Monday, October 01, 2007

How does God see things?

“I can’t for the life of me imagine that God will say, ‘I will punish you because you are black, you should have been white; I will punish you because you are a woman, you should have been a man; I will punish you because you are homosexual, you ought to have been heterosexual.’ I can’t for the life of me believe that is how God sees things.”
—Desmond Tutu from a new film about gay Christians (H/T Aaron)

15 comments:

Halden said...

I can't believe that God would say something like that either. I also don't see how this comment is in any way germane to the issue of the viability of homosexual practice for Christians as anything other than a rhetorical flourish designed to shut down conversation.

Maybe this is only meant to be directed at the "god hates fags" types of people, in which case, I say amen. However, if this is somehow supposed to shed some light on the actual questions of Christian sexual ethics, I think it's just a loaded statement. Either God is a chauvinist and a racist or he approves of homosexual sex? Come, on.

I respect Desmond Tutu more than nearly any other church leader alive today and I've read him widely, but I've always found this kind of rhetoric thown aroun by him on this question. It's quite problematic.

D.W. Congdon said...

You're absolutely right, Halden. It's the same black-and-white rhetoric that the neocon camp uses: either we invade Iraq or someone will die; either we support our troops or we are anti-American, etc.

What's sad is that everyone simply resorts to dualistic rhetoric in the attempt to make a point, forgetting that this commits a basic logical fallacy -- viz. the fallacy of the false dilemma.

Christians (on both the right and the left) need to argue their positions on the basis of Scripture. Fallacious rhetoric will not solve the problem.

Halden said...

Yeah. I really don't see the difference between saying "god hates fags" and saying "your god is a racist, Nazi biggot". As long as that's the way the conversation happens we're in a sad state indeed.

That said, I see a huge difference between Tutu and American fundamentalists! And thank God for that.

Dustin said...

I think one of the main problems in this debate is that Scripture is relatively quite on sexual mores and usually (especially in the NT) uses rather vague terms. There are a few places that many conservatives like to point in regards to the 'gay' debate (the beginning of Romans being the main proof text for sure, and idiotically to Genesis 19), but I'm wholly unconvinced by their arguments. Mostly because they are inconsistent in their hermeneutics. No anti-gay Christian will support polygamy as legit, though if we read the Bible literally it certainly is.

Another reason why this debate gets so convoluted is the 'is it a personal choice or part of our genetic code' debate. Which is a pretty important distinction. If it is genetic then arguing from Scripture doesn't seem to be enough for me. And Mr. Tutu's statement holds a lot more merit. But this is something that, I think, will be nearly impossible to 'prove' beyond a shadow of a doubt.

And I don't think we can negate the working of the Spirit within the faithful community...

Halden said...

Dustin, based on your comment I wonder how much of the actual debate on the relevant Scriptures you've read. I would refer you to Richard Hays and Robert Gagnon (though, Hays is better), if you are interested in exploring those questions further. And neither of them fall anywhere near the camp of conservative evangelicals.

But regardless, I don't know how you can fail to see the problems of Tutu's statement. Do you really believe that the only alternatives are to believe that God is an irrational, racist bigot or to believe that homosexuality is all fine and good? Such statements are rhetorical bluster and bullshit (perhaps passionate, well-intentioned bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless) that obscure the possibilities of any real dialogue.

Lee said...

It's certainly true that Abp. Tutu's remark isn't and shouldn't be a conversation stopper. Unfortunately, too many Christians, and not just the Fred Phelps of the world, have been all too willing to punish people for being gay. Abp. Peter Akinola, the current darling of the Anglican Right, has supported the Nigerian government's laws making homosexuality a punishable offense, for one.

It's also worth noting that even Richard Hays concedes that exegesis alone doesn't settle this question. There's always a gap between the apparent moral teachings of the biblical writers and how that should inform our contemporary deliberations.

Dustin said...

Halden,

I didn't really express myself well and I was criticizing the 'average Evangelical' retort to homosexuality. I have read Hays' arguments and find them to be more fruitful than the ultra-conservative camp. But still not entirely persuasive. But that's me. It's hard for me to find a hermeneutic that remains consistent throughout both the OT and the NT and into the present day in regards to sexual norms and similar issues.

I actually don't think Tutu's comment is helpful. I was merely trying to point out that if one is convinced that homosexuality is a genetic trait, then the issue becomes akin to that of God disallowing blacks, or women, or people born with 6 toes on each foot from inheriting the Kingdom.

But this is a contested issue and it probably will continue to be for a long while. And I don't think the Bible gives us a straight forward, clear-cut answer in regards to homosexuality. So I don't think the the Bible can have the ultimate word here. It can serve to point us to the answer, but I don't think the answer lies within the Scriptures, at least not as explicit as many like to think.

I hope this is a little clearer

dan said...

Well, I for one am glad that Tutu said what he did.

There has certainly been a lot of bad scholarship on both sides of this discussion, but there has also been good scholarship on both sides (Hays was already mentioned on one side, so I'll just mention Brueggemann and Elliott on the other).

Halden, at the end of the day, despite your softer rhetoric and better intentions, I'm not convinced that your position (or Hays' position for that matter) is really all that different than the "god hates fags" movement that you keep mentioning.

Maybe I'll write a post about these things.

Grace and peace.

Micah Tillman said...

If God made us the way we are, then Tutu is right that our state-of-being can't be wrong. What we do with what we are is another question (and I think this is halden's point in part).

But there are many of us who don't believe that God made us the way we are (I for instance, have an inherited genetic defect). And that complicates the moral side of the issue even more.

Halden said...

Well, Dan all I can say is that's quite a judgment for you to make about me on that one. I don't know if my gay Christian friends would agree with you about that.

D.W. Congdon said...

The problem with Tutu's rhetoric is that it gives the appearance that being black, being a woman, and being homosexual are equally difficult for the church to handle. That is, if the church accepts blacks and women, it should, to be consistent, accept homosexuals as well. Now I have no problem affirming that homosexuality is genetic; that is, we can properly speak of someone "being" homosexual, and not simply "acting" it out by choice.

That said, there are still two problems: (1) Affirming homosexuals as they are is different from ordaining them. The Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, and conservative Protestant churches affirm women, but they don't ordain them. Now I believe wholeheartedly that women should be ordained, but that does not lead me necessarily to affirm that homosexuals should be ordained.


(2) Related to the first point is that Scripture says nothing against other races/ethnic groups or women; they are all equal in value before the Lord who saves all without exception. But Scripture does say something against homosexuality. Is Scripture vague about this? Yes. Is homosexuality a central point in the Bible? Absolutely not; it's marginal at best. But that doesn't mean the issue of homosexuality is no more sticky than the issue of slavery and sexism. Could the Bible be limited to the view that homosexuality is an act and not a biological identity? Very likely, and this point alone makes me unwilling to state a position regarding the marriage and ordination of homosexuals. But we need to be able to see clearly what the differences are. Rhetoric has the ability to disguise the distinctions, and we need to keep the distinctions clearly in mind.

dan said...

Halden,

I was talking about your position, not making a judgment about you as a person, or whatever. Let me put your mind at ease: I'm sure you're a great guy. But this is why it's all the more unfortunate that you hold to the position that you do (but, hey, it took me a long time to come around on this issue, so there's always hope for others who were influenced by American Evangelicalism).

However, why does it seem as though everybody who holds to a more "conservative" position always seems to be in a rush to mention their gay friends? I'm sure a lot of "complimentarians" also have female Christian friends...

Not surprisingly, I also have a few "gay Christian friends," but I have many more gay non-Christian friends. While gay Christians may, in some cases, be more patient with their brothers and sisters in Christ, and, in other cases, be more willing to get whatever support they can from the Christian community (from sensitive conservatives, for example), gay non-Christians usually aren't so eager to settle (nor should they be, IMHO).

DW,

I think the issue of genetics is largely tangential. I suspect that our sexual preferences are a combination of nature and nurture -- some people are certainly gay because they were born that way, others are likely gay due to various life experiences, and most people are probably somewhere in between. The issue for me isn't so much what makes a person gay, as how we as a Christian community respond to those who are gay.

That said, I really do think I will revisit these things on my blog.

Grace and peace.

Halden said...

Dan, I wasn't seeking to make a statement about how great I am towards gays "as a person", or trying to tout some gay friends as an example of that. My point was that I don't think homosexual people that I've interfaced with in relationships (and this does include non-Christians) would characterize my position on this issue as having anything in common with the "god hates fags" types.

But, if you really do think that the only alternatives are for people to agree with you or believe that God hates homosexuals, then I guess the terms of the discussion are set and the conversation is already over. I find that to be unfortunate. And with that, I'll retire from this thread.

Peace.

dan said...

Halden,

You're misunderstanding me, which, I guess, shouldn't surprise me, given the abrasive tone of my original comment.

I am not saying that "the only alternatives are for people to agree with [me] or believe that God hates homosexuals"; rather, I am suggesting that your position is still one that the LGBTQ community (and I) would consider dehumanizing and oppressive, and it is for this reason that your position actually does have something in common with the "God hates fags" movement.

Sorry, I'm sure most people would be put off by that comparison, but that really is how many people view the more "sensitive" brand of Christian conservatives. Sure, they're nicer people, but they still don't offer us any hope of genuine liberation.

Of course, if I thought you were some sort of hopelessly gay-hating Christian, I likely wouldn't have even bothered with this exchange, but you appear to be both intelligent and compassionate, and so I thought I would try to get a few hooks into you.

Grace and peace.

Straight A said...

God loves man..that's a fact-the ONLY explanation as to why we are here(and ofcourse why Jesus died on the cross)God's love is not dependent on whether you do good or not(as is man's)
But remember also that God is HOLY and will have nothing to do with sin(hence the sacrifice to cleanse sinful man)He has made it clear that faith in Christ is the requirement for right standing with him.Homosexuality and all of sin keeps us far from Him..it's our choice,believe Jesus,let God change you into Christlikeness..or stick to your own pleasures and reap what He warns us about-eternity without Him..AMEN!!