Posts tagged ‘Homosexuality’

Jason Collins’ Big Announcement

Jason CollinsThere have been plenty of splashy and flashy headlines sprawled across newspapers, news stations, and news websites concerning NBA free agent Jason Collins over these past several days, but I prefer the simplicity of CNN:  “NBA’s Jason Collins comes out as gay.”[1]  The reactions to Jason Collins’ revelation, as expected, have been wide and diverse.  The Huffington Post reports that President Obama called Collins to tell him “he was impressed by his courage.”[2]  Sports analyst Chris Broussard sparked a firestorm when, speaking on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” he said, “I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality…I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”[3]  Finally, the Human Rights Campaign likened the effects Collins’ “coming out” to that of Jackie Robinson being the first African American to play baseball in the modern era.  HRC President Chad Griffin released this statement:

Jason Collins’ commitment to living openly is a monumental step forward toward greater equality and he immediately becomes a role model for youth all across this country. His actions today tell LGBT young people that what will define our success in life is our character and dedication, not our sexual orientation. At a moment when millions are reflecting on the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson, Jason Collins is a hero for our own times.[4]

So what is a Christian to make of all this?  Chris Broussard summarizes the orthodox Christian position quite well when he says, “I think [homosexuality is] a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”  The second part of Broussard’s statement is key.  As we watch the story of Jason Collins’ “coming out,” we must see it as only a piece of a bigger puzzle.  For decades, sexual immorality has been rampant in professional sports.  One can’t help but think of the offer AshleyMadison.com put on the table shortly after Tim Tebow joined the New York Jets.  Noel Biderman, the founder of Ashley Madison, offered one million dollars to anyone who could produce evidence that the backup quarterback was not, in fact, a virgin.  Biderman said, “Sports and sex (and of course, infidelity) go hand in hand…If Mr. Tebow is indeed abstaining from adult relationships, I would encourage him to find a nice lady or two and enjoy his youth and fame as much as possible.”[5]  His assertion that “sports and sex (and of course, infidelity) go hand in hand” is, sadly, true.  Story after story could be enumerated of professional athletes behaving badly – engaging in everything from infidelity to rape to premarital sex which has become so culturally accepted, it is no longer disconcerting enough to raise even an eyebrow much less make a headline.  Thus, Chris Broussard’s embrace of an openly homosexual lifestyle is only one instance in a long parade of what the Bible would deem sexual immorality.

In a culture that has such radically different sexual mores from that of the Christian ethos, there are a couple of things Christians should keep in mind.  First, we should remember that, no matter how winsomely and well Christian sexual standards are explained or packaged, there will be many who will reject and ridicule them.  This has to do with the foolishness of the Scripture and of the gospel itself to those who do not trust Jesus.  As the apostle Paul says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  The Scriptural reservation for sex between a husband and wife is simply unintelligible to many in our society.

Second, even if the world considers God’s wisdom foolish, this does not mean that we should not share God’s wisdom with our world.  Christians can and must speak to the issues of our day.  After all, if we truly believe that God’s way is the best way, and if we truly love our neighbors as Jesus commands, how can we not share God’s desire for them out love for them?

Finally, as we share God’s Word – and especially as we share God’s Word concerning human sexuality – we must do so with an attitude of humility rather than with a spirit of arrogance.  Jesus makes it clear that all struggle with sexual brokenness:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).  Jesus’ standard for sexual purity is one that none of us have kept.  When we speak to others about sexual purity, therefore, we must do so as fellow strugglers rather than as self-righteous sermonizers.

In a culture that celebrates and sanctions sexual sin, we are called to hold out a message of hopeful purity.  By God’s grace, may we hold out that message with the clarity, conviction, and compassion that it deserves.


[1] Joe Sterling and Steve Almasy, “NBA’s Jason Collins comes out as gay,” CNN (4.30.2013).

[2] Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel, “Obama Calls Jason Collins, ‘Impressed By His Courage’ In Coming Out,” The Huffington Post (4.29.2013).

[3] Scott Collins, “ESPN’s Chris Broussard sparks uproar with Jason Collins remarks,” LA Times (4.29.2013.)

[4] HRC Staff, “Jason Collins Changes the Face of Sports Forever By Coming Out,” Human Rights Campaign (4.29.2013).

[5] Danny Cox, “Jets quarterback Tim Tebow’s virginity worth a reported $1 million dollars,” Examiner.com (4.24.2012).

May 6, 2013 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Cherry Picking Scripture

I had to chuckle as I was watching coverage of the Democratic National Convention last week.  I tuned in to see San Antonio’s mayor, Julian Castro, deliver the Convention’s keynote speech, which is quite an honor no matter what your political persuasion.  But what made me chuckle were not the speeches at the Convention, but the political pundits pontificating on the state of our nation between speeches.  I began watching the coverage that evening by tuning into a liberal-leaning news channel.  They asked a question that has become ubiquitous in political circles every time a presidential election rolls around:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  One of their correspondents trotted out a chart that included numbers for jobs created and the state of the Standard & Poor’s index and confidently concluded, “Yes.  We are better off than we were four years ago.”  I then flipped over to a conservative-leaning news channel.  Interestingly, the pundits on this channel were debating this same question:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  But my mouth dropped open when they too trotted out a chart with numbers on unemployment and the national debt and confidently concluded, “No.  We are not better off than we were four years ago.”  Apparently, whether you believe we are better off than we were four years ago depends on which numbers you look at – or which numbers you want to look at.

I am not surprised when politicians and the politically minded cherry pick the facts and figures which bolster their particular partisan position.  But it disturbs me when Christians do the same thing – especially with the Word of God.

In Acts 20, Paul is leaving the church in Ephesus which he had planted and subsequently served for three years as its pastor in order to journey to Jerusalem at the Holy Spirit’s behest.  One of the things that Paul touts about his ministry to the Ephesians is that he “did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).  In other words, when Paul served the Ephesians, he didn’t cherry pick his favorite Bible verses or stories, nor did he selectively or subversively read the Scriptures in an effort to bolster a particular partisan theological platform.  Instead, he courageously declared the Word of God – all of the Word of God.

Part of the reason Paul prided himself on proclaiming all of the Word of God has to do with Paul’s belief concerning the nature and character of Scripture.  For Paul believed that all of Scripture comes from God and therefore all of Scripture is worthy of our attention, study, and application.  As Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  All Scripture is useful, Paul declares.  There is not a book, a verse, a word, or, to use Jesus’ description, even “a jot or a tittle” (cf. Matthew 5:18, KJV), which is not useful for us to know and take to heart.

The other day, I came across a blog titled, “5 Reasons Why We Should Still Read The Book Of Leviticus Today.”[1]  In this post, the author recounts a conversation he had with a PhD scientist who, though he was a Christian, saw no need to for believers to concern themselves with Leviticus, or with any other part of the Pentateuch for that matter.  After all, what could modern-day people possibly learn from a book that covers the eating of shellfish, the wearing of polyester, and the donning of tattoos?  Not much, in this guy’s mind.  But this blogger went on to do a terrific job arguing for the relevance – and, more importantly, for the divine inspiration – of this book.  He notes that the credo of Leviticus, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2), is still the preeminent model for Christian sanctification.  In our acting, speaking, and thinking, we are to reflect the God in whom we trust.  Indeed, Jesus Himself affirms this holiness credo when He declares, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  More vitally, this blogger notes that the sacrificial system of Leviticus is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Without Leviticus, our understanding of Christ’s sacrifice would be significantly diminished, for the whole point of the Old Testament sacrificial system was to lead to and find its telos in Christ’s supreme and final sacrifice (cf. Hebrews 10:1-12).  In other words, the whole point of Leviticus, though it was written some 1400 years before Jesus, was to point people to Jesus.  And anything that points people to Jesus is something a Christian should want to know about.

Leviticus is just one example of the theological richness that Scripture has to offer – if we will only take the time to look.  If you choose cherry pick from Scripture, however, you will miss so much of what Scripture is and what Scripture gives.  So devote yourself to Scripture – all Scripture.  You never know what you will find, how you will be changed, and how your faith will grow.


[1] Scott Fillmer, “5 Reasons Why We Should Still Read The Book Of Leviticus Today,” scottfillmer.com (8.21.2012).

September 10, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Chafed Over Chick-fil-A

The firestorm is burning white hot.  And it didn’t take much to spark it either.  All it took was a passing statement from Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy in an interview with the Baptist Press:

We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.[1]

Cathy’s qualification of “family” as “the biblical definition of the family unit” upset and offended many of those who support same-sex marriage, which, by all traditional Christian accounts, falls outside the pale of “the biblical definition of the family unit.”[2]  But Cathy wasn’t backing down.  In an appearance on “The Ken Coleman Show,” Cathy solidified his stance:

I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, “We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage,” and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.[3]

The reactions to these two statements have predictably ranged from the genuinely offended to the bombastically outrageous.  Equality Illinois, an LGBT advocacy group, plans a “kiss-in,” akin to the “sit-ins” of the 1960’s civil rights movement, in front of selected Chick-fil-A’s to protest Cathy’s statements.  The group has also launched a “Flick the Hate” campaign, saying, “Rather than spend money at hateful businesses like Chick-fil-A, support businesses that support LGBT rights.”[4]  Rosanne Barr tweeted, “Anyone who eats *Expletive* Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ.”[5]  She later apologized for her incendiary statement.  Then there was Juliet Jeske, a comedian, who posed the perennial hermeneutical quandary: “I don’t quite understand how Christians who cite these six scant verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality conveniently ignore some of the more extreme laws. How is one verse the ‘WORD OF GOD’ and another discarded as being out-of-date?”[6]  She cites a slew of peculiar-sounding passages from Leviticus and opines on why Christians no longer follow the Good Book’s restrictions concerning menstruating women and clothing made of more than one fabric while insisting on following the Bible’s moral verdict on homosexuality.  If she is interested in the answer to her conundrum, I would suggest she read Tim Keller’s insightful article, “Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency.’”  Considering how many times this question concerning the so-called “inconsistent” application of the Bible has been raised, however, and how many times it has been answered – quite well, I would add – I have begun to wonder if this article, and others like it, is not more of a cheap shot at Christian biblical interpretation rather than a genuine question about Christian biblical interpretation.

What disturbs me most about the Chick-fil-A controversy is not Cathy’s statements, for the immorality of all sex outside the confines of a marriage between one man and one woman is a longstanding Christian tenant.  Nor do the objections of many in the LGBT community to Cathy’s statement disturb me, for such objections are to be expected.  What disturbs me most about this controversy is the eventual response of Chick-fil-A as a corporation to the stir.  The company issued a statement that read in part, “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”[7]  Though people may debate whether or not it is prudent for COO’s of large corporations to express their theological convictions to news outlets that often make a habit out of subjecting theological convictions to the acerbic accusations of public opinion, I would submit that Chick-fil-A made precisely the wrong move when it so willingly relinquished this debate to the arena of government and politics.

At its heart, the debate over homosexuality and gay marriage is not a political debate, but a moral one.  To relegate this debate to the realm of politics and wrangling legislators is to cheapen it and, ultimately, to give it less consideration and credence than it deserves.  Moral debate should not be settled by majority vote, but by robust and respectful conversation grounded in something steadier and more transcultural than November’s ballot box – something like Holy Scripture for Christians, or, in broader society, natural, moral law.[8]  Morality by democracy can lead only to disaster, for it encourages people to breezily act according to what is right in their own eyes (cf. Judges 17:6).

The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, had it at least partially right when he said, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”[9]  Though, as a Christian, I heartily disagree with Rahm Emanuel’s values as they pertain to same-sex marriage, on this much we find common ground:  this is about values and morals, not politics and opinion polls.  Let’s not turn it into anything less.


[1] K. Allan Blume, “‘Guilty as charged,’ Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on biblical & family values,” Baptist Press (7.16.12).

[2] Read Concordia’s stance on same-sex marriage in “A Pastoral Statement on President Obama’s Endorsement of Same-Sex Marriage.”

[3] As cited in “Dan Cathy, Chick-Fil-A President, On Anti-Gay Stance: ‘Guilty As Charged,’The Huffington Post (7.17.12).

[4] www.facebook.com

[5] Cited in Paul Bond, “Roseanne Barr Responds to Critics After Controversial Chick-fil-A Tweet,” The Hollywood Reporter (7.26.12).

[6] Juliet Jeske, “Chick-Fil-A, Do You Really Want to Run Your Company on Biblical Values?The Huffington Post (7.26.12).

[7] Cited in Shan Li, “Chick-fil-A steps out of public debate on gay marriage,” The Los Angeles Times (7.19.12).

[8] An examination of same-sex marriage in light of natural, moral law can be found in “A Pastoral Statement on President Obama’s Endorsement of Same-Sex Marriage.”

[9] Cited in Bill Barrow, “Chick-fil-A sandwiches become a political symbol,” The Associated Press (7.27.12).

July 30, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

What We Say (And Don’t Say) About Homosexual Practice

When President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News on May 9,[1] I knew I would get a lot of questions.  And sure enough, I did.  This is why the pastors of Concordia have prepared a Christian response to same-sex marriage specifically and homosexual practice generally.  You can find the response here.  This response will also be published this week in a booklet along with an appendix which will answer some of the questions we have received in response to the document.

I have found this whole brouhaha (to use a technical, theological term) to be fascinating – not so much because of the common, perennial questions I have received concerning same-sex marriage, but because of the way many prominent Christians have responded to this now top-of-mind topic.

It saddens me that when questions are asked, so many Christian people have responded in a breathtakingly nebulous way.  Take, for instance, popular Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans.  In her blog, “How To Win A Culture War And Lose A Generation,” she decries the way in which the Church has responded to homosexuality:

Every single student I have spoken with believes that the Church has mishandled its response to homosexuality.

Most have close gay and lesbian friends.

Most feel that the Church’s response to homosexuality is partly responsible for high rates of depression and suicide among their gay and lesbian friends, particularly those who are gay and Christian.

Most are highly suspicious of “ex-gay” ministries that encourage men and women with same-sex attractions to marry members of the opposite sex in spite of their feelings.

Most feel that the church is complicit, at least at some level, in anti-gay bullying.[2]

Here, Evans has no problem being sharply specific.  Evans places her finger squarely on the pulse of something profoundly tragic:  Those who are not Christian feel belittled and berated by the way traditional, orthodox Christians have often responded to homosexuality.  They have come across as judgmental, self-righteous, bigoted, and they have even contributed, at least in a complicit way, to the heart-wrenching stories of anti-gay bullying we read in the news.  Tragic.

So what is Evans’ way forward?  Her last sentence, “Stop waging war and start washing feet,” seems to present itself as her proposed solution, but I am still left puzzled.  Though I know there are some bigoted, self-righteous, mean-spirited Christians who delight in waging culture wars, brandishing about the word “sinner” like a weapon of mass destruction while refusing to serve and love according to Jesus’ call and command, I know many other Christians who make it their life’s work to humbly call sinners to repentance while serving them in love.  I see the service part of a Christian’s vocation in her statement, “Start washing feet,” but what about the calling to repentance part?  Are we not supposed to do both?

Interestingly, Evans wrote a follow-up post where she proposes yet another solution:  “We need to listen to one another’s stories.”[3]  People’s stories do matter.  And listening is terrific, yes.  But to what end?  Do we have nothing other than our own stories to share?  Isn’t the glory of Christianity that it is extra nos, that is, “outside of us” – that we have a righteousness not our own to save us from sin all too tragically our own (cf. Philippians 3:9)?  We need to come to grips with the fact that what Jesus says about us is far more important than what we say about ourselves.  His story matters more than ours because His story redeems ours.

There’s an old country song by Aaron Tippin where he sings, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”[4]  I fear that, when it comes to homosexual practice and same-sex marriage, we have abdicated our duty of standing – not charging, not belittling, not berating, not politicking – but just standing – standing in the truth and speaking that truth with grace.

The apostle Paul writes, “Stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13).  Notice the definite article in front of the word “faith.”  We are to stand firm not just in any faith, but in the faith.  This means that we say what the faith says:  Homosexual practice is a sin.  It is one of a million ways that humans have invented for themselves to break God’s law, just like I invent for myself a million ways to break God’s law too.  But God loves sinners.  God loves you.  That’s why He sent Jesus to die and be raised for you.  So repent of your sin and trust in Him.  And please allow me to walk with you and love you as do so, or even if you do not.

There.  Was that so hard?


[1]Obama Affirms Support For Same Sex Marriage,” ABC News (5.9.12).

[2] Rachel Held Evans, “How To Win A Culture And Lose A Generation” (5.9.12).

[3] Rachel Held Evans, “From Waging War To Washing Feet: How Do We Move Forward?” (5.11.12).

[4] Aaron Tippin, “You’ve Got To Stand For Something,” RCA Records (1991).

May 21, 2012 at 5:15 am 4 comments

Homosexuality, Hatred, and the Gospel

With both interest and sadness, I have been following the slew of recent student suicides by young men who were reportedly the targets of anti-homosexual bullying.  The most widely reported of these was Tyler Clementi, a promising eighteen year old freshman at Rutgers University who jumped off the George Washington bridge after his roommate secretly streamed his sexual encounter with another male.  Other recent suicides include those of Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas, both fifteen.  As these tragic stories have trickled through our news cycles, one word to describe the motive of the bullies who drove these young men to despair has been brandished about again and again:  homophobia.  Consider, for instance, the headline that ran in the Huffington Post yesterday:  “Homophobia:  The Plague That Is Killing Our Youth.”

It seems as though “homophobia” is a word that is used to describe just about every conceivable form of opposition toward homosexuality.  When New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino spoke to a group of Jewish children about being “brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option” and then followed his comment up by saying, “It isn’t,” his competitor, Andrew Cuomo, accused him of “stunning homophobia.”  The PBS newsmagazine show “Frontline” has a special titled, “Assault On Gay America,” complete with a web-based “Homophobia Questionnaire” that includes such statements as “Homosexuality is immoral” and “Homosexuality is acceptable to me” and then asks you to rate whether you “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree” with these statements.  Last week, the Christian Science Monitor ran an article titled, “Homophobia Hurts Straight Men, Too,” which equated homophobia with “intolerance.”

The stories of young men who have been driven to despair and suicide by anti-homosexual bullying are tragic.  But I am not sure that we help their cause, nor adequately impugn their attackers, by simply decrying the problem of “homophobia.”  I know how the argument goes:  Anti-homosexual bullying is really the product of deep-seeded anxiety concerning a person’s own sexual desires.  But in most cases, this connection is empirically indemonstrable.  It is merely an ad hominem accusation.  Moreover, taking a moral or ethical stance against homosexual activity cannot be mechanically dubbed as “homophobic.”  For, in many of these instances, the driver of such a stance is not one of fear, but one of concern for the effects of homosexual activity on individuals and on society.

Perhaps it is time to trade the epithet “homophobia” for a more accurate, and really more damning, driver behind those who bully homosexuals:  hatred.  Bullying another person for whatever reason can be driven by nothing less than a ghastly arrogance that disdainfully looks down on others who it considers “different” or “lesser” in order to build itself up.

Blessedly, Christians are uniquely poised to address such hatred, for our Lord has told us:  “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  Christians are called to love others.  What does this mean?  In the case of those engaged in homosexual lifestyles, it means loving them in a way that “does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).  And the truth is that homosexual activity is immoral (cf. Leviticus 18:22) and unnatural (cf. Romans 1:26-27).  This needs to be said!  But it does not need to be said in a way that belittles, badgers, or bullies another person.  Rather, it needs to be said out of a love that is simply honest enough to offer a biblical assessment of sin coupled with an affirmation of God’s love for sinners:  “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  In the case of those who demonstrate hatred toward homosexuals by bullying them, showing love means, once more, addressing their sin in a way that “does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”  And the truth is, those who hate are “in darkness” (1 John 2:9) and are murderers (cf. 1 John 3:15).  And yet, this biblical assessment of sin must, once again, be coupled with an affirmation of God’s love for sinners.

As I have read these recent news stories concerning the suicides of these young, homosexual men, I have noticed that they sound a note of deep ethical concern – and appropriately so – concerning the plight of the victims of these hoary anti-homosexual attacks.  Conspicuously absent, however, is any concern for the attackers.  Do they not need our love too?  For if we hate those who hate homosexuals, have we not fallen prey to their same sin of hatred?  This is the point that the news stories which cover these tragedies seem to consistently miss.

As Christians, we are called to be concerned not only for the victims, but also for the attackers.  This is our call by the gospel.  The gospel calls us, as Christians, to confront sin – all sin – and to love people – all people.  It calls us to confront even the sin that the world sanctions and to love even the people that the world hates.  And it calls us to show people the way of eternal life.  And in a world that has seen far too many suicides recently, I can’t imagine a more precious promise than life.

October 12, 2010 at 11:00 am 1 comment

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