Re: Us vs. Them?

Dan:

I think you’ve raised a really important issue for conservative Christians: how do we respond to people who struggle with sin, period?  This is not a question that can be adequately (or at least, comprehensively) answered in words, but it’s worth pondering, I think.

I think part of the problem with conservative Christian discussions of this issue is that often equivocations are made which are extremely unhelpful. Setting aside the truly hateful Christians, I think one reason this type of language occurs is because this issue has become “big” in the context of a broader cultural war, in which conservative Christians are trying to oppose liberal cultural and political trends. Because of this, Christians often lump all people who feel homosexual urges in with (for lack of a better term) liberal pro-homosex activists. This latter group, as opposed to the former, is actually working against the goals of conservative groups (in making clear that homosexual activity is wrong, or in legal-political action based on that principle), and so the language of “us vs. them” is an accurate description in that context. The problem is that many conservatives do not clearly see that there is a distinction between people who feel homosexual urges and political activists who support the expression of those urges.

Beyond this problem, there is also the broader issue of church-state relations. The more a Christian group takes a “Constantinian” approach, believing that they have a mandate to Chrsitianize the state, the more they will see liberal activists as “them”. Those Christians who are less concerned with (or even opposed to) such actions are more capable of recognizing even the activists as something other than enemies. But even for these type of Christians, people who oppose, directly, the moral and theological principles of their communities will be in some sense “them”.

As for the other issue:

There are definitely some ways in which Christians can also be gay. In one sense that’s obvious, if “Christian” is not taken to be a prescriptive term. If a Christian is anyone who identifies as such, then the answer is so obvious as to not require asking.

If “Christian” is taken prescriptively, then the question is raised: in what sense, in general, can a Christian remain a Christian if they are doing something that goes against Christian morality? This is a complicated question, but I think the short answer is: as long as they are actively attempting to change their ways, they are not outside of Christ. I infer this from passages which describe the opposite condition, where “people who live this way will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Given the NT teaching on forgiveness, and on the imperfectibility of the saints in this lifetime (at least, for those who are not part of the holiness traditions), I take “live like this” not to be referring simply to doing these actions one or many times, but rather doing them without attempting to repent at all.

Beyond this, I think it is abundantly clear that persons in general can be tempted by things but not for that reason only be sinning. Temptation is a situation that poses a moral question to us; it doesn’t render our judgment in itself.

For these two reasons, I think it is definitely possible for someone to be a Christian in the moral sense and feel sexual urges for people of the same sex, and even act on them one or more times, as long as there is some kind of attempt to change in their life as well (and by change I do not mean change their desires per se, though I think all Christians would at least hope and try to get rid of desires which they know to be sinful; all I mean here is an attempt to stop acting on those desires).