When a small but growing segment of the evangelical church suddenly announces it is pro-gay or neutral on homosexuality, something is happening that needs further evaluation. Even in the midst of a rising social justice generation passionately seeking to do good, this is a huge leap from orthodoxy.
This “movement” in belief is likely connected to another trend. Studies confirm that the number one reason why people change their belief on homosexuality is because they know someone who is gay. Is this what is happening in the theological shifts we are beginning to see in the evangelical church? Maybe so. If so, how does this happen?
There seems to be a “binary” (on/off) switch built into our system designed to protect us physically, emotionally and spiritually. This switch emits impulses – on/off, light/dark, fight/flight, good/bad, red (stop)/green (go), right/wrong and the like. As Christians, we also have a binary switch between “the flesh” and “the spirit.” The Bible and the Holy Spirit become sources through which we navigate spiritual dangers in life. Much of this danger resides within us, by the way.
One of Christianity’s historic (and most dangerous) weaknesses is to flip this switch designed to help us avoid sin to a position where our internal gearings align against people. We switch from having a belief that certain actions are sinful to a position where we operate against those who engage in such actions. We use the natural switch designed to keep us from sin and turn it against people who sin in ways we do not.
Suddenly, we exclude people on the basis of how they sin. “You cannot be a member because you are involved in homosexuality – and worse, you think it is ok.” Yet divorced and remarried folks (who think it is ok) and those involved in pornography (who act like it is ok by the way they repeat it) are included because we are accustomed to an allowance for heterosexual messiness.
Over time, though, our biases get revealed. With the social justice generation now emerging, a new crop of believers and church leaders see the injustice of our blind spots against LGBT+ people. What will these church leaders do to right our longstanding wrongs?
In our binary minds, the only alternative is to flip the switch into the OFF position. The experience works something like this: “We have totally left people feeling judged. We excluded gay people from the church. We did not notice when gay teens died of suicide due to long-term bullying in schools where we fought against anti-bullying programs. We did not even go stand with the gay community when Fred Phelps came to town. We actually fought against their access to health care. We have not respected gay people nor reflected Christ’s heart for them. Something has to change.”
Whoa. There is a lot of energy tied into the heart that seeks to bring justice to this situation. Trust me, I feel it inside me – it is the very reason why I left the corporate world to start this ministry. So to those evangelicals who are becoming neutral or pro-gay, I do not condemn you one bit. In fact, I celebrate this one thing: that we both share an intense passion to do the right thing; to get the Gospel right.
My caution is simply this: we do a disservice to the Gospel if the only way we know how to accept people is to change our beliefs. I find it unhealthy that we have historically treated those with different beliefs very poorly. I find it equally concerning that beliefs have to become neutral or switch entirely before we can get the Gospel right and bring justice to our wrongs.
My point is this: if blind spots existed when the binary switch was turned to intolerance, it is equally probable that there will be blind spots when we operate in the new tolerance called neutrality. I believe that a more authentic and powerful expression of the Gospel involves us radically loving, caring for, including, involving, listening to, understanding and walking over the long haul with those who believe differently on this matter. Is that not what Jesus did? Is that not what He does for all of us?
To more traditional or conservative evangelicals, we need to ask ourselves this question: are we without sin? No? Yet Jesus is still walking with us? Will he only do that for us? Will he NOT do it for those who sin in ways we do not?
We have engaged gay people with a huge “red light” for too many years. I don’t think that a “green light” has to turn acceptance into approval – or theological uncertainty. I am attempting to present an alternative to both of these options. Thanks for listening.
In my next post, I will summarize a list of implications that arise from the theological shifts that are emerging within segments of the evangelical church today. Please join me and contribute your thoughts. Just a reminder: please refrain from naming, criticizing or trashing others. This conversation will be much more productive if we prove that differences can be handled within a spirit of peace.
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