Thursday, May 29, 2008

Running low

Opponents of same-sex civil marriage will need to present Californians with a convincing argument for voting in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage this November. But as this Bill O'Reilly interview shows, they're running low on ideas.

(HT: Andrew Sullivan)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Last Sunday's class

My Sunday school class went really well this past week, and I've been so busy preparing for the next class I forgot I was leaving you guys hanging. Sorry!

My goal was to present my understanding of homosexuality to the class, so that later on we can discuss how Christians can do a better job of loving and understanding their gay friends, family members and acquaintances. I presented the homosexual orientation as both a fallen and yet unchosen condition, a definition that stays true to both biblical teaching and people's experiences. It is in accord with Augustine's view of original sin that is further expounded upon in the Westminster Standards' Larger Catechism, to which our denomination (the PCA) subscribes.

But it's not enough to present abstract doctrines and theological definitions. I also read from the testimonies of two gay men who were professing Christians who talked about what it was like to grow up with the dawning awareness that they were homosexual. To me this was the centerpiece of the class, because if you haven't heard people describe it for themselves, you can never fully appreciate what people mean when they say, "I didn't choose this." I don't know how people in the class felt about those testimonies, but everyone listened in a respectful silence.

The question and answer time went on for 30 minutes. No one was hostile, everyone was trying to think and understand. Maybe the reason it all went so well was because our church is very young. The vast majority of members are in their 20's and 30's.

People wanted to know if these testimonies were typical to most gay people's experiences. One guy mentioned off-hand that he didn't have a problem with the CA Supreme Court's recent decision, and wanted to know how Christians can distance themselves from the "religious right" image. We talked about celibacy, what that was like for people, how the church might support someone who makes that decision for him- or herself. Someone brought up Joseph Nicolosi, not to bring up ex-gay ministries but to ask whether Nicolosi's theories about child-rearing could prevent kids from becoming gay. (I said I had never seen any convincing evidence to support his theories.)

Before we broke up, I asked the class whether they wanted me to explain about ex-gay ministries next time, or if they just wanted me to move forward with how to talk to and befriend someone who is gay. I was offering to read some ex-gay testimonies and explain how they related to what we had just talked about in class. One guy said, "Skip it" and I saw a lot of heads nod. To me that was the most surprising thing about last Sunday's class. Is the younger generation of conservative Christians becoming more skeptical about the claims of ex-gay ministries? If so I think that would be a huge step in the right direction.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Republicans aid "judicial activism"

I heard that Hugh Hewitt threw a fit on the radio this afternoon over today's 4-3 California Supreme Court ruling. Apparently he was screaming something about voting for John McCain so that a Republican could appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court instead of a bunch of liberals.

Well, I'm afraid that may not necessarily solve things because Hugh Hewitt failed to mention one small detail. I learned from the Log Cabin Republicans today that 6 out of 7 justices on the CA Supreme Court were appointed by Republican governors. I checked it out for myself:

Assoc. Justice Joyce L. Kennard--Deukmejian (Republican), 1989
Assoc. Justice Carlos R. Moreno--Davis (Democrat), 2001
Assoc. Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar--Wilson (Republican), 1994
Chief Justice Ronald M. George--Wilson (Republican), 1991
Assoc. Justice Ming W. Chin--Wilson (Republican), 1996
Assoc. Justice Marvin R. Baxter--Wilson (Republican), 1991
Assoc. Justice Carol A. Corrigan--Schwarzenegger (Republican), 2005

Given that the Democratic appointee voted in favor of this ruling, it means that the remaining Republican appointees were split 3-3. You're not going to learn this tidbit from either the Democrats or the Republicans. Leave it to Log Cabin to give us the real scoop.

California joins Massachusetts

Andrew Sullivan astutely points out that the ruling in California today is not judicial activism, as the religious right will no doubt spin it. Far from ramming this ruling past the legislature, the California legislature has already voted in favor of full marriage rights for gay couples twice. All the court has done is refuse to buy into the "civil unions" rationale, which says, "Gay couples can have all the legal benefits of marriage but let's stop short of actually calling it marriage." Instead, they have chosen to do what is legally fair.

As I have said many times before, when it comes to the civil arena the only justification I can see for stopping short of calling such unions "marriage" is bigotry. We do not live in a theocracy. As a society we do not require that our government withhold the title of "marriage" from all couples whose marriages do not conform to biblical standards (logically, that would include a lot of marriages). You cannot withhold the label "marriage" from gay couples seeking legal recognition of their unions by appealing to a Christian definition of marriage, unless of course you want to start by attacking the Buddhist married couple down the street. You have to find some other excuse. And speaking for myself, I've been hard pressed to find one over the past eight years of studying this issue.

If you're a Christian, look on the bright side. For years we've pounded on gays, condemning their "lifestyle." Well, there is no better remedy for a sexually promiscuous and irresponsible lifestyle than entering into a marriage union, where your gay spouse would be much more effective in keeping you on the straight and narrow than a Focus On the Family broadcast. Let's prove that Christians can be smart, consistent and fair-minded by at least giving a nod of approval in that direction.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Doing them justice

For the very first time since I started studying this issue eight years ago, I will have an opportunity to teach a class on homosexuality at my church. The fact that I've been overthinking my lesson plans and generally stressing about it shows that I'm more than a little nervous.

How often do we talk openly about these issues in the conservative church? Whenever it does spring up, it's usually because someone within the church is suddenly discovered to be homosexual, and so the discussion arises in an atmosphere of shock, gossip and scandal. The person in question is under a cloud from the start. There is no opportunity to discuss what it means to be homosexual in a calm and rational environment.

I feel I need to speak for that person, to explain to my fellow Christians what homosexuality is from the perspective of those who experience it. There is so much to say, and it is difficult to know where to begin.

I have been reading through old emails that readers have sent me over the years. I'm amazed at how open people have been with me, how articulately they have expressed themselves. It's overwhelming, really. Now I want to do them justice, and I'm afraid of failing them.