Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda:
The so-called religious right is the last defense against the aggressive homosexual lobby. Most Evangelical Christians believe that homosexualityregardless of its originsis immoral. On the other hand, many are confused about what stand a Christian should take in this matter. While many Christians believe the Bible condemns homosexual practice, they do not want to be uncharitable, and they certainly do not want to be branded homophobic.
Liberal churchmen are the exception. They see homosexuality exactly as the secular world does. One reason is that Liberals do not consider the Bible authoritative in the same way Evangelicals do. Even where they do consider it authoritative, Liberals have concluded that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. They believe Evangelicals misunderstand the Bible.
The Liberals have infected the thinking of all so-called main-line denominations. Today, they consider honoring homosexual marriage, ordaining homosexual ministers, and affirming homosexuality. For example, for the past two years, the prestigious Presbyterian Church (USA) has toyed with advocating extremely liberal views on sexual conduct. Its Committee on Sexuality has sent to the floor of the General Assembly resolutions which say:
There is no single, consistent biblical ethic of sexuality.
The Church should "repent" of its oppressive morality, which is the work of white patriarchal "heterosexists."
It urges the church not to "restrict sexual activity to marriage alone," but celebrate all forms of sexual intimacy, "marital, premarital or post marital."
It states celibacy should no longer be the "only moral option for single persons."
Regarding teen-agers and sex, it advises youngsters to make decisions on the basis of "mutuality," "consent," and "maturity."
The report omits any mention of the Seventh Commandment"Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery."
Meanwhile, Episcopalians have considered a proposal that their denomination endorse the view that homosexuality is a "God-given" state and that gay relationships are "holy, life-giving and grace-filled." Methodists pondered a report claiming that the New Testament injunctions against homosexuality were really aimed only at the homosexual abuse of children (pederasty) and homosexual acts by people who were "naturally heterosexual." Paul, the argument goes, would have been more understanding if he knew as much about human sexual variance as modern society does. Such foggy thinking within the church leadership shows up in the rank and file of the Church. In a recent opinion poll of people who say they worship regularly, only 39% said, "Its always wrong for an unmarried adult to have sex," and only 65% said, "Its always wrong for an unmarried teen-ager to have sex."
LIVING IN SIN??
One of the most visible Christian ministers to enthusiastically endorse the homosexual lifestyle is Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, of Newark, New Jersey. Bishop Spong wrote a controversial book, Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality. In it, he defends not only homosexuality, but most forms of extramarital sex. He thinks God sees things his way. He believes the Evangelical Church misunderstands God and the Bible, a point he elaborates on in another book he wrote entitled, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalists.
Much of Bishop Spongs theology derives from his experience. He writes that most couples who come forward to get married in the Church are already living in sin when they do so. And he says that many older divorced and widowed Christians people have "special friends of the opposite sex with whom they share sexual intimacy." Instead of attempting to reconcile his parishioners to the Word of God, he wonders if there are "acceptable options other than marriage or loneliness for single, other adults."
Bishop Spong questions whether sex outside of marriage is really sinful. He says we should not make that judgment based on old-fashioned Christian ideas, but rather on the so-called fruit we observe in the relationship. He writes:
Is sex outside marriage always sinful? What happens when we apply the biblical standard of judging a tree by its fruit? Suppose the manifestations of a committed but unmarried relationship are love, joy, and grace, while bitterness, pain, and hurt are the products of a legal marriage. In what qualities does holiness reside?"
Bishop Spong claims he turns to the Bible to solve his philosophical dilemmas. However, he really has many problems with the Bible: "The Bible itself is not free of contradictions, of expressions of prejudice, and of attitudes that have long been abandoned." For Spong, Evangelical claims for Bible inerrancy are simply not relevant. They have, he says, long been dismissed in academic and theological circles. He believes the claim of biblical inerrancy remains alive mainly to preserve Church "power and authority."
However, the Bishop quotes the Bible when he can do so to underwrite his own extra-biblical philosophy. For example, he says that when the Apostle Paul writes (in Rom. 8:39) "Nothing can separate us from the love of God," he means nothing. What we do or do not believe cant separate us from God. Nothing in our conduct can separate us from God, including whatever sexual conduct we engage in.
Likewise, he says I Corinthians 15:22"In Christ shall all be made alive"means all. In the past, he says, the Church has been bigoted against women, Blacks, left-handed people, and divorced people. Today, he advises us not to be part of the "bigotry" of excluding the sexual immoral (as it is defined by the Bible.)
Bishop Spong, as one might expect, accepts the kind of brain studies by scientists like Simon LeVay. He is sure they prove that sexual orientation is genetic. Again, he concludes that if it is genetic, it cannot be sinful. He is impassioned by the implications of this science:
Since the evidence points to the conclusion that homosexuals do not choose their sexual orientation, cannot change it, and constitute a quite normal but minority expression of human sexuality, it is clear that heterosexual prejudice against homosexuals must take its place alongside witchcraft, slavery, and other ignorant beliefs and oppressive institutions that we have abandoned.
HOW TO MISUNDERSTAND THE BIBLE
Bishop Spong thinks that Evangelicals and other Christians are absolutely wrong when they believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. In his chapter entitled "The Bible and Homosexuality," he attempts to exegete the meaning of the biblical texts which refer to homosexuality. What he actually does is pour his own meanings into the Bible text. His attempts fall far short of sound Bible interpretation.
He begins his study of what the Bible says about homosexuality with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as related in the 19th chapter of the book of Genesis. In that account, the men of Sodom gather at the home of Lot and demand he send out the two (angelic) visitors harbored within. The men of Sodom want to use them sexually. The men tell Lot, "Bring them out unto us, that we may know them."
Bishop Spong correctly understands the phrase "to know them" means to use them sexually. However, he decides that the sin of the Sodomites is not sodomy, but gang rape! He says the homosexual gang rape was wrong, not because homosexuality is wrong, but because it would violate the "Middle Eastern law of hospitality."
The Bible story of Sodom and Gomorrah also relates that Lot offers to send his daughters out to the crowd in exchange for the angelic messengers. Bishop Spong reads this unselfish act undertaken to save the angelic guests, as an example of male chauvinism. "Somehow the Bible did not seem to think it vile to abuse a woman sexually." He concludes:
Is it right for anyone to suggest that the condemnation of homosexual gang rape is to be equated with the condemnation of homosexuality per se? I think not, and I further believe that anyone who reads this biblical narrative with an open mind will discover that the real sin of Sodom was the unwillingness on the part of the men of the city to observe the laws of hospitality.
The Bishop also thinks the story of Sodom and Gomorra is "rather weird" because it says God destroyed Lots wife because she disobeyed Him by looking back at the destruction of the city. He also finds fault with the later biblical story of Lots daughters who get him drunk and seduce him so they can have offspring. Bishop Spong concludes that the Bible "Suggests that incest is a legitimate way of impregnating women when there is no man around "
After dealing with the story of Sodom and Gomorra, the Bishop sets out to demonstrate that all biblical condemnation of homosexuality is really either a misunderstanding by those who read the texts, or the misunderstanding of men like the Apostle Paul who write about homosexuality from ignorance.
For example, he cites the reference to homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 which impose the death penalty for men lying with men "as with a woman." However, Bishop Spong points out that the text does not make it clear whether one of the men is raping the other. So, like his interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorra, it could still be an admonition against rape, not homosexuality, per se. He acknowledges that Leviticus imposes the death penalty upon both participants in homosexual acts, which might "imply" that rape was not involved. He isnt sure about that. However, Spong is critical of the biblical injunction against bestiality (sex between a human and an animal). The Bible calls for the execution of both the man and the beast. Bishop Spong notes that surely the beast could not be guilty, therefore it is unfair of God to order its death.
Bishop Spong says that the Book of Leviticus includes many other examples of "pre-modern ignorance," including "fear of menstruation" and the rejection of hunchbacks and dwarfs as candidates for the priesthood. Clearly, Spong thinks his enlightened understanding is fully able to council God Himself.
THE IGNORANCE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL
Bishop Spong strains credibility as he attempts to explain the reference to homosexuality in the first chapter of the Book of Romans. That passage reads:
Therefore God gave [godless and wicked men] over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creatorwho is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Rom. 1:24-27)
This passage says that wicked men and women get caught up in sexual lust and wind up committing homosexual acts. However, Bishop Spong argues that god does not believe homosexuality is evil at all. It is only evil when heterosexuals practice homosexuality. It would be equally evil in Bishop Spongs eyes for homosexuals to practice heterosexuality.
So he takes this passage to mean that God forces heterosexual men to commit homosexual actsas punishment for their sin of idolatry! He also believes Paul was ignorant of the wonderful modern knowledge that homosexuality is natural and normal for some men.
Bishop Spong obviously does not approach scripture to hear what it says. Rather, he approaches it to make it say what he already believes. This is an example of allowing our passion (in this case a passion to love and respect homosexuals) to overrule reason and scripture.
Bishop Spong deals similarly with the other New Testament passages on homosexuality. He concludes that the Pauline passages dealing with homosexuality are all flawed; Paul wasnt writing scripture, he was simply recording his own ill-informed opinions. He concludes, it is probable that " what was articulated in Pauls writing was not Gods unchanging word but Pauls ill-informed, culturally biased prejudices."
Finally, the Bishop advises us to relinquish our prejudices. He says when we relinquish "the prejudice of Holy Scripture," we will love, relate to, and support our "gay and lesbian brothers and sisters." We will love them and include them no matter what their sexual orientation may be. Such inclusiveness will, he says:
inevitably include accepting, affirming, and blessing those gay and lesbian relationships that, like all holy relationships, produce the fruits of the spiritlove, joy, peace, patience, and self-sacrificeand to do so in the confidence that though this may not be in accordance with the literal letter of the biblical texts, it is in touch with the life-giving spirit that always breaks the bondage of literalism. (emphasis added)
WHEN PASSION WOUNDS WISDOM
I do not doubt that Bishop Spong cares about the welfare of homosexuals and that he empathizes with (what he perceives as) the hatred directed at them. I commend him for that. However, he is wrong. The Bible does not condemn homosexual activity because God is a bigot, but because homosexuality is destructive. Bishop Spongs attempt to help homosexuals actually hurts them, because he does not give them a remedy for their disorder.
The Apostle Paul is not, as Bishop Spong would lead us to believe, an ignorant pre-modern bigot. On the contrary, God uses Paul to warn homosexuals that breaking heavens law brings condemnation. Bishop Spong, by clouding the biblical text, sentences homosexuals to continue on their way to destruction.
The Bishop Spongs of the world are a threat to both homosexuals and the Church. They have thrown out the counsel of scripture to rummage around in their own intellect; they grapple with problems too big for their finite minds.
To appreciate the impoverished thinking of these particular Liberals, consider the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" as sung at San Franciscos notoriously liberal Glide Memorial United Methodist Church:
Twas guilt that taught my heart to fear.
And pride my fears relieved;
How precious did that pride appear,
The hour I first believed!
IS THE FOG SPREADING?
Bishop Spong epitomizes what Evangelicals fear from Liberalisma mindless drift into fogginess where scripture is stripped of all authority and the blood of Christ has been made ineffectual. The larger question, however, is "Have the Spongs of the Church had an effect on the Evangelicals?"
The answer, unfortunately, is "Yes."