Musings on American Christianity in Light of Dan Kimball
I am working my way through Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus But Not the Church (over halfway through) – which I highly recommend for anyone who is in any leadership position within their local church body – and have a few thoughts that have been percolating since last night. He is walking through a handful of the negative perceptions that the emerging generation of twenty-somethings have. I just finished reading through the chapter The Church is Homophobic.
Dan tackles the topic very graciously, sharing that he does indeed believe that homosexual activity is a sin. He makes a solid effort to remind us that all sin is equal and draws a distinction between homosexual tendencies (thoughts) and homosexual actions. He shares stories from people who are living a homosexual lifestyle and have been flatly condemned by the church over and over without any grace allowed. It is very interesting reading about his experiences with the people that he has interviewed, and he is incredibly gracious and shows a desire to be truly Biblically grounded in his work. Reading this chapter has raised a few thoughts and questions in my head as well.
- To what extent does a person with homosexual tendencies have a choice over their thoughts? I know that myself can have (unintentional) thoughts that tend toward impure anger, theft, greed, jealousy, lust, etc. As we are told in Matthew, our minds are just as culpable in our sinning as our hands are. Can we draw a line between thought and action on the issue of homosexuality? Or lusting others heterosexually? Or greed? I myself do not draw a line on the other issues, so should I on this issue?
- It is hard for people not to focus in on a sin that can be displayed so prominently. Most sitcoms have a token homosexual (much like the token black guy from a decade ago) that gets significant airtime. Musicians and actors are getting more open about their sexuality. Entire movies are devoted to telling the story of love between two people of the same gender (Brokeback Mountain anyone?). It is prominent, of that there is no doubt. But why are we so focused on this instead of other prominent sins in society? I see no rallies to end taking God’s name in vain (in fact I know several people who claim to be Christians that have no problem throwing this type of statement around). There are no petitions to stop politicians from lying to the voters. There is no huge movement to ban any and all pornographic material. So why do we have so many churches (Westboro Baptist – please only click into here if you are prepared to be offended and insulted. I agree that homosexuality is sinful, but this “church” offends and insults me as an ambassador for the Gospel.) that are willing to take up picket signs at a funeral, but not at a movie theater? And is this method really successful in any way other than turning off the world to Christ and providing deeper footing for this Christian stereotype?
- There was a quote at the beginning of the chapter from someone that Kimball interviewed who is homosexual. She states (I paraphrase here as the book is not in front of me) that her homosexuality should have no more bearing on how the church interacts with her than someones hair color should. While I agree with much of what she states in her quote, it is a flawed argument. We do not have people demanding political rights and holding rallies based upon their hair color. While God looks at the interior and not our exteriors (and we should do likewise) it is faulty to assume that sexual orientation is a small detail when it has become such a political subject and is the topic of hot debate amongst civil leaders and politicians (religious affiliations aside).
- We as Christians need to be scholars about the texts we use to declare homosexuality as sinful. We need to learn the original language (did a lot of this on these passages through college) instead of relying upon our modern English translations. There are a lot of people who do not know Christ personally, but they know more about our Bibles than we do.
- How would our church respond to someone walking in the doors of the building who was struggling with homosexuality? How would we respond if someone else came in who had given in completely to it and still claimed to follow Christ
This is one of the things that I love about Dan Kimball. In addition to being very gracious and understanding in his arguments, I have yet to read a book he has written that does not challenge me to address my own convictions and seek out how best to minister to the people around me.