God's Word for today

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Is the Church being hypocritical about sexual ethics?

Further to my previous post, I received an interesting article with the above title, written by one David Fitch and posted on the Christianity Today blog. I have reproduced selected paragraphs in this post, but those who wish to read the full text, as well as the many comments that have been posted thereunder, may click here.

I found it interesting, not so much in what it says about same-sex relationships, but what it says about our witness as a Church and our understanding of our sexuality within a Christian context.

The writer of the post views it as ironic that a scantily-clad swimsuit model who parades herself around in a "minuscule bikini" can make statements concerning same-sex relationships. To quote: "By saying what she said about gay unions moments after the swimsuit competition, Ms. California was basically telling the world, 'We do the same things, but for gay people it’s sin. Lust is good, objectifying my body is normal, the fulfillment of all desire is good.' Then, on the other hand, she says to the gay and lesbian world, 'But you can’t do any of this, because you’re different'."

I've probably mentioned before that, if as Christians we are meant to be "God's army", we have an amazing ability to go in after the war is over and bayonet all the wounded. Somehow we've got our role completely back-to-front. We take great delight - considering it our responsibility, even - in telling people how sinful they are.

But my understandng of Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus paints a different picture. Contrary to what many would like to believe, Jesus did NOT go up to Zacchaeus and wag His finger in Zacchaeus' face, telling him what a rotten sinner he was. Instead, Jesus was more concerned with Zacchaeus as a person. And I don't believe that when Jesus and Zacchaeus were having tea (or whatever the appropriate social libation may have been at the time), Jesus would have been tearing into Zacchaeus, either. He would have been instead establishing a relationship with Zacchaeus as a person, one who is precious in God's sight. And it was probably in the face of Jesus' overwhelming love and compassion that Zacchaeus, out of an inner conviction of the Holy Spirit, came out and confessed: "I've done wrong. I've cheated people. I want to make right. I NEED to make right!"

Somehow, by pointing fingers at the gay community, who - let's be honest - make up between 5 and 10% of the total population (depending on which statistics you are using), we divert attention away from the sexual brokenness that the 90 - 95% of us so-called "straight" people seem unable - or unwilling - to deal with.

The writer contends that "[t]he broader evangelical church of my heritage has, generally speaking, not been capable of speaking (any kind of) truth into the sexual lives of anyone — nevermind the gay / lesbian community. We have been hitherto incapable (theologically) of embodying the sexual redemption made possible in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And until we get our own communities to line up with the sexual redemption in Christ, to the gay community we look like empty, judgmental, duplicitous fools who see everyone else as thieves stealing away our enjoyment."

"We need to ask what kind of people we should be in order to welcome gay and lesbian people into the redemptive and healing salvation of God in Christ for sexuality. In my opinion, most evangelicals date and marry much like the rest of society, where an unexamined sexualized attraction is a guiding factor. We teach that lust before marriage is bad, yet lust after marriage is good (implicitly). In our practice of salvation, there is no formation of desire to be integrated and developed into a narrative of self-giving love and commitment to mutuality, self giving and procreation over time in marriage. Without a communal witness of love and redemptive sexual healing, our words are empty. And so we protest same-sex marriage or institute some kind of legislative action. In so doing we reveal our fear for our children and our insecurity in our own sexual formation practices within our church communities."

It's interesting to note that the writer does NOT consider gay / lesbian sexual practices to be normative for the Christian Church. Yet his post reflects a refreshingly honest and balanced approach, not only to same-sex sexuality, but sexuality as a whole.

Somehow in the whole same-sex "debate", one gets the impression that one can only be either "fully affirming" (the term often used for those who advocate full recognition of same-sex relationships within the Church, including marriage), or "fully-excluding" (i.e. wishing to have nothing to do with those who even hint at being homosexual, considering the whole thing - even discussion thereof - as an abomination). It seems that any attempt to discuss or engage with the subject elicits reactions of "he wants to marry gays in our Church" and "he's going against the Bible" from the one camp, and "he's a homophobe" and "he's going against the Bible" from the other.

I believe that if we sincerely want to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, then we need to love one another, just as He loves us. We love to sing the song "A New Commandment" in our churches, but they are just words - we don't really live it out, and especially when it comes to the same-sex issue.

And let us be constantly reminded that we are not dealing with an "issue", or a "debate" - we are dealing with PEOPLE!

Like the writer, I honestly believe that if we are to gain a true Christian understanding of our God-created sexuality, we need to "become the kind of community that:
a.) does not indulge hyper-romanticist notions of sexuality that objectifies sexual attraction as the basis of heterosexual marriage,
b.) quits disembodying sexuality in the way we do whenever we make the Bible into moral propositions that should be enforced, instead of a narrative world to be shaped and directed towards so as to live into.
c.) worships in a way that orders desires towards God and away from narcissism (feel-good pep-rallies), for any other kind of worship cannot train us out of our narcissistic obsessions with sex.
d.) stops acting like heterosexual marriage and sex itself are absolutely essential for a fulfilling Christian life. We should elevate celibacy / singleness as a vocation, testifying that sexual drive and all desire needs to be sub-ordered to God’s purpose and mission for anything remotely fulfilling to take place in our lives.
e.) loves and nurtures the hurting souls and bruised lost ones who seriously desire to be shown another way but are too consumed at this moment to see anything else."

If we gave a fraction of our time that we spend debating same-sex relationships, to earnestly engaging with issues such as pregnancy out of wedlock, abortion, sexual abuse (both within and outside of marriages), and the general lax attitude of "anything goes" concerning sexual matters - remembering that in all cases, people created in the image of God are involved - perhaps then we might just get to a point where true healing and restoration can take place.

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