A friendly note to Andrew T. Walker

Dear Andrew,
I’m not young, and some of my Evangelical friends are convinced my status as a bona fide Evangelical left me along with my youth and my hair.
But I thought I’d respond to your comment on the EME launch, as reported in a recent Christian Post article:

“I eagerly await the young evangelical that finally convinces me that the Bible and human history are wrong on marriage and that justice requires that both Christianity and society bestow marriage on same-sex relationships,” wrote Andrew T. Walker, director of Policy Studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

First, a few clarifications.
1. We (I say “we” because I’m on the advisory board of EME) are not interested in convincing you that the Bible is wrong. We are interested in convincing you that certain interpretations of the Bible are wrong, or at least not the only valid and intelligent options.
2. History – by which, I think, you mean the shared view of most people in the past – has been right on many things and wrong on many things, including many things I’m sure you now believe. Respectfully questioning tradition is part of any living tradition, including our own tradition as Evangelicals.
3. Before we could convince you or anyone that justice requires you or anyone to “bestow” marriage on same-sex relationships, we would need to convince you that a reasonable and open-minded public conversation on the subject should be allowed – in Evangelical and even Southern Baptist settings. Such free and open conversation rarely if ever takes place in Evangelical and Southern Baptist settings. Instead, conclusions are typically pronounced before the conversation begins and people who raise questions and reach differing conclusions are frequently labelled and expelled. For that reason, it would be premature and unwise for EME to try to convince anyone of anything without first helping create space for open, respectful, and reasonable conversation.
So, a more modest and appropriate goal would simply be to convince you that it is good and wise to open up space for intelligent conversation. Here is a simple argument toward that end:
1. Simple quotations from the Bible have been used to justify many things, including Anti-Semitism, colonization, elimination and enslavement of non-Christian or non-European peoples, racism and segregation/apartheid, an earth-centered universe, a young earth, the inappropriateness of rock and roll in church, the subordination of women, and the divine right of kings.
2. Those who quoted the Bible to justify these things claimed that their views were Scriptural or biblical, and their opponents were “unbiblical.” Many still did not change their views when a preponderance of evidence made their views untenable; however, younger generations arose who left those views behind.
3. To continue to resist equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons may or may not be in the same category as those historic mistakes. The possibility of repeating an egregious mistake yet again warrants humble and serious reflection and openness to dialogue, so that if our traditional interpretations are wrong, we can amend them sooner rather than later, without inflicting more harm.
4. For that reason, there should at least be a reasonable dialogue about the issue among Evangelicals – including honest discussion about how the Bible has been used in the past in harmful and misguided ways, and how its current use to disallow homosexual marriage could be similar to those abuses in the past.
5. If such a dialogue is warranted, people should not be silenced, excluded, condemned, or excommunicated simply for opening up this discussion … or for reaching different conclusions, if those conclusions have warrant.
This doesn’t prove that marriage equality is justifiable, but I think it makes a good case that the kind of conversation called for by EME is reasonable. That’s EME’s main point: “It’s time for a new Evangelical conversation about marriage equality.”
By the way, one way or another , conversation is happening. For example, recently at Azusa Pacific University recently, signs like these were posted:
Here’s how one student on campus responded:

You said that because you are a Christian, you follow God’s way and truth, but never through cursing or name calling, just by sharing the Word with us, “sinful homosexuals/homosexual supporters” … but posting this anonymous letter is extremely hurtful…. Regardless of how your letter made us feel, I would love to have a conversation with you in person, and delve into these scriptures you referenced. I am a Biblical Studies major, who considers myself a Christian, and I do not believe I am giving into sinful desires as a queer LGBTQIA friendly Christian, if anything I feel that I have modeled my life after Jesus.
… I know you don’t agree with me, or my friends, but we are reading the book [the Bible] and we are believing in the same God. So let’s get coffee or something, and talk about this. Human to human.

Human to human conversation is what we need, as this college student wisely said. That’s what EME is asking for.