict than the Jews when dealing with divorce and re-marriage.

  • Ben…are you one of those few Christians who believes Peter, Paul, John and James shouldn’t be studied because only the words of Jesus matter?

  • You can always give it a try, even if it’s only your immediate family. You can add present and/or FORMER church members, as time goes on. It DOES work.

  • I think what Arjay is saying is that cultural norms change, but God’s definition of what is sinful does not change. If one believes in the God of the Bible, He is the one (not contemporary culture) who determines what is good and bad.

  • Except “God’s” definition changes all the time. Especially when certain elements of it no longer appear amenable to modern society. Like most of the Bible’s definitions (plural is important here for accuracy) of marriage. What constitutes unpardonable sins and transgressions do as well. We do not have social sanction to destroy houses of worship of polytheists /idolators(such as Hindus and Buddhists) nor is genocide something which can be justified as the will from on high. Since God does not talk directly and unambiguously to the public on such subjects, interpretations are always subjective and contextual. To claim that scripture is unambiguous, not subject to selective reading and proof texting is delusionary.

  • I don’t understand this kind of reaction. The conservatives are in power. You are offended by the fact that you are in the same denomination with people you disagree with?

    Many of the people who hold liberal views on sexuality are people who believe in Jesus just as strongly as you do. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Why walk away from them?

    And why are you upset (as you seem to be) by the fact that the UMC cares about moral issues (gun violence, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, etc.) which don’t involve sex?

  • Holiness consists, above all, in the love of God and neighbor.

    I am not convinced of the “progressive” case on homosexuality. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. But at the same time, people who are in a monogamous same-sex relationship are clearly not in the same category as people who are unfaithful to marriage vows or promiscuous, let alone rapists and others who use sex to abuse others.

    It’s a difficult issue. If you do not feel conflicted about it, I think your understanding of holiness is deficient.

  • Spuddie…I would argue that true Christianity never justified genocide or destruction of non-Christian buildings. Yes, there were men and churches that tried to justify their behavior using a false view of scripture….just as today there are those who try to use the Bible to justify sinful behavior.

    There are those who use certain subjective interpretations to justify an agenda, but a careful reading of the New Testament does show clear themes of personal responsibility for holiness, avoidance of sin, and thoughtful consideration of what is expected in the life of one who follows Christ…righteousness, fruit, good works, generosity, and servanthood to name a few.

  • I would say in words and actions that there was never a “true Christianity” in such a sense. Justifying bad behavior is part and parcel with unquestioned authority and adherence to arbitrary directives.

    If you truly believed what you wrote and it wasn’t a load of apologetic arglebargle, then you would have considered Arjay’s rather uncivil comment as one of those types. Using the Bible to justify treating others badly. There was nothing resembling righteousness, compassion and humanity in such statements.

    But since you were initial comment was in defense of Arjay, I am skeptical of your sincerity here.

  • Well rape is actually condoned in the Bible against peoples considered ungodly. It is considered merely a crime against the property of a father or husband. A minor infraction rather than the horrible act we consider it today. The Bible is a terrible guide to moral behavior concerning sexual relations.

    The whole notion of consensual relations is outside Bible. You are also wrong about Sodom. It’s sin was inhospitality to strangers. A minor thing today, but a major transgression of morals in antiquity.

    The rules concerning divorce are arbitrary and lack a moral basis in this day and age. When a wife is no longer property of her husband.

  • Jesus is asking MORE from us, more from us as loving human beings than we possibly can imagine we could give. And if you think that only applies to the homosexuals, and not to YOU, then you are in for a very hot eternity. Just saying.

  • Well…I am a committed follower of Christ, and I don’t think Jesus was joking when he said ‘be perfect therefore, as your father in heaven is perfect’.

    But I don’t expect everyone to understand that, or to desire Christ at all. Most will reject his teaching. He also said, “”Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” So, obviously, there will always be conflict…sometimes within Christians, and most certainly between Christians and those outside the faith. In which camp do you consider yourself?

  • “… rape is actually condoned in the Bible against peoples considered ungodly”

    Book, chapter and verse?

  • Ben is not a Christian at all but an avowed atheist, and yet he is regularly here purporting to tell Christians how to be Christians and what “God is really telling us” …and expecting to be taken seriously in so doing.

  • Whatever…I think I made it quite clear that repentance is required from all of us.

  • You are being very patronizing and passive aggressive in your defense of your faith. I already pointed out a measure of insincerity on your part.

  • Judges 21:10-24
    Numbers 31:7-18
    Deuteronomy 30:10-14
    Deuteronomy 22:28-29
    2 Samuel 12:11-14
    Deuteronomy 21:10-15
    Judges 5:30
    Exodus 21:7-12
    Zechariah 14:1-2

    You know this stuff comes up on simple searches.

  • I’m not a member of the UMC, though I’ve been around Methodists a lot (I went to grad school at Duke where many of my friends were UM seminarians) and have attended UM churches regularly at several points in my life (including the present). My wife was a UM deacon (and is an expert in Methodist history) and is now an Episcopal priest. I’ve been Episcopalian since 1998 (I was non-denominational Wesleyan Holiness before that) but have been pulled in both directions–back toward my Wesleyan roots and “onward” to Catholicism. From a strictly personal point of view, I’d like to be Catholic, but I won’t reject my wife’s ordination or stop receiving communion with my Protestant brothers and sisters. The local Catholic parish is willing to receive me even on that basis, but I’m not sure I can do this with integrity. If I don’t go through with becoming Catholic, I will join the UMC. Sorry for the long personal explanation, but it’s reasonable of you to wonder what my stake is in all of this. And I have a very high stake indeed in Christians not separating from each other. I’m a scholar of the Reformation and believe it was a disaster which has set a toxic pattern for Protestants ever since.

    I take your point that the boards and agencies are still disproportionately liberal. I’ve never quite understood how this works, though my wife the scholar of UM history has tried to explain it 🙂 However, I believe that is changing slowly, and certainly General Conference is dominated by conservatives, which is what I should have said. According to a report I read yesterday, the worship leader for the Conference wouldn’t allow a “welcome message” that welcomed people regardless of their sexual orientation. That’s hardly the act of an institution dominated by liberals, especially since it didn’t even mention sexual activity, which is surely what the debate is about.

    I’m not sure why the 111 clergy “coming out” is a big deal. Are they coming out as people who are in sexual relationships? My big frustration with liberals is that they refuse to debate the issue as a debate about sexual activity, insisting that it’s really about condemning people for “who they are.” But I am frustrated with conservatives for the same reason–to often they seem to react to orientation while insisting, when pressed, that it’s all about sexual activity.

    I see two basic problems for the conservative side:
    a) it’s not at all clear that same-sex behavior does harm people–the same-sex relationships that are in dispute (monogamous, faithful ones) seem to display the same moral qualities as faithful marriages. I am not claiming that this is necessarily true–quite possibly it harms people in ways that we can’t see very well, or that our culture prevents us from seeing. But simply pointing to toxic patterns of promiscuity among many gay men isn’t enough to make the conservative case.

    b) it does seem to be empirically the case that telling gay people that their sexual desires are “intrinsically disordered” (to use the Catholic terminology) harms them. Gay people seem to experience this as a condemnation at the level of basic identity. Whether this is true across cultures or peculiar to our culture I’m not sure. I am inclined to think the latter–but then one has to explain the fact that gay people show up, in the face of societal disapproval and harsh governmental persecution, in non-Western cultures such as Uganda. Perhaps this is because of the influence of Western culture, but I’m not sure.

    In short, I think this is a serious issue to which there are no easy answers. I am a conservative in the sense that I believe marriage is necessarily between a man and a woman, but I’m increasingly uncomfortable with what the conservative message is doing to gay people, and with what I find the glib rhetoric with which conservatives defend their position. Hence, I think that the fact that the UMC has such vigorous representation of both positions is a strength rather than a weakness. It’s a debate among faithful Christians that badly needs to happen. American Anglicanism took the wrong path–the path of schism. (By “Anglicanism” I mean both “Episcopalians” and those who now claim the “Anglican” label in contrast to Episcopalians. I mean that both sides took the wrong path, not just one.) I hope and pray that Methodists will make a better choice.

  • No, I’m not a Christian at all. Very nearly was, 50 years ago, until the absurdity of “believe or burn because I love you so much” got to me.

    My job is quite different: pointing out where Christians of a certain type seem to believe that the Christian mandate is all about controlling other people, rather than living their lives under the guidance and principles of their lord. My interests are Christians who use their bibles and their faith as a weapon against people that they would be disapproving of even if they weren’t using God to justify what cannot be justified by any other means.

    Jesus was quite Clear in the passage I cited, as he was in so many others. He was less than fond of people who believe it is their job to deny heaven to other people, to judge other people, and most importantly, to HARM other people. all the while pretending that you are proclaiming the truth in love.

    But funny, you are apparently one of those Christians who believe the words of mere men are far more important than the literal words of God.

  • One of the best misunderstandings in the bible is the story of sodom, a perfect example of men twisting the story to suit their purposes. It is well known that the sin of sodom was perverted sexuality? No, it is widely believed that the story is about homosexuality.

    When the bible is allowed to comment on itself, it is very clear that all of the References to sexuality are rare as hen’s teeth. It is startlingly clear in pthe sodom story, well beyond all of the others. BY no stretch of the imagination is Sodom about homosexuality, as it might have been understood in 600 BC, and with 100% certainty, as it is understood now. the angels were threatened with rape, not actually raped. They certainly were not invited out for a dinner and a drink prior to a romantic evening in the sack, not by “All the people in the town.” For years, Sodomy was “the crime against nature, not to be named among Christian men.” funny, you can talk about the wholesale slaughter of thousands. You can talk about incest, and there was plenty of it. You can even talk at length aboutthe gruesome torture and murder of your man god, and picture it in loving detail in paintings, sculpture, and the Sado-porn of Mel Gibson.

    Deicide you can reference easily. but sexual relations between two people of the same sex, actual love between two people of the same sex, is completely off limits.

    Why, you would almost think that religious belief has been used to justify a vicious, ancient, and durable prejudice.

  • Yeah! Who are you to judge the sins of other people? There is no beam in the Eye of any forgiven Christian.

  • While, the entire issue is fraught with controversy and mean-spirited reactions, sin is still sin. No matter how we sugarcoat it and desire to be accepted into society’s mainstream, God is a holy God who cannot sanction man’s changing values. God’s moral standards never change.

  • Harms people? I assume you mean that being gay harms people?

    Next you’ll tell me you’re not bigoted at all. You love me as a gay person, you just hate my sin. But your own sin of judgment seems to be slipping under your moral radar.

    Homosexuality harms no one. Homobigotry, whether presented as sincere religious belief or admitted for what it so clearly, is documentably harmful to gay people, especially to vulnerable young people.

    I have a great life: a wonderful husband, a wonderful family, wonderful friends, prosperity, health, and happiness. If homosexuality has harmed me– except in that purely theological way which you cannot prove, demonstrate, or justify– then I wish that harm on everyone.

  • I don’t have time to deal with your posting now, but I might later. You seem to be asking s lot of questions, which is good.

    But here’s a thought. If I told you that heterosexuality was dirty, dangerous, against the word of God, ad infinitude, and then used to the forces of law, culture, faith, government, and morality to legislate against you, to harm you in whatever way I could…

    Might you not tell me that it has nothing at all to do with your behavior, but rather, your basic identity as a human being, including all of your impulses towards sex, love, romance, family, and children?

    Your error is in thinking, as so many conservative Christians seem to, that this is all about behavior, and not your identity as a human being. In theory, I could have sex with a woman, or different women, every day for the rest of my life– except that I couldn’t be used I have interest whatsoever in it– and that would not make me any more heterosexual than I was five minutes ago.

    In other words. NOT AT ALL.

  • Ben, that is, in fact, the point I was making. I hear and understand that this is how gay people perceive the conservative case. I thought I made it clear in my post (to a conservative) that I did understand that for gay people it’s about identity.

    I think that indeed it would be quite possible for someone to say that sex in general was bad and dirty without attacking me in my core identity. There are philosophies that have said that. There are also radical feminists who have suggested that penetrative heterosexual sex is intrinsically violent and a form of rape, and/or that in our culture at least all male-female sex is non-consensual. While I find these various views uncomfortable, I don’t think that they are attacking me in my core identity. I recognize that my “privilege” gives me the space to look at the issue this way and that for gay people who have been widely subject to abuse and discrimination, disowned by parents, etc., based on their sexuality it’s quite a different picture. But nonetheless, I’m quite sincere and consistent in saying that in principle the two things can be separated.

    However, I don’t use the language you’re referring to (“dirty,” “dangerous,” etc.), and I am not interested in using law against gay people. I am not convinced that the word “marriage” should be used for same-sex unions, but it’s clear that such unions may be good and beautiful things. The question is not whether but how to incorporate that reality into Christian teaching about sexuality. The more conservative approach, which I favor, is to say that the sexual aspect of such unions is objectively disordered but to minimize the implications of this and find ways to affirm gay people and the faithful, loving emotional relationships they form without affirming the sexual aspect specifically (but also without doing anything to condemn or stigmatize it) or equating it with marriage. I agree that there are many difficulties with this position, and I understand that you will still find it patronizing and offensive. But that is the position I have come to.

    The other alternative, of course, is to redefine marriage and sexuality in such a way as to make the sex/gender of the participants irrelevant. I’m not convinced that this is the way to go, but I understand why many good people are, and I’m open to being convinced. Those of us who hold the more conservative view have the heavy burden of trying to find ways of speaking about sexuality and gender identity that won’t drive people to despair and suicide.

  • But our understanding of God’s moral standards has become clearer over the centuries (slavery being the most obvious example). It is possible that on this issue we need to understand more clearly just where the moral issue lies in sexuality–that it lies in whether or not the partners are affirming each other’s full human dignity and not, per se, in whether they are the same sex or opposite sexes.

  • Now you’ve done it.
    I’m going to have to find the time to answer you. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

  • On the UMC.org site, someone posted a comment saying that the book of Ruth was an endorsement of same gender sexuality. When I posted a question to that interpretation, my comment was promptly deleted from the site. So, we seem to be for “open hearts, open minds and open doors,” only when people agree with some kind of weird deconstruction of our faith, then?

  • In case this takes some pressure off you, I do have other conversation partners (I don’t know if you know of the work of Morgan Guyton, a progressive UM pastor who recently wrote a great book called _How Jesus Saves the World From Us_, but I talk to him and other progressives quite regularly on Facebook). That’s not to devalue what you might want to say, only that you shouldn’t feel as if you are the only person I’m likely to hear the progressive case from. I welcome anything you have time to add to the conversation.

  • LEAVE people. From what I can tell, no Methodists are willing to stand up enough for their principles to lose their precious buildings. Faint protestations, a signature here, membership in RMN, writing a resolution which you know will never pass muster with those abroad. “We’re trying” To me it looks like a cheap kind of principle, which is not pursued when it costs anything real.

  • Moral restrictions are strong against women, too, moreso than LGBTQ. Why are you willing to accept/embrace women in clergy, but condemn LGBTQ? I see the two as very similar, in fact pronouncements against women are even more clear.

  • What if the issue were pro-against-slavery? Or selling pre-teen daughters to highest bidder? How do you decide who is privileged by your interpretation? You spout pronouncements as if your judgement is the end of the discussion. Listen a little more.

  • It’s not about leaving buildings, but about breaking communion with brothers and sisters in Christ (on both sides).

    Staying in communion with people you disagree with is a very, very costly thing to do. In the American religious ecology, leaving is easy–it’s what the culture pushes people to do in every aspect of life.

  • Would you feel the same if it cost you a career, or if your child committed suicide over anti-LGBTQ policies? It sounds like a dysfunctional family of abuse and fear, where the needs of the least of them can’t figure in. I’m not trying to be difficult, but how bad does the hurt have to get? Whose/who’s hurt?

  • Comparing homosexuality to women in ministry has no relevance; you are comparing two very different unrelated issues.

  • Secular values as a euphemism for treating people with humanity and dignity. Something which clearly isn’t “authentic biblical Christianity”. Except when called out on behaving badly in support of such notions. Then it’s “Not true Christianity”.

    The garbage you guys used to justify demeaning and attacking others just demonstrates what many know all along. Religious belief is a terrible guideline to moral behavior and a great enabler of inhumane acts.

  • Shawnie…I think it’s interesting to see how some people claim to be Christians, yet reject so many of the fundamentals of the faith. I appreciate your other comment about atheists who like to instruct Christians about their faith. When I consider their comments and their desires to destroy people’s faith, it reminds me of all the warnings we see in Scripture about those that hate the truth.

  • The slavery analogy is of course a serious one, since this issue did split Christian churches, including the Methodist Episcopal Church. First of all, it’s somewhat specious to compare an issue on which good Christians are now divided with one on which they are no longer divided, of course with the implication that your side is the right one and is equivalent to the “good side” in the now resolved issue. But it is certainly a helpful test case for the proposition that disunity is always wrong. I have sometimes, in frustration with my own denomination (the Episcopal Church), said that it’s an indictment against us that we had no split in the 19th century, as the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists did. But I’m not sure that’s true. The split in the MEC initially occurred, if I remember rightly, over a Southern pastor who owned slaves and who was put forward for bishop. Methodist polity at the time said that people who owned slaves could not serve as bishops, though they could be members and even serve as ordained elders. (Purely on the formal polity level, then–though of course I’m not in the least claiming equivalence in terms of substance–the proslavery side was equivalent to the progay side today, inasmuch as it was pushing for a relaxation of the discipline with regard to the requirements for clergy.) The catch was that this particular elder had not chosen to own slaves–he had inherited them and was forbidden by law from freeing them. A case could therefore be made that he was without guilt in the matter. The MEC nonetheless chose not to make him a bishop, leading to a split. Following the split the MEC South got rid of _all_ restrictions on slavery and became wholeheartedly proslavery.

    And that’s a fundamental problem with schism. It unleashes the wrong side (whichever is the wrong side on a particular issue) to become even more wrong. At the same time, it was the side we all now agree was wrong that split, so in that sense the analogy is not instructive to guide whichever side we think is the right one in the present conflict.

    A better analogy would be with the schism of the AME from the MEC owing to the discriminatory way black Methodists were treated. I certainly am not going to criticize the black Methodists who did this. They did what they felt they needed to do under the circumstances. But as a matter of history, the black Methodist movement has never been united within itself (the AME and AMEZ, which originated in different cities under similar circumstances, were never able to get together), and of course the loss of black Methodists weakened the antislavery and pro-equality witness within the MEC.

    So I stand by my point that division always impoverishes the Church. Sometimes people are pressed to a point where they feel that they cannot do anything else, and I don’t criticize them for that. I understand why, for instance, many gay people (and those who support the recognition of gay sexual unions) feel compelled to leave the UMC or the Catholic Church or other churches that hold to a traditional line. I also understand why many Episcopalians left the Episcopal Church because they were convinced it had abandoned Biblical truth. I’m in no position to cast stones at people, but I always want my voice to be raised on behalf of unity, and I myself want to act in a way that strengthens unity rather than weakening it.

    Your second example is less helpful, because it’s based (I presume) on an OT law (Exodus 21:7) regulating the treatment of women and girls who had been sold by their fathers. The law does imply that such sales are legally valid, but it does not endorse or encourage them in any way. The primary purpose appears to be to prevent mistreatment of female slaves by their masters. As far as I know, apart from the way such laws were used to argue that the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery as a whole, there has never been an intra-Christian debate about it.

    One could imagine all kinds of horrible moral things that might justify division. And one of the reasons (apart from the ones given in the first paragraph) that I’m not persuaded by this is precisely that I don’t think this is such an issue–on either side. The conservative position is not, in and of itself, denying the human dignity of gay people, only asking something very difficult of them. The liberal position is not, in and of itself, calling for an abandonment of all restraints on sexual desire, only arguing that gay people shouldn’t be called to a level of sexual renunciation that straight people aren’t. There are folks on both sides who can justly be accused of these things, and the propagandists on both sides get a lot of capital out of this.

    Your third question seems to assume that the question of privilege is really the only one worth asking. If it were not that I have already asked and answered the question and recognized that the heterosexual majority are privileged by this interpretation, I wouldn’t have the doubts I do about the legitimacy of the conservative position. It is by asking questions about privilege, in large part, that I reject the standard conservative Protestant view of these things, which really does bear hardly on gay people and leave heterosexuals unscathed, where a more traditional Christian morality is demanding (to some extent at least) of all people (thinking of divorce and birth control in particular here).

    I recognize that I often sound pompous on the Internet (and in person too, no doubt, but I think I come across as less certain in person than I do in writing). I certainly don’t think my judgment is the end of the discussion. I’m simply reporting where I am at this point. And I have got where I am by doing a lot of listening, and I plan to do a lot more. However, it seems that for some folks of a “progressive” bent on these issues “listening” means “accepting a progressive perspective without question.” And I am not going to do that.

  • I don’t think that most Methodists experience their local communities that way. One of the things many people don’t understand about mainline denominations in general is that they can be experienced very differently from one congregation to another (the same is probably true of all churches, including even the Catholic Church which tends to standardize a lot of things). The people most affected by the policy are gays who feel called to the ministry but not to a life of celibacy. For laity, it’s the local congregation that most matters, and of course a split would if anything only make conservative congregations more conservative (in practice it probably wouldn’t change much at all).

    In my longer response which I wrote below just now I acknowledged that there are circumstances under which people may have to leave the church they belong to. In the end you have to do what you have to do. What I’m interested in is pushing back against the narrative in our culture that says that churches are just clubs that you join because you agree with the ideas and leave if they are uncongenial. But of course the fact that I’m a moderate conservative myself influences how I view this.

  • It’s interesting to see what people consider the most important elements of the Christian faith.

    Some consider compassion and humanity. Others consider compliance with arbitrary rules, notions of tradition, a sense of spiritual “superiority”.

    Obviously people who consider the first one are unlikely to treat the second one with much emphasis and visa versa. It really depends on ones personal priorities.

    I will drop you guys with a little quote which nicely sums up my attitude here:

    “The spirit of compassion, justice and wisdom should prevail over the written and spoken word”

  • One can’t simply equate the two issues, but it’s not true that it has no relevance. It may not seem that way to you as a Methodist, but both Catholics and more conservative Protestant groups do associate them. Both people who are conservative on both issues and people who are liberal on both, in other words, see both issues as subsets of the bigger question of whether gender binaries have some kind of eternal spiritual validity.

  • There are certainly few surprises here…the Romans slandered our early brethren as “haters of humanity” and now, two millenia later, same song second verse. Ho hum.
    And Jesus warned us about it before any of it ever happened, so there is no reason to be perturbed about it.

    But I’ll wager even the pagan Romans didn’t invade completely intra-church dialogues and presume to advise them about scriptural truth — which Jesus told us the natural man can NOT receive. ?

  • Spuddie….so the black Africans at the conference should be rebuked and dismissed as ‘enablers of inhumane acts’?

  • Hi it’s Paisley again. This has turned into more of a name-calling thing than I expected. Between you and me, I think maybe we need some like you and some like me. Some to push out, some to push in. I feel you have clarified my thinking on that point.

  • The color of one’s skin is not an indicia of one’s character. There are plenty of people of color use religion as the justification for uncivil behavior towards others.

    In Uganda, Bible thumpers tried to institute a literal purge of gays through “Bible inspired” imprisonment and execution. Such sentiments were spread all over Africa through the works of people like Scott Lively and other American evangelicals.

    Where were the objections of humane compassionate “true Christians”? Nowhere to be found.

    So short answer, sure. Why not? It appears appropriate to do so.

  • The Catholic Church is the one that is going to remain steadfast in the truth because it is the one Jesus founded on the foundation of the Apostles and has continued to hand down the Apostolic faith and will continue to do so.

  • And this is why progressive Christians are such a useless bunch. They only seem to speak up to give NALT (not all like that) responses to outside criticism of the faith, claiming to be different from the fundamentalists and bigots. They never bother to speak up against those within their faith whose views are allegedly not theirs and an anathema.

    Maybe you should be judging your brethren. They have no problem doing the same to you.

  • Let’s take the Catholic bishops of Malawi.

    they are against the softening of the government’s position on homosexuality, viewing it as an invitation to sin if gay people are not sent to prison for their sins.
    But funny– or not. They don’t recommend prison for any other purely theological concern. So yes, they should be rebuked for being inhumane.

    Unless of course you agree with them and think that sending gay people to African prisons is just a swell, Christian sort of an idea.

    Do you?

  • Yeah. A terrible thing to tell people to live up to the principles which they espouse. And of course you don’t chide any of the True Christians who post here regularly for telling the Not True Christians exactly what is wrong with their beliefs.
    But strictly speaking, even though I say I am an atheist, I am really an it-doesn’t-matterist. And of course, I very nearly became a Christian a long time ago, until; the inherent absurdities of “believe or burn because I love you” became to much.
    But No, I don’t expect YOU to take me seriously. after all, as you have told me repeatedly, you’re just superior to the likes of me.

  • No, gay people should not be sent to prison. Being gay should not be illegal. Being a Christian and refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding should not be illegal. Do you agree?

  • Now I have some time to answer you. Just don’t tell my husband. He thinks I’m finding a hotel room.

    You wrote: “I thought I made it clear in my post (to a conservative) that I did understand that for gay people it’s about identity.” But you missed my point. For HETEROSEXUAL people, it is also about identity, the self, the spirit, that which makes us human, connected to another human through well known human processes of sex, love, family, romance, and affection.

    “You wrote: “this is how gay people perceive the conservative case.” The conservative case is demonstrably based upon 2000 years of vicious virulent prejudice, based on ignorance and fear, resulting in murders, executions, jails, ostracization, suicides, broken families, destroyed dreams and on and on and on. It has twisted and perverted scripture beyond recognition, making the condemnation of Paul of idolatry into a condemnation of gay people, turning the Sodom story into a morality tale about homosexuality when it is clearly nothing of the sort. The conservative case has claimed that this is a moral question of choice, when you yourself have admitted that it is a matter of how people are made. Our choice is not whether to be gay, but whether to live our lives authentically and morally, AS WE ARE MADE, or to do what “moral Christians” have demanded for millennia: pervert and twist our lives, deny our humanity, and lie.

    Or die.

    You wrote: “I am not convinced that the word “marriage” should be used for same-sex unions.” Why not? We are either talking about civil marriage for those who don’t believe, or religious marriage for those who do– including ministers, churches, and entire denominations. Why is my marriage somehow different from yours on the purely legal basis, entailing a known set of rights, obligations, benefits, and responsibilities, especially for those gay couples who have children? Why should it be different?

    And if you are going to say: “well, civil unions ought to be sufficient for you.”– why should I accept something you would not accept for yourself? It is here that the real issue presents itself. This is not about the definition of marriage, whether legal or religious, any more than any other gay issues are really about what the “conservative case” claims it is about. It’s about the definition of gay people as the moral, legal, familial, religious, social, cultural and human inferiors of heterosexuals. Far too many so-called Christians are unwilling to accept that simple fact.. I would suggest you do some serious reflection on that.

    But what about marriage being marriage on the religious basis for those who believe? There are a multitude of Christian denominations and sects. Some believe X, some believe Y. Why are Mormons, JW’s, Christians scientists, and 7th day Adventists considered Christians– except by the most rabid of fundamentalists– and yet, those who accept the full human and religious equality of gay people somehow not? Might it have a lot more to do with this ancient, vicious prejudice being justified as sincere religious belief than actual doctrinal issues?

    You wrote: “The more conservative approach, which I favor, is to say that the sexual aspect of such unions is objectively disordered…” What does that even mean? You cannot have it both ways, that it is objectively and subjectively real, but is objectively disordered, yet fulfilling to those who are gay. Homosexuality has existed as long as humanity has, as long as life itself has. Some societies have embraced it, some haven’t cared, many have rejected it and attempted to obliterate it. It harms no one, but homobigotry OBJECTIVELY harms lots of people, gay and straight.

    “to minimize the implications of this and find ways to affirm gay people and the faithful, loving emotional relationships they form without affirming the sexual aspect specifically (but also without doing anything to condemn or stigmatize it) or equating it with marriage.” Again, you can’t have it both ways, any more than you can divorce sex from heterosexuality. As you wrote: “While I find these various views uncomfortable, I don’t think that they are attacking me in my core identity.”

    But that is exactly what you are trying to do here.

    No one is asking you to affirm the sexual aspects of it, any more than we are asking you to condemn them. It is simply none of your business, nor the business of anyone inside of your church concerning those outside of your church. But you are giving away the game again here: you recognize that our life partnerships are valuable, beautiful, and loving, but the sexual aspect just squicks you out. And you’ll be damned– perhaps literally in your mind– that you will consider the 46 year relationship of my friends Andy and Paul as the equivalent morally of the three marriages of a certain adulterous, fornicating, thrice married former Republican congressman.

    Who, incidentally, can divorce his fornicating, adulterous current wife and get married in the Holy Church once again? All the brouhaha that the “conservative case” will make out of that is a resounding “Tsk. Tsk.” No exclamation points required.

    “The other alternative, of course, is to redefine marriage and sexuality in such a way as to make the sex/gender of the participants irrelevant. I’m not convinced that this is the way to go, but I understand why many good people are, and I’m open to being convinced. Those of us who hold the more conservative view have the heavy burden of trying to find ways of speaking about sexuality and gender identity that won’t drive people to despair and suicide.”

    You’re right. I do find your attitude patronizing and offensive, simply because you do come from a position of privilege. But I like you anyway. Yet, you haven’t had to fight for your right to live your life as you are made as a heterosexual male. But at the same time, I don’t think you are irretrievably poisoned by hate, ignorance, fear, stupidity, toxic religious belief, prejudice, or the self-hatred of the homosexual-hating homosexual. (I prefer h**o-hating-h**o, but disqus will not allow me to write that).

    But you are poisoned by your privilege, because you have not had to walk in the shoes of any gay person, ever. That solution is of course the obvious one. Paul said there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, in Christ. But apparently, there is straight and gay, with gay people, no matter how noble, forever defined as the moral, religious, civil, and human inferiors of any heterosexual, no matter how base.

    Your “conservative burden” is of your own creation. Your solution is actually fairly simple, IF you are willing to give it up your unwarranted assumption of a completely imaginary superiority as a heterosexual, whether you wish to include “God loves heterosexuality and hates homosexuality”, believe it has something to do with the nonsense of “our sinful and broken world”, or leave god out of it entirely. It isn’t about religion, and never has been. It isn’t about morality, as much as the religious have tried to claim it is so. It isn’t about what the bible says or doesn’t, though the bible has been twisted beyond recognition to make it say what it clearly doesn’t say.

    The reality is, gay people and trans people have always existed, continue to exist despite the sincerest efforts of bigots to eliminate us from humanity, and always will exist, simply because heterosexuals keep making us, over and over and over again. The reality is, as you admit, our relationships are every bit as valuable, real, contributory to society, loving, romantic, and fulfilling as yours, despite the two millennia of lies and the professional grifters who make their livings denying it.

    The reality is, basing your moral outlook and judgments about human relationships on a vastly misinterpreted and misused book…

    a book which has been used repeatedly to justify the most horrendous offenses against humanity imaginable– the burning of witches, the murder of heretics, the institution of slavery, the oppression of women, anti-Semitism, wars against entire cultures and peoples…

    and especially, using that book, written by peoples a universe away from us in time, culture, understanding, morality, science, language, and thought, as the valid standard to understand something that they clearly didn’t understand, if they were even discussing it…

    Well, therein lies the problem, the REAL burden.

    Your choice is simple: either we gay people are your moral, social, cultural, legal, religious, and civil equals, OR…

    We are not.

    As much as you want there to be a middle ground, where you can maintain your “religious principles” and still consider yourself a decent, moral, and compassionate human being, that middle ground no longer exists, thanks to the institutionalization of homohatred in the church, and people like Tony Perkins, Ted Haggard in his previous incarnation, Bryan Fischer, Benedict, and a host of others. You (and this is a generic you, not you personally) can claim you “love the sinner and hate the sin” until the cows come home, but it this is not true and never will be. Be ready to see it refuted easily, because that paradigm no longer holds water. You can claim you don’t hate gay people, but believe that marriage is between a man and a woman only, but you’ll never convince my many friends with children who, until last year, could not protect their children with the institution of legal marriage. And as with so many people who claim this, it will take about 30 seconds for something else to pop out that will give the lie to the whole proposition.

    Your choice is simple: either we gay people are your moral, social, cultural, legal, religious, and civil equals, OR…

    We are not.

    I only addressed your second posting, and not your first, but I do have to get some work done today. Maybe another time.

  • Or deprive that person of the opportunity to collect that nice pension, live in a rent-free parsonage and get health insurance?

  • There have been several hundred thousand same-sex marriages in our country, but only a handful of so-called Christians, maybe 20, who say they are too special to provide the same services to gay people as they provide to everyone else.
    We have laws at every level of government which forbid discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of religious belief. This is one of those times. Trying to find exceptions to those laws, which you are doing, merely underlines why we have them in the first place, and is a good example of Christians claiming special rights that the rest of us don’t have. However, if you want to make a stab at repealing all of those laws, I’d support you.
    Having said that, sure, I can agree– provided those businesses which are just too special to treat others as they would like to be treated post on their cash registers, windows, brochures, and websites–PROMINENTLY– exactly whom they will not serve and why.
    Seems like a reasonable accommodation to me.
    Do you agree?

  • I don’t think gay people should be punished by the government, or forced to justify their opinions in a secular society. I would argue the same applies to Christians. Live and let live. And there should be religious freedom and tolerance for other people’s beliefs. Christianity teaches that homosexuality is a sin and that Christians should have nothing to do with ‘deeds of darkness’ as defined in the Bible. Gays should not live in fear of being arrested and Christians shouldn’t live in fear of be sued or closed down by the government.

    I need to respectfully bow out of this conversation…it’s the busy season in my industry and my customers await. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • “A terrible thing to tell people to live up to the principles which they espouse.” Not particularly terrible, just a tad ridiculous. About like it would be if one of us were to set up camp at the Friendly Atheist and proceed to instruct them about how to be proper atheists — wonder why THAT doesn’t seem to happen too often?

    The reason I do not take you seriously is not that I think I am superior but that we simply are not working from the same premises. You are wanting to instruct citizens of a Kingdom you can not see (John 3:3) about principles you can not discern (1Cor.2:14) using a few verses picked from scriptures you obviously have not studied in their entirety (Matt.4:4) when even the disciples who loved and walked with Jesus for several years could not understand His teavhings or mission until He Himself opened up the whole panorama of OT scripture for them (Luke 24:27) and baptized them with the Holy Spirit. As well might I propose to vote in a general election on a yet undiscovered planet.

    And besides all that, your purpose is not to call us to greater holiness but to encourage ever greater infidelity to God’s word to serve a godless popular culture — that and to sow doubt among the scripturally ignorant. What Methodists do and discuss among themselves is nothing even remotely to do with you. Quite frankly, Ben, you need to mind your own business.

  • “The reason I do not take you seriously is not that I think I am superior” Of course you do. We’ve talked about it before.

    “but that we simply are not working from the same premises.” Absolutely.

    “And besides all that, your purpose is not to call us to greater holiness but to encourage ever greater infidelity to God’s word to serve a godless popular culture” Absolutely not. You couldn’t understand me less. I don’t care what you believe, as I have said repeatedly. Just keep it out of my life.

    “that and to sow doubt among the scripturally ignorant.’ Of course. It’s a new incarnation of the no true Christian fallacy. But then, every time a religious grafter like Franklin Graham opens his mouth, he does the same.

    “What Methodists do and discuss among themselves is nothing even remotely to do with you.” As long as Methodists in Africa think I belong in jail, or Methodists here fight my marriage, it has every thing to do with me.

    ” Quite frankly, Ben, you need to mind your own business.” That’s what I’ve been telling Christians Just Like You for 45 years.

    I respect your intelligence shawnie. I can see you are intelligent and committed to your beliefs. I can even respect that.

    But I don’t respect what you do with your intelligence, nor do I find your beliefs respectable, at least not in terms of what happens to gay people the world over because of them.

  • If someone is out worshiping a golden calf it is your Christian duty to lovingly tell them it ain’t a good thing and it will all come out badly for them in the end. It is not your Christian duty to invite them to bring the golden calf over to your next Sunday BBQ so you can see how it is done. God loves every sinner but that doesn’t mean he won’t burn them in hell and it is a Christian’s duty to make sure He doesn’t have to burn them. If God wanted men to lay with men why did he burn Sodom? It is not man’s job to question God’s commandments. Those commandments don’t need to be reasonable to us they only need to be reasonable to Him. He said don’t eat the apple. What could be wrong about eating an apple the serpent said. Well I think all of us who have read scripture have figured that one out.

  • Edwin let me help you out a little here. God’s laws don’t have to make sense to us. That was the whole point of the Garden of Eden thingy. Is it clear that eating the apple would do anyone any harm? No. Isn’t that exactly the argument that the serpent made to Eve? I am an NPRC so I don’t have a dog in this Methodist fight except to the point that the same argument is being made across Christian denominations. Homosexuals (or at least the large number of activist homosexuals) want not just civil acceptance and privacy rights but something more, approval and approbation. They want not just to come together to worship in this church or that, not just reconciliation but the blessing and approval of the Christian community and that is a bridge too far. It flies in the face of God’s law. You cannot read scripture and not come to that conclusion. It is like worshiping graven images. You can reason your way to hell and back on that one. What harm can it do? Don’t folks who worship golden calves love their mothers and raise their children and do charitable works and do all the things Christians do? So what difference does it make the serpent says a God you cannot see or a god you can carry around. Just try it and don’t worry about that jealous old God. The jealous old God is either the only one or He is not. We will never solve that question with our brains. Only our hearts will answer the question and if our hearts say He is the one then why would we want to offend him no matter how silly the serpent says the commandment is?
    Love your neighbor. Invite him over to the house but tell him he has to leave the golden calf at home and he can’t bring it up at the dinner table. If he cannot take that invite then he is the one with the problem.

  • Worshiping a religion besides Christianity is something wrong or immoral? Nope. That is just your sectarian bias coming through. If you said to a Buddhist, Animist or Hindu that their polytheism is somehow wrong, they would rightfully punch you in the nose for being an uncivil and bigoted.

    Christian love to “sinners” of a certain stripe is indistinguishable from malice in both action and intent. Like the polytheism thing, your input here would be an unwanted, untoward, immoral trespass against them. Self righteous moralizing doesn’t entitle you to what amounts to attacks on others. Saying you are doing it out of “love” is a load of bull. it’s done to demean others and aggrandize yourself.

  • Count your blessings Ben. There is one sin you don’t have to struggle with that many of the rest of us do. I can hardly look at a woman without wondering what she looks like with her clothes off. Fortunately God made me a troll which helps to keep my better angels in charge. Now for the bad news. God gave you a different cross to bear. Stop bitching about it and pick it up and the grace will flow. Things could be worse. Some poor bastards out there are attracted to children the way we are to adults. They don’t want to be that way but the good ones know they can never, what do you call it? Be their authentic selves.

  • Worshiping a religion besides Christianity is something wrong or immoral? Nope. That is just your sectarian bias coming through. If you said to a Buddhist, Animist or Hindu that their polytheism is somehow wrong, they would rightfully punch you in the nose for being an uncivil and bigoted.
    Christian love to “sinners” of a certain stripe is indistinguishable from malice in both action and intent. Like the polytheism thing, your input here would be an unwanted, untoward, immoral trespass against them. Self righteous moralizing doesn’t entitle you to attacks on others. Saying you are doing it out of “love” is a load of bull. it’s done to demean others and aggrandize yourself

  • Shorter Peter Berg: Biblical law is arbitrary nonsense people follow out of tradition and perceived duty rather than for rational reasons or societal benefit. Gays are being uppity for demanding to be treated as human beings. God tells,me it’s a duty to attack and demean them

  • I don’t know what NPRC stands for, but my guess is that it’s some kind of Calvinist.

    Reason is one of the means by which we perceive God’s will. Adam and Eve knew God had spoken to them. We don’t. We have to interpret Scripture. Your position leads to bad interpretation of Scripture, because people essentially wind up playing eeney-miney-mo with the text instead of reading it in light of basic principles. If there are no principles that reason can discern, then Scripture is unintelligible.

    It’s clear that one of the fundamental principles of Scriptural ethics is that all God’s commands are summed up in love of neighbor. It’s also clear that conventional conservative attitudes to gay people are harming our neighbors. Very, very badly. Therefore, what has passed for conservative sexual ethics so far, for the most part, is clearly an abomination in God’s eyes.

    The only question is just what and how far we need to rethink.

  • I’m not bitching about it. I leave that up to the so-called Christians. I’ve always been very happy as a gay man. I wouldn’t be who I am if it were any different. and I like who I am.
    As for YOUR issue, this is one of the many traps that this kind of Christianity lays for us. We– both gay and straight– are almost universally hard-wired to find some other people attractive. Like homosexuality, it is a normal and natural part of being a human being. It’s not just for reproductive purposes, but for survival as well. Sociobiology has a lot to say about this.
    So something that is normal, natural, wholesome (usually) is turned into something sick, dirty and perverted. In your case, looking at women. In my case, looking at men. I think it is counter-productive– at the very best– and turns people towards despising themselves for being human.
    I do agree with you about those who are attracted to children. It is natural for them. But it is not good for children, and that is a higher purpose. I feel for them, I truly do, but I don’t support it and I don’t approve of it.

  • Burning in hell. That’s god’s love for you. Is there any reason why religion is in decline in the civilized world?

  • “Homosexuals (or at least the large number of activist homosexuals) want not just civil acceptance and privacy rights but something more, approval and approbation. They want not just to come together to worship in this church or that, not just reconciliation but the blessing and approval of the Christian community and that is a bridge too far.”
    That’s the story you keep telling yourselves. I am not interested in your approval. I’m interested in not having your religious beliefs and purely theological concerns enforced by civil law. what you do in your churches is mostly your business.But those within the churches that do approve don’t do so despite what their bibles say, but BECAUSE of what their bibles say.
    What you are saying is that they are not REAL Christians, not like you. This has been going on in Christianity ever since Peter said to Jesus that he was looking too favorably on Mary Magdalene, or since the first old man waved a quivering finger and hissed “HERETIC!”.

  • Spudie – As a Christians I say a Hindu has it all wrong. For starters there is only one God. Doubtless the Hindu thinks me a fool for thinking that to which I say bully for him and thank my God and his gods that we don’t live in a theocratic state. Everyone has a right to believe whatever they want and some of those beliefs seem hateful to you just as some of yours seem…well frankly disgusting to me but its your body so who am I to judge (in civil society)? Within the church or the Christian community it is a different story. Your insistence that God approves of buggery runs counter to my reading of scripture. When we get to the judgement seat if there is a judgement seat we will know who is right and who is wrong. What is legal and what is moral are for good reasons not always the same. Being legal doesn’t mean it is not sinful and being sinful doesn’t necessarily mean it should be illegal.

  • You seem to be of the mind that your religious convictions give you a right to trespass upon on lives of others in an untoward manner. You said it was your duty to attack belief in polytheism, not show respectful distance. Just like you think it is your duty to demean and attack gays for their alleged sins, rather than treat them like fellow human beings. so your line about “who am I to judge” is a refutation of all of your previous posts. You previously stated that ypumfeel entitled to judge others and attack them if their beliefs are not yours. Honesty and logical consistency are not hallmarks of arguments defending religious beliefs and practice.

    What is hateful to me is hateful to anyone who is being honest and moral. To treat people as less than human and make excuses for doing so. My insistence is that if your god allegedly justifies such bad behavior, it is not a god worthy of respect and neither are his adherents. Saying god sanctions something does not make it moral. Saying god condemns something does not mean it is immoral. Your reading of scripture is self serving and repugnant if you are using it to garner social sanction to treat others badly. Plenty of other people read it and find the opposite. If the net result of your interpretation is to act maliciously, with bigotry in your heart, and dishonesty in your discourse, then it is worthless. You are simply tring to Mae the world a worse place in your need to kiss up to your personal vision of God.

  • God is all just as well as all loving. Justice requires that those who don’t follow his rules get tossed out of heaven. If the world is less civilized than it used to be it is probably because we are increasingly disinclined to enforce the rules of civilization or even to acknowledge that there need to be rules.

  • Spuddie -If you don’t see any difference between Hindus and Buddhists and animists and Methodists then why the hell do you care what any of them believe or who they admit to services, who they pick for leaders? Believing in everything is the same as believing in nothing. Believing nothing is certainly your prerogative but don’t force it down everyone elses throat. You are mad at the world but maybe the world isn’t the problem. Maybe it is you making you unhappy because some club somewhere won’t amend its rules to suit your prejudices.

  • I care how people like yourself would treat those whose beliefs you do not share. You started off with the self serving egotistical claim that you have a holy duty to attack people who worship god’s besides yours or who are gay. I say you are just trying to excuse acting badly and rudely to others.

    You are entitled to your beliefs, but nobody is compelled to care what they are. You are not taking a moral position. You are seeking to excuse immoral behavior under the guise of religion.

    BTW don’t give me that “you are mad” patronizing nonsense. It’s insulting and is a passive aggressive way to avoid the subject as some kind of emotionalism. GFY

  • DC_Mikey when Jesus came to the help and defense of lepers, prostitutes, Samaritans, and the downtrodden the first thing he did was forgive them of their sins and then admonish them to go and sin no more. Today’s homosexual community will neither acknowledge the sin nor seek forgiveness let alone amend their ways. Show me where in the bible Jesus comes to the impenitent. The theological question here is simple – is homosexuality sinful? One side says no and the other holds to the historical reading of scripture and 2000 years of Christian practice. Doubtless one side or the other is wrong.

  • Ben when it comes to civil law I am a devote secularist. Church is church and civil society is civil society. Doesn’t mean my vote is not informed by my religious beliefs but it does mean I need to see some secular purpose in any law I would vote for. So for instance I might think pornography is sinful but that is not a reason to make it illegal. At the same time I might think lotteries and state sponsored gambling are bad ideas and should be outlawed but I don’t have religious convictions against them (though doubtless some do). That said there are things I consider both sinful and bad ideas that harm society to such an extent that they should be outlawed. In the end though civil law has to serve a civil purpose not just a religious one.

  • NPRC – Non Practicing Roman Catholic. Calvinist hardly 🙂 So your argument is Jesus repealed the 10 commandments and replaced them with one – Love thy neighbor and you interpret that as never make him uncomfortable? I don’t think it is that simple. How does “I am the Lord thy God thou shall not have strange gods before you” fold into love thy neighbor? Shoot a couple of his commandments have nothing to do with your neighbor but with what goes on in your own head and heart or with how you treat your own self. Then of course there is the question of how you love your neighbor (no pun intended). Do you love them by pouring the drunken sod another bowl of punch when he has just slapped his kids and argued with his wife or do you throw him out of the house until he has sobered up and then tell him what an ass he made of himself and for his own sake he shouldn’t do it again?

  • Ah. My relationship with Catholicism is complicated too (I keep trying to become Catholic and then chickening out). There are two commandments: love God and love neighbor. Everything else is commentary on those two. Christian and Jewish tradition agree on this point.

    Love does not mean “don’t make your neighbor uncomfortable.” But when there’s a pretty consistent body of evidence that what we’re currently saying is driving people to utter despair, that’s way beyond “uncomfortable.” And it’s a good rule of thumb that God’s commands make the powerful and complacent uncomfortable. They don’t drive the weak and vulnerable to despair.

  • Hindus generally agree that there is only one God. So you aren’t in a position to say that they have it all wrong, since it’s not clear you understand them in the first place.

    Holiness always leads to our being more likely to question ourselves than to dismiss others. It sounds from your posts, to be frank, as if you go in the other direction.

  • I am very glad to hear that. That’s exactly what I believe. My issue is always with people who want their purely theological concerns reflected in secular law.

    Believe that homosexuality is a sin? Knock yourself out. Want to make me a criminal because of it? I’ll never stop fighting it.

  • Ben, thanks for your gracious reply. There are several points on which you’re responding to things I don’t actually believe. I should have made myself clearer.

    I said that I would prefer if the word “marriage” wasn’t used of same-sex unions, but I should have said more clearly that I support the practical legal aspects of same-sex civil marriage, and I’m certainly not interested in fighting over the word. I would have no problem at all with the government ceasing to use the word “marriage” at all. So when you suppose that I’d have a problem (on the civil level) with my own marriage being called a civil union–no, I wouldn’t at all. Given that the secular understanding of marriage has clearly become quite different from the traditional Christian one, my preferred choice would just be to use a different word for secular marriage, whatever the gender of the partners. But my main concern is with the Christian sacrament. I’m not convinced that it should or can be redefined as gender-neutral.

    When I spoke of identity, I was trying to say that I would not, as far as I can tell, feel that my identity was attacked if someone said that I ought not to be engaging in heterosexual sex at all, and that my sexual desires were disordered. I would of course feel uncomfortable and would prefer to find a way to reject such a claim, but I would be able to recognize that, for instance, a radical ascetic still recognized my human dignity while calling me to give up all sex, or that a feminist still recognized my human dignity while telling me that I needed to give up sex with my wife because it was a form of rape. (I’m aware that few if any feminists go this far–I’m just using it as a hypothetical example.) I would feel demeaned if a feminist (again, a hypothetical one–not claiming that feminists really say this) were to say that I was evil or inferior just for being a man, and I would understand that a condemnation of the forms of sexual activity I feel inclined to engage in wasn’t the same thing as a condemnation of me in my fundamental identity.

    Again, I understand that there are reasons why you might feel differently.

    You also seem to think that I don’t believe people who accept gay marriages are Christian. I have no such belief. You are wrong in saying that the various groups you mention are accepted as Christian by all “except the most rabid fundamentalists.” I doubt that there are any Christians (except of course those who belong to the groups you mention!) who would say “people who accept same-sex unions are not Christians but Mormons, JWs, and ‘Christian Scientists’ are.” These groups are typically labeled as “cults” or heresies. SDA’s are in a different category, but even there I suspect that most people who would say pro-gay Christians aren’t Christians would also at least have some grave doubts about SDAs.

    My own view is that of course pro-gay Christians are Christians, as are SDAs. Christian Scientists and Mormons are not recognizably members of the same religion as traditional Christians, and JWs are fundamentally heretical and thus, again, theologically basically in the same position as non-Christians. (I don’t think that non-Christians necessarily go to hell–I hope no one goes to hell but the people most likely to go there are probably orthodox Christians who look down on and condemn others.) My view is pretty mainstream among moderate to conservative Christians.

    There certainly are a lot of conservative Christians who think that pro-gay Christians are “apostates” and thus in the _same_ boat as Mormons, JWs, and Christian Scientists (and, if they are very conservative, SDAs as well). I disagree with those folks very strongly.

    You are right in thinking that I would not put a longstanding, faithful gay relationship in the same category morally as the multiple marriages of an adulterous congressman. But this is for the opposite reason to the one you seem to suppose. It would insult your friends to suggest that their faithful relationship was remotely on the same moral level as the sort of immoral behavior you’re describing in the congressman. Are you really telling me that most of the conservative Christians you know are OK with divorce and remarriage while condemning gay unions as sinful?

    The double standard that most conservative to moderate Protestants have about this is indeed disgusting. This is one of my huge problems with the current stance of the UMC. Their section on divorce takes the position that I would like them to take about homosexuality–here’s what marriage ideally looks like but then here’s the human reality that we acknowledge pastorally. Again, I understand that you will still find this position objectionable, but you keep arguing against positions that I don’t hold, and which indeed I regard as unjust and evil.

    I understand that “love the sin, hate the sinner” has been abused and apparently, in some people’s experience, is only used about gays (that’s not my experience). But as a principle I don’t see how it can be criticized. People who are criticizing it seem to me to be actually criticizing the proposition that same-sex relationships are sinful in the first place (and that’s a serious criticism). Once we establish that something is sinful–that it tends to destroy the person who does it as well as others, which is fundamental to the definition of sin as a Christian theological concept–then the more we will love the sinner the more we will hate their sin.

    I see in your post an excellent example of “hate the sin, love the sinner” directed toward me. You are showing me charity by trying to free me from what you believe are opinions I hold that hurt and demean other people. And I see it as such.

  • Edwin I am pretty familiar with Hindus. I worked with them daily for 20 years both as bosses and subordinates and studied the religion in college and been to religious celebrations. The popular religion is not monotheistic. Faith is what leads to holiness and complete faith doesn’t admit doubt.

  • You need to reread the story of Sodom. There is not a word in there about a romantic same gender relationship. Sodom is about an angry mob wanted to gang rape a couple of foreigners. I cannot imagine that anyone would disagree that rape is wrong.

  • Sorry I don’t have time to engage, but would like to enlarge a little in case it should be useful. Religious tradition is very strong, but in my view the actual textual evidence is surprisingly weak. About Sodom, for example [Genesis 18-19], applying the principle of scripture interpreting scripture, the 60-some accusations against Sodom include “grinding the face of the poor,” “arrogance,” etc. The lone mention of sexual sin is that of going after different flesh — the flesh of angels — “sarx hetero” [Jude v.7], with zero hint of “same” flesh, sarx homo. When Jesus mentions Sodom, the subject is towns that do not welcome the disciples. Sodom is a story of aggression, male gang rape, not by the wildest stretch of imagination a story of our members who are gentle, constructive members of their communities – and gay.

    Thanks so much for your posts!

  • Do you bother to read stuff before you link to it? Or is that an unnecessary distraction?

    (Originally posted days ago but disappeared)

  • You claimed that “… rape is actually condoned in the Bible against peoples considered ungodly”

    I asked for book, chapter and verse.

    None of those links condone rape – so I have to conclude that you didn’t read them.

    Really, you should check. But, as you say – whatever.

  • “So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.” Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.”
    Judges 21:10-12 NLT

    “They attacked Midian just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men….Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.
    Numbers 31:7-18 NLT (abridged)

    I can go on. But frankly you are not doing enough work in response to justify such efforts.

  • I didn’t say the popular religion was monotheistic. Monotheism, in the devotional, “Abrahamic” sense, includes a lot more than “the belief that there is one God,” but the corollary “therefore God can only be worshiped as He has chosen to reveal Himself, and other ‘gods’ are false,” whereas Hindus tend to say something like, “all the gods are manifestations of the one God.”

    And you’re right that I’m not primarily speaking of “the popular religion” anyway. I get intensely annoyed when non-Christians judge Christianity based on “the popular religion,” so that’s not how I judge other religions either.

  • The way you are putting it makes it sound as if the “rules” are parallel to and separate from the love. That’s either false or misleading (i.e., it sounds as if you are saying that God is arbitrary, but if you don’t think that, you should consider expressing yourself differently). I think using the word “rules” is generally a bad choice which doesn’t express the rational and loving nature of God’s law.

    Again, one of the basic principles in Jewish and Christian ethics is that the law is summed up in love of God and neighbor (you’re right that I oversimplified earlier in saying just “love of neighbor”–I was thinking of what is traditionally called “the second table of the law”). This is expressed several times in Scripture.

    Those who are “cast out” from God’s presence and/or who come to perceive that presence (from which, as Psalm 139 tells us, no one can really escape) as torment experience God as “wrath” because they have chosen to shut themselves off from His love insofar as any creature can.

  • Ezekiel 16:49 answers your question about Sodom quite nicely: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

  • I understand that you’re speaking hyperbolically and are probably aware that that wasn’t the reason, but in case anyone might take this literally: no that’s not what they killed each other over. It was over a number of issues, but probably the one that generated the most heat was the Eucharist. For Protestants, Catholics were committing idolatry. For Catholics, Protestants were descrating the sacred and tearing the presence of God out of society. None of that justifies the killing, of course, but it wasn’t primarily about language (certainly the language of worship was symbolic of two different approaches to worship).

  • You did indeed understand my point.

    As I read the history, though, half of it was about who was worshipping God in precisely the right way, and thus who would get his favor and who would have to be destroyed. The other half was about power and money

  • My pleasure! If I get around to it, I will post my entire analysis of why the sodom story is the greatest con in the bible.

  • Would be great to read the whole description! Scanning your comments, I appreciate those I’ve seen about Romans, too… reminds me of Countryman’s analysis of the whole book in “Interpreting the Truth,” which makes welcome sense. Very glad you’re on the net.

  • This is from several years ago.

    I agree with you that the story of Sodom has nothing to do with homosexuality, as understood in that time OR in ours. Different reasons, though. People who claim it is about homosexuality have never bothered to read it or think about it, but merely repeat what a similarly situated person said. Like so many memes, constant repetition is what makes them true, not an actual analysis. Very much like the Levitical passages: unbiased scholars know these passages were interpreted as condemnations of homosexuality well after the fact.

    First, the Sodom story is one of the most ancient in the bible, probably written when our god was the Midianite Storm God Formerly Known as El– a story so ancient that God WALKS to Sodom, has dinner with Abraham, bargains with him, and has to send someone to Sodom to find out if the rumors are true. God is apparently surprised that Sarah is hiding behind the door of the tent. Sarah is so unafraid of the Majesty of the Lord that she lies to him. Does that fit in even remotely with the god of the rest of the bible?

    The same is true of the story of Job, another ancient, ancient story, probably by several authors. In it, God attacks Job in order to win a bet with Satan. Not exactly what I would call fitting behavior for the creator of the Universe. That God restores Job with a new wife, new children, new lands, and new health, doesn’t make this story anything else than one about a real sadist. That he makes it up later doesn’t do anything about Job’s pain.

    As for the bargaining, the constant reference is to RIGHTEOUS men. It takes 2500 years of homohatred to turn RIGHTEOUS into Heterosexual. What people miss is that the angels DID find a righteous man—Lot– though a drunk who committed incest with his daughters. God destroyed the city anyway. Yet another indication the story doesn’t say what people claim it does. Or righteous now means an incestuous old drunk.

    Letting the bible be its own best commentator, only three other references to the sins of Sodom have anything to do with sexuality at all, but pride and inhospitality and unspecified abomination. One reference– in Jude– refers to “going after strange flesh.” is about
    lusting after angels, not men, according to many scholars. The other two are so vague as to be useless. Certianly, homosexuality is not specified.

    But the most damning–giggle–of all is what people fail to notice. Not only was this “sin” about the threat of gang rape– the angels were hardly being asked out for dinner and an evening in
    front of the fireplace BY ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE TOWN…

    Not only did Lot offer his virgin daughters to the crowd, an unlikely event if they were homosexual—it wouldn’t entice me…

    But the alleged sin of Sodom NEVER occurred. The angels struck BEFORE anything had happened. How does one sin if one didn’t?

    It’s useful to compare the Sodom story with the story of the Woman of Gibeah. “Then the Israelites said, “Tell us how this awful thing happened. So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, said, “I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died.”

    So a man went with his concubine to a house in Gibeah, and all of the men in the town raped the woman, killing her. Did this turn into a condemnation of heterosexuality? No. But following the logic of the Sodom story, it SHOULD have. But that would seriously inconvenience heterosexuals, and disturb the narrative that gay people are always at fault for everything.

    The Sodom story, especially in contrast to the woman of Gibeah, is the perfect example of hermeneutics– the exquisite are of getting your holy book to say exactly what you want it to. It was done for slavery, segregation, the rights of women, and the burning of witches and heretics.

    The real question is this: when will we do away with the authority of ancient books of unknown provenance, and simply treat others as we would like to be treated?

  • Oh really? God commanding the slaughter and defiling of entire communities in his name.

    BTW since when has context and alleged historical background ever mattered to Christians proof texting the Bible?

    Your denials are cheap and lazy. A useless “no it isn’t”. This is what I gave you. If it is not to your satisfaction, tough luck.

  • Keep trying.

    Plonker.

    Which one of them talked of “commanding the slaughter and defilement of entire communities in His [please note capitalisation] name”?

    One of them, on the other hand, prescribed that “ye shall wash your hands beyond the elbow when you enter the place of meat”.

    What, pray tell, has that got to do with rape and defilement? I mean, really?

  • The text neither condemns nor ameliorate the act of rape. Making it just one of many atrocities done for God by his chosen people.

    You are misrepresenting what the other sections said. By all means keep pretending various morally questionable parts of the OT don’t exist. Biblical inerrancy depends on such a shaky bed of apologia, misrepresentation and fictions.

  • But sin they do! Every time they give in to a homosexual act, it is a sin. I don’t judge them but I know who does!

  • To defend homosexual behavior, from a Biblical perspective, is an exercise in futility. With your limited knowledge and understanding of the Bible, you can not tell anyone that “Jesus is asking More from us.” Your sin has deluded you.

  • Sure, you’re not judging anyone. No, siree.

    I know someone who’s gonna get a real sweet spot on the eternal Barbie,

  • You’re the one who claimed that list of links “condoned rape”.

    They don’t. End of.

  • Which it does. Rape was perfectly acceptable and commanded by god’s chosen soldiers as a right of conquest or anyone willing to pony up payment to a girl’s father.

    This is stuff that comes up with a simple online search. I can’t help it if your scripture has some truly morally repugnant stuff in it.

  • Try heathen rage at believers acting badly. People who use religion to attack excuse to attack others are an immoral, cowardly lot. People who lack conviction to own up to their own prejudices and egotism.

  • To point out sin is a duty of all Christians. We don’t judge and can not judge, but we know who does. For anyone to deny that homosexuality is not natural, fools no one but themselves. You used the word immoral and cowardly. I believe that is directed to you. You are just reacting to your conviction of sin.

  • I meant a loving, committed, monogamous, consensual same-sex marriage relationship, if you want clarification. I know a same-sex couple and went to their wedding at my church. They are both very kind and are filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

  • Another Bible Thumper who thinks its his sworn duty to attack people in service of his narrow sectarian beliefs. That any trespass against others can be justified because you think God excuses it.
    Because you have “genuine concern for their immortal souls”, “love them as human beings” and know better. Not at all because you want validation for obnoxious and hateful behavior.

    Nothing more than a malicious busybody who just wants to demean and attack people but is so spineless that as to use God as an excuse. I am sure such nonsense excuses make one feel better and somehow morally superior to everyone. But we both know it’s just a pretense. Nobody buys that.

  • Great question… thank you! I think the problem is literalism… there’s some good stuff in the bible, but you have to be able to separate it from the awful.

    I like your point about Gibeah not becoming condemnation of heterosexuality… I’ve seen Gibeah referenced but haven’t noticed your point.

    Continuing your point about whether the sin of Sodom actually happened… if the sin actually was inhospitality to strangers, it *did* happen. Would strengthen the argument that the point was inhospitality.

    Turning “righteous” into “heterosexual” — I hadn’t thought about that… thanks.

    (In case you have nitpicky readers… God lets Satan attack Job [still a horrible idea]; story blames Lot’s daughters for the incest [while conveniently disparaging the origins of the Moabites and Ammonites : ) ]; it was 10 that couldn’t be found.)

    Thank you so much for sharing your perspectives!! and for your healing work. Deeply appreciated.

  • Edwin – Genesis only mentions the men sinning and at least in the story the men weren’t much interested in women. I’m pretty sure you know the story so lets not be coy. Then of course there is Jude 1:7 which lays it out pretty clearly. “Likewise,
    Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same
    manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural
    lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

  • Annette – Funny I have read the story and as I recall Lot offered the mob a couple of female virgins and still they wanted the men. The very strong implication there is that wanting to gang rape men is even worse than wanting to gang rape a woman because it is an unnatural act i.e. it is doubly reprehensible rather like all rape is bad but raping children is worse than raping an adult because only a twisted SOB would be sexually attracted to a child.

  • Edwin – “the rational and loving nature of God’s law” is not always obviously rational to us. Was it obviously rational to you that Moses should have been denied entry to the Promised Land after leading the Jews out of Egypt just because he got a little over excited with a stick? We cannot even begin to fathom the mind of God and it would be pure hubris on our part to presume that we could, to presume that it could all be summed up neatly in love God and your neighbor and the details of how exactly we do that left to the cleverest deceiver in the room. Buggery a sin? How can that be if it is in a loving monogamous relationship? I don’t know Edwin. I don’t know how Moses getting a little over excited with a stick could be a sin either but it was. I accept the fact that God doesn’t have to explain everything to me so my limited rational mind can understand it. Like Abraham if God tells me to sacrifice I sacrifice.

  • AH, the old “Bible Thumper” routine. Please, can’t you do better than that? Besides, I don’t thump the Bible, I just quote it. Would you prefer that someone thump you with a Bible: Then once they thump you with a Bible, you can get really mad. You can then really rail against all the Christians! I don’t need God to point out what is unnatural. Let’s list the words you used against me. “attack, trespass, obnoxious, hateful, malicious, busybody, narrow beliefs, demean, spineless, nonsense excuses, and morally superior.” Wow! sounds like I hit a nerve. I guess the truth hurts.

  • I’m sorry that I haven’t responded to your most gracious post. I kept forgetting to, and then there were other things to attend to.

    I think we are mostly in agreement. I much appreciate your thoughtful responses to all of my points.

    One thing you should understand about me in general. Perhaps you already do. I’m not really all that concerned about religion in general. I’m certainly not an anti theist. For me, the question doesn’t matter, or is at least the wrong question being asked. As I have said many times, my issue is with dominionism, of religion being used as a club against people who just want to live their lives. AS both a born Jew, and as a gay man, I have seen this my whole life. That’s where I stand my ground. I have the same opinions of dominionist Jews, dominionist Christians, dominionist Muslims, dominionist Hindus. I don’t really care which we are talking about. The key word Is dominionist, no insert-your-faith-here.

    Thanks for listening.

  • Yes, I get that. We might differ on some specific instances of what counts as “dominionism,” but by and large I’m on your side there. I refer to this kind of behavior among Christians (and members of other religions, but I’m concerned with Christians primarily) in Tolkienesque terms as “putting on the Ring.” And it’s certainly a perennial temptation which Christians have often yielded to, with catastrophic results.

  • Life-saving and life-giving work. I salute you! It’s headswimming to think of the rate of helpful change in the last several years… but — “miles to go before I sleep….” Wishing you well!!

  • lol that’s not a church that’s the Hillary Clinton campaign… Might as well not be a religion

  • “Meth-Odist” haha are they going to have a corner in their “churches” for pot smokers? Is Bernie Sanders their patron saint

  • You wont be made a criminal, you will just be removed from society. Wont get jobs, wont get the promotion.. will lose the friends.. and you know what.. you will never be able to prove it.

  • I have no idea what you are trying to say. Are you advocating this? OR merely being ironic?

  • No you know exactly what I am saying.. apply for a job at my place.. I can guarantee you gay people dont last long here or get hired in the first place. Fight all you want.. we will still hold all the cards.

  • You hold some cards, absolutely. And I wish you the very best for your desire to hold them.

    Are there any other sinners that you despise so much, or do you reserve your righteousness solely for gay people.

  • Funny. That’s exactly how I feel about Christians of your type. Well, actually, not just Christians, ANYONE of your type. Unreasonable hatred and ignorance.
    Obviously, you’ve never met any gay people, know nothing about them, but prefer to judge them anyway. So you ARE a Good Christian (TM).
    Congratulations.
    I guess.

  • It is indeed still patronizing and offensive, but at least survivable. I, like Ben, appreciate your thoughtfulness, although we will never agree on the “objectively disordered” as a definition of gay sexuality. That implies that much straight sex is also “objectively disordered” as much, if not most, of it is for bonding, not procreation.

    Because you are not gay, you do not understand that our sexuality provides us the same emotional bonding, and spiritual connectedness that sexuality does for any married couple. It really isn’t any different.

    Now I leave you in Ben’s good hands, and will spend the afternoon with my lovely, now finally, wife of 24 years this summer. Good luck and may your god bless you.

  • Meh, honestly I am not all that religious, I just have zero tolerance for those that seek to boost freak shows over normalcy. I dont hate gays, i do hate the elevation of people who are NOT NORMAL over those that are. Equality? No its about gay supremacy now.

  • I’m glad to hear you don’t hate gay people. Calling an entire group of your fellow citizens a freak show, claiming that somehow we are elevated above people you call normal, repeating the nonsense about gay supremacy.

    Really, how could anyone find hate in statements like that?

  • I agree that we don’t live up to that policy nearly to the degree that we should. In fact, I think our denominational stance on homosexuality runs completely contrary to that notion, and am hopeful (though not expectant) that something good may come out of the bishops committee that is meeting after General Conference (global meeting of church leaders to determine polity for the entire denomination).
    Likewise, I apologize if you had responded in a way that was respectful and honest and yet you got silenced. That is not good behavior and Christians need to be more open to discussion, especially with those with which we disagree.

    Also, sorry I’m responding a month late. I hadn’t seen this until now!

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