“God and the Gay Christian”: WHY Religious Conservatives Are Running Scared.

In my previous post, I noted the furious and frenzied response by some conservative Christians to Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian”, suggested that the reason for the extraordinary strength of this reaction was that they are “running scared”.  I had barely published that piece, when my speculation was confirmed, by the reactionaries themselves, in the book they have rushed out to counter Vines’ argument:

God and the Gay Christian, response to Vines

Right up front, on the first page of the first chapter of the book, they concede directly that they (the anti – gay defenders of prejudice) are the last outpost of anti-gay religious discrimination and prejudice (except that naturally enough, they don’t call it anti- gay prejudice, preferring to claim that theirs is adherence to biblical truth). R Albert Mohler Jnr. writes:

Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision. While Christians in other movements and in other nations face similar questions, the question of homosexuality now presents evangelicals in the United States with a decision that cannot be avoided. Within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question. There will be no place to hide, and there will be no way to remain silent. To be silent will answer the question. The question is whether evangelicals will remain true to the teachings of Scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over 2,000 years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage.

They have good reason to be worried. There is now abundant evidence from social surveys that in Europe and the America’s, the tide is turning rapidly in favour of gay marriage, especially among the young. In many countries of the world, Pew Research has found that a majority do not believe that homosexuality is morally unacceptable – and that includes many Christians.

Several denominations no longer exclude gay men or lesbians from ministry, others permit either church weddings or church blessings for same – sex couples. Vines’ critics argue that this is diluting or ignoring biblical truth to accommodate Western liberal, secular values, but what this ignores, is that in every denomination which has changed its regulations, the change has been preceded by extensive study, prayer, listening and discussion among members of the church. This question of study is important. Writing about the conservative response to Vines, Owen Strachan noted that unlike his critics, Vines is not a scholar – but immediately gives away the weakness in his own scholarship. In attempting to refute Vines’ observation that neither homosexual practice nor what could be called homosexual “orientation” is approved of or legitimated in biblical doctrine, Strachan quotes from his chapter on the historical perspective, in which he refers to the fourth century writings of Ambrose and John Chrysostom.

These, however, are commentaries on scripture, their interpretations of the biblical words, and not found in the Good Book itself. Vines claim is absolutely accurate. Strachan’s references to Ambrose and John Chrysostom are telling: his need to quote from fourth century writers, because there are no biblical texts to support him, reveals a fundamental weakness in their entire case. It is simply not true that there exists, as they claim. an “unbroken teaching of the Christian church for over 2,000 years on the morality of same-sex acts and the institution of marriage”.

As a scholar claiming to know something of the history of church teaching on the subject, Strachan should know, as Renato Lings, Theodore Jennings and others have shown, that the fourth century iinterpretations by Ambrose and Chrysostom differed from those of the first century when the texts were written, heavily influenced by non-Christian writers. Similarly, it is now well – established that the familiar identification of the modern word “sodomy” with the original “sin of Sodom” was a medieval invention, and the many changes in Christian understandings of marriage are too numerous to go into here.

The fact is, that the conservatives arguing against full LGBT inclusion in church rest their case on shaky ground, and they know it. Just as David Cameron declared his support for gay marriage not in spite of being a Conservative, but because he is a Conservative, many Christians are now declaring their support for full LGBT inclusion in church not in spite of being Christian – but because, as Christians, they believe that their faith demands it.

This applies also among Evangelicals, In the USA, there is now a majority of Evangelical millenials in support of full marriage equality, and additional support of legal recognition for civil unions.without the name of marriage. They know, from deep within their hearts or from the experience of their peers, and from the findings of science, that a same – sex affectional orientation is entirely natural, God-given and non-pathological. They also know from experience, their own or their friends’, that attempting to deny this basic truth in accordance with traditional church teaching and regulations gives rise to immense psychological, emotional and spiritual harm, seeming to contradict what they also know of God’s unconditional love for all.

One of the most useful passages in God and the Gay Christian is Vines reflection on the biblical verse, “by their fruits you shall know them”. In his own life, and that of others he was able to observe, he noted that for naturally gay and lesbian people, the fruits of acknowledging honestly the truth of their natural orientation was positive, leading to what in natural law is termed “human flourishing” – and the fruits of denial, for example in the attempts of ex-gay organisations at conversion therapy, were frequently downright tragic.  (Jeremy Marks, who once led an ex-gay ministry in the United Kingdom, aptly described this with another apt biblical phrase, “Exchanging God’s Truth for a Lie”).

Before the publication of this book, Vines had already attracted substantial public attention with his widely viewed Youtube video on the subject, which forms the heart of the book’s content. With the launch of his follow – up Reformation Project, he has an extensive, established base of followers to promote the book, and its ideas.


Recommended Books

Countryman, L.WilliamDirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today .

Glaser, Chris: The Word Is Out: Daily Reflections on the Bible for Lesbians and Gay Men

Goss, Robert: Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible

Guest, DerynMona WestRobert E. Goss, and Thomas Bohache, (eds)The Queer Bible Commentary

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality

Jennings, Theodore: Plato or Paul?: The Origins of Western Homophobia

Jordan, Mark: The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology

Lings, Renato: Love Lost in Translation: Homosexuality and the Bible

Marks, Jeremy: Exchanging the Truth of God for a Lie

Martin, Dale B. Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Rogers, Jack Bartlett. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Sharpe, Keith. The Gay Gospels: Good News for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People.


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