Quick Hits--Doings in the Baptist Camp

The most recent dust-up in the evangelical world involves the upcoming meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC").  To give the short version--a pastor of a SBC church in Southern California "came out" as being gay affirming, first to his son (who, in turn, came out as gay) and then to his congregation.  The congregation voted not to fire the pastor, and instead to become a gay affirming church.  Al Mohler, the head of a key seminary for the SBC and a general big-wig, basically laid down a marker that the SBC needs to vote these folks off the island.  Various folks responded.  Etc.

A few thoughts.


1.  As of a couple of years ago, I got the sense that conservative evangelicals viewed the move toward acceptance of gays and gay relationships as a phenomenon occurring "out there"--in the "secular" culture, or maybe in "liberal" denominations like the Episcopalians, but not something that was going on inside their own house. If they thought that in the past, this experience should disabuse them of the notion.  This will not be the last SBC church to decide to be gay affirming.  This will not be the last congregation to split along pro- and anti- gay rights lines.  Mohler seems to recognize this fact with his language about how everyone is going to have to decide where they stand.  While it may be true that fewer SBC congregations become gay affirming than, say, Episcopalian churches, that doesn't change the fact that all congregations are going to have to deal with this issue.  One way or another.

2.  I think Mohler and Shore are right--there really isn't a middle ground here, at least in a practical sense.  The proposed "Third Way" would have each church decide whether it will embrace gay relationships, and have all churches agree that, whatever decision each church makes, everyone will still get along.  To make this work, everyone really has to agree that gay issues don't really matter that much to the Christian church and its common life.  Conservative folks would see this as a capitulation, and it is hard to argue they are wrong given their starting place.  It's not even clear that the majority of progressives would accept this compromise--Shore makes it clear that he would not, as he views affirming gay relationships as a moral obligation.  Choosing up sides is inevitable.

3.  One hears a lot of loose talk about the "gay agenda."  The story of the pastor and his son reveals what I think is the real "gay agenda."  As presented by the letter, the pastor came to his conclusions about gay relationships before his son came out.  But you have to wonder if, on some level, Rev. Cortez suspected that his son was/is gay before the son officially came out, and that this was an impetus for the Reverend to look at this issue in a new light.

By and large, parents love their children, and want them to be happy.  Moreover, most want their children to be happy in the manner that their children define happiness, not based on some definition of happiness imposed on them from the outside.  If a son or daughter is honest with their parents about being gay, and that they find happiness and peace in the context of being gay, by and large parents will go long.

Really nefarious, huh?

4.  I'm reading another N.T. Wright book (Justification, if you are curious), and he has what is essentially a throw-away line that really caught my eye.  He distinguishes between Christians who base their picture of Jesus on the Gospels, with a few supplementary bits from folks like Paul, and Christians who base their picture on Paul, with a handful of bits from the Gospels.  Wright doesn't say so directly, but he suggests that the standard evangelical approach is essentially the later one.

I've never thought about this before, because I more or less assumed it was obvious to everyone that you should start with the Gospels.  I mean, if you want to figure out what you should do and believe as a Christian, wouldn't it make sense to start with the things Christ did and said?  But, I think Wright is correct that the Paul-centric view is a real thing and is a big part of the evangelical world.  I still think it is completely wrong and hard to fully wrap by head around, but it is helpful to understand where other folks are coming from.

5.  Because of the last point, I have come to see that the exchanges of the kind that occur between Shore and Mohler in the above articles are basically unproductive.  Shore emphasizes that Jesus never says anything about homosexuality.  That's really persuasive to me, but the first chapter of Paul's first letter condemns homosexuality (or, at least, seems to).  So if Paul is the center of your theological universe, then Romans 1: 24 is far more important that any argument from silence in the Gospels.  The two sides are talking past each other.

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