Ken Wilson, the head pastor of the Vineyard Church here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been making a name for himself lately by working to expand the evangelical Christian community to accept and even include LGBT people. When asked to explain why, Wilson refers to the Bible’s prohibition against divorce and remarriage (which it equates with “adultery”). Despite this clear prohibition, evangelical Christians never go out of their way to exclude anyone who’s currently involved in their second or third (or even fourth) marriage. Why, then, should they exclude people who are LGBT? And on a more practical note, Wilson also points out that excluding LGBT people from the evangelical community has only helped to destroy families and increase the teen LGBT suicide rate (which is absolutely true). At the very least, he hopes that including LGBT people in his church will help to counteract the damage that so many other churches continue to do.
While I believe that Wilson’s basically doing a good thing here, I’m also frustrated by the fact that his religion prevents him (and many other people) from really doing enough. Let’s not forget that the Bible specifically refers to homosexuality as an “abomination” that’s punishable by death (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). That’s only in the Old Testament, of course, and some people think that when Jesus died on the Cross, He “abolished” the old Mosaic law and made it so that Christians don’t have to follow it anymore (meaning they can eat porkchops and drive cars on the Sabbath as much as they please). Besides, Jesus never says anything directly for or against homosexuality in the New Testament, so that must mean He’s totally pro-gay, right?
Unfortunately, those who believe Jesus didn’t abolish Mosaic law have good reasons for thinking so. If Christians don’t have to follow the Old Testament rule against homosexuality anymore, then what requires them to continue following the Ten Commandments? Those are included in the law of Moses too, and if you remove them from Christianity, the rest of the religion’s premises (e.g., that Yahweh’s the only God, that Jesus is His only begotten Son, etc.) are severely compromised. And just because Jesus doesn’t say anything about homosexuality in the New Testament doesn’t mean He “accepts” or “endorses” it. The best that can really be said from this standpoint is that (1) we simply don’t know what Jesus thinks about the issue, (2) Christians should just treat LGBT people according to the Golden Rule (i.e., “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), and (3) people should just let Jesus sort everyone out in the afterlife. As nice as this may sound, however, it’s not enough for someone like me, because it shies away from fully accepting homosexuality as a necessary and perfectly necessary part of the natural order.
I also take issue with the part of Ken Wilson’s argument in which he compares homosexuality to the “sin” of remarriage. While I understand the point he’s trying to make here, I see this as being just another way of saying, “Hate the sin and not the sinner” – a statement that pisses me off just as much as the old Fred Phelps favorite, “God Hates
Fags.” Comparing homosexuality to another so-called “sin” that needs to be “forgiven” is literally the best Wilson or any other “by-the-Book” Christian can do. They can’t say homosexuality isn’t a sin, nor can they admit that LGBT people are created to be the way they are. So long as they operate from within a strictly biblical paradigm, there’s simply no way for them to get past this major theological roadblock.
Now I know good and well that there are LGBT folks out there who’ve had direct gnostic experiences with Jesus that have led them to believe He fully accepts them for being LGBT. I’m glad these people have had such experiences, but they aren’t what I’d call “by-the-Book” Christians; they’re gnostics. There’s nothing wrong with being a gnostic Christian, of course, but gnostic Christianity is quite incompatible with evangelical Christianity. Gnostic Christianity contains a healthy amount of discursive space for private personal experience that contradicts biblical scripture, but evangelical Christianity does not; if it’s not in the Bible, then evangelicals simply aren’t allowed to believe it. (They even have a word for gnostic experiences that contradict their scriptures: “demonic.”) This is why I’m extremely skeptical of Wilson’s attempts to integrate the LGBT community into his church. So long as his church remains “evangelical,” it will only ever be able to tolerate LGBT people at best; it will never be able to fully accept them.
(For those who don’t know the difference between “tolerance” and “acceptance,” tolerance has nothing to do with liking or agreeing with anyone. You can still believe they’re absolutely wrong and that they’re going to hell after they die; you’ve simply agreed not to break into their house and lynch them. Which is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Acceptance, on the other hand, means actually loving someone for exactly who and what they are. And so long as people like Wilson consider homosexuality to be a “sin” – which is inevitable in evangelical Christianity – it will always be impossible for them to ever accept the LGBT community.)
Compare this to all the various polytheist Deities who clearly and outwardly approve of various LGBT phenomena (e.g., Dionysus, Freyr, Ishtar, Loki, Xochipilli, and even my own God, Seth-Typhon). You don’t have to have a gnostic experience that defies scripture to believe these Deities accept LGBT folks for who and what they are.