No, Christians. There is no ‘Third Way’ on Homosexuality

homosexuality-sin


 

One of the very first references the Bible makes to LGBT people is a command to execute gay men.

“If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.”  (Leviticus 20:13 NAB).

After this passage, no one who sincerely believes that gay people shouldn’t be murdered should be putting any moral stock in what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.

But that’s not the world we live in, and so this article is necessary.

The Bible’s other admonishments against LGBT people are likewise detestable. In Leviticus 18:22 they are called abominations. Romans 1 calls them unnatural. 1 Timothy 1 claims that they cannot inherit eternal life.

Fortunately, the Bible is wrong. As sure as it was wrong about a geocentric earth, slavery, genocide, child abuse, the role of women in society, the creation mythos, and a hundred other things, the Bible is wrong about homosexuality. LGBT people are not abominations, nor do they choose to be ‘unnatural.’ Sexual orientation is an immutable part of a human being, like race, eye colour, artistic or intellectual talent, etc. Whether or not sexual orientation is defined by genes, prenatal conditions, or other factors, scientific advancement has made it blindingly obvious that sexual orientation is a natural spectrum, ranging in heterosexuality as the most common but including bisexuality and homosexuality as alternative traits.

The Christian prejudice against the LGBT community should have been dropped around the same time they discovered that black people are not cursed by their god and that owning and selling them like chattel isn’t moral, despite the Bible’s contrary commands on the subject. There are a hundred different Christian ways to defend or dismiss the passages in the Bible that allow for the owning of human beings, but it still stands that very few Christians today believe that slavery is a morally acceptable practise in the modern world. These verses are easily dismissed. So are the New Testament verses that call long hair on a man detestable and call for women to keep their heads covered. When a verse clearly affects the powers that be in Christianity, it is excused and dismissed. When they target a vulnerable minority like LGBT people, however,,,well skip back to history.

I addressed American Christianity’s crusade against LGBT people in my previous article written on the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder, but they are points that bear repeating. Ever since the word ‘homosexual’ was first used in the English language in 1891, ever since a better understanding of what orientation is, ever since the APA removed homosexuality from its list of psychological disorders in 1973, Christians have fought tooth and nail to prevent LGBT people from being treated like human beings.

Christian groups were behind the Briggs initiative that strove to ban LGBT people from being public school teachers.

They have opposed every measure for marriage equality that has ever come up. (And before SSM, they equally opposed interracial marriage).

They have opposed every measure to ensure that LGBT people are not discriminated against in the public and business quarters.

They opposed the repeal of DADT and supported stripping gay men and women of their careers and service on account of their partners and families. More servicemen and women were discharged under DADT than were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

They campaigned for the draconian laws abroad in places like Uganda that have mandated the death penalty and life imprisonment for LGBT people.

They have opposed programmes in public schools meant to assist at-risk LGBT youth.

They have spread lies about links between homosexuality and pedophilia.

They have told their Christian followers to treat LGBT people with disgust and a gag reflex.

They have used every slanderous term, slur, and description when addressing LGBT people in the public forum.

So why, why, why do people still give a rat’s shit about the Christian view of homosexuality? The majority of Christians still see LGBT people as sexual deviants who will burn eternally for their sins. A minority believes that churches should be inclusive and actively campaign to draw LGBT people back. But the lack of LGBT interest in religion shows that the majority of the community wishes that Christians would just, for once in history, leave them alone. Stop ministering to them, discriminating against them, pandering to them, discussing them, debating them and just leave them be to live their lives in peace.

But Christianity can never let go of its abuse of minorities without a fight. Which brings us to ‘The Third Way.’

Marriage equality is marching across the land. Gay people have the right to serve their country in dignity and honour. In the past decade, the LGBT community has lived openly and freely for the first time in history. Acceptance of bigotry against LGBT people is no longer the norm. And those Christians who desperately want to cling to their prejudices and moral superiority have been forced to repackage anti-LGBT animosity in a new and shiny package, wrapped in ‘compassion’ and ‘love.’ They call it ‘the Third Way.’

Christian articles on ‘the Third Way can be found here, here, and here. In essence, the Third Way states that a Christian can show love and compassion to an LGBT person and support their human dignity while still personally opposing homosexuality and same sex marriage as God-pleasing. More importantly, the Third Way teaches that LGBT people, Christians who are LGBT affirming, and those who are still prejudiced against LGBT people, can come together under the great banner of Christianity and not let their disagreements affect their fellowship. The Third Way claims that homosexuality or prejudice against it is not a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and therefore fellowship can exist in tension.

Sorry, I just vomited in my mouth a little as I wrote that.

I’m going to spell this out very clearly. The Third Way is not compassion, or compromise, or fellowship, or love. It’s spiritual abuse.

Several definitions of spiritual abuse are listed here. I’m using Ronald Enroth’s definition as stated here:

“Spiritual abuse takes place when leaders to whom people look for guidance and spiritual nurture use their positions of authority to manipulate, control, and dominate.”

When you tell LGBT people that they are disordered, damaged, or spiritually unpleasing because of an intrinsic part of their humanity, because of the gender of the individual they fall in love with, or because of the family they raise, that is spiritual abuse.

When you pressure or shame someone into celibacy, it’s spiritual abuse.

When you disguise these actions as piety, love, or spiritual compassion, it’s spiritual abuse.

When you tell someone that condemning their orientation, partner or family is loving because living in sin results in damnation, it’s spiritual abuse. Saying ‘I abuse you because I love you and something worse will happen if I don’t abuse you, so don’t complain about being abused,’ is spiritual abuse.

And trying to bridge the gap between abusers and victims is enabling spiritual abuse.

The Third Way is how Christian writers like Jen Hatmaker can publish a 2,000 word article about how much she loves and emphasises with and cares for LGBT people and still say “I want you to know that I land on the side of traditional marriage as God’s first and clear design. I believe God’s original creation is how we were crafted to thrive: in marriage, in family, and in community, which has borne out for millennia in Scripture, interpretation, practice, and society.” You see, Ms. Hatmaker’s family is a blessing from God and a joy in her life because she’s straight. LGBT people’s marriages and families are contrary to God’s will and therefore to be condemned. But she loves them.

This type of love is worth nothing. This is spiritual abuse.

It’s how Zach Hoag can write about how Vicky Beeching’s parents condemn her sexual orientation and say “This is what I mean when I talk about a third way….The mutual acceptance and love among affirming and non-affirming Christians, which really lays the much heavier burden of change upon the non-affirming side of that equation.”

This is enabling spiritual abuse.

And I’m calling it out.

My blog turned a year old a few days ago. Over the past year, I’ve developed friendly acquaintanceships and even friendships with (primarily progressive) Christian bloggers. I didn’t think it possible considering my past experiences with extremist Christianity. But that’s not going to stop me from calling out abusive ideas and teachings.

Progressive Christians, your attempts to find a third way between affirming and non-affirming Christians disgust me just as much as the bigotry of your conservative brothers in Christ.

In many ways, it disgusts me even more because its wrapped in an insidious package being touted as ‘love.’ It disgusts me because once again you have allowed concern for your theology and the fellowship of your religious sects to get in the way of your basic human dignity.

I am disgusted by how Christians like Jen Hatmaker and others like her so casually cause grief and pain to a community that just wants to find happiness in their lives and families. I am disgusted by the pious compassion they wrap this abuse in.

And I am beyond disgusted by Christians who try to bridge the gap between abused and abusers for the sake of unity and fellowship and at the continued cost of spiritual abuse.

You’ve had 2,000 years to get your religion right. There is no excuse anymore.

You either condemn abuse, condemn those who teach spiritual abuse whether in a spirit of Christian love or otherwise, or you stand by and let more people endure the pain of your prejudices. And then you wonder why people flee your sanctuaries in droves.

Christians, you boast of your love towards your LGBT brothers and sisters. Now, defend them.

Image from http://www.joy105.com

No, You Don’t Have To Forgive Mark Driscoll

Mark-DriscollI first encountered Mark Driscoll in November of 2010 when he took a trip to preach in Belfast in Northern Ireland. Back then, he was just another American Evangelical hipster preacher who sported faux-hawks and muscle tees while preaching about how Jesus is totally a bro’s bro. I was vaguely amused by his Facebook pictures celebrating his ‘Irish heritage’ along with pictures of Oliver Cromwell quotes about crushing the Catholic Church. He left, Ireland went on, and so did I.

But once I became aware of Driscoll’s existence, I began noticing his name popping up everywhere. Driscoll is the ‘controversial’ head pastor of Mars Hill Church, a megachurch franchise based in Seattle WA. Known for his hyper-masculine, misogynistic homophobic diatribes, Driscoll is either the modern  salvation of American Christianity, or the physical embodiment of all that is wrong with the modern Christian Church, depending on whom you ask. Driscoll has created waves through his mocking of ‘effeminate pastors,‘ claiming Ted Haggard had a gay affair because his wife let herself get too fat and ugly, constantly mocking and diminishing femininity and women, and attacking everything from Episcopalians to yoga.

I really haven’t ever had the desire to do a post criticising Mark Driscoll. I have no stake in this fight besides enjoying how his efforts drag Christianity’s name through the mud and occasionally expressing my disgust on Twitter. I prefer to let his Christian brothers and sisters hold him accountable for his words, and many of them do. Most prominently is the blog “We Love Mars Hill,” which chronicles stories from people who were spiritually abused by Driscoll and his fellow clergyman.

Recently, Driscoll has been at the center of the long, slow collapse of the Mars Hill Empire. He was caught plagiarising portions of his best selling books. In addition, it was revealed that he used church funds to self-boost his books to the top of the bestseller lists. Driscoll has responded with apologies and withdrawn from social media. He has also issued apologies for the tone he took in his ‘young, angry prophet days,’ although he has never issued apologies for the actual homophobic, misogynistic content.

Most recently, Matthew Paul Turner has publicised a series of internet forum diatribes that Driscoll wrote under the pseudonym ‘William Wallace II’ at the age of 31. In more than 140 pages he calls America a ‘pussified nation,’ calls gay people ‘damn freaks,’ tells women that he won’t listen or respond to them because they are women, and goes on to tell them to leave their husbands if they’re not masculine enough.

Driscoll has again issued an apology for the tone of his diatribes, if not the content. Once again, this does not affect me as I have no stake in this fight beyond sympathy for those who have suffered abuse at Driscoll’s hands.

But now, with the background information about Driscoll out of the way, I want to focus and comment on the response to Driscoll’s apology from various Christian writers who would identify themselves as ‘progressive.’ The responses have been varied, but you’ll see a common theme running through out.

Jonathan Merritt says that Christians should accept Driscoll’s apology and forgive him, noting that Jesus’ command to forgive one’s enemy isn’t optional. He says, “This means that there must be grace for the abused and the abuser, for the oppressed and the oppressor, for Mark Driscoll and for all those he has hurt. If we Christians have now arrived at a point where grace has run dry or is only available to some, let us abandon this whole Jesus way and join those who have no hope.”

Rachel Held Evans emphasises that forgiveness is crucial, but writes that forgiveness does not mean allowing an abuser to continue his abuse or negate the consequences of his actions. She says, “Christians are indeed called to forgive, even when it is costly and undeserved, and Christians are indeed called to work toward healing and reconciliation even when it is hard,” but also, “These teachings should never be invoked to protect abusers, shame survivors, or coerce reconciliation.”

Ben Corey calls for Driscoll’s resignation, while Elizabeth Esther cautions against doing just that, saying it may not help people who are trapped in an abusive environment that is not the product solely of one man’s efforts.

Through many the responses, but most prominently Merritt’s, the theme of forgiveness is emphasised. Christians are called to forgive one another as Christ forgave them. And even if Driscoll’s apology isn’t sincere, the forgiveness of Christians must be, because Jesus commanded it.

So, for any Christians who are reading this, especially those who have been abused themselves, I’m going to tell you something completely different.

This. Is. Wrong.

I have nothing against forgiveness. I have everything against teaching that forgiveness is something that should or must be done.

If Christian forgiveness is something that is mandated, something that is not optional rather than being a free and open gift, then it is not something worth giving or having.

Forgiveness is an intimate part of yourself. It is not something that is given lightly, only freely. Your abuser does not have a right to your forgiveness. No one has the right to demand that you give up part of yourself and give it to your abuser. It does not matter whether the abuser is going to be held accountable anyway, whether you see him or her again or not. Nothing matters except that forgiveness is your choice, and yours alone.

And you don’t have to give it if you don’t want to.

I get that Merritt and RHE and the rest emphasise forgiveness in order to help victims heal, because for many people it genuinely does. I understand that the motives behind this sort of talking are nothing but good, and do not suggest that Driscoll and people like him should not be held accountable for their actions. I get it. I want to get behind it, I really do. But I can’t because for so many people it’s not helpful. It’s damaging.

Christians often say that they are ‘called to forgive others.’ It does not matter if an individual has the desire or ability to forgive their abuser, they remain ‘called’ to try anyway. Well, I could call every Christian to train as an elite gymnast. And guess what? Some of them are going to make it. And then they’re going to tell everyone how liberating and amazing their success was. But for all those who succeed, there are going to be those who fail. Those for whom their ‘calling’ was nothing but a waste of energy and the source of a lot of pain. Those who wonder what’s wrong with them, that others could do it and not them, oblivious to the truth that not everyone is capable of training to be an elite gymanst.

And in the same way, not everyone is capable of forgiveness. And compelling or calling these people to do so, to try, to give it the best effort, isn’t going to help them release their pain or find peace. Its only going to continue the spiritual abuse, and hurt them even more.

Throughout my life, I have been the survivor of spiritual, physical, sexual, and religious abuse. I do not forgive my abusers. I never will. They don’t deserve to have that part of me. I refuse to entertain them by making an effort towards ‘forgiveness.’ This does not mean that I am controlled by my anger or resentment. This does not mean that my anger and resentment are somehow ‘sins.’ It does not mean I don’t have peace.

When my anger surfaces, I can choose whether to use it or release it. I can find peace and meaning and hope, but more importantly I can maintain my dignity by refusing to give more to the people who took so much from me.

Some people have the ability to forgive their abusers. And some people have the ability to become elite gymnasts. I have nothing but admiration for these people.

But Christians and everyone else, you do not need to feel ‘called’ to give a part of yourself you cannot or do not desire to give. No one has the right to demand it. Not Jonathan Merritt. Not your pastor. Not your saviour, and not your god.

It is your choice.

Embrace the choice, even if you do not embrace forgiveness.

And be free.