Thursday, February 25, 2010

Keep Talking?


I started this blog to show how one person can consider himself a faithful Lutheran Christian, and one who recognizes the authority of the Bible, and still favor same-sex marriage and ordination of pastors living in committed same-sex relationships. I am not so naive as to think that everyone reading these little essays will magically agree with my point of view. I hope that I have struck a reasonable tone in a debate that so often degenerates into unreason, finger-pointing and even name-calling. I hope that my readers, whether they agree with me or not, are able to understand my position and how I have derived it. I further hope that I have not mischaracterized the positions of anyone who, in good conscience, holds an opposing opinion.

Last October, retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong published his Manifesto. It began:

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired....
So much of Spong's rhetoric resonates within me. A part of me would like to adopt his stance. But I am aware that while many Christians have taken a strong view, pro or con, concerning homosexuality, there remain many in the muddled middle who have not made up their minds. For their sake it is not time to stop talking.

I am also aware that in my beloved Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, there are some who find the idea of Communion with those who would ordain partnered homosexuals intolerable. They are leaving to join the LCMC or NALC. If their consciences are so bound, then they should be allowed to go graciously. There are others who, though they may not agree with the CWA decisions, are willing to stay in conversation. For their sake it is not time to stop talking.

Earlier this month, Mary Hinkle Shore from Luther Seminary, Minneapolis, published a "Proposal for Engagement" on debating sexuality issues. She suggests concrete ways in which people on both sides of "the Gay Divide" can actually hear one another. The essay is worth reading in its entirety. Here are two excerpts:

Within the church--for example, within congregations whose members are deciding to leave or stay in the ELCA, or to give or withhold giving to a synod or churchwide ministry--are people trying to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, their Savior and Lord. If you do not believe that someone is trying to be such a disciple, ask them. Figure out first that you all name the same name. Understand that this person on the other side, whose opinions may puzzle or repel you, is a brother or sister in Christ....

Do you believe that the other people in this conversation (the present conversation, there in your church basement, or the Sunday school classroom, not a "conversation" in the abstract) are Christians? If you do, what implications does this have for how you listen and talk to them? If you do not, what would they need to do to convince you that they are brothers and sisters of yours in Christ? Do others believe you are a Christian? What do they need from you to agree that, in Christ, you are in this together?

I have heard that both faculty and students at Luther are polarized over the CWA decisions. It is nice to hear a moderating voice coming from the midst of division.

When I first read Spong's Manifesto, I found myself thinking,"It's not time to end conversation yet." As I read Hinkle Shore's Proposal, I find myself thinking, "I hope it's not too late."

The illustration for this post is part of Storm Thorgerson's album artwork for Pink Floyd's The Division Bell. The felicitious phrase "the Gay Divide" is borrowed from Susan Hogan's website Pretty Good Lutherans.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A New Lutheran Church Body


The recommendations about sexuality and ministry standards adopted by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly (CWA) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America were an attempt at compromise. Realizing that not everyone would accept clergy living in committed same-sex relationships, the Task Force created what has been called a "local option." Congregations that want to call same-sex partnered pastors are free to do so. Those that do not want to be served by such pastors are likewise free not to call them.

The "local option" has really always been in effect in the ELCA. Congregations have always had the right to call any qualified individual to serve as their pastor, or not. The difference is that the definitions of "qualified" individuals has changed to include those living in same-sex relationships.

It was a noble attempt at compromise, but like all compromises it was sure not to please everyone. Some of those who advocate for full inclusion of LGBT individuals in the church at every level have criticized the CWA decisions as creating a second class of pastors. On the other side of the issue are those who find it intolerable to be a part of a church body that would ordain partnered homosexuals.

Lutherans did not invent church-splitting, but we may have perfected it. In the aftermath of the 2009 CWA, some congregations have left the ELCA. Others are still in process of leaving. Some of them have joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), a group that moved out of the ELCA 11 years ago over the issue of full Communion with the Episcopal Church.

This week Lutheran CORE, a group that has worked within the ELCA to oppose the ordination of partnered homosexuals, announced that it is forming yet another Lutheran church body, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). NALC distinguishes itself from the LCMC by a less congregational polity.

Obie Holmen found this interesting tidbit in NALC's document, "A Vision and Plan for the North American Lutheran Church."

The NALC and Lutheran CORE will recognize both women and men in the office of ordained clergy, while acknowledging the diversity of opinion that exists within the Christian community on this subject.

In other words, NALC is proposing a compromise on the issue of women's ordination. It smells a lot like a "local option" to me. Good luck with that.

I had lunch today with a group of my pastoral colleagues. One of them predicted that within a generation NALC and LCMC would stop ordaining women. Personally, I will not prognosticate. I will simply recall what someone said about those who forget the lessons of history.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gay Sex Is Intrinsically Sinful


For the time being, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) is the second largest Lutheran Church Body in North America. We will see if this remains the case when the various splinters from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are done breaking away. It is fair, in a general way, to say that the LC-MS is more conservative than the ELCA, though I am not sure that the categories of conservative and liberal are the best way to understand our differences.

I am a Lutheran, born, bred, baptized, Sunday-schooled, confirmed, educated and ordained. I expect that I will be buried a Lutheran. Still, I say in all honesty, that if the LC-MS were the only Lutheran Church body, I would have to seek another denomination. If the LC-MS were the only Christian denomination, I would seek another religion. There is no place for me in the LC-MS and I think that most Missouri Synod clergy would agree with me on that.

So, it may surprise readers of this blog to learn that I agree with at least one thing that the LC-MS says about homosexuality. This statement comes from the LC-MS website:

...the [Missouri] Synod recognizes homophile behavior as intrinsically sinful.

I am not entirely clear as to what constitutes "homophile behavior." Same-sex hand holding? Kissing? (These things look different depending on one's cultural context). Feeling aroused looking at a Calvin Klein ad? It really does not matter, though. I appreciate that the LC-MS is careful to distinguish act from orientation. I will take "homophile behavior" to be an inelegant circumlocution for "gay sex."

And I agree with the Missouri Synod that gay sex is intrinsically sinful.

As you probably suspect, that is not the whole story. You see, I also believe that every human sex act is intrinsically sinful. Even sex between husband and wife in the context of a lawfully constituted and church-sanctioned marriage is intrinsically sinful. In fact, every human act is intrinsically sinful.

Human beings are sinners. We live in a state of sin, separated from God. Apart from God we can do nothing good. I would venture to say that there is always a human, selfish, sinful component to sexual expression.

So yes, gay sex is intrinsically sinful, but in that way it is no different than straight sex, or any other human act.

The illustration accompanying this post is a portion of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is Michaelangelo's depiction of Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden. An advance reader of this post asked what it adds to the conversation. I replied, "What I hope to do with this post is advance the understanding of sin as the human condition, and to counter the assertion that gay sex is somehow more sinful than other human sex acts."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Further Reading


Susan Hogan has a pretty good website at Actually, it is a lot better than pretty good. Yesterday, she posted the news that Lutheran CORE has announced its plan to organize as a new church body. Read about it here, and don't miss the comments.

Susan's story for February 17 made me wish I lived in Iowa.

Speaking of comments, fellow Lutheran pastor and blogger Robert Lee Bennight has a thoughtful post about CORE's repeated assertion "We're not leaving the ELCA. The ELCA has left us."

And in this post at, Obie Holmen notes an irony. Dire predictions that ecumenical dialogue would be damaged if the ELCA voted to ordain non-celibate homosexuals have not come true. The Vatican remains in dialog with the ELCA. It is ELCA Lutherans who refuse to talk to one another.

I Believe


I believe that some people have an innate attraction to members of the same sex. This is an oversimplification, of course. Human sexuality is a spectrum that includes heterosexuality, homosexuality,bisexuality and transgenderism. Still, the best research indicates that homosexual orientation is not a disease, a mental disorder or a willful perversion. Homosexuality is a normally occurring subset of human sexuality.

I believe that sexual orientation is morally neutral. Homosexuality is no more "good" or "bad" than heterosexuality. Sexual acts have an ethical character; sexual orientation does not. I believe that sexual acts are unethical when they are abusive, coercive, degrading, demeaning, dishonest, unloving, uncommitted or damaging to the human psyche.

I believe that the Bible's condemnations of homosexual acts do not apply universally. The reasoning behind this belief can be found in some of my earlier posts, for example here, here, here, here, and here.

I believe that the Bible absolutely condemns unethical sexual acts.

I believe that the Bible does not give a single definition of marriage.

I believe that marriage is a positive good for society and that one of its important functions is to provide an ethical outlet for sexual expression. Even within marriage, sexual acts may be unethical if they are coercive, abusive, and so on. But marriage, being a covenant of commitment and mutual fidelity is a step toward ethical sexual practice.

I believe that marriage is essentially a social contract and is rightly regulated by the State. Whether a marriage contract can be entered into by persons of the same sex is a question for the State to decide.

I believe that same-sex marriage is a benefit to society.

I believe that some gay people are gifted for and called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. As I understand Lutheran theology, an individual's sense of call is ratified by the whole church through a process of education and examination, but that individual is not ordained until he or she is called to serve a particular congregation.

I believe ethical sexual practice includes celibacy outside of marriage and chastity within marriage
. I believe that celibacy is a gift, and that not everyone, gay or straight, is so gifted. I believe, with the Apostle Paul, that it is "better to marry than to burn" with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9). I believe, with Martin Luther, that requiring celibacy for the clergy violates the freedom of the Gospel.

I believe that homosexuals and heterosexuals should be held to the same standard.

I believe that no one, regardless of sexual orientation, is worthy of the call to ministry.
We serve by God's call and by God's grace, not by our own merit.

I believe that some congregations may wish to call a pastor who lives in an ethical, committed same-sex relationship.
I believe that they should be free to do so.

I believe that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's 2009 Churchwide Assembly decisions regarding sexuality and ministry are right.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad Vestments


If you have given up laughter for Lent, you'll want to avoid the Bad Vestments blog. On the other hand, if you believe, as I do, that bad taste knows no denominational bounds, you willl find all the confirmation you need there.

Not everyone shares, or even understands my musical taste. The subtitle for this post is a reference to the Steely Dan song, "Bad Sneakers."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ethics and Morality


I recently finished reading Scott Gustafson’s latest book, Behind Good and Evil. It is a quick read, but well-reasoned, thoughtful and thought provoking. Gustafson is perhaps too fond of double exclamation marks (!!) but this is a quibble over style in a book that is long on substance.

Gustafson makes a distinction between morality and ethics. Morality draws lines between good and evil, right and wrong, worthy and unworthy. Morality serves the purposes of civilization, and civilization is built upon what Gustafson calls the “dominator model” with its unilateral relationships of power. The character of morality is death-dealing.

Gustafson argues persuasively and at length that Nazi Germany was neither a failure of morality nor a collapse of civilization. Rather the Third Reich, with its strict distinctions of acceptable and unacceptable persons, was hyper-moral. The Nazi bureaucracy, which exterminated unacceptable persons with horrible efficiency, was a sign of civilization.

Ethics, on the other hand, serves what Gustafson calls “partnership ways.” Ethics identifies with the marginalized, not the powerful. Ethics serves culture without civilization. It derives power from community and values humility, compassion and forgiveness. Ethics is life-giving.

According to Gustafson, Jesus was not moral, but he was ethical.

To Gustafson’s insights I would tentatively add a few of my own. It seems to me that morality is always imposed from the outside. Ethics arises from within. Some individuals, feeling themselves or the world around them to be out of control, require an external sense of morality to feel secure. I understand the Gospel to be a message of eternal security that frees us from the need for an imposed morality and opens us to the possibility of ethical living.

Scott Gustafson’s descriptions of ethics and morality should give Christians pause as they consider how to deal with questions of homosexuality, and more importantly, how to deal with homosexual persons.

You might want to check out Scott Gustafson’s website, He has several resources posted there, including a downloadable essay titled “On Good and Evil”, which is a good introduction to his thinking.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Guilt And Shame


Tigers do not just have stripy fur. They have stripy skin. If you were to shave a tiger bald, it would still have stripes.

Not that I recommend trying to shave a tiger.

Guilt is a sense of remorse over something one has done wrong. Guilt can be a positive thing. Guilt can lead a person to make amends for the wrong done and to seek ways to avoid future wrongdoing. Guilt can lead to repentance.

Shame is a sense of remorse over something one is. I cannot think of any situation in which shame is positive, useful or helpful. Shame, unless it is overcome, leads to despair.

Lutherans, by the way, are pretty good at shame. We have inherited from Martin Luther a deeply pessimistic view of human nature. Luther taught that we are sinners through-and-through, unable to do any good apart from God. Luther also taught that God has provided the cure for our sinfulness in the cross of Jesus Christ. So, while we are good at shame, we also proclaim that God removes our shame. We need not despair.

Sexuality lies close to the core of our being. Our sexual orientation is a state of being. We may repent of sexual acts, but we cannot repent of sexual nature. Too often persons of homosexual orientation have been made to feel shame for what they are. If the statistics are to be believed, homosexuality is a significant risk factor for adolescent suicide. Shame leads to despair.

The best research and science tell us that our sexual orientation is innate in us. So-called “reparative therapies” which attempt to change homosexual orientation do not work and can be harmful. “Reparative therapy” is like trying to shave the stripes off of a tiger.

Christians, it is time that we stopped inflicting shame on persons of homosexual orientation.

Just for fun, can you find "the hidden tiger" in the illustration that accompanies this post? I found the picture, and you can find the answer, at this website.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Affirming Committed Same Sex Relationships Does Not Contradict The Authority Of Scripture


Rev. Dr. Brian Peterson, Professor of New Testament at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, has written a clear, succinct six page paper in which he explains how the ELCA can respect the authority of Scripture without condemning committed, faithful homosexual relationships. A sample:

In Romans 1, Paul similarly uses assumptions from first century culture, medicine, and science, particularly an assumption that same-gender intercourse is the result of runaway passions. We should hear in this text the claim that life lived apart from God leads to disordered relationships. We should hear in this text that sexual addictions, which our culture seems so good at promoting and which consume so many lives, are in fact contrary to God’s will. We should hear in this text a clear word against any society obsessed with how sexually active people are and which abandons fidelity in relationships for the sake of sexual self-gratification. However, the text does not require us to affirm the 1st century cultural assumption that all same-gender intercourse is the result of runaway passion or to conclude that those same-gender couples in our congregations must be secret idolaters, any more than Joshua requires us to affirm that the sun goes around the earth. This stance is not an abandoning of the authority of Scripture over the church, but in fact results from taking the text and its authority seriously enough to read carefully and to notice the point that Paul was actually making.

Read the entire paper here. It is worth it.

I found Dr. Peterson's paper through Obie Holman's blog. He found the link through Ted Sitz's blog.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Slide Slide Slippity Slide


I do not usually put much stock in slippery slope arguments. The idea that allowing A will lead inevitably downward to B is a logical fallacy. Also, it is my observation that slippery slope arguments are generally based in fear, or intended to create fear.

Navigating around the ’net recently, I paddled into a backwater of American Protestantism with which I had only passing familiarity. There I found a strange, but classic, use of the slippery slope argument.

Douglas Wilson apparently has some Evangelical cred. He is pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho and a founder of New Saint Andrews College. He debated militant atheist Christopher Hitchens in the pages of Christianity Today magazine, in a book and in person for the movie cameras. So far, so good.

I was surprised, though, when I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center considers Wilson something of a hate-monger. The reason? Wilson, who describes himself as a “paleo-Confederate,” has written defending, on biblical grounds, the institution of slavery as practiced in the American South.

While the Bible is, at least in some of its parts, pro-slavery, I found myself wondering why anyone would write in defense of Southern slavery on any grounds. Then I found this statement on the Wikipedia page about Wilson:

He has said that he intended to defend the once traditional biblical approval of slavery since, in his view, disregarding that tradition will lead to disregarding biblical sanction against homosexuality as well.

Wow. Just wow.

Do away with a biblical defense of slavery and it will lead to the approval of homosexuality. That actually sounds like progress to me.

Maybe we are on a slippery slope, but rather than sliding inevitably downhill we are actually scrambling slowly and with difficulty uphill toward full inclusion and civil rights for all people.

The title for this post was taken from the chorus of Coolio’s recording “Fantastic Voyage.” Though I am no fan of gangsta rap with its profanity and violent imagery, I have to admit that the “slide slide slippity slide” refrain is catchy. The Slippery Slope image was borrowed from this website.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dear Anonymous


When I started this blog I decided that I would post any and all comments, whether they sided with me or not, as long as they were stated respectfully. Personal attacks, bad language or name-calling are not allowed, but pretty much anything else goes. I also decided that I would not reply to every comment that I received. I did not want to get caught up in a back-and-forth of endless argumentation that would consume my time and energy and deflect the planned trajectory of this blog. So when this post received my first negative comment, I posted it, but said nothing in reply. I would like to revisit it now. It may be a bit after the fact, but my anonymous commenter made some points that I feel I should have addressed. Let me quote the comment in full:

Anonymous said...

Yet, in our current society there is a "cultural conditioning" to view incest as unacceptable. Should we learn to understand this differently as well?

Concerning judging, there are numerous examples throughout Scripture showing God's clear judgment against homosexual *behavior* (while still loving of those with same-sex attraction difficulties). The ELCA, however, views its own politically-correct interpretations of Scripture as higher authority than the Scriptures themselves-and therein lies the problem.

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment. It is nice to know that someone is reading my work.

I think that you invoke a variation on the Slippery Slope argument. If we allow for gay marriage or homosexual clergy, what is to prevent us from approving of incest? (Some of the more histrionic versions of this argument suggest that the Churchwide Assembly Decisions will open the floodgates to pedophilia and bestiality). There is no reason to think that allowing for consensual same-sex relations will lead to any of these things.

I have actually encountered arguments favoring ethical, consensual incest. I disagree with them for three reasons. First, is the genetic danger of inbreeding. Second, and more important, is my experience working as chaplain to a home for troubled children. Many of the young people I met there had been sexually abused by members of their own families. While ethical, consensual incestuous relationships may exist in theory, in the real world I have only encountered examples of abusive, coercive incest. Third, an important function of marriage is establishing a legal family relationship for the purposes of inheritance, property rights, etc. In the case of blood relations, this already exists.

As for the “numerous examples” of God’s judgment on homosexual behavior in Scripture, there are, in fact, five passages that deal with the subject. I have treated all of them in various posts.

Finally, as regards the ELCA’s “politically-correct” interpretation of Scripture, I would point out that everyone who reads the Bible interprets it. Even the most abject literalism is a form of interpretation. What you call “the Scriptures themselves” is, in fact, your interpretation of the Scriptures. As I have tried to establish by blogging here, the ELCA reads Scripture according to sound Lutheran principles. Understanding the Bible as not only God’s word, but also the product of a particular culture and time, we are not bound to perpetuate homophobic interpretations today. Sometimes, dear Anonymous, political correctness is political, but sometimes it is correct.

God bless you,


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Garrison Keillor Says That We Are A Quiet People


It is not easy to be a Lutheran. For one thing, Garrison Keillor makes fun of us all the time. For another Lutherans stand slightly outside the mainstream of American Christianity, which is tinged with Calvinism and Evangelicalism. Most importantly, it is not easy to be Lutheran because the doctrine of justification by grace is absolutely central to Lutheranism and this doctrine brings dangers with it.

In a recent post, I wrote about the temptation to works righteousness that confronts Lutherans. It is much easier to proclaim the sort of legalism that makes justification a matter of our own doing than to maintain a strict doctrine of justification by grace. Nevertheless Lutheran theology recognizes both human sinfulness and God’s sovereignty in such a way that we reject all forms of works righteousness. God alone can save us.

There are two other dangers that come from believing that we are justified by grace alone. The first, and it is common among Lutherans, is quiescence. If we can do nothing to save ourselves, then it is tempting just to do nothing. Our motivation for missions and good works has to be found in gratitude not guilt. We share our goods and God’s good news not from a sense of obligation, nor out of a desire to win God’s approval, nor to justify ourselves, but only out of thankfulness to God for the gift of grace.

The next danger facing Lutherans is antinomianism. From the Greek anti (“against”) and nomos (“law”), antinomianism is the idea that, if we can do nothing to justify ourselves, then we can do whatever we please without regard for the law. I suspect that historically Lutherans have been accused of antinomianism more than they have engaged in it. From Martin Luther on, Lutherans have held the law in high regard and recognized its proper uses.

First, the Law gives order to our life in community. Second, the Law convicts us of our sinful nature and drives us to seek God’s grace. There is a third use of the Law mentioned in the Lutheran Confessions. For those who believe, the Law provides a guideline for a life of sanctification. Since the Law’s demands are always beyond human ability, I observe that this third use of the Law shades into the second, and drives us to seek God’s grace again and again.

What the Law does not do is save us.

As one who advocates for same-sex unions and for full inclusion of homosexuals in the life of the Church, I am sensitive to the charge of antinomianism. While I do not believe that the Bible’s condemnations of homosexual behavior still apply in the light of our contemporary understanding, it does not mean that I reject the Law. Far from it. I advocate for homosexuals to be upright and responsible in their relationships by the same standard applied to heterosexuals.

The illustration for this post is the cover of Garrison Keillor's book Life Among the Lutherans.

Worth Reading

Back on January 28, Obie Holmen blogged on the question "Is Lutheran CORE Fundamentalist?" He does a nice job of refuting CORE's attitude toward the Bible. Click here to read about it.

Hesitant? Here is a teaser:

There are smart and educated persons in CORE, and they ought to know better than to spout such unscholarly and fossilized views of the canon coupled with accusations that the rest of us are unbiblical. It is not that we don’t take the Bible seriously, as CORE alleges, it is that we take it too seriously to avoid challenging questions informed by reason, experience, and the lessons of scholarship, both traditional and modern.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Subtle Form of Works Righteousness

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NRSV)

The doctrine of justification by grace through faith apart from works of the law is absolutely central to Lutheran theology. We cannot make ourselves right with God. Only God can save us. Lutheranism stands or falls on the truth of this doctrine.

Lutheran pastors, preachers and theologians must guard this doctrine closely because it is not easy to maintain. Children of Adam and Eve that we are, we like to imagine ourselves in control. We desire to be like God (Genesis 3:5).We like to think that we can justify ourselves.

Works righteousness is the false idea that we can save ourselves by our own good deeds. Works righteousness is appealing to us. We like to think that we can do the right things, say the right prayers, perform the right rituals, and God will reckon it to us as righteousness.

I have even heard subtle forms of works righteousness proclaimed from Lutheran pulpits. Anytime the Law and Gospel are confused, anytime a preacher tells us what we "must" or "ought" or "should" do to please God, it is probably works righteousness being proclaimed.

Sometimes I hear it said that one cannot be a “gay Christian” as if, somehow, a sexual orientation is the opposite of a religious faith. There is an apples and oranges logical fallacy at work here. One cannot be a gay heterosexual. One cannot be a Christian Muslim. But there is no contradiction in being both gay and Christian.

I recently listened to a sermon in which I heard the preacher say that God will heal Christians of homosexuality. The problem with this idea is that homosexuality is not a disease. Homosexuality is an innate sexual orientation. It is not something to be healed of. Besides, from what I have read, neither conversion to Christianity nor long-term “reparative therapy” is effective in straightening gays.

Again, sometimes I hear it said that one can be gay and Christian but, because homosexual acts are “inherently sinful,” a gay Christian must refrain from having sex. Homosexual Christians must remain celibate. Do you see the subtle works righteousness in this notion? It is as if refraining from gay sex makes a homosexual right with God.

That is not good theology. At least it is not good Lutheran theology.

The picture of Martin Luther’s seal in stained glass was taken from the website of Oakbrook Esser Studios.

Monday, February 1, 2010

With Apologies...


I have been looking at the second chapter of Genesis, which I maintain is not a historical account, but a description, in story form, of the human condition. Adam and Eve are us.

When God makes Eve from Adam’s rib, Adam, delighted, exclaims:

“This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh….” (Genesis 2:23)

Then the narrator comments, “For this reason, a man leaves his mother and father and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

This describes what is, for the vast majority of humans, their experience of being attracted to the opposite sex. Please note, however, that this is a description and not a prescription.

Sometimes this passage is taken as a mandate for heterosexual marriage, or a sanction against homosexual attraction. A bumper sticker slogan says, “It’s Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve.”

Yes, God made Adam and Eve (us) and most Adams are attracted to Eves. We can all agree that this is a good thing. If men and women were not attracted to one another, none of us would be here. Even Big Gay Steve can get on board with that idea.

But, here is the thing: God made Steve too. God made some Adams to be attracted to other Adams. Genesis 2 describes a norm, but does not prescribe that norm.

God, according to Genesis 2:18, made Eve because it was “not good for the man to be alone.” Human beings are made to live in intimate and caring partnership with one another. Most of us desire partnership between an Adam and an Eve. Some of us, however, desire partnership between an Adam and a Steve.

It is not good for Steve to be alone, either.

The Scripture quotes, as usual, are from the New Revised Standard Version. The illustration is my own mash-up of the elder Cranach's Adam and Albrecht Durer’s Adam. "Big Gay Steve" is a reference to the character Big Gay Al on South Park. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've watched South Park, but I assure you that I did not laugh.