Christians can vote “No”, too. – Guest Post by Rev. Ryan Bauers

Introduction by Dan

Full disclosure – pastor Ryan Bauers is a good friend of mine, my brother-from-another-mother. I’ve mentioned him numerous times on What the Faith, and if any human being can be credited for my transition from skeptic to believer, it’s him. Ryan’s been a full-time pastor for over thirteen years, and his intelligence, insight, patience, and humor have been a crazy blessing for the folks who attend Hillside Church in Duluth Minnesota, where he and his beautiful wife Krista have served as the lead pastors for the last eleven years. I’m honored to present him as the first guest blogger on What the Faith, and I hope you guys enjoy reading his article as much as I enjoyed publishing it.

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“Why I, as a committed Christian and ordained pastor will Vote “NO”, against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and encourage others to as well.”

By Rev. Ryan J Bauers, Lead Pastor, Hillside Church, Duluth MN

October 2012

 

An Amendment will appear on the ballot this Tuesday, November 6, as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.  The measure would define marriage in the Minnesota Constitution as between one man and one woman in the State.  The proposed measure was supported by several legislators, was approved in the House, stalled in the Senate and is now up for public vote.  According to supporters, although same-sex marriage is already not recognized in the state, they hope to reinforce this with the proposed Amendment that, if passed, would write in a “traditional definition of marriage” and be very difficult to overturn in the future.  For those of us who are Minnesota residents, we will have the opportunity to vote on this Amendment on Tuesday, November 6.  A “YES” vote will confirm support for this proposed Amendment to define marriage in this specific way, and a “NO” vote is a vote against this proposed Amendment, leaving the Constitution as it is.

 

There seems to be a pretty resolute voice of support from many of my friends who are Conservative or Fundamentalist Christians and pastors to Vote “YES” for this Amendment to pass.   And, while I completely support their right to express their view and vote their conscience, one might begin to feel that all people of faith take the same stance that they do about the proposed Amendment.   Therefore, as a committed Christian and an ordained evangelical pastor who takes the Bible and following Jesus seriously, I want to share a few of the reasons why I will Vote “NO” on Tuesday, November 6, against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.  My hope is to offer an alternate Christian perspective on this issue so that voters who consider their faith a central part of their lives can be informed about this complex issue and vote their conscience with a sense of confidence.

 

From a more legal perspective:

 

The proposed Marriage Amendment contradicts the Minnesota Constitution itself and would force everyone to follow a religious definition of marriage at a State level.

As a Christian, I am thankful for the rights given by our State that grant me the freedom to worship as I would like.  As passionate as I may be about my faith and about what I believe it offers, I am very much in favor of each person’s individual freedom to choose if and how they worship.  One of the great things about our Nation and our State is our ability to choose freely on matters of conscience, and the guarantee to not have other people’s religion or faith forced upon us.  The Minnesota Marriage Amendment’s goal is to write a “Biblical” or “Traditional” definition of marriage into the Minnesota Constitution as “only between one man and one woman”.  Because this is overtly influenced by a one religious perspective, this directly violates the healthy separation of church and state and would force everyone in the State to follow this very specific, religious definition, whether they are Christian fundamentalists or not.

 

Article 1, Section 16 of the Minnesota State Constitution itself guarantees that the State cannot or will not impose any single religion’s definition of any one matter on another person or persons.  And, I quote, “The right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any man be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any religious or ecclesiastical ministry, against his consent; nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted or any preference given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”  (Highlights my own to emphasize)

 

Even as (or especially as) both a committed Christian and an ordained evangelical pastor, I feel that we desperately need this separation from the State imposing any single religion’s viewpoint on all people, so that our own personal freedoms are not restricted in any way.  I would not want someone else’s personal beliefs or religious stance on an issue to be approved by the State as law and forced on my life.  I would be very upset if the State imposed a religious agenda demanding that I not be able to visit my sick loved one on his or her death bed nor marry the person of my choosing (or other such things like how many kids I can have or what kind of clothing is appropriate in public).  I appreciate these freedoms for my own life and I want them for others as well.  I will vote NO because I do not believe that we should adopt a law that would impose a specific, Fundamentalist Christian definition of marriage on a State level.

 

The proposed Marriage Amendment will restrict the fundamental civil liberties of fellow human beings.

Even though same-sex marriage is already not recognized in the State of Minnesota, supporters of the proposed legislation want to insure against it for a long time.  For me as a Christian, a pastor and human being, the question for how I will vote fundamentally comes down to the fact that this will directly further restrict the civil liberties of my friends and fellow human beings. To be clear, voting NO to the Marriage Amendment is in NO WAY a vote for same-sex marriage.  However, as stated above, I believe that the State should not restrict the basic freedoms of human beings, especially from a conservative religious vantage point, including a restriction on marriage.  Even if a person does not “agree” with same-sex marriage, the State should not be able to tell two consenting adults who are in a life-long committed partnership that they cannot enjoy the same freedoms that I do.

 

As our Declaration of Independence eloquently describes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  We do not live in a Theocracy, nor in a Religious Dictatorship (thank God), nor in a Christian Nation, we live in a Republic whose function is to ensure the basic civil liberties of its people regardless of and separate from religious ideology.   These basic civil liberties should include those that allow each of us “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, including the freedom to marry.  The State’s responsibility is to protect and even to expand these wonderful, “God-given” and “self-evident” basic rights to its citizens, not to restrict them.  I will vote NO on Tuesday in an effort to voice my opinion that civil liberties in this case should be expanded rather than restricted to include only a certain, very conservative religious understanding of marriage.

 

Much of the information used by the proponents for the Marriage Amendment is rooted in fear and unfounded claims.

The disappointing thing that I have experienced as I have done my own extensive research on this matter is the massive amount of mis-information being presented by proponents of the Marriage Amendment.  Their commercials, web sites and ad campaigns rely heavily on creating fear by presenting unrealistic hypothetical scenarios of “what will happen if this Amendment is not passed.”  There have been numerous analyses of the claims made by neutral, third-party groups and many of their claims have been found to be inaccurate and misleading because that they relate to a scenario that has nothing to do with the outcome of this Amendment.

 

One such fear proposed in these ads is that Christians will be “forced” to put up with expanded versions of marriage and that will threaten our personal religious freedoms and impose them on our churches.  They claim that if same-sex marriage is eventually legalized then pastors will be forced to marry gay couples in the church.  As a pastor of a congregation and someone who has many friends in the GLBT community, I do not see how this is even plausible.  First of all, I already have the right to “discriminate” who I am going to perform a marriage ceremony for and who I am not, based on my relationship with them, their connection to our congregation and my personal conviction.  People are very understanding if it does not work out for me to perform their wedding ceremony.  Second, I can’t see how anyone, especially my friends in the GLBT community, would want to force any pastor to perform a wedding for them.  Can you imagine how grouchy a forced pastor would be in this context?  Not a very fun ceremony.  All of the folks that I know would want someone who supports them as a couple and believes in the sacredness of their relationship to perform their wedding, not someone who is forced.  Additionally, I know pastors who, in their conscience before God after serious prayer and study would be glad to perform a same-sex ceremony.   So there is no need to force anyone to do anything they would not want to.

 

 

From a more Biblical perspective:

The above arguments could well be enough to convince any American who believes in basic civil liberties to Vote NO on the proposed Marriage Amendment.   However, I am going to diverge from the immediate subject of how one might consider voting on the Amendment for a moment, because I would like to address several related topics to bring additional perspective for those who are interested.  I do this recognizing one fundamental reality: Voting NO to the Marriage Amendment on Tuesday is in NO WAY a vote for same-sex marriage.  And yet, many people of faith are wrestling with questions related to same-sex relationships as they consider how they will vote for this Amendment.  My hope is to share some of my thoughts about these particular related issues from a Biblical perspective as a trained theologian and pastor.

 

Throughout the centuries, embarrassingly, the Bible has been used to support other issues that are now considered outdated; including the ownership of slaves, prohibition against alcohol and a Woman’s right to vote. 

Many times, my friends from Conservative and Fundamentalist Christian perspectives will speak of their support of the Marriage Amendment or other related topics as “Biblically obvious” and criticize anyone as unfaithful to Scripture if they happen to see it differently.  However, this same attitude has, sadly, been used throughout the centuries to support other, now known-to-be-outdated views of current issues such as: divorce and remarriage, the ownership of slaves, prohibition against alcohol and a woman’s right to vote.

 

People like myself who are committed to the Bible because we believe it offers a unique and “inspired” interaction between God and humans throughout many centuries need not choose between Biblical faithfulness and a relevant and reasoned understanding of current issues.  My Conservative or Fundamentalist friends may call me and people like me who ask questions and reassess issues “not committed to Scripture”, but I would argue that my open-minded position is actually more faithful to Scripture, not less.  It is approaching what is supposed to be a sacred text with a deep sense of reverence and humility in an effort to understand the ancient texts from a fresh perspective in a modern setting.  It is relating to the Bible like it is really “living and active”, best interpreted with the presence of God’s Spirit and wisdom in a real world setting.  It is being willing to give up past-held, even misguided ideas about certain topics and looking at them with fresh eyes in the middle of Biblical context with proper analysis.  It is recognizing that we, as fallible human beings, can misinterpret the Bible and misuse it to support things that are not right and further, being willing to apologize and make adjustments when we realize that we have erred (in some cases, gravely so).

 

There are many thoughtful, serious Christians who believe that the Bible does not prohibit what we know today as monogamous, consensual, same-sex relationships. 

In Romans chapters 14 & 15, Paul urges his readers in the early church to give space for disagreement over what he calls “disputable matters”.  At the time, these were first order moral issues that these early communities of faith were facing and serious, devout followers of Jesus were staunchly divided over them.  In this context, they were fighting over whether a serious Christian could legitimately eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols or not.  Some felt in their conscience that it was absolutely fine and no big deal while others felt in their conscience that there was no way that they would ever be caught doing so.  These “debatable issues” did not include central issues of orthodoxy, creed or dogma that everyone agreed upon since the beginning of Christianity (like the resurrection of Jesus) and subsequently those thing affirmed in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.   They did, however, and do to this day, include lesser matters related to conscience and each individual’s response to their personal conviction as they interact with Scripture and hear from the Holy Spirit.  These “disputable matters” are issues like:  Is killing in war murder?  Is it ever appropriate to divorce and remarry?  How much consumption by a person constitutes gluttony?

 

After very careful study of the passages in the Bible that are said to relate to “homosexuality”, it is debatable whether those texts can accurately apply to what we know today as monogamous, loving, consensual, same-sex relationships.  Scholars disagree on what these texts actually say about “homosexuality” and how, if at all, they apply in our modern era, causing the topic of homosexuality in general to be a “disputable matter” among Christians (as it is a minor subject in the whole of Scripture and each passage is well debated).  Some feel that it is “obvious” that homosexuality is condemned in these passages.  However, many scholars are convinced that the Bible is not prohibiting what we know today as monogamous, consensual, same-sex relationships.

 

So, committed Christians can take the Bible seriously and still be accepting of same-sex couples without violating their conscience, their commitment to the Bible or their Christian faith in any way.  After much study and prayer, I am convinced that it is not an “obvious” or black and white issue, but one that is significantly complicated, nuanced and open to disagreement between serious Christians.  Wouldn’t it be nice, in this day and age of such polarization in politics and worldviews, if we could learn from Saint Paul and realize that certainty was not always the aim of the Bible, but rather it was unity, love and humility?  How much better would our world and our faith communities be, if we did not allow peripheral, “disputable” matters to divide us, but like the early church we kept the main thing the main thing and united over learning to love God and love others?!

 

The possibility of same-sex marriage does not threaten the “sanctity of marriage”.

One of the arguments by proponents for the Marriage Amendment as to why they are convinced that everyone should vote “YES” to pass it, is that they argue that doing away with the “traditional” or “Biblical” definition of marriage will destroy the sanctity of marriage (it will taint it) and subsequently disrupt the family system as we know it.

 

As an ordained evangelical pastor who has led premarital counseling and performed countless wedding ceremonies, I recognize how sacred the word “marriage” is to some people.   However, in my personal experience, it is not the State that gives marriage that sacred power, nor is it the Bible itself, but it is the love and commitment shared between two people in the presence of God.  My own marriage is not reduced in “sacred-ness”, because some random couple is getting married at the courthouse right now, who may not be ready for marriage and who may divorce in a few days.  The sacred aspect of my marriage does not have anything to do with what other people do or think.  It has to do with my partner and me, our relationship with God, the commitment that we made on June 12, 1999 and our dedication to live that commitment out faithfully every day.  The sacredness of marriage rests on my commitment to making my own marriage sacred and powerful and not in restricting it for others.

 

Additionally, what those proponents define as the “traditional” or “Biblical” definition of marriage when analyzed through a historical perspective is a minute percentage of the actual relationships and family structures that have existed throughout the centuries.  From tribes where more than one parent is involved in the life of each child, to structures where men care for children while the women work, to households where one parent is working outside the home a significant amount of the time, to single family homes, to mixed culture homes, “traditional marriage” does not seem to exist as the norm historically.

 

A final word

While there is much more that I could say (and may very well in the future) and other articles that you may be advised to read on this subject in addition to this one, the aim of this paper is to share my perspective as a committed Christian and ordained evangelical pastor after a significant amount of research, thought and prayer.  I did not come to these opinions easily, nor do I share them lightly.  I do hope that by sharing honestly you will find that there are alternative viewpoints that serious, devout Christians take on these complicated issues.  I believe that what is desperately needed in this generation are more people committed to the relentless pursuit of truth, however uncomfortable that may be.

 

May you and I be these people!

 

References used & suggested reading

 

One such article outlining some of the misleading information presented on Pro-Marriage Amendment marketing and media:

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Minnesota_Same-Sex_Marriage_Amendment,_Amendment_1_(2012)

 

A thoughtful article from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press by someone who explored and wrestled the issue for a long time and who looks at it from both sides.

http://www.twincities.com/opinion/ci_21882332/george-latimer-good-people-both-sides-minnesota-marriage?source=most_emailed

 

The Bible Made Impossible by Christian Smith

This book reveals the weakness in the modern, North American evangelical perspective on the Bible.  It is helpful for those with an evangelical background in seeing that particular, narrow culture from the outside, especially regarding Scripture.  It helps to give people a fresh perspective for reading Scripture in a more balanced and, dare I say healthy, context.

 

Paul Among The People by Sarah Ruden.

The entire book is excellent at making sense of all of Paul’s letters in the context of ancient Greek & Roman culture.  The chapter on Homosexuality is especially helpful in flushing out what that Bible refers to when it prohibits homosexuality in the ancient Biblical context.  It is historically plausible that Paul’s prohibition against homosexuality was pederasty (married, heterosexual men having intercourse with pre-pubescent boys in the sex temples).  It is hard to draw a correlation between this prohibition then and modern day, monogamous, same-sex relationships today.

 

Jesus, The Bible and Homosexuality; Explode the Myths, Heal the Church by Jack Rodgers.

As a Presbyterian minister, a seminary professor emeritus and author, he once opposed homosexuality.  Yet, after taking years to study the issue in depth, he shifted from a literalistic method of biblical interpretation (common among evangelical churches, especially those from a Reformed Theological background) and moved to one that sees Scripture through the lens of the redemptive life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  This completely changed his outlook on all Biblical texts, especially those referring to homosexuality.

 

Born Gay by Glenn Wilson & Qazi Rhaman

This book is one of the most comprehensive works that aptly summarizes the modern scientific discoveries regarding sexual orientation.  Written by some of the primary researchers in the field and filled with all of the latest available research, this book will help explore the hard science related to the issue.

 

Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White:  Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics by Adam Hamilton.

In the modern era where people are often polarized on two, very hard-line sides of any issue, this book is a refreshing invitation to the middle ground to take a look at both perspectives.  As a pastor of one of the largest churches in North America and a Biblical scholar, Adam Hamilton helps his readers journey into some of the most complicated issues that face thoughtful people today and welcomes us to see these issues in a more balanced, nuanced and “gray” way.

 

The Mosaic of Christian Belief:  Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity by Roger Olsen

This is excellent exploration of the different stances on specific doctrines within the worldwide, historic church.  The introduction proves very helpful in that the author established the category distinction between dogma, doctrine and opinion, which is essential in helping to frame something as a “debatable issue”.  He demonstrates that serious Christians can have unity over the central Creeds while respectfully agreeing to disagree over a host of other issues.

 

A Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays

This is an excellent introduction to Moral Theology which many Christians and church leaders are weak in.  Hays pitches that the New Testament has a strong bent toward a unified ethical vision.  He demonstrates how the New Testament provides moral guidance on the most troubling ethical issues of our time, including violence, divorce, homosexuality and abortion.  Even though he takes a traditional approach to homosexuality, he argues that it is an example of a “debatable issue”.

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92 responses to “Christians can vote “No”, too. – Guest Post by Rev. Ryan Bauers

  • Jennifer Vesely

    Well done, Ryan. Well done.

  • Inga Cantley

    Thank you for supporting equality, and so clearly laying out the reasons for doing so.

  • Erik Larson

    4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:1-8

    For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:26-27

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 1 Corinthians 6:9

    understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[a] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[b] doctrine, 1 Timothy 1:9-10

    Pastor Ryan you are deceiving people. Gay marriage ammendment aside, God’s word is clear on the matter.

    • Jay

      Who is Paul writing to? The church or the entire society? It was to those pursuing God and he was encouraging them to pursue Jesus, not to impose law on those who at the moment where not in any way interested in pursuing God or Jesus.

      What do the words Paul used actually mean? What if they are only used by Paul in these letters and nowhere else found in Greek literature? And what if the scholars aren’t really sure exactly what Paul was saying, except that it related to something sexual? And, what was the cultural context of what Paul was saying? What if Paul was writing to a society where adult men had “boy toys” and there were numerous other acts there were about dominance & indulgence rather than about loving sexual expressions? And what if he were addressing sexual behavior outside of a monogamous, life-long, consensual relationship?

      The Bible isn’t always as “clear” as we make it when we bring our assumptions and interpret it through our 21st Century, conservative, evangelical lens.

      I personally am trying to sort all of this out too and am wrestling heavily. Perhaps the most frustrating piece for me is sorting through all of our cultural clutter and my personal experiences that have been heaped on top of the issues which at first seemed to make things “clear” for me and now they only leave it convoluted. It isn’t easy sorting through it all.

      Tell me how would the amendment and telling adult people how to live. How is this different than say Nebechadnezzar forcing people to bow to his image? Would we as Christians, want to take the same route and impose our beliefs on people? I don’t ever remember Jesus imposing his beliefs on people. I do remember him standing with people and encouraging & helping them to live lives that are free and full of the life he came to bring.

      Whether one votes “yes” or “no”, we will all lose next Tuesday. Yes, some will celebrate “victory”. But what will have been won? This has already divided.

      As Christians, of which I am one, how many friends who would identify themselves as gay do we have? I’m not just talking about people who we know are gay, but people we actually know and consider as friends? Do we know their story and what they’ve experienced? These issues are big and complex and there are lots of ways to think about it, but it isn’t a faceless issue. There are real people who will be affected for the rest of their lives by this.

      One final thought. As a pastor myself, I think, “If this passes, how many people who may have been interested in visiting a church or exploring Jesus will be forever, yes forever, turned off to God simply because people want to stand for “truth”? When Jesus stood, he stood with people, not against people. The only people he stood against were the religious people who got in the way of others pursuing God. I am grieved by the thought of people being forever turned off to God and vowing to never be a follower of Jesus. Come Tuesday, if the amendment passes, how many thousands of people – friends, family, co-workers, neighbors – all people we love will vow to never believe in God because of this. Is it really worth it?

    • Kate Rice

      Thank you! Yes! Someone has to stand up here and declair the truth. Culture may change, but God’s word NEVER changes. Ryan you are slamming everyone and every pastor who doesn’t agree with you calling them “conservative”. That is narrow minded in itself. This is such an abuse of your power as a pastor it is down right deceitful and wrong. Never once in all of this have you asked people to read the scripture, pray, and ask God for themselves. But that is exactly what the devil doesn’t want people to do. You want people to just believe you. You know that in writing this people will think “well if my pastor says its not wrong, then it must be ok”. That is pure abuse of your authority.
      I pray and i beg everyone PLEASE READ THE SCRIPTURE, PRAY, AND ASK GOD WHAT IS RIGHT. DO NOT JUST TAKE SOMEONE’S WORD FOR IT. The devil comes like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you must learn to lean on God for your own understanding.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Kate, I’m all about having a healthy discourse on the subject matter presented in any article on this blog. But sentences like “You want people to just believe you. You know that in writing this people will think “well if my pastor says its not wrong, then it must be ok”. That is pure abuse of your authority,” come dangerously close to a personal attack on one of our authors.

        So, here’s a couple of thoughts.

        1) Try to advance the conversation by refuting any of the points that our author has made – and “That’s not true!” doesn’t count as a refutation. Our author has put in considerable time and energy toward crafting logical arguments that are supported by sources he provided. If you think that a given point that he has made is inaccurate, take an opportunity to calmly, rationally argue against that point. For an example of how this can be done well (and without malice) please see any comment from “Jenn with 2 N’s”.

        2) This is a place for reasoned conversation, not personal attacks or attempts at libeling our authors. When you imply that our author (an ordained pastor) has written a letter that is deliberately misleading, with the intent of getting people to “just believe” him, you’re treading thin ice and risk getting banned. And on a personal note, the idea that any point of view that disagrees with a conservative fundamentalist stance is, by definition, not Spirit-driven, is a bit small-minded – and it certainly puts God in a box, something that we at What the Faith try to avoid.

        Feel free to continue conversing with our author, readers, and commenters, but play nice.

      • ryanbauers

        Hey Kate:

        Thanks for your fairly intense rebuttal / condemnation.

        My purpose was in no way to “slam” anyone who does not agree with me. Nor was my use of the term “Conservative” meant to be pejorative. I have stated over and over again that those that see this issue differently than I do have that right and can express that view and can vote their conscience. I am all in favor of that.

        Nor am I intending to “abuse my authority” as a pastor. I consider that offensive that you would accuse me of such. I am simply offering a perspective that is different than the “traditional evangelical” approach to this issue. I wrote it with the very intent of giving people some thoughts to think about, to read the scripture and decide for themselves. Note “A Final Note” at the end where I invite this.

      • swagger68

        Do you even know how many times the Bible has been “translated” and rewritten?? 15 Men sat in a room and decided what parts should be used and what parts should the tossed aside. Unless you know Koine Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew.

    • Jay

      Jared, how are you so certain we know what Paul’s words mean – and I’m not talking all of them, I’m talking the TWO words translated as “homosexual” in the New Testament? Have you looked at and studied them? I confess I have done significantly less than many others in that regard, but what I’ve found and learned is pretty surprising on how unclear the meanings to those two words in question actually are.

      • Max

        Hey, Jay, one of the words that Paul uses in 1Corinthians 6 is “arsenokoitai” which is often translated as “homosexual” in our English translations. Scholars have argued quite convincingly that Paul actually invents or coins this word in the Greek language. In order to do this, Paul takes two words from the Septuagint (“aresnos” meaning male or man and “koiten” from the verb to lie or sleep with), the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and combines them. These two words are from Leviticus 20:13, probably the strongest biblical prohibition against any homosexual act. Therefore, Paul is tying his condemnation of homosexual acts to the Old Testament prohibition against all homosexual acts including between consenting adults. Hope this gives a clearer picture of what Paul was getting at.

      • ryanbauers

        Max:

        Yes, thank you, you are reaffirming what SOME scholars think Paul to mean here, but not all. Take the time to read my expanded comment below where I elaborate on this. It is debatable whether or not Paul was addressing the Levitical Laws or whether or not he was addressing a common issue of the time, forbidding heterosexual men from having sex with pre-pubecent boys who were temple prostitutes (See Sara Ruden “Paul Among The People). Scholars DEBATE if this is indeed what Paul was getting at here. You presented ONE THEORY, but not the only theory or the correct theory. It is widely debated among scholars what Paul meant, especially taking in to consideration the historical context Paul was writing in.

      • Max

        Hey, Ryan, thanks for replying. I am familiar with the arguments against seeing this as a reference to Leviticus and primarily as sex with prepubescent boys. I admit, however, that I do not find them convincing. The historical and textual evidence points in a different direction.

        It is unlikely at best that Paul would coin a phrase accidentally using these two separate words from the Septuagint into a single word without intending it to be reference to Lamentations.

        Polycarp’s (69-155 CE, the Bishop of Smyrna) use of this term concerning the issues for young men to be avoid would point towards a more general practice of lying with men in general. Although this could be debated as well.

        The Latin Vulgate translates this word “masculorum concubitores” which Cassell’s “Latin Dictionary” defines as “the lying together or copulation with men.” Passages from Cicero and Virgil are used as support of this definition.

        Concerning the historical context, the Greeks considered homosexuality (not only pederasty) as a higher form of sexuality (Plato’s “Symposium”) and the Romans adopted this Greek acceptance of homosexuality.

        I do understand that this is one interpretation of Paul’s statement and that there is debate on this term. I apologize if I made it sound as though there is not ongoing debate concerning this topic; I certainly did not intend to be dishonest. But to deny the uniqueness of Paul’s choice of words by coining “arsenokoitai” and to deny the general acceptance of homosexuality beyond pederasty in the ancient world is also dishonest.

        Thanks for having a discussion on this issue and for allowing others to share opposing views.

      • ryanbauers

        Hey Max:

        Maybe it is just that I don’t like your “tone” in the way you write. It comes off as a “know it all”. (Although, maybe mine does as well. The deficiency of black and white writing as opposed to chatting over a cup of coffee). Maybe speaking with “perhaps” or “the way I see it” would help me more.

        I am happy to have opposing view points, for sure, as that was one of my main points: that thoughtful, serious Christians can see this from two different perspectives. Which is why I contest your suggestion about me being “dishonest” in your second to last sentence. My contention has been that there are TWO SIDES (or multiple sides), so I cannot see how dishonest can be applied to me here.

        A few bits of feedback:

        It may seem unlikely to you that Paul would use two terms accidentally, without, as you suggest, directly making a reference to Leviticus (which is what you meant, rather than Lamentations). However, one of the preeminent New Testament scholars (who happens to be from a more conservative vantage point) Gordon Fee, even suggests that “we can’t know for sure” what Paul was referring to.

        Your suggestion that Polycarp’s prohibition use of this term to refer to homosexuality in general is pure conjecture, as you even note. He could have very well been referring to sex acts toward boys in the temple.

        As Sara Ruden points out, Plato has this one reference to a higher version of sexuality. However, the bulk of Greek and Roman literature at the time don’t share this view. She argues that what we know today as monogamous same-sex relationships between consenting adults did not exist in ancient Greek or Roman literature.

        So, again, I am thankful for your contribution to this discussion, while recognizing that there are differing ways that serious Christians can see this issue. I do invite the reader, from whatever vantage point they come at this with, to do personal research themselves and engage in the discussion, rather than take our word for it.

        Be well!
        Ryan

      • Max

        Hey, Ryan, thanks for the response. Apologies for tone — I can honestly say it is not intentional. I too agree that there are two sides to this debate. I was sincerely trying to convey one of those sides with honesty and humility. I apologize for failing at this.

        We obviously disagree, however, with which one of these two sides is more convincing. I will check out Sara Ruden’s book, but one must realize there are two sides to her understanding of the differences between what we know today as monogamous same-sex relationship and what did or did not exit in the ancient Greek or Roman world. This includes significant debate over Greek literature’s portrayal of Achilles and Patroclus as well as portrayals of homosexual relationships on pottery and other art forms. If Paul’s intentions in coining this word are up for debate, we must also recognize that so is the understanding of acceptable homosexual practice in the ancient world.

        Again I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic. I do not mean to sound “rude.” I entered the conversation because I believe that you can be a progressive, academically honest, loving, and tolerant Christian and still hold to an interpretation that sees homosexuality as sin along with gossip, gluttony, greed, etc., and not be rude doing it. So I feel terrible that I came across that way.

        Blessings,
        Max (Kerry)

        PS
        Thanks for the catch on “Leviticus” and “Lamentations.”

      • ryanbauers

        Hey Max (Kerry)

        Apology accepted for sure. And, maybe I came off grouchy, as it’s been a very full couple of days.

        I too thank you for offering your thoughts and would not mind to keep up the dialogue if you are up for it. I’d be especially interested in hearing your feedback after reading Ruden and, if you happened to have time, the book above by Jack Rodgers. Obviously you know a lot about ancient cultures, history and Biblical scholarship, so it would be fun to keep in touch.

        And, I want to affirm your last paragraph completely: You can indeed be a progressive, academically honest, loving and tolerant and still hold to your interpretation. It appears that you are such a person and I am glad to know you. Can I keep in touch with you on the email that you logged in with?

        Peace
        Ryan

      • Max

        Ryan, I was so excited to meet you after your last response that I left Minneapolis immediately after reading your last response and drove up to Duluth to be able to meet you. I just pulled into town an hour ago.

        In all seriousness, my wife is a dean of students for an online school and is doing testing for students tomorrow in Duluth. So yes, I did read your last response a couple of hours ago, and yes, I did drive up to Duluth (as planned with my wife) and arrived an hour ago. I am planning on working from a coffee shop tomorrow. Can I buy you a cup of coffee tomorrow and celebrate whatever election night victories you have to celebrate? I am free from about 10am to 12pm tomorrow.

        Blessings,
        Max (Kerry)

    • Jennifer McKibbon

      LIKE!!

    • Jennifer McKibbon

      Meaning, I “like” what Erik Larson on November 2, 2012 at 12:53 AM
      Posted.

      Why is the BIBLE not listed as a reference?
      Isn’t that the book that pastors are supposed to be teaching from and referring too?

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Are you serious? The author quoted the Bible several times. Read the article or don’t comment. If you’d read my moderator comment, you would know that only comments that progress the conversation are welcome.

    • ryanbauers

      I know Rob Ketterling personally and, while I support his right to have this view point and pastor his community the way he feels led by God, this is just more of the same rhetoric that we’ve heard for years from the Conservative Christian camp. Respectfully, I would advise all of us to take a step back, outside our very small North American evangelical bubble and really look at complex issues like this one. It feels as though he and many others are simply repeating the same verses and ideas more often in more hip ways.

  • Jennwith2ns

    This is a good article, though I still can’t agree with all of it. I don’t live in MN, but my brother does . . . I agree with your vote choice from the legal and civil liberties perspectives.

    I also agree that we North Americans have North-American-flavoured interpretations of the Bible. I think you’re right to encourage those of us who take the Bible seriously to think out of the box a little bit and take into account Biblical context and church history, and even our own present-day context.

    On the other hand–the “North American flavour” is part of church history, too. I don’t think EVERYTHING about those interpretations is wrong, even if (unlike people who are afraid to relinquish any of it) we might wish it to be. God’s Spirit didn’t just stop working for the period of modernity or something. I think we have to assume that at any point in history, there was some Spirit-inspired thinking going on. I’m not claiming to know which bits are the baby not to throw out with the bathwater at this point, but I AM saying that, just as we need to be cautious of fear-based fossilisation, we also need to be careful of what CS Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” which allows us to interpret Scripture “in our own image,” so to speak. (I’m not actually saying you’re doing that. I’m saying that that can be a tendency for some of us who are trying to break free of the religious status quo. Holy discontent is a good thing–we just need to keep on making sure God’s directing it.)

    Regarding the marriage issue specifically:

    1. No kidding–“traditional marriage” is a misnomer (also chronologically snobbish, probably, though from a different era). It doesn’t mean, however, that what is referred to that way is not the Biblical ideal. I think the Bible’s pretty clear that there were various “types” of marriage going on throughout its pages; it’s less clear about endorsing all those types, however, and it’s very consistent in its use of (male) husband/(female) wife marriage as its primary analogy for the relationship between God and His people. (I could go into a long discussion about this by itself, but I’ll save it.)

    2. The sanctity of marriage is, I think, both/and. Kind of like that “I was saved, I am saved, I am being saved” thing (justification/sanctification/glorification)–the vows are sacred (if Jesus is the Word, and our “yes” is to mean “yes” and our “no,” “no,” then it’s safe to say words matter, I think–maybe more than our word-glutted and sometimes flippant society can compute. Says the chick writing a blogpost in the comments . . . ). How we live them out, however, proves it. For a Christian, like the relationship God had with the Israelites in the Old Testament, it’s a covenant. The question is, I think, between what sorts of parties that covenant is “allowable.” (Incidentally–I agree that from a Christian covenant perspective, JP marriages, say, shouldn’t technically “count” either, and if you’re going to legislate against one type of unapproved-as-Christian marriage, you should legislate against all of them–secular, Hindu, Buddhist . . . Which then opposes the separation of church and state thing, and just gets ridiculous.)

    3. I’m very familiar with the apologetic for consensual monogamous homosexual relationships. I’m familiar with the parallels to other injustices the Bible was wrongly used to defend–and they’re compelling, but I have a gut hunch they’re false parallels. I’ve been mulling these ideas over quite a bit for the last few years. I agree that the church has been unfair to homosexuals and I want to embrace that apologetic, but I can’t genuinely do that right now. Maybe my mind will change at some point, but at the moment, any time I go back to God with this one, I can’t find another way to read honestly those reputedly debatable passages, and I am reminded of the people I know who are gay and who didn’t “change” but who, because of their commitment to Christ, have also committed not to act on those desires. (Some of them remained celibate. Some of them, somehow, managed to fall in love with women. None of them were browbeaten into this state of affairs.) They’re inspiring in their self-discipline.

    4. Incidentally, I also hold to the old-school chastity-before-marriage thing–because of the whole Christ/Church marriage analogy thing. I think Jesus is “waiting.” I’m 40 years old, just got married in March, and though it was, uh, “touch and go” for a little bit there (yeah, I said it), I can say I basically waited and I can also say I know what it’s like to have extremely strong desires, not act on them, and not know if I’d ever have the opportunity to. It’s a sometimes frustrating and depressing experience, but I think sometimes God calls us to give up things that we’re naturally inclined to, for the sake of getting closer to Him. I didn’t know I was ever going to get married. (The courtship was a short one, so it’s not like I knew “fulfillment” was going to arrive any time soon. Before that, I dated a guy for 2.5 years, with whom we both, I think, secretly knew there would be no future, to both of our intense frustration.) Yes, there was an end point to my waiting–eventually. I’m just saying I’m not ENTIRELY like one of those pastors who got married at 21 and says, “Oh well–poor gay people. They’ll just have to stay celibate if they can’t change, then.” I’m not unfamiliar with the angst and the longings, but . . . I’m also not convinced they’re not supposed to be there, or that some of us aren’t called to resist them. I believe in working for the Kingdom in this life, but I don’t really believe true fulfillment will ever come–to any of us–until Jesus gets back here.

    5. I’m still working through how I think the Church should ACTUALLY handle these issues. I agree that “homosexual sin” has been elevated to a level of “sin-awfulness” in the US church that I don’t think it merits–particularly in the sense that it creates double standards. I take seriously the standards to which the apostle Paul holds church leaders–but I’m a church leader and I’m married to a divorced man who divorced for reasons not actually sanctioned in Scripture. I suspect that technically (or metaphorically-literally?) that makes me an adulteress. Which is a little ironic, considering what I just said about “waiting.” I’m still trying to sort that one out to my own satisfaction in my head, but I think there’s something in the situation to be said about grace–and I think the same thing applies to the homosexual situation. If one’s a sin, so’s the other, but they can both be forgiven, and who ever heard of a perfect church leader, anyway? Probably an authentic one and a consistently growing and repentant one is better.

    Ha! See what I did there! My OWN guest post! Booyah! 🙂

    (There’s got to be something against self-aggrandising church leaders, too, I’m pretty sure . . . )

  • ryanbauers

    Thanks all! It was a fun article to write, as I am very passionate about the subject.

    Erik: You have commented before on some of my thoughts on this subject in a similar manner, making me wonder if you are even reading what I am writing. You are free to disagree, but I am at least hoping that you’ve consider what I have written, rather than just retorting with the same pre-programed responses.

    As an ordained pastor trained in Theology, I have read the verses you quoted above hundreds of times and took them into account when I wrote by article. Respectfully, those verses are not as “obvious” as they may seem, especially when taken in context. I don’t have space here to explain them all, but the last three that you quoted are the “debated” verses that I spoke of in my article. Those verses are widely contested by serious scholars as to whether or not the “homosexuality” refereed to in these passages has any connection to what we know today as monogamous, same-sex relationships. Historically, we know that “homosexuality” in ancient Greek and Rome (the context of Paul writing these passages) was married, heterosexual men going to the sex temples and having intercourse with pre-pubecent boys. (See “Paul Among The People” by Sara Ruden). Paul’s prohibition would be against that form of activity not monogamous, respectful relationships between two consenting adults.

    • Jared

      I’ll bite on that one.

      What would make it wrong to go to the temple and have sex with pre-pubicient boys? Is it their age? At what age does it then become okay? Was it because they weren’t consenting? What if they did consent (you can’t prove that at least some of it wasn’t consensual).

      You are correct – this isn’t specifically about homosexuality. It actually boils down to why is any unnatural sexual activity prohibited in the first place (not age, nor consent,nor the amount of love or lust involved, nor the level of social acceptance attributed to it). The line gets drawn at God’s natural inclination for man vs sin’s mutated inclination for man.

      Obviously the sex temple activity was wrong – but not for any of the reason’s above . . . it was wrong because it was against God’s plan for Mankind. He created us Man and Woman to be together – tasked us with procreating and subduing the earth, and forbid mankind to lay with mankind.

      Ordained Pastor in Theology or not, you should stop trying to justify what is clearly wrong in scripture (even when you perform accurate biblical exegesis).

      • wtfaithstaff

        Thanks for a logical, respectful comment! I’ll give Ryan an opportunity to respond if he wants. But after that, I’m going to have to ask that we table any further discussion that is JUST ABOUT the Biblical argument about homosexuality. As I mentioned in a new comment below about comment moderation, I want to avoid a conversation that just goes strictly off of one aspect of the author’s argument (and let’s face it, “Bible vs gayness” is the only one that is in danger of getting all of the focus) and instead encourage a multi-faceted approach to comments. Ryan addressed more than just a Biblical stance, so let’s get back to a broader focus on conversation.

  • Rob Kay

    Good article Ryan. I think you laid out some interesting points. I can’t say that I fully agree with you in all areas, but differing viewpoints leads to excellent discourse-which I always appreciate. I believe a specific strength of your argument is disputing that a vote of no does not equal a vote that is in favor of same-sex marriage. From the outside looking in, it seems that this issue has been made out to be defining one’s stance on allowing same-sex marriages. Thank you for offering clarification for a non-Minnesotan.

    It’s unfortunate that all in Minnesota are forced into yet another polarizing decision on this issue. Most of the replies here appear to advocate for a certain “side.” Our Christian history on this issue is wrought with polarizing behaviors and attitudes toward the Gay Community, and the Gay Community’s responses have been understandably polarizing as well in many cases. No one wins when polarization occurs. I wonder how many inroads toward relationship could be gained if emphasis was being placed on finding commonalities between the Christian and Gay Communities, rather than highlighting (yet again) how we are different.

    While one side will emerge as the victor on this specific issue from the vote on Tuesday, relationship building will lose once again. I hope I live to see the day where the tide turns in favor of relationship building rather than continued polarization.

    • ryanbauers

      Hey Rob:

      I love your post! Thank you. My intent in writing this in the first place was to bring a balance to the dialogue, especially when so much of the rhetoric was coming from the Conservative or Fundamentalist Christian side. And, while I support their right to express their opinions and vote their conscience, I wanted to offer an alternate perspective so that people who are committed Christians don’t feel like they have to chose between their faith and voting NO.

      Agreeing to disagree is a fine resolution, so long as we take in what the other side has to say, research it ourselves, ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and vote our conscience.

    • Jennwith2ns

      Yeah–that’s a REALLY well-put point.

  • Linda D.

    Ryan, THANK YOU for being one of the people in the Christian community who is thoughtful and respectful and generally worth talking to. As a non-hetero aethist, I find my door being pounded on perpetually by people thumping Bibles and promising damnation unless I rethink my entire being.

    I completely respect people and whatever they believe and have friends and family in nearly every organized religion. My dad is a Vietnam vet who several years ago rediscovered Christianity, asked God for forgiveness for what he had to do in the war, and said he *felt* God forgive him. In ways like this, I think that religion can be (forgive the expression) a Godsend.

    But in a world where the more controvertial your viewpoint, the better the sound byte, it’s hard to get press for moderate, well-rounded people like yourself. You’ve made my day and revitalized my hope for Christians!

    • ryanbauers

      Hey Linda:

      Thanks for your post.

      You know, I had someone give me the nicest compliment I have received in years when I posted this, “Ryan, I was thinking… If a lot more Christians followed Jesus as you do, well, there would be a multitude lot more Christians.”

      The reality is the there are scores of Christians like me who believe similar things. And, the sad thing is the, often times, our voices get drowned out by the loudest and most annoying of the conservative and fundamentalist camps. The exciting thing is that many of us are making a commitment to speak up louder and more often in order to let others know there is a Third Way group of Christians – not fundamentalist, yet not liberal mainline (though I love many of those folks), but people who take Jesus seriously, believe that the Bible offers something powerful to our lives (when read carefully and in context) and want to make this world a better place. And, we love to work with anyone, including atheist friends like yourself, toward making this world a better place.

      Be well Linda!

  • Twon

    Pastor Ryan-

    So many thoughts to share, but I will only share one of them (maybe more later). You begin by writing, …”would force everyone to follow a religious definition of marriage at a State level”

    A few thoughts. Marriage itself isn’t necessary always considered a religious tradition. In MN, for example, you can be married by a judge. Additionally, common law marriages, while not common, do exist in many areas. I have an aunt who has a common law husband in Minnesota. When it is a religious tradition, it isn’t always a Christian tradition. As a pastor, I’ve preformed handful of weddings, I know you have as well. Couples generally ask a pastor to “Marry them” because the Minnesota State Law requires that an official pastor does it-not just anyone from the street of Minnesota. Should that law be changed as well because a “pastor” is involved and a Pastor is generally considered a religious tradition or part of one?

    I think because you are around many conservative Christians, you often mistake the true intend of the amendment. I know many people, who do not profess any faith, in fact, they would say that there isn’t a GOD at all, yet are voting YES on this for Tuesday.

    I mentioned this last on FB to you and will here again. My over all problem with your post and posts on this in general is that people are grouped into ONE group or another. If you vote NO, for this, you are labeled PRO GAY lifestyle and anti-Christian Values. If you Vote YES for this, you are labeled as a fundamentalist” or a closed mind Christian. Voting YES or NO, couldn’t be any further from the truth for many people on this issue.

    Finally, I am NOT a Scholar of the Bible. I wish I was and am working on it everyday. However, I don’t think that just because you interrupt one way, you can write off how someone else may look at those same passages. I remember being at a General Council, listening to two Doctor’s (in Greek) discuss the role of Women in Ministry and thinking, “How can two people who actually READ from the Geek read it so different;y…” and I think you need to respect how some might read those passages differently than you do….

    Having said all of this. I wish this wasn’t on the ballot for many reasons. Even more, I wish NOT voting didn’t mean a NO vote…it forces people to vote for the issue if you’re going to turn in a ballot.

    Love you Pastor Ryan and respect your NO vote….I know a lot of people voting NO, I just think some of your reasons for voting NO are weak.

  • Meg

    Well stated, Ryan! And now I must add my two cents because that is what the internet is for.
    I am no scholar or expert. What I am is a Christian who has spent the last year or so struggling with this issue, trying to figure out what I believe, WHY I believe it, and where I stand. So far what I have been able to come up with is yet another question:
    *If homosexuality is a sin, does it matter?*
    THAT, I believe, is the question that needs to be addressed, as it has serious implications into who we really believe God to be, and what we believe Jesus’ death and resurrection actually accomplished.
    Christians seem to spend half their time talking about how other people are wrong (and while not explicitly stating that God loves those wrong people less, it is TOTALLY implied), and the other half talking about how Jesus loves us all. Excuse me? Forgive my use of shorthand here, but WTF?
    As I understand it, Jesus’ death and resurrection has wiped the slate clean for EVERYONE. Regardless of what anyone does or doesn’t do, we all have equal access to a God who loves [say it with me] the WORLD. Is my Bible the only one on the planet with a version of John 3:16 that doesn’t include stipulations on who gets God-love?
    So if being gay is a sin, it’s a sin. So what? So is lying and gossiping and all of us do that every day. Sin itself does not send anyone to hell, it’s our acceptance of God and his forgiveness that determines what our afterlife will be. If sin is what sends us to hell, then the cross meant nothing and we are all hosed. We have to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time. Yeah, good luck with that; just TRY to never lie or gossip again. You and I both will be first in line at the gates of hell. I’ll bring the cookies.
    We all know we can’t get into heaven by being sinless, therefore sinning doesn’t send us to hell. So if homosexuality is a sin, does it then get special treatment? Is that now the one and only sin Jesus couldn’t clear? He beat death, but same-sex marriage, now THAT is beyond Christ’s power. Come on. Does my neighbor being gay mean I’m going to go to hell too? Will my neighbor marrying someone of the same sex send me to hell? Absurd!
    If homosexuality is a sin, does it matter? I believe that it does not. I cannot find any biblical evidence to suggest that it somehow slipped through the cracks of the free redemption we all enjoy through Christ.
    So now to apply that to what is going on right now in Minnesota. How does forbidding same-sex marriage help anyone? Is that really the best use of our time and energy? Is that really our plan to convince the LGBT community that we love them, and, more importantly, that God loves them? In which verse does it say, “being gay is wrong, and you should try to make gay people as miserable as possible. That will definitely get them saved.” This amendment is just condescending and hypocritical; it’s not loving anyone, which, by the way, is the second greatest commandment, according to Jesus.
    And I agree with Ryan: a NO vote is not a vote for same-sex marriage, it is a vote against the denial of rights to a group of American citizens. It’s not about faith, it’s about how much power to give the government in determining our ability to pursue happiness. What a precedent it will be if Minnesota decides that the State can tell us who we can marry and who we cannot.

    • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

      Meg, I like this question. My parents and I disagree (sometimes strongly) on the “gay marriage question,” but we do agree on one thing: If I believe that being gay isn’t a sin and I turn out to be wrong – how will that affect my personal salvation and faith? Not at all. If this amendment passes and/or if the conservative movement’s lack of love and understanding for gay people drowns out Jesus’ love – how will that affect others’ salvation and faith? Quite a bit.

      In the end, our only job is love. Trite, yes, but true. That’s why my favorite line from Ryan’s article was about agreeing to disagree on disputable matters and pursuing love, unity, and humility.

  • Jared

    I can’t begin to voice my disappointment in this stance Ryan … not that you don’t support the amendment – but more that your article clearly points out that you don’t believe homosexuality is truely a sin.

    God’s word doesn’t change, regardless of how our society does. Homosexualty was forbidden by God and is harm to anyone who engages in it, and rather than warn your LGBT friends of the danger their in and try to save them, you appease them.

    I have to believe that you know deep down that it is wrong … please pray that God will make is more clear to you. God’s holds pastors accountable for what they teach.

    • Chelsey

      Jared, if God’s word doesn’t change, why are you voting for an ammendment that defines marriage as ONE man and ONE woman, when many of our spiritual forefathers had plural marraiges? (Jacob + Rebekah + Rachel)?

  • JStainbrook

    Hi Ryan, I am extremely concerned reading your views on this issue. As someone who is currently in Seminary doing Academic research and writing papers on this issue I find your list of sources troubling.

    Where are your Greek and Hebrew resources?
    Where are your Biblical Commentaries?
    Where are your Systematic Theological resources?
    Where are your your outside resources besides “open minded” literature?
    Your list of resources is lacking in Biblical Academic names.

    I showed your post to my professor Craig Blomberg who is world renown for New Testament Academics. He has written numerous books on New Testament Theology, New Testament Translations, and also Helped Translate the NIV Bible.

    I also showed your post to my Greek Professor who has struggled with Homosexuality and has written numerous Academic papers on this issue.

    Dr. Blomberg and my Greek Professor are starting to write a textbook and sermon series on how to deal with this issue in a loving and compassionate way. We need to love people who are homosexual and treat them well. At the same time we cannot let it be thought that homosexual behavior is not a sin.

    The Bible is very clear on this issue and to say that it is not is trying to appease our modern culture and society.
    It is not a popular thing to say that homosexuality is wrong. It is not popular to say many things the Bible teaches.
    We need to remember that we are not called to be liked by our society, we are not called to be tolerant of sin and things that are hurting the body of Christ. We are called to speak truth into people’s lives, and that can be a very unpopular thing to do. Jesus himself said people will hate you because of me. We cannot compromise what the Bible teaches or trivialize its meaning.

    Here is an Article my professors have written and published. In your words it is going to be Evangelical and Fundamentalist so beware. Also read the list of resources at the end of the article. They do a good job of using Academic sources.

    BIBLICAL TEACHING ON HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR AND ITS CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION

    By Craig L. Blomberg and Elodie B. Emig of the New Testament Department of Denver Seminary

    Our Ten Non-Commandments (Goals, Disclaimers, Presuppositions)

    Our Focus: We have a limited focus as suggested by the three parts of our title. We are not focusing on what other religions teach, or trying to resolve the debate over where homosexual orientations come from, or trying to address all the political or social issues surrounding the topic.

    About the Bible:
    We are assuming Scripture, as properly interpreted and applied, as our final authority. Other historically Christian sources of authority—esp. tradition, reason, and experience—are all important but cannot be our supreme authority.

    We must gather all of Scripture’s teaching on this (or any) topic, interpreting each passage in its historical and literary context, utilizing the very best translation of that passage as possible, and then synthesize the results to determine the Bible’s overall teaching.

    The Christian cannot apply any Old Testament passage, esp. from the Law, without understanding how the New Testament may have changed things on the topic at hand, i.e., how it was fulfilled in Christ. The distinctions among moral, civil and ceremonial laws are helpful, even if they don’t always go far enough.

    Once one understands as best as possible what a biblical author wanted his audience to do in response to a particular text, we still have to ask if that is the same response God intends for us today. Often it is; but sometimes there is a larger principle involved that actually requires a different kind of application today.

    A key way to determine whether a biblical teaching is timeless or situation-specific is to ask if it appears consistently in the same form throughout all of the Scriptures or if it is applied in different, even possibly contradictory ways, within the Scriptures themselves.

    About Sex and Sin:
    Achieving sexual climax with another human being is not a God-given or human right that all people must experience or that makes them any more or less fully human or created in God’s image.

    In a fallen, sinful world of fallen, sinful human beings, one may not attribute every personal characteristic—whether from nature or nurture—to “the way God created me.”

    It is possible, indeed crucial, to demonstrate love, compassion and kindness to all kinds of sinners (including ourselves!) without condoning what is sinful. Indeed, when sin leads to bad consequences, it is unloving not to warn people about those consequences.

    It is a demonstrated fact that some who have once had a homosexual orientation have changed to a fulfilling heterosexual life, some have tried their hardest to change over years and have been unsuccessful and many who have tried to change have been partially successful but only partially.

    Key Old Testament Passages
    Genesis 1-2 (Creation)
    The creation of male and female in the image of God (1:26-27)
    Woman as a helper corresponding to man (2:18)
    Monogamous, heterosexual marriage as a creation ordinance (2:24)

    Genesis 9:20-27 (Noah, Ham, Shem and Japheth)
    Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah)
    Attempted homosexual practice as the terminal sin leading to God’s
    judgment (cf. 18:20)
    Ezekiel 16:49-50 and related sins
    Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (Male homosexual practice forbidden as an
    abomination)

    Old Testament penalties for sins are frequently commuted in the New Testament. In other words, the practices remain sinful, even if the judgment is lessened or delayed.

    Other sexual practices in the OT are regularly treated as moral, not civil or ceremonial, though certain ones do lead to ritual impurity. So we will have to wait to see what the NT does here.

    Judges 19 (Sodom redux)
    Remarkable parallels to Genesis 19, only without divine
    intervention this time

    Part of the horrid end of the period of the Judges (chaps. 17-21), summed up in 21:25.

    1 Samuel 18:1-4 & 2 Samuel 1:26 (David and Jonathan, and other biblical same-sex friendships)
    Nothing is wrong with deep, personal, intimate same-sex friendships and non-sexual physical touch.
    Cf. NT holy kiss.
    Indeed, Western cultures have often lost crucial elements of these.
    The danger of interpreting these friendships via non-Jewish, ancient Near Eastern parallels the utter absence of anything explicitly sexual.

    Turning to the New Testament
    The Ministry of Jesus
    The significance of male and female followers of Christ
    Mark 14:52—the young man who ran away naked
    Jesus’ characteristic compassion and concern for outcasts
    Welcoming sinners or accepting their hospitality, even over meals
    With regular calls for repentance or declarations of forgiveness

    See esp. Mark 1:14-15, 2:13-17; Luke 7:36-50, 19:1-10 (and cf. John 7:53-8:11)
    Romans 1:24-32 (The Most Detailed NT Teaching on the Topic)
    Part of 1:18-3:20, in which Paul is showing the universal sinfulness of humanity in its idolatry.

    Heterosexual and homosexual sin is put on an equal footing.
    Male and female homosexual sin put on an equal footing
    The impossibility of limiting this to cult prostitution, pederasty, or other subsets of homosexual practice.
    “Nature” in Paul is a synonym for the created order, not just custom; Paul is not talking about their nature as humans but “nature” abstractly.

    1 Corinthians 6:9 (Those who will not inherit the kingdom)
    The Greek malakoi and arsēnokoitai = the more passive and active partners in homosexual sex
    The other sins in the list don’t trivialize sexual sin but make all the items serious ones.

    The use of nouns in the Greek suggest people who are so consumed by one or more of these practices that it characterizes them or defines their identity. Not lapses but a total lifestyle!

    Only God knows who has crossed such a threshold
    But obviously it’s not a line we should ever want to flirt with or encourage anyone else to.
    Note the contrast between the pre-Christian and Christian life here

    1 Timothy 1:9-11
    Another vice list including arsēnokoitai. By itself, it probably means “those practicing homosexuality” more generally.
    In fact, combined with “fornicators” Paul probably has all heterosexual and homosexual sin in view.

    2 Peter 2:6-8 and Jude 7
    A final flashback to Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of “the depraved conduct of the lawless” (2 Peter 2:7)
    In the context of “Christian” false teachers involved in sexual sin.

    Again combined with heterosexual sin—adultery (2 Pet. 2:14) and promiscuity (Jude 4)
    Probably also in Jude 7, although this is complicated by the allusion to angels and “other flesh.”
    The broader context of pretend belief and eternal punishment

    Conclusions
    There is no redemptive “trajectory” in the Bible on homosexual behavior as on other issues. Every passage in both testaments is equally insistent that it is wrong.

    The only unforgivable sin is the sin of failure to repent (God honors human choices).

    We are all deeply flawed. It is far easier to point out others’ cherished sins than to deal with our own.That Christians are not to judge, however, means not to be “judgmental” or overly censorious. It does not mean that we refuse to point out what the Bible calls sin. See Matthew 7:1 in the context of vv. 2-6.

    That all sins separate us from God does not make all sins equal in severity. The consequences for me are far less if someone hates me but never acts on it than if they kill me. The same is true with lust vs. adultery. See Matthew 23:23 where Jesus talks about the weightier matters of the law.

    Reparative therapy distinguishes between core identity and addictive behaviors that may attach to it. At the merely human level, the frequent adverse consequences of both heterosexual and homosexual sin are so prevalent as to be undeniable—divorce, broken homes, traumatized children, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies.
    Even the secular world is increasingly recognizing that the more sexual partners a person has of either gender, the harder it becomes for them to form healthy, intimate relationships, sexual or otherwise.

    Percentage-wise, even with heterosexual divorce rates nearing 50% of all marriages, only a miniscule percentage of (esp. male) homosexual relationships are committed or long-lasting.
    Among those long-lasting relationships, most interviewed acknowledge love, friendship, acceptance, and the like, as their main felt needs, none of which require sexual activity to achieve and which are in fact often hurt by sexual activity.

    While some still debate genetic questions, there remains a strong correlation between the absence of healthy same-sex parental relationships and the desire for homosexual relationships.
    It can’t be coincidental that in an age of rampantly increasing dysfunctional families, we see a corresponding explosion of homosexual activity.

    Mathematically, if only genetics were involved, homosexual orientation should be at its all-time low today, since homosexuals have historically produced children at a dramatically lower rate than heterosexuals.
    No “gay gene” has been discovered, nor any close correlation among identical twins, as would have to be the case if homosexual orientation were completely or even primarily genetic.

    Perhaps the best way to address questions of public policy is to ask how we would want heterosexually sinful people treated and treat practicing homosexuals no worse. Part of the problem, though, is that some laws actually discriminate against heterosexually married couples in favor of couples merely living together.

    In all of this, the Golden Rule still remains an excellent guide, as long as we are ruthlessly honest about how we should want to be treated.

    Excellent Resources

    Elizabeth R. Moberly, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (London: James Clarke, 1983; repr. London: Lutterworth, 2006)—The classic modern work that moved beyond seeing homosexuality as a disease but also rejected the genetic explanation, seeing homosexual orientation as the product of blockages in healthy same-sex relationships, which could be treated with psychoanalytic therapy.

    Joseph Nicolosi, Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories of Reparative Therapy (Northville, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1993)—Classic accounts of male homosexuals healed by reparative therapy and a description of how group therapy works.

    Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995)—The first half of the book focuses on interpreting the key Scriptures; the second on presenting the results of countless psychological and sociological studies. There are more recent works, but none that overturn the findings contained here.

    Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2002) –The most in-depth analysis of every possibly relevant text and all of the principles of interpretation that have been brought to bear on them. Fully aware of all the “revisionist” scholarship, it carefully rebuts every claim. All the more significant because the author has taught in a largely liberal context (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) and denomination (PCUSA).

    Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007)—The only study of its kind, undertaken by two Wheaton professors for over a decade, demonstrating both the possibility and difficulty of change in sexual orientation by Christians. Almost entirely ignored or rejected out of hand by the secular media and gay lobbies.
    Janelle Hallman, The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2008)—Discusses first the lack of healthy same-sex relationships lesbians typically have had, followed by a detailed discussion of the path to restoration. Author is a Denver Seminary graduate with extensive subsequent academic and counseling experience.

    Linda L. Belleville, Sex, Lies and the Truth (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010).—Very short, up-to-date, readable, three-chapter book on casual sex, sex outside of marriage and same-gender sex, with excellent exegesis, up-to-date statistics and a wealth of bibliography including websites.

  • wtfaithstaff

    PUTTING MY MODERATOR PANTS ON. PLEASE READ.

    Hey folks!

    So, as some of you have surely noticed by there, there is more than a little bit of emotional tension to be found within the Christian community regarding the subject of homosexuality. Some people can disagree in ways that are respectful, courteous, and productive. Some people cannot.

    As moderators, Brandi and I get to say which is which.

    So, here are a few points that will lend you, the reader/commenter, some insight into my brain, as I spend the next few days approving comments awaiting moderation, or deleting comments from previously-approved commenters.

    1) As the Monty Python boys would say, personal attacks are “right out!” I’m not tolerating them. You can think whatever you want of my authors – you can question their parentage, believe them to be addicted to any substance you can imagine, or imply that they love goats inappropriately. What you can NOT do is say that here. Find your own space. You can respect authors or you can shout against the wall, but I won’t approve any personal attacks.

    2) Progress the conversation. Ryan, our guest author, has gone through a lot of time and effort (not to mention prayer and Biblical reflection) to create the argument he has presented in this letter. You don’t get to cheat by saying “Nuh-uh!” and expect to find a forum on the What the Faith comments. Try harder, or don’t. Just don’t. For examples of how you can refute an argument in a way that is completely “What the Faith” appropriate, see comments from my buddy, Jenn with 2 N’s.

    3) Try to address the WHOLE article. Seriously, guys. Ryan made more than Biblical arguments in his letter. If all you have to say is, “You think the Bible doesn’t hate GAYS?!?! Argghllle barggggllle blah blah blah”, you’re picking one part of a larger topic and ignoring the others. Ryan’s letter is very specifically about the proposed Minnesota Marriage Amendment, not a general discussion about homosexuality in the Bible. I’m not saying you need to address every single point he made, but if you’re ONLY ADDRESSING THE ONE, we’ll pass, thanks. Some comments have been approved in that vein. No more will be. Don’t waste your time.

    On a final note, Brandi is refraining from carpeting this blog with F-bombs in a manner that only 1940’s Stalingrad would recognize, out of a sense of keeping our comments respectful. Do your part, or I’ll let her off her leash. You have been warned. 😀

    Let’s keep the conversation going!

    With love and snuggles,

    The What the Faith staff

    • Jared

      at least 50% of Ryan’s article dealt with the biblical basis for or against homosexuality (clearly slanted for homosexuality) … but we can’t address that without addressing the legal arguements???

      Your blog, your rules i guess . . . but it seems the crux of this issue is where the bible stands on it (at least for Christians). Why not let us comment on that without touching on the amendment. Keep the mean stuff out, but let us address unblibical teaching where we see it.

      Like I said – your blog, your rules – snuggles 🙂

      • wtfaithstaff

        Not a ridiculous argument, Jared. 🙂 Aside from wishing (as the owner/moderator/poobah) of the blog to keep the conversation specific to the Marriage Amendment, I am also insisting on brevity because the points that both you and Ryan are presenting are far too complex for the argument to be settled in the comments section on an obscure off-kilter faith blog. The reason neither side of the argument has given “victory” to the other is because the subject matter’s complex, emotionally-charged nature makes a simple “one two punch” argument impossible. If I let the Biblical argument carry on indefinitely, we’ll be able to just ask Jesus for his thoughts when we see him, because it’ll be going on until Judgment Day. 😉

        For readers who (like yourself) find the Biblical argument more important than other aspects of the argument, I suggest taking the time to read the sources provided by the author, as well as by other commenters who are taking a contrary approach. Commenter “JStainbrook” has offered a treasure trove of sources to support his arguments, just like Ryan has. This debate has been going on for decades, with voices from authors all over the world contributing. We’ll won’t settle it tonight, so let’s agree to disagree and keep the conversation broad and accessible for people of any level of theological training.

        Right back atcha with the snuggles, friend! 😀

  • Peter Benedict

    I’m a fellow ordained pastor, and recognizing that this issue causes otherwise decent people to engage in hateful behavior, I’ll nonetheless wade in. I do so because of sin in the church, which is a huge concern to me. Specifically: Disunity, acts of hatred caused by doctrinal division, and broken community that tells the world nothing about who we follow.

    I believe I have friends on either side of this issue who are voting in accord with their consciences, with their understanding of scripture, and with guidance by the Holy Spirit. Some of my friends on either side of this issue are using this as a wedge to attack others, which grieves me (thus this post).

    I’ve known Ryan for years now; I respect him tremendously. He’s humble about his perspective on issues related to this amendment, and he’s doing his best to submit to God’s leadership. Yet here he is, being vilified as an agent of Satan because he suggests reasonable people can disagree about both the nature of homosexuality (an indisputable statement, as there are reasonable people on both sides) and because he suggests perhaps we shouldn’t legislate debatable moral issues using the government.

    Ryan’s perspective is going to be a bridge for people repulsed by some of the hypocrisy Christians have demonstrated around sexuality. God can use this article for good; That good is limited by the mud-flinging of His followers.

    I am deeply troubled by Christians claiming to be voting their conscience by regulating GLBT relationships, yet lacking interest in making divorce illegal or regulating sex during menstruation (see Leviticus, a couple verses away from its prohibition of homosexual sex) or making pre- or extra-marital sex illegal. I see no Biblical consistency, which makes me suspicious that something other than adherence to the Bible is causing this issue to be elevated beyond other, similarly Biblical sexuality concerns.

    My encouragement to adherents of both side: If you follow Jesus, he’s given you a set of priorities that’s relevant here. First: Love God, with all your heart and soul and strength and mind. Second: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Read 1 Corinthians 13 for a refresher on what it means to love others.

    Then ask God for the strength to love those who disagree with you about matters great and small. There are much bigger fish to fry in our culture than gay marriage, but that’s as good a place to start as any. Ask God to give you patience and kindness, and to keep you from rudeness, with those who disagree inside or outside the church.

    One last point, one which touches on my own experience. Accusing Ryan of “appeasement” is borderline ridiculous. Ryan’s an evangelical pastor; The safest position for him is the “traditional” Biblical perspective, by a long shot. Ryan could have spent today writing an article about his church’s work with people in need, and he’d have been complimented all day long. The last thing he’s doing is choosing the easy path. I’ve been in his shoes with a similar issue, and it pains me to see the argument that he’d do this because it’s more comfortable in some way. He’s taking a sacrificially painful stance; At least give him some credit for choosing the hard path, while disagreeing.

  • ryanbauers

    Hey Friends:

    I read your posts and plan to respond soon.
    Ryan

  • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

    Can I address the purely legal aspect of the argument? First, Ryan is spot on with the separation of church and state. The exact phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution, but it is implied in the First Amendment and found in the writings of the Framers – and enshrined in two hundred years of jurisprudence. And, it’s just plain smart.

    There’s another thing to mention about the legality of the amendment. Warning: this is a little dry…hence being the legal argument. The subject of same-sex marriage is the tip of the iceberg for LGBT people. Crash course in U.S. Constitutional law:

    There are certain protected classes in the U.S., and being a member of that protected class means that you enjoy certain liberties. If those liberties are violated by the government, then the Supreme Court will employ different levels of scrutiny to determine whether there was adequate justification for the violation. For example, if someone is denied a certain right because he’s black, the Court applies the highest level of scrutiny and will find that the denial is illegal unless it is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest. If, however, someone is denied a certain right because she is a woman, the Court applies a lower standard of scrutiny (but still difficult to meet) because there can be reasonable justification for (e.g.) denying a woman the same job as a man (i.e., because there can be valid physical reasons that a 4’10” woman couldn’t be a pro wrestler in the same class as a 6’7″ man).

    Gay people, on the other hand, are not a member of *any* protected class, and when a gay person is denied a civil right simply because he’s gay, HE has the burden to show that there is NO rational basis upon which the denial rests. In all other protected classes, the government bears the burden.

    This is likely to change within the next few years given that homosexuals are (in my opinion) likely to become a protected class. In order to be a member of a protected class, one must be part of a “discrete and insulate minority” that are prejudiced against and don’t enjoy the political processes that are usually used to protect other minorities. (Wikipedia US v. Carolene Products, Footnote 4).

    Voting to amend the Minnesota Constitution, therefore, is a not a smart move legally or politically. Federal law trumps state law and we’ll just have to amend it again when gay people become a protected class. There’s a big difference between voting for a bill (that can be overturned comparatively easily) and voting to enshrine discrimination into the Constitution. This not only violates the concept of separation of church and state, but is also a waste of taxpayer and government resources.

    Sorry this wasn’t a more dramatic post, but it adds another level to the legal argument.

  • ryanbauers

    Alright, I would like to respond to a few of the above posts with some general statements first, then address JStainbrook’s critique above:

    1. I want to reiterate a central point in my article that I believe that, for those of us who are serious Christians, we can agree to disagree over this issue. I support those who feel in their conscience to vote Yes on Tuesday. I don’t think that my opinion is the only opinion or the best opinion, but it is my educated opinion that you can agree with or disagree with. The point is that, in my view, it is a debatable issue and we fiercely disagree over it, yet still love one another.

    2. I am inviting you to study this yourself. I have been doing so for the past three years and have come to this conclusion. What bothers me is people who come to the immediate conclusion that this is “obvious” and do not take the time to seriously look at the issue. Don’t just repeat what you heard someone else said. Take a look at the issue from both sides. Don’t be afraid to wade in deep and wrestle with it for a while. As I said sincerely above in my A Final Word, “I believe that what is desperately needed in this generation are more people committed to the relentless pursuit of truth, however uncomfortable that may be. May you and I be these people!”

    3. Now I would like to take a few moments to discuss JStainbrook’s & Jared’s comments about the translations of homosexuality. I hope that you both would give me the credit that I did not just write this off the cuff over breakfast. I have studied this long and hard. And, while you may not agree with me or you know professors who don’t agree with me, I am here to resolutely say that there are plenty of scholars who don’t agree with your position either. My hope in writing this was not to present a Scholarly paper (which I may do at some point) with a score of works cited (though I did reference some of the main texts that I have found helpful) but to write a blog article. And the purpose was not to present some “slam dunk”, win over all argument related to this topic. It was to present some thoughts from my perspective and one that many seriousl Christians and Scholars alike hold. What you requested, oh Seminary student JStainbrook, it outside the scope of this blog post.

    Nevertheless, let me offer a few thoughts:

    First of all, it is absolutely accurate to say that the seven passages that potentially relate to homosexuality are “debatable”. It is NOT and I repeat NOT obvious what they are forbidding and how that relates if at all to modern day, monogamous, same-sex relationships. Anyone who says that it is obvious is not reading a wide enough body of scholars and their works on this. You could come to the conclusion that you feel it is clear after much study, but it is not immediately obvious, but complicated and nuanced.

    Because it is so highly debated among scholars, it can be classified as a “debatable issue”. Again, Paul makes this distinction in Romans 14 & 15 and urges the followers of Jesus arguing if they can eat meat sacrificed to idols or not to follow their own conviction about this lesser issue. As I note in my Referenced Used section above (which I hope that you read as well) Roger Olsen in his intro to “The Mosaic of Christian Belief” makes the categorical distinction between DOGMA – creed commonly held by all Christians that is at the center of our faith (that affirmed in the Nicene and Apostles Creeds), DOCTRINE – a host of lesser issues including how we should baptize people, what kind of Communion should be taken and who can lead in a church. There is wide variance between how these are worked out in different churches in different denominations depending on how they read scripture, but they are all still Christian churches, even though they disagree on matters of DOCTRINE. Then there is OPINION which are matters even lesser and more debatable than DOCTRINE that are up to each Christian to decide how they are going to follow it. These are matters like “Should I celebrate Halloween with my kids?” “How should I observe the Sabbath, if at all (one of the Ten Commandments after all) and “Is killing in war murder.” There is some dispute over which categorically fall under Doctrine and which under Opinion, but the point is that people can DISAGREE over these issues and still both be serious Christians.

    Now, to the direct references to “homosexuality” in Scripture. I don’t have the time or space to do it justice here, but let me say a bit, at least. One of my central points is that, from a historical perspective (I cannot site here, but I did list a few resources above) homosexuality did not even exist in ancient Greece and Rome as we think of it today. (See Sara Ruden, Paul Among The People) And, that what was known both in ancient Israel and in first century Palestine, was that it was common for married, heterosexual men to go to the sex temples and have anal intercourse with the pre-pubecent boys there. (See Ruden for commentary on first century, during the time of the New Testament, and Conservative scholar Robert Gagnon in “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” & Philo Thelos in “God Is Not A Homophobe” for Old Testament). Therefore, in my opinion, and that of many other scholars, it is not obvious but rather difficult to draw a correlation between this behavior (heterosexual men having anal sex with 10 year old boys) and what we know today as consensual, monogamous, same-sex couples.

    Further, the Levitical references in chapters 18 & 20 have hundreds of other prohibitions that we do not follow today including wearing clothes made of two types of fabric and having sex with a woman during her menstruation cycle.

    For the possible reference in Romans 1, there are two issues. The gay folks I know did not “exchange natural relations for unnatural ones”. They never made a trade at all. They feel that they were born that way (and much of the modern science seems to support that). Secondly, they too are against being “inflamed with lust” for another human being. This chapter paints a picture when we give ourselves over to evil lusts (regardless of gender or sexual orientation) we end up becoming like animals and taking advantage of people to get our sexual needs gratified, rather than acting like humans and lovingly and respectfully living out our sexuality.

    For the two Pauline references (one in I Corinthians 6:9 and the other in I Timothy 1:10) . The first “malakoi” has been translated a bunch of different ways like “soft” effeminate” “loose” (there were references in ancient Greek referring to the boy prostitutes being the “loose ones” because of the condition of their anus). It is of note that Luther translated it “weakling”. So, far from a “slam dunk” reference. The second term “arsenokoitai” is more difficult this word is found NOWHERE else in ancient Greek literature. Most scholars believe that Paul just made them up (created a conjunction out of a few Greek words – man bed). Translators into English vary greatly as well with Luther translating it “child molesters”. The first time is appears as homosexual was in the translation of the RSV in 1971. Even Gordon Fee, a prominent conservative New Testament scholar says that he cannot be sure what that means.

    Again, taken in historical context, what it seems that Paul is prohibiting in these texts is the abuse of boy prostitutes in the temple, the “malakoi”, by the heterosexual Roman men who would visit them, the “arsenokoitai” to fulfill their sexual desires. Paul is prohibiting the rape of pre-pubecent boy prostitutes by heterosexual men who are taking advantage of them. I would think that we would all agree that sounds like a good thing to instruct the early church to avoid.

    So, again, it is not just sufficient to say “read the Bible and do what it says”. The Bible was written in a culture that is far different than our own, in languages that are not our own. The very act of reading the Bible accurately MUST include a proper understanding of culture, history and language. This very reality makes it difficult for anything to be readily clear without some work (which is one of the reasons, by the way, that I think the Bible is awesome).

    All that said, this is just a small portion of the scholarship out there regarding the subject. If you are serious about being informed about this, I would encourage you to start with my reading list and work your way through it slowly. As I said before, don’t be afraid to wade in to the complexity and be confused for a while. Study hard, pray hard, listen to the Holy Spirit and do so in the company of others so you don’t get weird and great things will come of it.

    • JStainbrook

      I appreciate that you took the time to respond to me Ryan. While I do not agree with your stance or your view on this I can respect your right to an opinion. The amendment is not what I am concerned about. My concern is that you seem to be promoting the homosexual lifestyle as being blessed and accepted by the Bible and by you a Christian Pastor. This I believe is not right and I am concerned.

      You can quote all of your references and I can quote mine. We can argue on and on over this issue. The one thing we can agree on is that we need to love and have compassion on those who are homosexual. While I truly feel and agree with you that Christians need to approach this topic in a loving way, I still believe that I can judge something sinful without being judgmental toward others. My intent is not to alienate or isolate those that may choose a different lifestyle than what I feel God intended for them. But instead help show them truth and walk through their struggles the same way I need others to walk with me through my struggles and sinful behaviors. I pray for you brother and ask for God to work in this situation for His Glory.

  • rosenkov

    So I stumbled onto this blog a while ago and I feel I should make a few things clear. Firstly, that I am heterosexual, and secondly that I am agnostic, and thirdly that I am not American. Having firmly stated the little patch of land I’m standing on, I’ll continue.

    Firstly, I’m continually shocked by the double-think of certain people of Christian faith. That visiting the sex temples of old was immoral because men were lying with men specifically as stated in an earlier comment, not because they were underage or unconsenting. That fundamental Christians can say with a straight face that homosexuality is wrong when there’ve been documented cases of pederasty within the Catholic church. That I’ve seen hundreds, hundreds of otherwise fundamental Christians… EATING SHELLFISH.

    A commentor earlier stated that the word of God does not change. And while It’s a very powerful statement, I would have to counter that I understand the Christian God to be an ineffable being, beyond the understanding of mere mortals. If that is so, the Bible is only the lens through which humans see God. A lens that has been scrutinised by hundreds of thousands of people through the ages, all of whom have their own interpretations. God’s word may not change, but are you sure that your interpretation of God’s word is the definitive one? As a correlary, Pride is a deadly sin.

    There was one bit of the Christian faith I could really get in on, and that was when Jesus said “love God, and love thy neighbour.” That is, I know, a somewhat paraphrased quote, but that’s what it boils down to. Is that really so hard to follow? I mean, plenty of other people have quoted various scriptures, but I’ve never heard one refuting Mark’s claim that Jesus.. the son of God, lest we forget… saying that. Perhaps I’m wrong, but if I am, I’ll be all the more disappointed in organised religion as a whole, and Christianity specifically.

    I suppose as a non-gay, non-American, non-Christian I have no particular dog in this fight. Perhaps it’s a very removed and secular view, and if that’s the case then I’ll hold up my hands and say I’m guilty as charged, but I’d prefer that nothing that limits the freedoms of an individual be codified into the laws of the country, state, town charter.. what have you. And I can’t help but recall that it was only a little over half a century ago that America had segregation of the populus as a matter of course based on the melanin levels in the skin.

    • ryanbauers

      Hello rosenkov:

      Thank you for your very personal, very thoughtful post. We always welcome folks from whatever background to post on this blog as long as they are posting “on topic”, so I am more than glad to hear your thoughts. And, for what its worth, I concur with much of what you said. Thanks for sharing and be well!

      Ryan

  • Amber

    Great article! Thank you for articulating so well something that I often cannot find the proper words to describe.

    Side note: your wedding day was the day before I made the decision to follow Christ. ❤

  • How To Talk To Your Kids About Politics | Marenated

    […] This is not a Christian nation but one that should respect and give freedom to ALL religions. One religion’s moral code should not rule people who do not believe in that code, that is a theocracy and America is supposed to be a democracy. Furthermore, we need to discuss the […]

  • kim

    This article is a breath of fresh air on a subject that turns hostile quickly “in the name of Jesus”.

  • Minda Sanborn

    Leading people astray..abusing your power…being deceitful…compared to the devil as a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

    Ryan, sorry you have received such negative/hateful comments for articulating your honest thoughts and feelings on this particular topic. And thank you continuing the discussion despite them. An excellent article. Thank you!

    • ryanbauers

      Thank you Minda:

      As I told Dan earlier, I do not write for the “haters” or those who will criticize me for all sorts of things from their predetermined position. I write for those of us who are serious, committed Christians really doing our best to intelligently and humbly interact the Bible and hear from the Holy Spirit with regard to some of the most complex issues of our day.

      I have received countless “thank you’s” and “great jobs” from folks who are, at times, even afraid to share their opinion publicly for fear of being criticized. So, I am thankful for the many out there, whether voting yes or no or who are unsure, who are comfortable with respectful dialogue and wading in to the complexity.

      All the best to you!

  • Mrs. Smith

    The conversation in the comments above seems like the difference between Christians who want to do everything Jesus said to do and Christians who want everyone else to do what Jesus said to do.

    At the moment, the way that seems most expedient to the latter group is through the avenue of politics. Disappointing, to say the least, because it then becomes the most public face of Christianity.

    Ryan, I am very impressed by your careful words and thoughtful line of reasoning. When I read it, I felt like you were adding structure and depth to my own reflections.

    The tenor of the argument above makes it impossible for me feel safe using my own name, but my thoughts (and my vote!) are solidly in the “NO” category.

  • Derrick Ellis

    I had some comments to this blog after I linked to it on FB and I will just repeat my response here.

    As Christians and Americans we need to look at this from both of these different perspectives. I won’t comment on the biblical point of view as I am not near as smart as the others that have already spoke their piece. I want to look at this from the point of view of a citizen of the freest nation on earth. Our nation was discovered and founded by folks who were fleeing religious persecution. Now here we are trying to force a religious definition on everyone that is a citizen. If we start down this path where does it end? What if another religion becomes the majority and forces all of us to follow their doctrines? Remember the freedom of religions means to not only be allowed to practice as you wish but to not be forced if you don’t wish. Just because I married a woman doesn’t mean that every man should have to make that choice. If I support this amendment then I have lost what it means to be American, I have forced someone else to follow my beliefs.
    Voting no doesn’t mean I support gay marriage (but I do), it means I support the American dream and what our founders believed. We are ALL equal.

  • NickStrebendt

    Hi Ryan,

    This is Nick Strebendt (intern with Chuck in 2004-2005- the trombone player from Boston). Thank you for posting this and bringing another perspective on this topic.

    Before I go into my response, I want to put one disclaimer out there and that is that no one should feel shamed for voting one way or another. Feeling convicted is one thing, but feeling shamed is another and I’m sorry if you or anyone else has felt shamed during this election process from Conservative christians. That’s not right. In what I’ve written below, my goal is to add my perspective as one who has struggled with same-gender attraction and has found healing in that struggle.

    As far as the Vote Yes/No topic, legally I don’t have much to say on the issue though as far as reasons to vote no and I really appreciate Jay’s response- not wanting to alienate people who might otherwise consider Jesus. Also, Jennw/2ns response is very well thought out. With that said though, I feel one central piece to your argument is people having the right to a “monogamous, consensual, same-sex relationship”. Maybe I’m hearing you wrong, but if that is the case, I can’t go there because I know my story as well as many of my friends’ story.

    I’ve been in a season of inner healing for the last three years addressing many issues in my life, not just same-gender attraction, and in that I’ve been involved with Outpost Ministries here in the Twin Cities (a ministry to those coming out of homosexuality and/or struggling with relational and sexual brokenness). During this time, I have learned where my attractions have come from (a definite disconnect with my dad) and how to give those attractions to Jesus and let him heal more of the core issues causing them. This doesn’t mean those attractions have disappeared, but again when they come up, I’ve learned to ask Jesus what he’s wanting to heal.

    I write none of this to chide you but it’s not the first time I’ve heard the “monogamous, consensual, same-sex relationship” argument and I can’t agree with it because it doesn’t get to the core of brokenness that is in someone struggling with same-gender attraction. Jesus can heal the core issues causing it and bring his grace to those struggling but it’s a long, hard road taking a lot of time and effort. Please excuse the intensity of the next couple of questions but if a monogamous, consensual, same-sex relationship is possibly permissible by the bible, why do I and many friends of mine seek healing from our same-gender attraction? Why do many ex-gay ministries even exist?

    In all of this, I pray you do not feel attacked- I do feel passionately about this, but the last thing I want to do is brow-beat you. I just feel it necessary to present a bit of my story in response to your blog. To me, the Vote Yes/No issue is the tip of the iceberg for a variety of issues asking questions of our very nature as man and woman and how that works out personally and societally.

    A quick note on references: people who I’ve gleaned a lot from on this topic have been Leanne Payne, Joe Dallas, Andrew Comiskey, and Ricky Chelette- the last three all having come out of the homosexual lifestyle. Also, I’ve included a link to a Joe Dallas article that articulates a similar position to yours- not wanting to unnecessarily alienate people- but as one who has been in and come out of the homosexual lifestyle (please excuse the title- it makes it sound worse than it is):

    http://joedallas.com/blog/index.php/2012/08/02/to-my-gay-angry-friend/

    I welcome any questions Ryan. Thanks!

    Nick

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Nick, I hope both you and Ryan forgive me for jumping on to respond to your comment before he can. But it just so happens that I’ve thought about your points quite a bit, so I thought I’d give my two cents.

      But before I do that, thank you for having the courage to tell your story on a public forum. I pray that you find peace in your situation, and I appreciate you blessing us with your story.

      Both sides of the homosexuality debate want to simplify homosexuality to fit their agenda. One side is shouting, “It’s a natural, inborn tendency! It’s not a choice at all!” and the other side is yelling, with equal fervor, “It’s a choice! These people are choosing damnation!” As a person who was, until a little over a year ago, a rational skeptic, I find that the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’ve met people who, from an early age, knew that they were gay – and that the only psychological damage they have suffered results FROM their homosexuality (or rather, the pressures/judgement/exclusion that their homosexuality often creates) as opposed to their homosexuality being CAUSED by an emotional, psychological, or environmental issue.

      I’ve also met people who made the choice to be gay. Most of these people were born with bi-sexual tendencies, but DID make the rational decision to live a gay lifestyle. A famous (and somewhat recent) example of this is when “Sex & the City” actress Cynthia Nixon told media sources that she had chosen to live as a lesbian.

      So when someone asks me, “Do you think homosexuality is a natural, inborn state, or a choice that someone makes?” the best answer I can give them is a shaky, “Either, or both, depending on the person.”

      If you ask me, as a Christian, I believe that we are created by a thinking, rational God (as opposed to a neutral, thoughtless being like “the Force” from Star Wars). We were clearly created to want to have sex. The argument about human sexuality in all of its myriad forms seems to revolve around one question.

      “For what purpose did God make human sexuality?”

      The possible answers are:

      1) For pleasure, only.
      2) For reproduction, only.
      3) For a combination of pleasure and reproduction.

      Let’s examine these possible answers.

      1) For me, I think it’s obvious that God did not give us a sex drive for the SOLE purpose of producing physical, emotional, and mental pleasure. That would make babies just an accidental byproduct, and that is (from both religious and scientific perspectives) just silly.

      2) The idea that sex is SOLELY for reproduction (for humans) also seems silly – why else would it produce the aforementioned physical, emotional, and mental delight? The multitude of life forms on this planet show dozens of different ways that sex for reproduction can be mandated biologically. We could, after all, just go into “season” and be forced to make babies whether we wanted to or not. So this idea seems to be logically weak.

      3) I believe that the evidence for a combined purpose behind human sexuality is obvious – we have fun having sex, and we make babies. Most Christians that I speak to believe that this third reason is God’s plan for human sexuality.

      But if God designed people who have sex for both reproduction AND pleasure, does that mean that it is a sin for people to have sex with each other when one of those reasons is not possible? Think about it – in a culture with arranged (or forced) marriages, it’s possible that a woman is only EVER having sex to reproduce, because she gets no pleasure from the act. Is she sinning? And, of course, there are many examples of people having sex for pleasure without reproduction. These people might be in marriages where one of the partners is incapable of procreation. They might be elderly. They might be any healthy, normal pair of individuals carrying out any sex act that cannot produce children. I won’t list them on this comment, but we all know what those acts are.

      Are those people (the elderly, the infertile, the “heavy petters”) all sinning? Insert your judgment call here, but mine tends to be “no.”

      For me, the argument that homosexuality is sinful because it is sex that cannot produce children is debunked by our (and seemingly, God’s) acceptance of other comparable sexual practices that don’t carry the same stigma, especially when practiced by a man and a woman.

      Now, many people argue against homosexuality from a broader stance – that the Bible, when deciphered correctly, shows a clear “plan” that God has put into place regarding the use of human naughty bits. Homosexuals are deviating from said plan, which makes gay sex a sin.

      Now, I have a certain respect for this idea – if only because I believe as a Christian that there was a “Fall” at some point in the human experience, and that because of this Fall the world is not (as my I.T. friends might say) “functioning as designed.” Maybe homosexuality DOES deviate from a design that God created. In fact, for purposes of this examination, let’s take that as a given.

      The world is broken. This brokenness shows itself in ways both obvious (the presence of death and disease in the world) and subtle (the ability for human beings to tell untruths). I truly believe this. I also believe that, in many ways, the world is working, steadily, toward a state of redemption. This idea is both Biblical and empirically obvious – after all, we can now cure many diseases (evidence of the fall) that for the length of human history were incurable. I myself was cured of a form of cancer that would have killed me had I been diagnosed sixty years ago.

      But even with our slow, steady progress toward a redeemed world, some brokenness goes beyond our ability to fix. A person born missing a limb cannot (yet) get that limb re-grown. A person born with certain psychological disorders, often caused by a malformation of the brain, cannot be redeemed by any medicines we have at our disposal. Some conditions (which, like curable conditions, ultimately result from a broken world) cannot be fixed – they can only be endured.

      So you, Nick, seem to have a same-sex attraction that results from psychological or emotional issues stemming from your youth (if I understand your comment correctly, that is.) In a perfect, unbroken world, those causes would not have been present – we would be living in paradise (Eden, in fact) and surrounded at all times by perfect love. You would not feel a same-sex attraction because you’d have no cause. In cases like yours, I pray for healing from your brokenness – not because it gives you same-sex attractions, but because you had to endure any brokenness at all. Trying to pray your “gay away” would be as pointless as trying to treat someone of “sneezes” when the sneezing is just the symptom of a cold. I’m so sorry to hear that you have to live out the struggle you’ve been dealt, and my prayers go out for your continued healing.

      Some people I’ve met are gay, and have been gay since the moment they understood what human attraction was. If their homosexuality is a result of a broken world (and I’m willing to postulate that it is) then it’s a brokenness that is, in their case, more akin to being born without a limb. They can’t help it, we can’t cure it, and asking them to use two hands for ANYTHING is both ignorant and cruel.

      So let’s go with a theoretical person from the above scenario – John Doe has been born to a loving family, without any emotional hurt or psychological damage, and is still gay. If there is no “cure” for John’s condition – if his homosexuality is not up for debate and will never go away, and as a result he cannot be sexual aroused by a woman – should John live a life of celibacy?

      Well, remember WAY up in this comment, when I talked about the possible purpose of human sexuality? I stated that I believe that human sexuality was created to be both pleasurable and reproductive – but if people wanted to engage in it in ways that weren’t reproductive, that seemed to logically be okay as well. So if a person is broken in such a way as to be subjected to same-sex attraction, well. . . okay. Let them have sex – they can’t have children, but then again, neither can Grandma and Grandpa (still feisty after all of these years!) and we let them get away with it.

      Okay, here’s an aside – this is assuming that the sex we’re talking about isn’t hurtful, or irresponsible, or unhealthy. But while some may argue that homosexual sex IS hurtful/irresponsible/unhealthy, I challenge them thus – heterosexual sex, for the purposes of sex, reproduction, or both – can ALSO be hurtful, irresponsible, or unhealthy. Just seek out any women’s shelter and you’ll see how common it is, too. Homosexual sex can be loving, healthy, responsible, and beautiful, for all of the reasons that heterosexual sex (without the possibility of procreation) can be the same. We’re lookin’ at you, Gramps. Either way, as a society, we tend to feel that certain things are ALWAYS off limits – rape, pederasty, incest, pedophilia, necrophilia. We seem to have a pretty good moral compass on what sex is harmful, as a whole.

      So Nick, in conclusion, I believe you DO have a choice in whether or not you act out your same-sex attraction. As a responsible adult, you are (in my mind) free to chose how to react to that inclination. You’ve clearly chosen not to act out on that, and I respect your reasoning. I even AGREE with your decision, for your specific case. Does that mean that I think that ALL people dealing with same-sex attraction should take the path you’ve taken? I do not. I think that for many of my friends, there would be no succor, no help or happiness, in taking the path you’ve taken. Metaphorically speaking, they have been born without a limb, so no matter how hard they try, they cannot do something that a person with the normal number of limbs can do. And again, I believe that since (healthy, non-harmful) sex is okay for couples who cannot have children, I see no reason not to treat homosexual couples the same way.

      Could there come a day when homosexuality no longer exists in our world? I believe that’s possible – when Jesus returns to fix this globe of ours. But until then, we should treat all people who are dealing with the brokenness of the world in the same way – with love, with respect, with compassion, with a lack of judgment, and with a clear understanding that we are, in our own ways, just as broken as they.

      God bless you, brother.

      Dan

    • ryanbauers

      Hey Nick:

      Great to hear from you, friend!

      I appreciate your response for two reasons: (1) You spoke with such humility in presenting your thoughts, which is the heart of true dialogue and what we are after on this blog. (2) I appreciate you sharing such a vulnerable and powerful personal story. Wow.

      Part of the difficulty of this issue is that it is SO COMPLEX. That is way I believe that the best way forward is with open dialogue and tons of humility, rather than hard and fast, clear cut answers for these issues. Often times when I am writing I feel a deep sense of humility and reverence as my hands move over the keyboard – both writing about God and truth and the Bible and also writing about the lives of REAL PEOPLE, my friends in some cases, who are in the GLBT community. You can’t reduce someone’s life or experience to a statement of fact and apply it to everyone.

      Which is why I appreciate your story. I have friends who have experienced a similar sense of “healing” in their lives as you have. Which is part of why I am doing my best to argue for a “middle ground” or “Third Way” approach to this. It is why I argue so strongly for people interacting with the living, powerful God, the resurrected Jesus and letting him speak to their lives. It is why I argue against anyone telling anyone else what is best for their life, because, as Jesus instructs us, we should be worried about the 2×4 in our own eye before ever even thinking of addressing a piece of dust in our brother’s eye.

      So, I believe and have experienced that people in a Christian community can have experiences like your story and experiences where they me feel comfortable with and whole in their sexuality. They can both be “right” and “welcomed” (nay, encouraged to be part of the same community) because it is HEALTHY (see Romans 14 & 15 and my arguments above). It is trusting Jesus as the powerful healer, redeemer and restorer in each of our lives to do what he wants to do as we open up our lives to him, on his own terms. But, what we can’t do is tell someone else what should happen in their life or how God should work for them. What we can do is create a radically welcoming community where ANYONE can come AS THEY ARE and experience the power of God along with us.

      So, I celebrate your story Nick and the story of your friends. If you were in my church, I would encourage you in your continued journey to finding wholeness. I would also be able to encourage and pastor other folks who were same-sex attracted to bring their sexuality and life before Jesus (as we all humbly do the same) and let Jesus work that out with them, whatever healing or life he would bring. And I would (and have in my own congregation) FIERCELY DEFEND them from anyone else who would want to play God in their lives and tell them what they should or should not pursue in their relationship with Jesus.

      So, I celebrate the “both / and” approach; the Third Way. Which, can get me in trouble with people more “liberal” or “progressive” than me for not being progressive enough and get me in trouble with more “conservative” people for not being more “hardcore about sin”. I dont believe that we have to choose either of those camps. I believe that there is a middle place to work from, and I think that is what Jesus did in his ministry.

      I appreciate your feedback Nick. I love the dialogue.

      Be well!
      Ryan

  • Oscelot Haalan

    Please pass my thanks to the author for his beautifully written article. it’s refreshing to see such a viewpoint from a Christian. While I know not all Christians are so rabidly anti… everything.. as many of the people for the bill are, it’s been the vast majority of my experience with them – which is really quite sad, especially considering the history of the religion.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      No need to pass them on, my friend – Ryan can see them! 🙂 This being Sunday, he’s preparing to give his sermon at Hillside Church right now, but he’ll see your comment next time he has a moment to breath.

    • ryanbauers

      Hello Oscelot Haalan

      Great to hear from you. Thanks for the compliments and encouragement. I agree, we need to be so careful to not let our “what we are against” be our identity as Christians, but “what we are for”. And, radically revealed to us in and through Jesus, I see God radically on the side of people – regular, messy, broken, hypocritical people like me. And, I am thankful that he loves us and receives us and wants us to experience Him in powerful ways, no matter who we are or what we come with.

      Peace to you!
      Ryan

  • ryanbauers

    Hey All:

    I really enjoyed Greg Boyd’s chat on this issue. You may or may not agree with all of the finer details, but his overarching point of how people of faith should act and how they should not is really powerful and applicable to Christians as they seek to address this issue.

    Enjoy!

  • Keith

    Ryan, I respect your attempts to be thoughtful, and I appreciate your honesty. It seems that you are sincerely attempting to reconcile what you see happening in society today with your Christian beliefs. I believe that you are a very loving and sincere man who has struggled much with issue, and it has caused you no small amount of pain and angst as you’ve wrestled over it. However, I am grieved by your conclusions.
    In the end, you are re-stating the same post-modern, revisionist arguments that have brought us to the point where many people have no basis on which to say what is true and what is not true. Unfortunately, you are unwittingly following a path that paves the way for many other types of behavior to eventually be accepted because “people have these desires”, and “biblical scholars disagree on the topic.” Having a desire is not wrong. But having a desire does not make it helpful or good or right. Revisionist biblical “scholars” are multiplying by the dozens. You can find a group of so called biblical scholars today arguing for everything from reincarnation to God’s affirmation of pedophiles.
    You’ve stated that you want to have dialogue. If you are open to that, I would encourage you to study some books written by formerly gay Christians who have “come out” of the gay movement. I won’t list them all, but Joe Dallas’s book: “The Gay Gospel?” tells both his story and also discusses the problems with the interpretations of scripture that you and others are following. I also suggest that you sit down and talk with the leaders of ministries reaching out to homosexuals, such as Outpost Ministries in the Twin Cities. They are composed of men who understand the struggles of same sex attraction, have heard all the debates about the so called “fresh” look at scripture, and have found healing and freedom in discovering their true identity in Christ as men.
    It might not change your mind (I hope it will!) But it will give you much more food for thought. Remember that your words as a pastor and leader hold much weight and influence many. Please listen to those who’ve tried what you’re suggesting and found it a road to nowhere.

  • JP Rennquist (@JPRennquist)

    This thread is so long that I only had time to make it down to the first post by JStainbrook with the article by the biblical scholars. Being a friend of both the Mitchells and Pastor Ryan I may be partly responsible for some of this length here, I see that about 60 people clicked on the link I posted about this since Friday.

    As a Minnesotan and a Christian who is truly trying to understand God’s will and plans for me, and this world I do have several dogs in this fight. I have frequent discussions with my wife and kids and other folks in my circle about the issue of homosexuality. As for the scriptural references, I did not remember the one in Timothy, and I don’t think the Samuel passages about Jonathan are about homsexuality – I don’t think that it is ever clear whether or not the relationship is platonic or sexually intimate, in fact I know that is not clear, which is part of why so many of us are not clear.

    Now to the passages in Genesis and the clearly parallel passage in Judges about the rape of men (or maybe angels). I mention these passages as being about rape, because that is what they are about. Rape. I don’t fully understand the cultural context, but I do know that if the man is offering his own daughters to appease the satanically inspired crowds then clearly hospitality and the protection of guests in ancient middle eastern culture is paramount in the story. Perhaps hospitality is, in fact, one of the missing lessons of these stories. But it is not about homosexuality. When a man rapes another man, or woman or child or anyone, the sin is not extramarital sex, it is selfishness, power, greed, violence, impurity it is a dozen other things, but it is not about homosexuality, or heterosexuality or pederasty.

    With regard to Leviticus, I understand that we are under a new covenant. There have been 3 or 4 covenants with God as I recall, each one more generous than the next (on God’s part) and each one broken by we, the people. We are no longer under the Law of Moses. Jesus horrific sacrifice and resurrection freed us all from the weight of that law. Christian obsession with enforcing bits and pieces of Mosaic law is just nutty to me. Are we going to have a constitutional amendment banning the cutting of facial hair, what about abandoning our wives and children? How about tattoos? Should we pass a constitutional amendment banning tattoo parlors? Lust and coveting a woman who is not your wife is very, very clearly identified as sin in the law, no ambiguity there whatsoever. How about we pass a constitutional amendment banning lust, banning pornography …. what if we apss a law banning adultery in all of its forms. No? How about drunkenness … oh, wait, I guess we tried that with two amendments, 19th and 21, I beleive they are. SO if it seems like with these types of amendments we are singling out homosexuals for their homosexuality that is because we are. Sins are not ranked in the bible, John 3:16, the most often quoted passage of the bible makes it clear that the wages of sin is death but God sent us his son to pay that price for all and redeem the world if only we submit ourselves to that God. Rather than respect and even celebrate that equality as sinners and equality as the redeemed children of God we are choosing laws that rank one kind of sinning as more destructive than another. It’s not right. It’s mean spirited and I think that is a large part of what Ryan is saying in his piece.

    I’m no theologian, I can’t speak to that as clearly as some of you can, but I can speak to the abuse of power. I am in a position to comment on the abuse of power issue. I know that some people, my wife for one, would love it is Pastor Ryan would come out and say that this amendment is wrong in church, in his role as pastor. But he has not done that. In our church body he does encourage us to filter every single thing that he says not only through the scripture itself, but also through other resources, and very importantly to have time with God in prayer, to joing together in small groups for prayer and discussion. So his writing this is not an abuse of power. It’s just not.

    • Meg

      “Rather than respect and even celebrate that equality as sinners and equality as the redeemed children of God we are choosing laws that rank one kind of sinning as more destructive than another. It’s not right.”

      AMEN! Agreed, JP. It’s time we stop picking and choosing which sins are the only ones Christ’s blood didn’t clear from our slates.

  • ryanbauers

    Hey Keith:

    First off, I have personal friends who have have experienced God’s healing in powerful ways in their life and sexuality (as have I). And, as Pastor, I have sat with, cried with, prayed with folks in my own church who have gone through similar things. So, I don’t need to read a book to describe this experience of people I don;t know (though I have a few of the books that you recommended), I have countless hours being part of it personally. If you read my above comment / response to Nick, I celebrate those experiences. I wholeheartedly believe that this can be some people’s story as they interact with the living, loving Jesus.

    However, I have an issue with folks wanting that story to be everyone else’s story. This is part of the reason why I am sticking my neck out on this one is because, one of the worst sins in the modern church (and there are many, many) is their desire to act like modern Pharisees and police everyone’s life and enforce all of the rules (see Greg Boyd video above). I am asking for RESPECT and SPACE for people to follow Jesus and allow HIM to do the work in their lives, whatever that might look like. Instead of legislating morality from the outside (we tried that once, unless you want to go back to Levitical Law), God is interested in getting at our hearts to transform us from the inside out by the power and grace of Jesus.

    The rub for me, and I am going to get irritated, is that I am SICK AND FREAKING TIRED of Christians acting like the moral law keepers of our world. We are a screwed up bunch of people (I know this well after pastoring for almost 14 years). Jesus was pretty clear that our focus should be on the 2×4 in our own eye, not the particle of dust in our neighbor’s eye. We need to walk in humility and love, recognizing our own sin and weaknesses before even daring to police anyone else in theirs (and only then in a personal, loving relationship where they have asked for our perspective).

    Part of my passion for this comes from knowing so many folks in the GLBT community, some of who are in my church, who really, really want to explore Jesus and spirituality (some don’t to be sure). These are folks sincerely trying to be part of the church to understand and explore Jesus and what he offers. And, in the face of this, what we do is stand at the door holding Vote YES signs? Excuse my parlance, but “what the hell?” (literally). Even if you do think that homosexuality is clearly a sin in scripture, why would this be our marketing tool? And, if we are going to do this kind of thing, why don’t we stand at the door with signs saying “If you are fat, greedy, love your possessions, have ever lusted, have ever stolen anything, have ever been angry or violent, DONT BOTHER COMING IN.”

    If Christians want to start legislating morality, why don’t we start with what plagues US, instead of someone else. What about protecting the “sanctity of marriage” by outlawing divorce in the church, which is HIGHER than in non-churchgoing populations? Why don’t we outlaw gluttony (68% of the American population, many of whom are churchgoers), which has may times more references than any potential reference to homosexuality? OR what about addressing more central themes in Scripture like caring for the poor (when we consume 4 times the global resources) or whether killing in war is murder (which the first 400 years of Christians fiercely held to – and many do to this day)? Do you see where this leads? We go back to Levitical Law.

    This to me is a COMPLETE AFFRONT to the Gospel itself. Paul says that Jesus came to take away all of the power of the law and that whoever tried to be justified by the law has to keep the whole of it. The purpose in Jesus coming was to free us from the slavery of trying to keep up with all of the details of the law. Jesus invites us freely to himself AS WE ARE to experience his love in relationship with him. We know not what awesome things may happen as we experience this love (it’s been beyond incredible in my own life). But, transformation does not come from making a list of all the rules in the Bible and trying to follow them, it comes from engaging in relationship with the God the Bible is promoting, the one who will freely give us his love and transform our lives in the process.

    Further, you call me Revisionist, however, maybe because I fundamentally believe that the thrust of Scripture is that truth is not a bunch of abstract ideas, but a person, Jesus himself. Truth is not if we have all of the facts straight in our heads, it is a person who offers to powerfully change every aspect of our lives as we open ourselves to him, more and more. I believe in the power of the resurrection of Jesus to be able to change each of us, in all the ways that we are aching inside to be changed, as we surrender to his love. So, you can call that Revisionist, or you can call it historic, orthodox Christian faith.

  • Keith

    Hi Ryan,
    Obviously you don’t know me, and I don’t know you that well other than what I’ve read in your posts. But in reading your last response, I think that we have a lot in common in what we believe. So here is what I see us agreeing on:
    1. God’s grace in transforming us from the inside out vs. a legalistic list of rules to hammer people on. Amen to that! Our Church Fellowship has three core values. The first is Grace Filled Identity. The second is Transformational relationships. The third is MIssional Community. God’s grace is much more than undeserved favor. It is a powerful force that he puts within us, empowered by His Holy Spirit, to renew our minds, our desires, and our lives from the inside out. Many people have come to our church broken and bruised by the trappings of legalism: trying to be “good enough”, feeling good only if they check off everything on that church’s “to do” list, etc. We talk about the transforming power of grace in every sermon, every small group, every chance we get. This winter we are starting a class on Breaking the Bondage of Legalism. A great book by Neil Anderson.
    2. Walking in humility and love. Every time I see the specs in other people’s eyes, Jesus reminds me of the plank in mine. Lord, change our hearts first. Then we can see clearly to help our brothers and sisters.
    3. Welcoming people from all areas of life and loving them unconditionally, regardless of social or political alliances. In our fellowship we do not tell people how to vote — ever. And I really am not so concerned about the outcome of this marriage amendment. We should not place our faith or security in government. Although we should pray for our leaders and respect them, it is God’s Kingdom that we are citizens of. In my opinion, one of the worst things that happened to many evangelical churches in the US was to become entangled and aligned with the Republican Party into the so-called religious right. God is above any political party, and his church should speak to both sides, challenging them to be forces for good, to show mercy and do justly. As Shane Claiborne stated in his book “Irresistible Revolution”, we should “campaign for Jesus”. We also have many people who are wounded in many ways from abuse, drugs, sexual addictions, parents who abandoned them, and others in authority who trampled on them. Jesus accepts us as we are, and then as we ask Him to be our Boss, he begins the healing process in giving us His life in return for ours.
    4. The hypocrisy of focusing on one area of sin while ignoring other obvious ones that are staring us in the face. Gluttony, greed, selfishness, mental adultery (i.e. pornography), abound in our midst. We should be talking about this, helping one another rise above. In some cases laws are good (i.e. you steal and you go to jail). In others they are futile and foolish (i.e. let’s ban pop machines from serving soda pop greater than 24 ounces in schools). As stated earlier, my big issue here is not the current marriage amendment, but the hearts of God’s people.
    5. The tragedy of God’s people ignoring the plight of those in poverty. If you knew me, you would know that this is the central passion and mission of my life. I believe that God is grieved beyond our comprehension by how his people have ignored His heart– that breaks for the downtrodden, the poor, the hungry, the oppressed. If we, as his people, would start obeying him in pouring out our lives, our time, our money, our resources, our giftings with the purpose of connecting with those around the world who are suffering the scourge of poverty, the church would have a completely different reputation — one that God intended us to have. I have committed my life to both speak and live that message until my dying days.
    So I think we are aligned in many ways. Where we differ is the solution we give to those who are struggling with same sex attractions.
    I believe the church should say, as Jesus said: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We should welcome them, pray with them, weep with them, serve them. But we should also be willing to point out the illness that is haunting them, and the freedom the Jesus has for them as they allow Him to speak truth about their identity. We should not stop there, but we should be willing to walk with them, love them, and serve them as they discover who they really are in Christ.
    What I hear you saying, and forgive me if I mis-represent you, is that we should do everything above, but also tell them there is no illness, no need for change. Everything is OK. A very noble aspiration if it is true, and certainly much easier and more popular today. But the fact is that this is not true. And doing this will ultimately not bring the wholeness and healing that they need. I know you disagree at this point in your life. But I pray that you would really be open to God’s leading and his Spirit here.
    Ryan, I wish you God’s best. I know we probably may still disagree on the main point. But I hope that you understand that there are people who disagree with you who actually share most of your passions for God’s people. And please look into the other side, where people are loving people to life. You might be surprised what you find.
    Keith

    • Daniel Mitchell

      This reply represents all that I love best about Christians living in the spirit of God. See an upcoming post (by me, this time) elaborating on that theme. Either way, thanks for taking the time to acknowledge what binds us all, Keith.

  • Shana

    Hey commenters,

    First of all, thank you for the many reasonable, thoughtful posts. I’ve been reading through them in the past few days, and many of you seem to be seeking insight and wisdom on this issue from a place of love. It’s good to see respectful dialog on this issue.

    I am one of Ryan’s “parishioners” – that is, I am a member of the church that he and his wife currently pastor. First of all, I would like to affirm something that JP said earlier: Ryan has not talked about the marriage amendment in church. He has not done a sermon about it; he has not addressed it from the stage. The only times that I can remember him talking about homosexuality in church, it has been not to affirm one or the other side of the theological debate, but only to say that the church should be a radically welcoming place for all people who want to explore a relationship with Jesus, including the GLBT community. From reading the comments above, I see that most of you agree on this, no matter what you believe the Bible says about homosexuality in general. Good! Isn’t it great when we agree? That makes things so much easier. I wish it could always be like that.

    I bring up the above points because several people have accused Ryan of abusing his power as a pastor. This is simply not true. He could have made this blog post into a sermon and given it at church. He did not do that. He chose a forum where he is relatively anonymous – some of us know him as a pastor, but many of us do not know him at all – and therefore not in a position of direct power. As an ordained pastor and someone who has studied, thought about, and prayed about this issue deeply, I think he does come from a place of a certain amount of authority, but he is not saying these things in a forum where he automatically has power and a reputation. Please stop accusing him of abusing his power. It is slanderous and untrue.

    I also feel like some of the comments on this post come from a gut reaction to the issue rather than from what is actually being said. I would encourage you to go back and read through the blog post carefully. On a heated issue like this, it is easy to assume that you know what you are reading without fully comprehending the words that are there on the screen. I know – I do it all the time with issues that are important to me! I think that when you go back and read the post critically, you will find that Ryan is not saying that he is not unabashedly “promoting the homosexual lifestyle as being blessed and accepted by the Bible,” as some of you seem to assume. He is saying that he, as a committed Christian, doesn’t think that God’s word is perfectly clear on this. All he seems to be “convinced” of – all he seems to be “promoting” – is that homosexuality “is not an “obvious” or black and white issue, but one that is significantly complicated, nuanced and open to disagreement between serious Christians.” He has provided plenty of evidence to back up this assertion. He has said that if you disagree with him – that is, if you are certain about what the Bible is saying on this issue one way or another – that’s okay. It’s okay. It’s a debatable matter. We can all still take communion together while disagreeing over an issue addressed in a maximum of seven verses in the Bible. It’s okay.

    I think that Ryan wrote this not as the big heretical rant that many of you seem to see, but simply to say this: It’s okay. We can disagree on this debatable issue and still all be Christians together. And, as he implies at the very beginning of this article, I think that he wrote it because so many Christians are so vocal about it NOT being okay. Having a different opinion about homosexuality – even if it is an opinion shared by many Biblical scholars – can get you basically kicked out of the Christian Club in many of church environments. And that’s not right. I think that Ryan is speaking to Christians who have felt alienated by other Christians because of their honest, prayerful opinions on this issue. You can vote no and still be a Christian. You can think that the Bible is not crystal clear on homosexuality and still be a Christian. You can think that the Bible is not crystal clear on many other controversial, not-essential-to-our-faith issues of the time, such as whether we should celebrate Halloween and whether killing in war is sin – and you can still be a Christian. And I think that’s something worth saying. I think it’s worth saying because it’s true.

    Thanks again for striving to keep it friendly, and I apologize in advance if anything I have written seems rude or accusatory. Communication is so hard on the internet where there’s no body language or tone of voice, isn’t it?

    • ryanbauers

      Shana!

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

      What an apt summation of what I have been trying to say all along. You have captured the heart of my endeavor and the reason behind it so well. It is incredible to be appropriately represented.

      Be well!
      Ryan

    • Rachel Cushing

      YES! Thank you, Shana! Your last 3 paragraphs are well put.

  • JT

    WoW!, I started reading this tread thinking I would comment but really don’t think I can add anything. Ultimately the idea as a follower of Christ is the realization that all have sinned and fallen short. Love covers a multitude, that walking in judgement of others is not only a sin but also a condemnation on ourselves (scripture says this). Yes we should not justify sin, yes our ideas of sin are not going to agree, but a s one commenter aptly stated sin isn’t the issue here. The issue is can we love each other from the perspective that we all have sin and we all need a savior. There is enough to work through there for the rest of my life on this planet anyway.

    As an aside stepping away from the religious or spiritual perspectives of this topic. I personally have looked at this and wondered if same sex relationships were considered a natural thing and it gained a dominant acceptance where would that ultimately lead the human race? Just food for thought.

    Regardless of sexual orientation people need to be valued, loved and respected… Thank you for being willing to have conversations in my mind that is way better than sticking our fingers in our ears and acting like our view is the only one that matters… Love the Blog Dan.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Thanks, JT! I know that Ryan worked very hard on his letter, and it’s wonderful to see some of the conversation that has come from it.

      As for your question about same-sex relations and the human race, I suppose my question would be – in what context are you asking? If you’re asking what would happen to the race’s ability to reproduce, I’d say it won’t make a big dent. People still want babies – in fact, I know several loving same-sex couples that want to adopt. And I know that, world wide, we have more orphans than we have families that want to take them in. So until that changes, I say, bring on the loving married couples who want to adopt, regardless of their plumbing!

      • JT

        Actually Dan it was a somewhat tongue in cheek comment meaning that from a purely non-biblical perspective if this became the dominant role the species would eventually cease to exist. i believe like others have stated that same gender relationship is outside of God’s intentions. Sin is sin and we all are guilty of it and are all as equally in need of the redemption that Christ bought for us. Therefore no one should be walking around passing judgment on LGBT lifestyles anymore than lies or stealing, coveting etc. Needless to say love should be the basis and attitude of a
        believer as we walk this out.

  • grokkit

    Hi there, not sure if this topic is dead (now that the Amendment was rejected), but I thought I would offer a few thoughts from the perspective of a non-American Christ-follower. I’m originally from a pluralistic context, where Christians are a minority, so in some respects I agree with Ryan: I am
    appalled by the fear-mongering that the Christian Right sometimes resorts to in the US. We (the Christian minority) always voted for the “secular party” because they were protective of religious minorities. Democracy will degenerate to nothing more than ‘oppression by majority rule’ if public policy simply reflects public opinion.

    In this spirit I am quite disturbed by Ryan’s suggestions that Christians should support public policy to redefine of marriage. I have a hard time understanding the position that the traditional definition of marriage “..is overtly influenced by one religious perspective”. I doubt you can find a more religiously & culturally diverse nation than my homeland but everyone (Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Communist, Baha’i, Jain etc) holds to the “traditional” definition. They would argue that it existed long before Christianity came on the scene. In the American context, this is all the more critical since the traditional definition of marriage is inclusive and protective of under-represented and under-resourced immigrant minorities esp. from non-Christian cultures. If marriage is redefined and enshrined in Law as “any two non-related consenting adults”, any dissent to this modern definition of marriage can open one up to litigation. So my Somali Muslim neighbor will be forced to (in fear) silence his conscience as he sends his children to public school (he has no other options) while Americans from the dominant culture are legally protected in teaching things contrary to his religion and culture.

    Gay affirmation is the winning ticket these days in politics (garnering public support from the President no less) but doesn’t it favor one minority (the LGBT community) heavily over all others? The question is should the American church care about immigrant Hispanic, Muslim and Hmong minorities who are among the poor in their culture? Or should they vote in favor of a highly represented and resourced minority, i.e the LGBT community. Our LGBT neighbors are already protected by law and are free to form any kind of loving relationships — monogamous or not. Is it some form of validation that is being sought? I am not sure.

    In my understanding public policy has tended to favor traditional marriage in most cultures because of the desire to provide children (vulnerable wards of the state who cannot represent themselves) with the best possible nurturing environment. Why else would the state care who is in bed with whom? Decades of social science research strongly supports “traditional” gender-diverse influence in parenting. I believe a fair summary of social science research to-date is that “children raised by biological parents in a low-conflict marriage fare the best”. This is not to belittle adoptive or single parents: it’s just what many scientists have concluded (with room for debate).

    If, as Ryan has argued, committed monogamous homosexual relationships were not common in ancient societies (to the extent that a Rabbinic scholar like Saul could be unaware of them)
    and since we have very little data (comparatively) about how (or if at all) parenting is affected by excluding one gender, I think it’s quite rational to express extreme caution in forming public policy.

    It’s funny though… American culture is generally in favor of gender-diversity in business, arts, medicine and academia and even (*wink*) in church leadership — studies abound supporting this position. But they are adamant that gender-diversity is (or will be found to be) irrelevant in parenting. It’s an interesting position to hold.

    As far interpreting the Bible with a broader view – should the American church be also in favor of certain kinds of pornography and modern, safe, legal, consensual prostitution? As far as we can tell, there are no ancient equivalents to pornography and many of the texts related to prostitution are related to it’s pagan/oppressive roots or to it’s health-related dangers. Since safe sex is now a possibility (unlike Biblical times) should the church be more tolerant of these (or other) modern sexual mores? Since biologically sexual desire is a spectrum, for those individuals who are biologically highly “sexed”, would this be acceptable?

  • Nate

    First off let me say, I think Ryan is awesome. I’m a conservative christian and I did vote yes. But I think Ryan has a very valid point from a governmental standpoint. We aren’t a country that takes one point and drives it into every area of human life…if you want that move to a communist country you’d love it.

    I love the governmental standpoint that he makes right at the opening of his post. “I will vote NO because I do not believe that we should adopt a law that would impose a specific, Fundamentalist Christian definition of marriage on a State level”

    Who are we to interfere with the freedoms of others? Although some of us are just louder than others when it comes to expressing our opinions. I think that is a core value that we all enjoy here in America…I could be very wrong for those of us who choose NO religion but that’s still a religious choice. I’d love to invite you to my church…I’ll come to yours (be it a football game, bar, church, whatever)…I love a good adventure and I love new people.

    my mom puts it best
    “opinions are like armpits everyone has them and they all stink”
    mine are no different. to you they stink. but in the end 1Cor 13:1 really wraps this all up “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I an only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”

    How are you doing at loving people? I had a friend tell me once, people hate it when you yell at their darkness…just help them turn on the lights and the yelling doesn’t have to happen.

    Dan you are awesome this is my first time on your blog and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Thanks.
    Nate

  • Stinger

    Wow it looks like Ryan went liberal, he was never like this before.

    • Stinger

      The assembly of God which Ryan was originally credentialed under makes their Pastors sign a covenant pledge stating they agree with everything the AG believes in. He in college when I was there was serving in Chi Alpha. See here on the AG’s stance.

      http://ag.org/top/beliefs/relations_11_homosexual.cfm

      Someone sold out.

    • Brandi Mitchell

      Im sorry. . . I wasnt going to respond to this but. . .”never like this before?”

      Really. Do you actually KNOW this guy? Hes got a soul patch, feeds his kids sushi, listens to indy music and plays the congas. Id say thatsa pretty textbook image of someone who might think its ok for people to love and marry each other regardless of whatever their lives look like.

      Do you still believe everything you held to be a capital-T Truth in your college years? In my college years I thought people could do magic if they got into a circle and said the right spells. I also thought “Cocaine” was spanish for “How I finish my homework”. Ive grown up since then, and my views have changed. People learn as they grow.

      I’ll leave you to your rant now.

      • Stinger

        The bible is the bible, college or whenever. That does not justify compromising God’s word. Try a more logical rant next time.

      • Brandi Mitchell

        Oh. I thought I was addressing a personal attack on Ryan by you, I didn’t realize “You never used to be this way” and “This isnt what you believed in college, I guess its the cool thing now” was in anyway adressing the bible, its validity, or ability to stand the test of time. Thank you for clearing that up, you sure showed me. *thumbs up*

  • Stinger

    Not the same views in college, must be the cool thing to do..

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