David French’s recent opinion piece in the National Review—reacting to a New York Times article reporting on young, evangelical Christians’ faith and politics—illustrates why so many young, evangelical Christians are troubled by modern conservative politics and by modern evangelical leaders. French himself lives in both worlds, frequently publishing religiously themed articles that support politically conservative policies and politicians.
In the piece, French equates “biblical” Christianity with “anti-gay theology,” insisting that when a young woman told her parents she was “rethinking the legitimacy of anti-gay theology” she told them she was “rethinking orthodox, biblical Christianity.”
He goes further, also equating rejecting anti-gay theology with “rejecting the authority of scripture.”
Well, Mom and Dad ….
Lots of practices have been declared unbiblical by conservative religious leaders that turn out to be biblical when people study the Bible rather than relying on the view of those leaders. Examples include the abolition of slavery; women working outside the home, voting, and serving in the government; racial integration; and mixed-race marriages.
Certainly, when some young evangelicals told their parents back then that they were “re-thinking the legitimacy of pro-slavery theology” or “of anti-women’s suffrage theology” or “of anti-integration theology” or “of anti- miscegenation theology,” some religious leaders dismissed those young evangelicals’ views as “unbiblical” and “rejecting the authority of scripture,” just like French dismisses the young woman’s questioning of anti-gay theology.
Sometimes Evangelicals Disagree
Might one young evangelical study the Bible in depth and conclude that same-sex marriage is a sin? Might they conclude that homosexual sex in any setting is a sin? Of course. Teaching along these lines is easily located. Pew Research reports that 55% of evangelicals say homosexuality should be discouraged.
Does this young evangelical “reject the authority of scripture” by treating passages he or she sees as relevant to homosexuality as commands for all of us today while treating other Biblical passages as commands only for the particular audience to which the passage was originally directed? Does this young evangelical “reject the authority of scripture” by interpreting scripture that says “nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” differently than those who disagree with his or her conclusion?
Might another young evangelical study the Bible in depth and conclude that same-sex marriage is not a sin? Might they conclude that homosexual sex within a marriage relationship is not a sin? Of course. Matthew Vines, for example, in his book God and the Gay Christian outlines such a study and reaches these conclusions. Pew Research reports that 36% of evangelicals say homosexuality should be accepted.
Does this other young evangelical “reject the authority of scripture” by treating passages he or she sees as relevant to homosexuality as commands only for the particular audience to which the passage was originally directed while treating other passages as commands for all of us today, for example? Does this other young evangelical “reject the authority of scripture” by interpeting the so-called “clobber passages” as discussing sex outside of a marriage relationship or as discussing temple sex or pederasty? You might disagree with the interpretation, but is that “rejecting the authority of scripture”? Does this other young evangelical “reject the authority of scripture” by interpreting passages relevant to homosexuality differently than those who disagree with his or her conclusion?
Both these young evangelicals take the Bible seriously, want to follow God’s will, and view the Bible as conveying God’s word. Presumably, the vast majority of both the 55% and the 36% of the evangelicals noted above do, too. The question of who is right or most likely right is a different question.
The difference is mostly one of interpretation of scripture.
Yet, French dismisses one of their viewpoints as “rejecting the authority of scripture” and endorses the other (his own) as “biblical.”
And many young, evangelical Christians who view homosexual sex as a sin would never consider their Christianity “anti-gay” or consider “anti-gay” to be biblical, as French says. The concept that being anti-gay—being opposed to or against a person solely due to their status as a homosexual person—is biblical is repulsive even to many who consider homosexual sex to be a sin.
Authentic Engagement, Not Dismissal
What is called for is an authentic conversation about the substance of what the Bible says, how those holding differing views interpret scripture, and engaging with one another on the subject.
Anecdotally, I have found that the vast majority of Christians, those holding views on either side of this issue, have never studied the issue for themselves in any depth, but instead rely on what someone else said about the matter, a quick read of one or two verses without considering context, or a feeling. Very few have considered multiple viewpoints.
What is not called for is dismissing any Christian, young or old, as “rejecting the authority of scripture” based solely on their conclusion about homosexuality.
It is this dismissive theology—involving the constant or quick dismissal of those who differ simply because they differ while confidently citing the authority of God or the Bible and declaring the dismissed person’s lack of fidelity to God—that so many find most troubling.
Sources and Notes
“French equates “biblical” Christianity with “anti-gay theology,” insisting that when a young woman told her parents she was “rethinking the legitimacy of anti-gay theology” she told them she was “rethinking orthodox, biblical Christianity. … He goes further, also equating rejecting anti-gay theology with “rejecting the authority of scripture.””: French says “a young woman named Alexandria Beightol, says that she was “pulled out of Smith College” when she told her parents she was “rethinking the legitimacy of anti-gay theology.” This is another way of saying that she is rethinking orthodox, biblical Christianity. It’s not that ideas like the definition of marriage are, say, more important from a political standpoint than immigration policy or police misconduct. It’s that rejecting the theology of Christian sexual teaching involves rejecting the authority of scripture, and that has massive implications for the church well beyond politics. In other words, Beightol is considering whether to be Evangelical.”
Updated with last three paragraphs of next-to-last section and adding to other parts of that section for clarity.
Dear Steve, this isn’t your best article. You phrased quite a lot of it awkwardly so I am having trouble picking up on your point.
For a few years back over ten years ago I spent some trying to figure out some of the LGBTQ and theology questions and I still struggle with them. I really spent a lot of time trying to make things conform to God’s point of view but what exactly is His perspective on these questions. I spent some time reading on deliverance, exorcisms, near death experiences, the God gene experiments then some time looking into the gay rights liberation movement.
Right now I keep discovering disconcerting facts about various human rights groups and political theorists and other people who actively worked in politics and seemed to work in counter biblical ways. I have started to consider that all the human rights hoopla of the last few centuries may be a sort of spiritual warfare tactic by the devil to make people shuffle their priorities and place human rights ahead of their spiritual right to be born again.
In the 1970s the LGBT activists attacked the American Psychiatric Association with death threats, etc. The reason they did that was to have homosexuality removed from the DSM list.
The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
So they fought. Pressured the psychiatric professionals of the world into taking it off the list and they won. Was it an honest win though because a serious case can be made for homosexuality being a disability? Gay people may rate higher on the tendency to be narcissistic and while a lot of them struggle emotionally with their sexual identities and issues they may refuse to see it as a disabilty.
So they could be busy now trying to make the world accept and conform to them as perfectly normal rather than seeing them as living with a disability.
Some theists take homosexuality too far and demonize it and I don’t even think they realize in many cases it is an inborn disability though some report being pressured or coerced into gay lifetstyles.
The rights movement has skewed public perception on a lot of these questions by non-stop appeals to emotion. They like to charge people with a religious bias against homosexuality with being homophobia. But that is deceiving. A religiously reasoned bias against homosexuality is not based on a phobia or irrational fear.
Though there are men regardless of what spiritual group they belong to who are homophobic. This is limited to men. They have studied it and women don’t feel homophobia though they might reason against it on other grounds. So men that feel drawn towards homosexuality over react to their own weakness by being homophobic. These homophobes are the guys that bully and literally physically beat up on gay people.
So the attribute to Christianity of being homophobic is a false attribute.
A reasoned bias is different from an irrational fear.
Usually in American society we are sensitive to people with disabilities and make life concessions that make disabled people’s lives easier. We don’t over turn all social identity norms to make the general conform to the exception. So there is a big fight over everything now and gay people are getting spiritually shafted because the carnal people when they insist on having their way don’t care about anyone’s more important spiritual birth right.
People used to know God’s blessings took precedence but we are living in the increasingly materialistic Laodicean Age. We are both greedy to get things our own way and too spiritually lax to realize it.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 5. People are almost shell shocked by the Old Testament tale of Sodom and Gomorrah as looking at homosexuality in an overly demonized light but if it is a disability arising from a weakened sin nature then it’s just a sin and all sin is an abomination to God. No need to make a hyper sin out of homosexuality. In some sense we are all victims of sin because we are all born into it voluntarily so how about us all let Jesus to help us out. He is the way, the truth and the life for everybody ever born.
1 Corinthians 5 says Christians are to judge those inside the church. The unbelieving gay people are outside the church and God judges them.
Also aren’t Christians suppose to judge themselves while they learn to die to self and grow up in Christ? Those that judge themselves escape the judgment. So why don’t we try converting more gay people and let them work out their own faith and learn to examine themselves. They can decide whether their spiritual impulses from God or their natural ones come first without all the continuous nosy pressure and
interference from the busybody world, can’t they. People always have an overly evil curiosity about sex but sex is suppose to be holy and a private matter to the individual not a matter to be publicly debated. Seriously, does the uncaring world ever care about a human being’s best interests? Not really but God does.
Have a great day.
I meant to say above we are all victims of sin because we are all born into it “involuntarily” not voluntarily. I don’t know how I made that typo. I thought I proofread that post.