Q & R: Adventures in Missing the Point about Homosexuality
Here's the Q:
In your book “Adventures in Missing the Point”, there was something that really disturbed me. When addressing homosexuality, both you and Tony seem to be saying that Gays and Lesbians should wrestle with their desires and live a celibate life. I know this book was published in 2003 and am wondering if you have changed your views on this or do you still feel that way. I hope not. Why should we be required to suffer for our entire lives? I can’t believe you think we should live that way.
I have greatly enjoyed your books and in some of them you seem quite clear; in others you seem ambiguous. I came to peace with God on this a long time ago (30 years) and God has been faithful. I am tired of trying to deal with folks who want us to go to Hell when we die and also want us to live in Hell while we are yet breathing. It seems to me that Jesus said something about us being “judged by the same measure with which we judge”. That certainly leaves a lot of people in big trouble, doesn’t it?
Here's the R:
Thanks for your question. In Adventures in Missing the Point, Tony and I took turns addressing issues, then responded to each other's chapters. So the chapter on homosexuality was Tony's assignment, and you're right: his position was that celibacy is the acceptable option for gay Christians. He still held this position when I last talked to him about it a few months ago, although he seemed less comfortable with it than ever. I wouldn't be surprised if he changes his position at some point in the future, but time will tell. His wife has been an outspoken advocate for full inclusion of LGBT folks, and both Tony and Peggy have modeled a posture of respectful disagreement toward the other.
I didn't offer my position on the issue in my response, but merely affirmed Tony's emphasis on the need for Christians to show more compassion and less condemnation towards our gay friends, neighbors, and fellow church and family members. I'm sorry this seemed ambiguous, but I felt that Tony's chapter stretched many of our readers quite a bit already, and since my response had to be brief, it wouldn't be possible to try to make a good case for going farther.
My view is that whatever our sexual orientation (a complex and disputed concept in itself, I know), I think we have two options: celibacy or fidelity. Contrary to what some people wrongly conclude, I reached that position not because of a carelessness towards what the Bible says, or through disregard of Christian tradition, but through careful study of the Bible and reflection on the trajectory of tradition. All this took place within my context as a pastor to, friend of, and family member with many gay people.
If people are interested in following my line of thought on the issue, my book A New Kind of Christianity would be the best place to look. For more thorough and scholarly treatments of the subject, I highly recommend A Time to Embrace and Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality. I also had the privilege of contributing to a study guide to the powerful film The Bible Tells Me So, called This I Know,about which Peggy Campolo wrote: “On the subject of homosexuality and Christian faith, this study guide is the best collection of information I have read in more than 25 years of standing with those children of God who happen not to be straight.”
Your comment about being judged by the same judgment we judge others brought back a memory from the early 1980's. I was part of a small house church, and a member of our church was getting divorced. An older divorced woman came to me and said, "Whatever your response to this divorce, just be sure you don't put a burden on her back that you wouldn't carry yourself." That was good advice back then, and the older I get, the more I see the broad applicability of it.