Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 1st, 2014 by Joel Watts

how to argue and not argue for #LGBT inclusion in the #UMC

St. John United Methodist Church in Anchorage ...

St. John United Methodist Church in Anchorage Pride march, 2010 (Photo credit: yksin)

This is a current discussion, you may have noticed, in the UMC. I thought I might just think aloud for a moment and ask you for your thoughts.

There are several reasons one can argue for inclusion (the term used to denote ordination to LGBT, etc… inside the UMC). There is usually one used to argue against inclusion  — “the bible.”

How to not argue for:

  1. Please do not suggest that because society is moving in this direction, we should too. The Church is no beholden to society, else we could argue against inclusion and instead for cleansing (i.e., murder) if we lived in Uganda. Society is relative. Society changes. Our society is not superior and thus should not be held as the moral absolute by which to measure the Church. Rather, the Church must push and pull society to a better morality. We must lead the way and not simply follow. If we do this, the Church becomes an appendage of society.
  2. Do not use the word “justice.” It is a word that has lost nearly all meaning when it comes to social, and legal, concerns because of the overuse. Not everything is justice.
  3. Do not argue for inclusion because “we need young people,” etc… See bullet point #1.
  4. Do not argue for inclusion because of “love.”

How not to argue against someone:

  1. Do not associate them with hate. There is a difference between hating someone and believing their lifestyle is wrong. Mainliners and more liberal Christians have lost the sense of sin. I believe in sin, but I may define it differently. I believe greed is a sin. Excess is a sin. But, do I hate rich people? No.
  2. Do not conflate all of those against inclusion into one pile.
  3. Do not marginalize. For the preachers of tolerance, the first thing they want to do is to marginalize those who disagree with them.
  4. Do not get offended so easily. Some are going to call you apostate, evil, servants of Satan. Let these things glide off your back.
  5. Avoid words like liberal, conservative, and progressive.

How to argue for inclusion:

  1. Do not be closed minded. Maybe you are wrong. If you are going to dialogue, dialogue. Discourse. Speak. Listen. Hear. Speak. Repeat.
  2. Find common ground so that even if you get to the point where you want to throttle another, you will find a place to stand together.
  3. Use Scripture. If you are a Christian, more likely than not, you will have Scripture as the basis of your faith. The more you perceive yourself as conservative, the more you will focus on Scripture. Therefore, if you are going to argue with someone, understand where Scripture (and what interpretative methodology) they use.
  4. Use Tradition. Argue for a progressive revelation beginning before Scripture and moving past Scripture. We accept the Trinity, among other things, because of Tradition. Therefore, Tradition is an authority. What has Tradition revealed? Discuss the fact that for the longest, women weren’t ordained. Discuss as well how natural law comes into this. If homosexuality is a sin, it is a sin because of natural law as defined by Rome through Aquinas. Of course, Protestants do not go this route. Help them to understand the role and value in Tradition, and the changes enshrined in Tradition (not to mention the decades of dialogue it took to make that change).
  5. Use Reason. This includes scholarship. Use theology. You simply cannot use this first. Why? Because Scripture predates scholarship; however, scholarship gives way to understanding Scripture. Be sure to understand both sides of the coin when speaking to a specific passage. Do you just argue why you are right, but argue that the prevailing interpretation is wrong because of X. Show that you know what is said and why it is said.
  6. Use Experience. Wesley’s experience was that of salvation. Understand this, that not all who say they are a Christian are in fact Christians. However, experience can be used to show humility. This is where the above three legs come into play. The Church has been wrong before. Christians have been wrong before. Are we so sure about this issue that we are ready to make concrete statements, either way? Arminians aren’t saved by Calvinists standards. Before Vatican II, Protestants were still heretics. Fundamentalists view almost all of Christianity as pagan or apostate. We can draw these lines of separation, but if we have the experience of humility — the same humility it took for us to first become Christian — then can we proceed with such concrete statements, either way?

So, what are your thoughts?

Enhanced by Zemanta
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

21 Responses to “how to argue and not argue for #LGBT inclusion in the #UMC”
  1. Scott Fritzsche says

    Speaking as someone you would be discussing the matter with, I can say that I am much more likely to listen and hear what you have to say following a method similar to this. When I hear certain key words, I admittedly, and probably wrongly tune out. When someone ever so kindly tells me how much I hate people, am a misogynist, or other flattering term (note the sarcasm), on my best days I stop conversing as it has drifted to the realm of insult and on my worst shoot back and escalate it from an argument to a full blown fight.

  2. My comment is self-serving admittedly: I used the same arguments under the subtitle: “How to not argue for” to a staunch defender of “gay rights” (whatever that means) except that I affirmed and do affirm that “gays were discussing their own issues incorrectly with Christians”. I used almost verbatim the same arguments and was trounced and technically banned from a blog of a very well known (to all of us here) blogger (no need to mention any names). So I am glad that I see very similar arguments here.
    I also think that there will be a point in which the inclusion will take some compromise and either one, or both sides, will find certain things “un-compromisable” or not negotiable. It is not that I am pessimistic about it. I could mention those non-negotiable items here, but it will veer this debate off course. Perhaps another time, but I don’t see a future for, for some, a desirable inclusion. “It’ll take a load of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon” (The Rhinestone Cowboy).

  3. Oh, I would include on the “justice” bullet: do not call it discrimination. There is a valid argument to indicate that gay man and gay women are being discriminated. I heard that argument from some “brilliant” lawyers (to my standards) who are in favor and have defended openly gay marriage and inclusion and I think that the argument is valid although called “jocosity” by some and “unreasonable” by others.

  4. ohhh corrector is eating my words: there is a valid argument that gay men and women are NOT being discriminated! Sorry!

  5. Nicely done, Joel! Thanks.

  6. Know More Than I Should says

    Learn something about homosexuality rather than relying on fearmongering. Having lived through both periods, I find much the same argument being recycled in the debate over homosexuality that were used during the civil rights struggle half a century ago. Ironically, it also has parallels to early disputation when AIDS first entered the United States. Much of the propaganda falls under the rubric of “dog whistle politics.” Most of it is little more than calculated, even cynical, appeals to emotion.

    Decide whether a church/denominational is worth prying your position from your cold dead hands. Right now, there is a prosperous UMC church that is all but split over much the same theological wrangling that led to the undoing and, perhaps, eventual demise of the SBC.

    Realize that any church/denominational fracture these days is not like a stock split. The future value of each may not reach the sum of the original whole. Thus, a house divided could very well turn out to be a lose/lose proposition.

  7. I would say don’t argue. Does no good.
    Scripture example: “7 But when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. 9 And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last:”
    Now I am not placing the gay in the position of the woman sinner, or the fundamentalist in the position of the rock thrower. No argument was necessary in the story. The people just walked away. I would say, don’t attack either side with an argument. Time will settle it. If a split is necessary, so be it. If a fundamentalist can’t live with a liberal church, leave. If a liberal can’t live with a fundamentalist church, leave. The market place and time will determine what church survives. This is better than all the fundamentalists and liberals joining hands, singing kumbaya, and really, secretly hating one another. I’ve heard the noise, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, but also know it is a bunch of cow poo. I’d be willing to bet a UMC in San Francisco is liberal, and a UMC in Selma Alabama is fundamentalist. If they want to go their separate way, let it go. If a pastor wants to marry a gay couple, go ahead and do it. Let the “management” decide a response. The market place will then determine whether tithing leaves the premises. If it does, accept it, and then don’t complain about the consequences, from either side.
    I would find it interesting, though, if a UMC minister that wanted to marry a gay couple, did it in a private home, instead of in a UMC church building. Since, I would assume the authority to marry someone is granted by the state, not the church alone. But anyway, being an activist is a hard job, so I would suggest just give it time, instead of fighting the system. If the situation is unbearable, put on your walking shoes. The demographics are against the fundamentalists. Their solution would be the 2nd coming, when everyone gets their due. But in the meantime, I would be careful about being too much of an activist on the fundamentalist side, otherwise they might find themselves being judged, unexpectedly.

    • Know More Than I Should says

      Unlike the woman caught in adultery, the seminal issue in homosexuality for conservatives is less about morality than it is about reproduction. I would further suggest that, in fundamentalist circles, gay rights is intertwined with abortion, birth control, and feminism. This is not totally idle speculation.

      A thoughtful reading of the Old Testament prescriptions informs that ANY sexual act NOT likely to result in conception is either sin or it is unclean. Bestiality and homosexuality are numbered among the former. Ministration is counted among the latter. This mindset also helps explain why rape is not completely prohibited by biblical precepts.

      As usual, deep pocket conservatives are playing the faithful like a cheap violin on the trinity issue. Their gnawing fear is that the once prolific white race will, perhaps as early as mid-century, become a minority.

      Once one steps back far enough to keep from being caught up in the issues, there the common thread in much of the conservative moral agenda that can be traced back to white reproduction.

      According to one estimate for the period from the end of World War II to mid-21st century: Asians and Hispanics are supposed to have increased their percentage of the total population by ninefold. During the same period, blacks will reportedly in crease their percentage of the whole by a little less than 1/3, while white as a percentage of the total population will have shrunk by about half.

      Even diatribes against Islam can be traced to a fear that they will multiply like proverbial rabbits. The same thing is true for atheists – out of fear that, unlike women brainwashed into oblation to their husbands, freethinkers may not contribute their fair share to perpetuation of the white race.

      Not surprisingly, wealthy conservative movers and shakers are not about to admit that the decline in the white birthrate is, in large measure, a monster of their own making. It started about a century ago when white elites decided to play God – decreeing who should and who should not have children. In the process, they unwittingly created the birth control organization that would eventually morph into Planned Parenthood.

      As if unleashing the white birth control machine weren’t enough, in what proved to be an equally misguided step in union-busting, the one percenters opened the doors to cheap labor from south of the border. While the strategy succeeded in throttling unions, it also put the wealthiest Americans in a position similar to that faced by the Egyptian Pharaoh when that leader faced the threat of a growing number of Hebrews in his kingdom.

      Thus, once one sees the conservative war on homosexuality as part of a larger white panic, it makes more sense that if viewed in isolation.

      • Lucky the Gnostics didn’t win over the proto-orthodox Christians. “Lost Christianities”, Bart Ehrman, “If you refrain from this filthy intercourse you become temples holy and pure…(Acts of Thomas 12). Jesus goes on to show that children are an enormous burden, that they either become demon-possessed, diseased, or lazy burdens, destined for heinous sins and ultimate condemnation. It is better, Jesus insists, to refrain from sex altogether and live the life of purity, bringing no more sinners into the world and being wedded, ultimately, to God.”
        Now that’s what I would call REAL fundamentalists. Speaking of that, the Acts of Paul, which includes the story of Thecla, seems to have been popular at the time. Seems like a big sex, no sex, controversy. I don’t quite know how to take any of this seriously, considering that Jesus was totally human (and totally divine, per proto-orthodox Christianity), but chose to go sexless.

        • Know More Than I Should says

          If one understands that, for most of it’s history, the church has been used by the rich and powerful to get what they want, then the current three-ring circus in churches makes more sense. As in politics, sex is frequently used to obscure true motivations.

          Meanwhile, what you’re witnessing in both church as well as the political arena is a relatively few very rich old white men having a full bore pee in their pants panic attack. Only instead of wetting their pants in public, they’re polluting public discourse with fear.

      • Scott Fritzsche says

        Congratulations for managing to ignore pretty much all of what Joel suggested…this reads like something that ends a conversation, not something that starts one as well as showing an enormous amount of ignorance about what white conservatives think. Things like this, from the left and the right, are why there is no ability for the majority of people who fall somewhere in the middle to be able to actually come to any sort of understanding. You know absolutely nothing about me, and yet have managed to pigeonhole me into about every offensive conservative stereotype you could muster. Congratulations.

        • Know More Than I Should says

          Glad to be of help. Just think of me as Toto pulling back the curtain so that you could get a glimpse of the Wizard’s level pulling.

    • Scott Fritzsche says

      “love the sinner and hate the sin” is not cow poo as you put it, it is pretty much the standard that Christ set for us to follow. I love my daughter. I do not agree with the life that she has chosen to lead. Not cow poo at all, just interpersonal skills and following the example of Christ. Most people in the homosexual conflict going on in the UMC do not hate each other. Though we have not met, I would say that Joel and I, while differing on this certainly do not hate each other for that difference. I think that represents most of the church. Most of the people in the UMC who believe homosexual behavior to be a sin are not fundamentalists in the least. The theology is conservative and not progressive, but that is not to say it is fundamentalist or even close to it. The reason the debate matters so much in the UMC has less to do with the actual issue at the moment and more to do with the fact that the thing that binds us together is being ignored by some combined with the fact that there are a large number of powerful para church groups with a great deal of funding making things more difficult than they should be.

      • ““love the sinner and hate the sin” is not cow poo as you put it,””
        That’s why I would say it does no good to argue. Left and right will not agree. The middle, generally, do not want to hear arguments from either side. They just want to go to church and not hear any politics in church. And hate may be a strong word and certainly does not apply to the majority. But I have certainly heard it in conversations in fundamentalists. Not at UMC, but then again, I haven’t been going to UMC for very long. Also, plenty of the same for a certain black president. These will eventually die off with time.

      • BTW, just for a reference point, I was in what I would consider a fundamentalist congregation (not an actual fundamentalist church necessarily, i.e. Majority were far right, like men’s group makes several visits to the local YEC museum). I had the dis-pleasure of going through the election cycle of Prop 8 in Caiif. Passed, and much cow poo passed on in church. Overturned in court. Now it would not pass in Calif. So time is in the liberal’s favor. However, I still do not want to hear politics in church. And I walked to UMC. I would say, don’t turn UMC into another politics church. It would be better to just split it up, if necessary.

        • And another BTW, I do not want to sit in church, as a captive audience, listening to someone else’s interpretation of scripture as to how it impacts voting, government, and politics. I don’t care if the person speaking is a bishop, pastor, big wienie, or little wienie. Their interpretation of scripture is NO better than mine. Limit it to uplifting messages. No politics. I can turn off Fox News, MSNBC, or blog internet browsers, I can’t turn off the speaker in church. But I can walk.

          • Scott Fritzsche says

            I am a little bit confused Gary, what do you want in a church then?

  8. Scott, I think I made it clear. No politics in church. Gay marriage is a political issue. You think it is a moral issue. I disagree. There can be no agreement between us on that point. You have your “experts” on scripture interpretation. I have mine. Just like in court, anyone can come up with their own “experts”. Bottom line, I do not want political issues discussed in church as a theological position, that someone is absolutely sure they are right. I once heard a pastor say he didn’t believe in evolution or the Big Bang. Also how the Duck Dynasty and Chickfilla CEO’s were persecuted Christians (although they are millionaires) because some people want to boycott them. Last time I checked, anyone has the right to NOT buy someone’s products. Comments like this are OK with me if there are personal opinions, but not stated from the pulpit.

    • Know More Than I Should says

      Many church exist as extensions of political agendas. Episcopalians were once famously defined – even their clergy – as “the Republican Party at prayer.” The civil rights movement would, more likely, never have been able to become a tour de force were it not for black churches. Republican strategist Karl Rove famously converted conservative church rolls into Republican mailing lists in the run up to the 2000 presidential election. In many ways, Christianity is more political than it is faithful – and, therein lies its greatest weakness.

    • Yep. Jim Garlow and Newt Gingrich is an unholy alliance.

    • Scott Fritzsche says

      I agree that pastors should not be endorsing candidates or ballot issues from the pulpit. Civil marriage very much falls into that category. A pastor who marries someone however is performing more than a civil marriage. So if same sex marriage is legal civilly or not should not be a matter of a sermon, agreed, but matters of sexual morality are very much in the wheel house of pastors and preaching. The struggle of whether or not homosexuality is a sin needs to be addressed, preached on and struggled with inside the church. Homosexuality has been improperly framed by both sides of the argument as a singular issue and it is not. It is the broader issue of sexual morality and approaches to interpreting scripture. Those things need to be preached upon and struggled with.

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: