Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 7th, 2015 by Joel Watts

#UMC Extremes, Fundamentalist Husbands, and Ultimate Victory

umc logoChett Pritchett, Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, writes in response to what is certainly a victory for those who wish to have a more congregational style of polity,

While it is important to celebrate this just resolution as a way forward, both the complaint and the need for just resolution in complaints regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons and those in ministry with these persons, are inherently unjust from their genesis. Bishop Talbert, drawing from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Augustine, has made this abundantly clear in his articulation of the concept of Biblical Obedience: “an unjust law is no law at all.” I hold the same to be true: that an unjust resolution is really no resolution either because the unjust law – anti-LGBTQ language in the Book of Discipline – still exists.

Chett and other progressives have made it clear — any victory that does not completely do away with the conservatives, the Book of Discipline, and Church unity – is not victory. This “my way or the highway” mentality reminds me of the way Ephesians 5.22—24 is read and (ab)used in fundamentalist churches, wherein the women must be completely submissive to their husbands. This means that there is no room for dialogue, no room for compromise, no room for disagreement. What the husband believes to be right is right without question (or input, for that matter).

St. Paul’s passage here does not stand alone as many would have us believe, but falls after Ephesians 5.21 wherein the Apostle (or, perhaps, a student of the Apostle) commands us  to be subject one to another. There is likewise the ancient hymn, preceding any written tradition, wherein we are told to take upon ourselves the self-sacrificing humility of Christ (Phil 2.3–11). Christ won at all costs, but the cost was not another person — but himself, in self-denial and in humiliation.

Neither side, by the way, really wants to do that. Neither side really wants to win. They want to conquer. Don’t think I am giving a free pass to the conservatives. Their complaint about this is that it happened (like the Book of Discipline allows) and did not proceed to a trial, unlike the complaint from the Left which is, and I am paraphrasing, “it didn’t mandate that we win and all the conservatives leave!” On the other hand, I imagine that if a trial had occurred and the Bishop defrocked, we would see the conservatives elated and whispers of “Time for you folks to leave” ascending with incense. Let’s not kid ourselves. Many in the corners want a denomination built with conformity, not unity. They want the “weaker vessel” to submit, wholesale.

Until one side is laid waste, no “win” will be sufficient.

Our only real victory is in Christ, not in harming one another.

By the way, I do not think the resolution is a good thing. This amounts to a “better to ask forgiveness than permission” defense which I imagine others could use later. Imagine if we did that with every aspect of the Book of Discipline, with every action used against one another. Further, I think these slap on the hands motions does nothing but to exasperate the situation rather to offer any real healing. This is, in no sense, prophetic. This is politic.   

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

17 Responses to “#UMC Extremes, Fundamentalist Husbands, and Ultimate Victory”
  1. “Neither side wants to win. They want to conquer.”

    That is a very helpful, true, and yet sad distinction.

  2. Joel, I see from your self-written description of your Ph.D project that you are working on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Is not Chett’s demand that all people (LGBT included) be welcome, without distinction similar to St. Paul’s demand in Galatians that Gentiles be welcome just as Jews, as full, equal, and complete members of the Body of Christ, regardless of any biological consideration? To believe, to be faithful, to be baptized into Christ is enough?

    • No, not really. This is a pretty bad anachronistic fallacy that really deserves to be put to bed. After all, if we follow this logic, then we could replace, say, pedophile with Gentile and go from there. Or, say, mass murderer, or anything really.

      Rather, Paul is speaking about covenantal biology, rather than sin. Don’t forget what Paul said in Romans about Jews by birth and Jews by spirit. It was not a sin to be a Gentile, but it was a sin to be a Jew who, say, murdered. Christ broke down who could be in the covenant, but not what was required of those in the covenant.

  3. To equate LGBT, which has been demonstrated as having clear biological reality and part of the normal diversity of humankind, to pedophile, or mass murderer, which are clearly defined as dysfunctional, abusive, sinful behaviors, shows that you simply don’t understand the reality of LGBT people. It’s not a sin to be LGBT. If a LGBT person believes in Jesus Christ, is a faithful member of the church, and seeks love and charity with their neighbor, what is the source of condemnation?

    • Kevin, I called it a logical fallacy. Surely, you understand what that means?

      Let me show you another logical fallacy. You write, “which are clearly defined as dysfunctional, abusive, sinful behaviors” – and yet, the majority of Christianity, the majority of monotheistic religions, and until the 1970’s scientific journals define homosexuality in the exactly same manner.

      Another issue I have with your statement is that you suggest I am condemning LGBT people, which is fallacious.

      Also, you are moving the goal posts…

      I personally do not believe homosexuality is a sin, but I don’t have to twist scripture to get to that point. What I do consider a sin is abusing Scripture, both from the left and the right.

  4. In conversations I’ve had with you before, Joel, you have expressed support for LGBT inclusion in the church. Yet, in this piece, and others, you attack those who lead groups seeking LGBT inclusion. What? Do you just not like the way they are doing it? Are they not using methods satisfactory to the privileged who already have a place in the church?

  5. There is no “logical fallacy” in my argument. I am disagreeing with your perspective and the validity of your information. I’m not “moving the goal posts.” You seem to use these phrases a lot with people with whom you are having a discussion. Perhaps you should attempt changing your arrogant attitude. I bet I’m not the first person to make this observation, either. “Surely you understand what that means?” Right?

    • I have an arrogant attitude because I am tired of dealing with dilettantes who 1.) do not understand discourse and 2.) have no issue accepting false claims without actually checking into them.

      And yes, there are plenty of logical fallacies exhibited in your comments.

  6. “Kevin, when you lie, twist scripture, and abuse others – no matter who you are, I cannot support you.”

    I disagree with you and you call me a liar? Say I twist scripture? Abuse others? Really?

    • oh boy…

      I am not calling you a liar. I would hope that the “you” in that sentence is easily understood, but I guess not.

      the “you” are anyone (hence the “no matter who you are” bit in the same sentence) who would “lie, twist scripture, and abuse others”

      Now, if you individually do not do this, great. Some who consider themselves progressives do — and I would argue (from actual experience) the vast majority of “literalists” who are fundamentalists do.

      I hope that clears it up for you.

  7. Joel, you are truly a difficult person to communicate with. I have on multiple occasions tried to discuss various issues with you; and, it always comes down to your pedantic, shallow debate tactics. It is a real barrier.

    • kevin, your inability to think through things is the barrier. For instance, your conspiracy on Church History is a big barrier. I mean, how am I supposed to dialogue with someone who thinks creeds and councils are privileged bastions of control.

    • kevin, let me summarize

      1.) The use of Galatians for pro-LGBT is as bad as misusing Romans 1.26 against LGBT. It shows a lack of knowledge and proper biblical exegesis. Further, it twists Scripture and denies us a proper foundation in trying to achieve what is right. Now, for some, a proper foundation is not needed because they base their choices on how they feel. This is wrong and leads to a particular form of dogmatism and cults of personality, if not the cult of individuality. Further, as I have tried to demonstrate, by using this rather stupid logic, you can simply replace any word you want and come up with the same answer. If we are to respect the biblical text, and the original author, then we should divorce our wants from the Text and go with what it says.

      2.) I do not believe believe homosexuality is a sin, not because I have left Scripture or went with the “progressive” zeitgeist , but because I believe Scripture does not afford us the license to see it as such. Likewise, I have said that the only logical argument in proclaiming homosexual sex a sin is the natural law argument of Rome.

  8. Scott Fritzsche says

    Found the above comment exchange fairly funny all in all considering Joel and I believe quite differently on same sex issues and we communicate well, while the argument seems to be between two people who believe the same thing.

    • Scott, the difference is… is that you and I agree that the truth is important and external to us. We aren’t allowed to twist Scripture to fit our internal truth.

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