Give me a break (paper excerpt)

In the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo coined the ethical statement, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” and for the past twenty years, many conservative Christians have publicly applied this phrase toward homosexuals. Unfortunately, this approach has yet to change relations with the homosexual community, giving the church a homophobic label. Despite mainstream Christianity’s best efforts to “love” the homosexual individuals, little has been accomplished for the sake of the Gospel in the homosexual community. Floods of books and scholarly articles have been written about the nuanced “theology” of homosexuality, some affirming but

most opposing.

If Christian ethics are an exercise in asking, “How does God call us to behave?” then Christians must collectively repent over how we have treated homosexuals for the majority of the church’s history. Instead of calling people to pursue Jesus, we have cut them out of fellowship, denied them baptism, and demanded they “change” before we allow them to participate in the full life of the church. I find it highly ironic that scholars like Richard Hays will claim, in the same breath, that homosexuality is “sin” but heterosexual Christians must not judge them because all people are sinners. The ecclesiological problem is that we don’t deny heterosexual sinners table fellowship. The approach of Hayes, and others, is not rational, because it advocates for the positive treatment of the gay community based upon the mutuality of everyone’s sin, yet only the homosexual’s sin disqualifies them from leadership and communion. Surely, it is not ethical to claim that the “sin” of same-sex attraction disqualifies a person from leading a small group, while we simultaneously allow individuals with “other” sin issues to be spiritual leaders. This is the problem with the most common position taken by the church today: It is not rational or sustainable to tell gays that we love them, and that God loves them, but regardless, they are not spiritually equal in the church. This approach is unpalatable when we consider the fact that over 70% of Christian men, and over 50% of clergy admit to struggling with pornography. We don’t talk about that, but we are quick to object when a gay woman volunteers for our youth ministry.

There is a reason that Christians ignore the issues of divorce, pornography, and materialism. Likewise, there is a reason that most of the church does not participate in the discussion that questions the theology of homosexuality. By paying attention to the narrative of western Christianity, we can see that the reasons are hermeneutical. The gay narrative allows the church to look outward, successfully avoiding self-reflection and criticism. Materialism, greed, lust, pornography, and divorce, are issues that the majority of the church deals with. If the American church started a conversation about comfort, and how most of us have way more than we need, that would convict a whole lot of people. Homosexuals still comprise a relatively small percentage of society, so it is much safer for the church to turn its condemnation towards them, avoiding more uncomfortable conversations that involve almost everyone else.

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