An essay donated by "Anonymous."
An Emotional, Personal, Real-life
Letter to Christian Fundamentalists
The following is an essay in letter form from me, an anonymous gay Christian, to the fundamentalist Baptist congregation I once attended and my parents still attend. I believe it applies to how many of us gay Christians and others who have been oppressed by Christian Fundamentalism feel. I hope it touches at least one who is in need of hearing how radically inclusive the Church, through the blood of Christ, is called to be.
Dear Anonymous Church Family,
I have been thinking, much, about everything that has happened recently. First of all, I want to make it absolutely clear that I love you all and miss engaging in fellowship with each and every one of you. My heart goes out to you as, together, you seek the will of God, both in relation to the abstract (i.e. the theological) and the practical.
I am unsure of how to proceed in writing this letter. I do not want to speak of “leaving” your congregation, that is, my family—but I feel I must, in a round-about way, do just that. For reasons that I can only explain (really, only comprehend) as being divinely caused, I am no longer able to submit to the teaching of the church’s constitution and leadership.
I feel, as I have been recently confronted, once again, with the reality of my same-gender sexual orientation, that I was left completely unequipped to fully understand and interpret Scripture in relation to the practical. I found this to be the case because I had not been taught how one should interpret Scripture in light of the enormous cultural differences between our modern society and the biblical ancient societies.
I have, thankfully, been forced and led to consider these differences and their implications for faithful, Spirit-led interpretation of the Bible. I no longer believe that many things are as simple, easy, and readily categorical as I have been taught.
Do not get me wrong, I still very much believe there is only one correct way to interpret any given passage of Scripture, that there is one truth (the absolute truth), and that God defines what the correct interpretation and what the over-arching absolute, theological truth and reality is. I can never, and will never, deny that.
Nevertheless, I think there is a very strong tendency among “fundamentalist,” “conservative” Christians to believe they themselves have an “excess” of correct interpretations of different Bible passages. But perhaps that is not a bad thing: we all want to be right as much as possible about that which is most important—the Divine and its import on our lives—right?
But what I perceive to be a problem is that we become so confident in our beliefs about the practical (i.e. about what the Divine’s import on the way we live our lives day to day should be) to begin dividing and separating ourselves from the others, the “heretics.” “Cast out the immoral brother!” is a phrase often heard in our churches. I fail to understand and see as correct how we have become so confident in what we Christians call our “fallen, sinful, depraved” reasoning concerning the most difficult issues—those of practical and personal moral discipline—that we tear our families, biological and theological, apart.
Indeed, we are made whole and new in Christ—but I sincerely believe, as I believe you all do as well, that we are yet to be perfected, yet to be completely sanctified. God the Father sees us as ultimately pure, spotless, and justified before Him through the gracious and complete sacrifice of the blood of His Son—yet that ultimate reality is yet to be fully consummated. Henceforth, I fail to see how we Christians (who are not divinely inspired in the same way and to the same extent that biblical writers like Paul were) are so confident in what we believe to be divine discernment to kick the “immoral brother” out of our churches and families that we feel righteous in following through on that belief. For concerning the situation of openly affirmed and celebrated incest in the Corinthian church (see 1 Corinthians 5, NASB), Paul, “though absent in body but present in spirit,” “already judged” the specific person in question. This is powerful stuff, this is powerful communication via the Holy Spirit, who inspired him to right down the words of this book—words that would become part of the Biblical cannon—words that addressed a specific sinner, in a specific church.
Do we dare, as modern, non-books-of-the-Bible-writing Christians do the same? Again, seeing who is charged with giving this order (Paul)—this instance of “expelling the immoral brother” seems to be very localized and unique. Again, the tendency to read as universal that which is theologically and textually hinted to address a specific situation or culturally defined activity astounds me.
In the same way, I think that this arrogance and over-confidence plays out in the way in which we interpret the passages of the Bible that address “homosexual” behavior. Here follows questions I believe need to be considered, if not answered, in a productive discourse concerning what is to be considered the proper interpretation of the “relevant” passages.
These questions arise from the fact that the question of what constitutes “homosexual behavior” does not have an easy answer. By “homosexual behavior” do we mean activity involving two men bringing each other to orgasm and two women doing the same? Does that match with how the Bible approaches the matter? Does the Bible universally condemn all “homosexual behavior” in the cultures in which the books of the Bible were written? If so, how is this universal, negative judgment to be understood through the tunnel which, at one end, exists the various practices of the ancient cultures of Bible times, and, at the other end, exists the modern practices of our culture? Also, what does one do with the modern finding, or, at least, the modern scientific understanding, of the existence and non-chosen nature of sexual orientation? Specifically, when the Bible clearly speaks about men together and women together engaging in sexual activity (about just men in Leviticus, about both men and women in Romans 1) —is it speaking of homosexually oriented persons of the same gender engaging in sexual activity together or of heterosexually oriented persons of the same gender engaging in sexual activity together?
On one hand, why does the distinction in following or deviating from one’s “sexual orientation” even matter? What are the implications of a “natural” “sexual orientation” upon Paul’s argument in Romans 1? Switching focuses a bit, what makes us think that we can pick and choose sexual mores from among the toevahs and/or prohibitions of the Old and New Covenants? Should our theology (which is subject to fallen human reason) choose; or should the Spirit of God, through the Scripture and through the communion of the saints, choose?
But on the other hand, are we really so confident that we are able to discern when God is showing us error? Are we really so self-assured that we can distinguish the Spirit’s voice from that of our own desire? Is that not a form of emotionally picking and choosing that which suits us best? Is not that just as equally dangerous?
As one can see, there are many questions that result when trying to apply the sexual mores of ancient Hebrew, Roman, Greek, and other cultures to the culture of today. Not only is there the question of the “plain meaning of the text,” but also of how that meaning does or does not fit into the modern scientific understanding of the world and, more importantly, into the larger theological framework of the Bible. Most would acknowledge that the Bible is not intended to be a scientific textbook; that God did not bother informing the biblical authors of many of the scientific facts we know today; that none of these scientific factors negate or were necessary to textually demonstrate the sovereignty, grace, and ultimate sacrifice of the Triune God; and that God spoke through the biblical authors to modern generations in ways the authors that He never divinely purposed them (the biblical writers) to understand. So, in what non-theologically-essential ways and sense does and should science inform our understanding of what the Bible says?
This is so very complex, and to reduce it to an overly simple literal interpretation is categorically flawed. It oftentimes (if not almost always) ignores the complexities of the arguments that the biblical authors knowingly made; the complexities of the arguments God made through unknowing authors and their words; pertinent cultural and covenantal differences; and, most importantly, the active work the Holy Spirit desires to carryout on and in our hearts and theologies as we critically engage the sacred text.
We are fallen human beings, with fallen understanding. This we must recognize, and this we must seek to remedy through utilizing that whom the God-head has given us for our time here—the miracle of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
I do not seek to demonstrate what I sincerely believe to be the correct interpretation of the “relevant” texts concerning “homosexual” behavior here. I simply seek to demonstrate that both the “traditional” and the “revisionist” positions concerning homosexuality require significant amounts of assumptions and leaps of faith to be made by those who hold them. I also seek to show that this is the case because Biblical interpretation is a difficult task in which we must challenge our “common-sense,” “literal,” fallen interpretative tendencies and seek the Spirit, tradition, reason, and cultural and historical research for insight. Obviously, the Spirit could have fully revealed to us throughout all time all theological non-essentials (as He has so faithfully done concerning the essentials) and could now, on both an individual and collective basis. But to make that assumption seems ungrateful, and, thus, foolish; as we then do not seek to utilize these other tools, which, when submitted to the mind (and Spirit) of God, can help our easily erring minds reach the correct, needed conclusion.
I believe we must make judgments, and I believe we must share with all that which we believe. Yet, I do not believe that either the existence of our judgments and of our sharing of them should supersede the ultimate, infinitely important judgment God will make concerning the actions and hearts of each and everyone of us. Nor do I believe our judgments should be made more of a priority than the love and unity we are called to exhibit in Christ. We have a common identity in Christ (that is, us Christians do), and His work on the cross ought—no, rather, it must—be enough to compel us to recognize our common kinship, if not be enough to compel us to be in common, congregational communion.
So where does that leave me? It leaves me echoing that with which I started my letter—that I profoundly and deeply love and care for each and every one of you. I look forward to the day, hopefully on this side of heaven, when one (or both) of us will see the err of our ways or, if it must wait that long, to the day in heaven when we, together, will be perfectly reconciled to one another and Christ. Either way, I have faith and am confident that God is working, and that God does not forsake His children. God will lead us to Himself, to a correct understanding of His will—all in the right time. I pray that we may be fully open to and in sincere pursuit of this perpetual sanctification.
May God Bless and Guide All of Us.
Your Brother In Christ,
Copyright © 2010 by the author
Originally posted: 2010-APR-04
Latest update: 2010-APR-04