Dear tired Christian, from an "offended" Christian

Submitted by The Inner Room on Thu, 08/11/2016 - 10:13

Note: this is much longer than the usual blog post. Also, keep in mind it was originally written as a response to a non-Christian friend. Finally, it's being published quite a bit later than the post it's responding to, but I still think it's worth putting out there.

This is a response to this blog post, which an atheist friend posted on Facebook, saying he appreciates Christians who understand and believe what their religion teaches. (This, despite being admittedly ignorant of the Bible).

I normally wouldn’t bother to interact with something like this, especially since the guy doesn’t really say anything substantive, or provide any information to back up what he says. It’s just a string of vague, emotive statements, written in an extremely condescending tone. However, I got into a discussion about it on Facebook, and my friend asked me to elaborate why I disagreed.

This is not likely to convince anyone who doesn’t share a Christian worldview, but I hope that at least they’ll be clearer about what they’re disagreeing with.

That said, here goes. Quotes from the article, with my responses:

I’m tired of hearing you telling gay people that they can’t simultaneously be both gay and Christian.

If the author was saying that it’s wrong to say that one can’t be a Christian and experience same-sex attraction, he’d be right. However, he’s apparently criticizing people who say that one can’t simultaneously engage in homosexual sexual relationships, and be a Christian.

However, the Bible itself tells us one can’t simultaneously be actively practising homosexuality, and be a Christian (as the Bible defines it).

The apostle Paul writes:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

The term translated here “men who practice homosexuality” is two words in the Greek, one which refers to the active and the other to the passive partner in a male homosexual encounter. (Lesbianism is addressed in Romans 1:26). By saying “such were some of you. But you were washed....” etc, Paul is clearly contrasting these types of “before” behaviour with people’s new lives after meeting Jesus. Note that Paul addresses several types of sinful behaviour here, not just homosexuality.

The Bible contains several passages about homosexuality, all of which are negative. Homosexual activity incurred the death penalty under Old Testament law.

However, far deeper than this is the Bible’s broad, consistent witness to the design of God being male and female in complementary relationship. In the beginning, God created man and woman in his image, brought them together, and blessed them to be fruitful and multiply. We’re told in the New Testament that marriage between a man and a woman reflects Jesus’ love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Every single example of romantic relationships in the Bible is between a man and a woman. Homosexuality is without exception treated as a diversion from this norm, which brings God’s judgement (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah).

We don’t need the Bible to see that nature itself demonstrates this. Biologically obvious is the complementarity of male and female anatomy, and the fact that their union creates life. This pattern is seen all across the animal kingdom, and even in plants.

Of course, someone who does not believe that nature reflects the good, creative design of God will reject this argument. If you don’t believe that we, and our world, are the product of a Creator who has a specific purpose for how he made us, and will hold us accountable for what we do with our bodies, why does it matter what body parts we stick where? One thing that can’t be done, however, is support this kind of argument from the Bible.

I’m tired of having to explain what “Transgender” means to adult Christian people, who I’m quite sure have Internet access and should know better by now that it ain’t “a guy in a dress”.

We’re totally in agreement that it’s wrong for someone to display hateful, mocking attitudes toward transgender people, or to dismiss them without trying to lovingly understand them.

However, he’s doing the same thing by painting everyone who disagrees with transgenderism with a broad and negative brush. He’s creating a straw man by positing that Christians who oppose transgenderism do so because they are ignorant about it. It’s a pretty condescending attitude to those who hold the belief that there are two God-created genders, and that a person who exhibits distress at his or her natural biological gender and wishes to change it by drastic measures like surgery and hormones which can cause serious side effects and render them sterile, and result in a suicide rate post-op 20 times higher than the rest of the population, is exhibiting signs of psychological issues which would far better be addressed in order to help them toward acceptance of their natural state.

Even those who believe in science ought to be able to see the absurdity of this tack. We’re told on one hand that biology means nothing, but on the other, that a person exhibiting this disorientation needs to strive to emulate as closely as possible the biology of the opposite sex in order to feel “normal”. True transgenderism is, of course, impossible—no one is actually changing their sex.

Lest someone accuse me of “hating” transgender people (the go-to accusation), I engaged in an outreach to street sex workers for 3 years, including transsexual prostitutes. I had the privilege of being invited to the apartment which two of them shared, a few times. This by no means makes me an expert, and I don’t say it to toot my own horn, simply to try to demonstrate that one can love people, without agreeing. I think that should be obvious, but unfortunately, it seems it’s not.

I’m tired of arrogant pulpit bullies who believe they’re entitled to tell people where they can pee and who they can marry and whether they really love Jesus or not.

Another broad brush and straw man. Suddenly, pastors who believe there are eternal consequences to what people do and believe, and teach accordingly, are “arrogant pulpit bullies”.

I’m sure such pastors exist. But holding the ancient Christian belief that distinct male and female genders and heterosexual marriage are God’s design, and teaching it, doesn’t make someone one.

I’m tired of you being more outraged by red coffee cups and department store restrooms than by poverty and racism and gun violence and our crumbling school system.

I’m mostly in agreement, with the caveat that no. Christian. I know. Or even heard of. Cared about Starbucks red cups.

Should Christians care more about issues like poverty and racism and gun violence and crumbling school systems? Absolutely! There are certainly Christians who get outraged about certain things, but don’t care about others. That’s wrong. There are also an awful lot of Christians out there faithfully working to make a difference in these areas, who don’t get press.

But does that mean Christians can’t or shouldn’t also care about things as important as gender issues? Does that mean that Christians concerned about gender issues don’t care about the other issues? No! Again, a false dichotomy.

Let’s be clear, the reason Christians are talking so much about transgenderism is that the entire culture is talking about it. Transgender people make up by best estimate 0.3% of the population, but we are suddenly bombarded by news stories and TV shows and movies about it. Laws are being passed all over to stop supposed “discrimination”. It’s a current issue, and people are going to have to accept that some will have opinions about it that don’t bow down to the cultural mandate that we unquestioningly accept it as normal and right. If secular people are accusing Christians of being obsessed with transgenderism, perhaps they ought to take a look in the mirror.

I’m tired of gay people being accused of the kind of predatory behavior that straight men have been exhibiting, since the man cave was—an actual cave.

I’m not sure what he’s referring to here, but my best guess is it might be people’s objection to homosexuality on the grounds that gay people may be more likely to molest children? Or the prevalence of multiple sexual partners, short-lived relationships, and STDs in the homosexual population?

In any case, “he did it too” as a moral argument hasn’t ever held weight with any parent, and it doesn’t hold weight here. If he’s saying that Christians should shine the light on heterosexual sin as much as homosexual, he’s correct. But he hasn’t dealt with the very real morality issues brought up by homosexuality as opposed to a Biblical sexual ethic, which are not limited to it occurring between persons of the same gender. The faithful, life-long covenant between one man and one woman that God envisioned is a far cry from the unrestrained giving in to the most degraded passions of the flesh with multiple partners that is very often the case with homosexuality. This is something that “Christian” defenders of homosexuality rarely address.

It brings up all sorts of problems. Do homosexual people have to repent in order to be saved? If so, do they have to repent of homosexuality? If not, can they continue in unrestrained sexual activity and be heaven-bound followers of Jesus? If so, can heterosexual people do the same? Any attempt at constructing a coherent Biblical sexual ethic which denies the sinfulness of homosexuality quickly collapses like a house of cards.

I’m tired of reminding you that the number of times Jesus spoke about gender identity and sexual orientation in the Gospels—is zero.

Things that Jesus didn’t speak about (directly) in the Gospels also include rape, child sexual abuse, bestiality, and polygamy. I could come up with a lot more if I took the time.

What Jesus did do, however, is affirm God’s original creation design of man and woman. The Pharisees were trying to test him by asking him whether it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for any reason.

He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)

Jesus was a devout first-century Jew living under Old Testament law. For him, as well as for the Jewish people to whom he ministered, there would have been no questions about whether homosexual activity was prohibited. The Law clearly stated so.

Jesus said on another occasion:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

Jesus constantly said that he only spoke and did what God, his Father, told him to. His entire life was one of obedience and submission to the Father. Contravening something God clearly said is so foreign to the life and mission of Jesus, it’s amazing that people supporting homosexuality dare to use it as an argument. It’s not just an argument from silence, it’s an insidious distortion of all we know about Jesus.

While Jesus didn’t directly address homosexuality, the apostle Paul, who was appointed by Jesus as the apostle to the Gentiles, and wrote most of the New Testament, did. Paul travelled and preached in the Greek and Roman world, where homosexuality existed. Paul names it as sin at least three times in his epistles, most clearly in Romans 1:18-32. At the same time, he holds out the glorious hope that every person who repents and believes in Jesus will be forgiven and made new, homosexuals included.

I’m tired of having to explain to people that although I am a Christian, that I’m not that type of Christian; the kind that is generous with damnation and stingy with Grace.

Another false dichotomy. According to this, Christians can either believe in God’s damnation, or God’s grace. However, the reason the gospel is such good news is that both are true. We are simultaneously all sinners destined for eternal damnation under the just wrath of God, and all offered God’s amazing, totally undeserved, incredible grace that, when we repent and receive it, showers us with forgiveness, love, restoration, adoption into his family, eternal life, and a host of other blessings.

The Bible has stern words for those attempting to twist God’s grace into a license to keep on sinning. Rather, it tells us that God’s grace working in a person’s life causes us to abandon sin and live lives of holiness:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

I’m tired of LGBTQ teens cutting their forearms and jumping off buildings because they’re told by their church friends that God hates them, because their Christian parents told them, because their Christian pastors told them.

I’m trying to extend the benefit of the doubt, but this goes beyond. NO “Christian” church, pastor, or parent that I have ever heard of (except Westboro Baptist Church, but basically nobody but themselves would call them Christian) would tell a gay teenager that God “hated” them.

I tried in vain to find any statistics on this. The best I could find were some articles about a rash of youth suicides in the Mormon church following an anti-gay ruling.

I have personally never known or even heard of a gay teen from a Christian church self-harming or committing suicide. That certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but to even begin to address this there’d have to be some proof it was a widespread problem, AND that the church’s teaching was somehow responsible for it. It is true that the suicide rate among LGBTQ youth generally is higher than the rest of the population.

Again, this is a straw man. Nobody could fail to agree that telling a gay teenager that God hates them is wrong. Nobody could disagree that self-harm and suicide are tragic. But he’s trying to create an emotional “trump card” that nobody can refute. Suicide is evil and tragic! Some gay teens who go to church commit suicide! Therefore the church’s teachings on homosexuality are wrong! I could go into depth on the problems with this argument, though I think they’re fairly obvious.

It is, unfortunately, true that in the past many churches have not dealt with this issue well. But in the church circles I move in at least, the pendulum has swung the other way. Churches are becoming more aware of these issues, and more equipped to deal with them. There’s been an explosion of books, articles, and sermons on the topic in recent years.

No doubt there are churches out there that are still insensitive, and that’s a shame. But the Biblical answer is not to swing to the other extreme and tell people that their sin is ok. Again, if the Bible says it’s not, and people’s eternal destiny is in the balance, it’s not “loving” to tell them otherwise.

The church’s call to same-sex attracted Christians to remain celibate or to marry someone of the opposite sex is difficult. Jesus promised difficulty to anyone who would follow him. He commanded us to take up our cross and follow him. What that looks like will be different for each person, but it is not unique to the same-sex attracted Christian. What the church should be is a family that provides much-needed support, love, and healthy relationships for single Christians, whether same- or opposite-sex attracted.

I’m tired of followers of Jesus who don’t seem interested in cracking open a book to see what we’ve learned about the brain and the body in 2,000 years, or to realize that gender identity and sexual orientation don’t equal the word “homosexuality” in the Bible.

Having read other literature in this same vein, what I think he means is that we now have scientific and other understanding that somehow trumps what we read in the Bible, that God or the writers of the Bible couldn’t possibly have known in their unenlightened times. They try to argue that sexual orientation as we understand it today is somehow different than what the Bible says about homosexual acts, and therefore its prohibitions don’t apply.

There are people who’ve written far better and more knowledgeably than I on this, but I’ll content myself with saying: for a Christian, the Bible is our authority. I don’t need a book to tell me what to think about something the Bible has spoken clearly on.

Human beings haven’t changed in 2000 years. God’s design for humanity and sexuality goes back much further than that, to creation itself. His knowledge of what is best for us, and his authority to tell us what that is and isn’t, haven’t changed. What also hasn’t changed is that Satan, and people who follow him, will endlessly twist God’s word into “it doesn’t really mean” and “did God really say?” and “but God didn’t know x”. That’s not at all new, though some of the arguments may be new.

Plus, this assumes a scientific certainty that simply doesn’t exist. Despite its best efforts, science hasn’t proven a genetic basis for homosexuality or transgenderism. Psychology no longer defines them as disorders, but this is a result of changing societal attitudes, not new scientific information.

I’m tired of all the time I have to spend undoing the damage the Church has done to queer kids and their families.

Impossible to address without more detail. Another response post replies to this point from a background of experience that I don't have.

Some stuff I don’t feel a need to address specifically...

I’m tired of high-profile pastors blaming gay people for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and ISIS and child obesity.

Again, no citations. Without actual quotes and context, it’s impossible to know if he’s quoting accurately. However, assuming he is, “high-profile pastors” (I assume he means TV pastors, whom most Christians know better than to pay attention to) can and have said all manner of dumb things. Picking the worst of quotes from certain people and pretending they are representative of a whole group is intellectually dishonest at best.

I’m tired of waiting for you to show up in this world and actually show the freakin’ love of Jesus to people the way he did and told you to, without excuses or caveats or theological tap dancing to avoid it.

The “love of Jesus” included preaching and teaching more about hell than about heaven. It included a call to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:17), and a specific call over and over to particular people, even people he showed great compassion to, including the woman caught in adultery whom he stopped from being stoned: “Go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

The love of Jesus, despite popular misconception, did not mean just being nice to people and telling them they were ok. The great good news of Jesus is forgiveness. But that forgiveness hinges on abandoning sin to follow him. Jesus does not rescue us from the mess of our sin, caused by living in alienation from God and rebellion against his laws, only to leave us in that mess. He calls us to a new life, to fellowship with him and with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which we live in by keeping his commandments (John 14:15ff).

If hell is real, sin is damning, and God is a righteous Judge, then absolutely the most loving thing we can do for people is share the message of Jesus and call them to repentance and salvation. This doesn’t, or shouldn’t, preclude loving them in other ways. Merely shouting the gospel at people while refusing to relate to or care for them rightly deserves the charge of hypocrisy.

I’m tired of this wasteful, fruitless, mean-spirited, unprovoked, unbiblical attack on the LGBTQ community, that is squandering so much time and life and beauty in the name of a God who is supposedly Love.

I have no idea what this “attack” he is talking about means, unless he means holding to the traditional biblical teaching that homosexual acts are sin. Simply remaining faithful to Biblical teaching instead of shifting opinions along with the culture is now considered an "attack".

I’m tired of so many people believing that “Christian” and “bigot” are synonymous—and not disagreeing with them.

Christians are always going to be viewed as bigots by an increasingly permissive society in which the only sin is telling someone they are sinning. If we are actually being bigots, that’s a different story. It’s easy to fall into the trap of demonizing and dehumanizing “the other side”. But holding a different moral stance does not make one a bigot.

I’m tired of a Church which seems to be so ambivalent toward the teachings and example of Jesus.

We are? Really not even sure what to say about that...

I’m tired of a Christianity that is making me more and more embarrassed to be associated with it.

He needn’t worry. He’s rapidly distancing himself from traditional, biblical Christianity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if soon he stops claiming any Christian faith whatsoever. He might be happy to know that most Christians who hold to traditional biblical teaching wouldn’t recognize him as being one of their number, anyway.

But listen, if you’re going to tell a group of people that they’re going to Hell simply for existing, and you’re going to continually target those people through the Church and the Law and your social media accounts, don’t get angry with me when I tell you you’re being hateful and judgmental and ignorant.

The Christian message is not, and never has been, that people go to Hell simply for existing. It’s that people, while knowing the existence and power of God the Creator, and knowing his righteous judgements, wilfully turn their backs on him, worship the creation rather than the Creator, and engage in acts he has forbidden while approving of those who do the same (Romans 1:18-32). This includes ALL of us, homosexual or heterosexual. And the unequivocal biblical call is to repentance, acceptance of the gospel, and re-orientation of our life toward obedience and worship of God.

By this guy’s standards, Jesus and the Apostle Paul would have been condemned as “hateful and judgemental and ignorant” for calling out particular sins and telling people they were going to hell if they didn’t repent.

It could be worse.
At least I’m not damning you for all eternity.

Well, how very reassuring. I’m so thankful this random guy I don’t know on the internet is so much better than I am that he’s not damning me to hell for my bigotedness. How very kind and open-minded of him.

He, in turn, may be reassured that I’m not one bit concerned about his opinion of whether or not I’m going to hell. I am, however, very concerned about God’s opinion of that, because he’s the Judge. And because of that, I’m going to continue to seek to faithfully believe and teach what the Bible actually says, until my dying day, and against whatever opposition may come from an increasingly secular society, and even some segments of the church.

Add new comment