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The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) & homosexuality

2011: "KNOWN" youth curriculum

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The SBC "KNOWN" Curriculum for youth:

LifeWay is the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. During 2011, they issued a youth curriculum called "KNOWN." LifeWay describes it as a:

"Student Bible Study curriculum with a holistic approach to spiritual development helping students KNOW God, OWN their faith, and make their faith KNOWN. Students will study topics from spiritual development areas such as lordship, disciplines, character, discernment, relationships, and influence." 1

It is worth noticing that the title uses the term "Know" which implies absolute certainty of the beliefs and opinions contained in the course. There is no room left for doubt. No consideration seems to have been given to the teachings of those other Christian faith groups, other religions, secular organizations, professional associations of psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, etc. that teach beliefs very different from the SBC's positions. Such beliefs are simply assumed to be invalid and ignored.

Still, most of the curriculum is positive in nature, and inclusive. As Candace Chellew-Hodge of Religion Dispatches writes:

"Units on racism and being Christ’s salt and light in the world are gentle in tone, assuring teenagers that all people, no matter their race, status, or religion, are all equal before God. The racism unit, especially, is gentle from start to finish, admonishing the students to love everyone, no matter what." 2

However, on matters related to homosexuality, the presentation shifts noticeably.

  • Session 2: "Pure Loving" in the Purity Matters unit of Leader Resources is one curriculum section that discusses homosexuality. 3 The unit:

    • States that sexual activity is only permissible within a marriage of one man and one woman. This, of course, excludes same-sex couples who typically have a homosexual or bisexual orientation, and may be in a loving committed relationship that is recognized by their state as a registered civil union, a domestic partnership, or a marriage.

    • Cites David as one example of a biblical personality who sinned with an extra-marital sexual liaison. The Bible mentions that God punished David by executing his son. That passage is one of many in the Bible in which the sins of a guilty person(s) result in the punishment of an innocent person(s) -- in this case, a young child. The implication is that God may terminate the life of an innocent person in order to punish either any same-gender sexual activity by gays, lesbians or bisexuals, or of extra-marital opposite-gender behavior by heterosexuals.

    • States that sex outside of a marriage of one man and one woman "always causes pain and problems." They compare such activity to a bank robber who has been arrested after stealing money that belongs to other people. He/she is going to receive serious punishment in the form of a long jail sentence for the crime.

  • Section 3, "Marriage by  Design," directly deals with loving, committed same-sex relationships which are all described as going "against God's design." 4 They write:

    • "God’s ideal for marriage is the only healthy ideal. ... God doesn’t approve of homosexual relationships."

    • "Homosexuality is unnatural. ... detestable behavior."

    • "Biblically, homosexuality is identified as vile and shameful. Nothing so sinful and shameful could possibly be the foundation for any kind of healthy relationship, much less marriage."

The text:

    • Includes the verse Genesis 2:18: "It is not good for the man to be alone." However, rather than building on this verse as implying that marriages of one man and one woman are appropriate for heterosexuals and bisexuals, while marriages of two men and two women are appropriate for homosexuals and bisexuals, they conclude that only the first is acceptable to God.

    • Compares the marriage of one man and one woman to the Trinity which includes God the Father and Jesus Christ -- both traditionally referred to as male. A same-sex marriage of two men might seem to be a more logical comparison to compare to the Trinity.

  • Ms. Chellew-Hodge of Religion Dispatches quotes sections of the KNOWN curriculum including those that tell youth:

    • "... that gay and lesbian people 'consistently choose what is morally wrong'."

    • "One-flesh unions are created in sex, either as a beautiful thing in marriage or as a grotesque thing like a Frankenstein monster apart from marriage. Such is the ugliness of homosexuality."

  • She suggests that:

    • "... what this unit ultimately reveals is that the Southern Baptists know [that] their arguments against homosexuality are weak. Whenever you resort to name calling and demonization, you have already conceded the fight. They cannot make a reasoned, fact-based argument against homosexuality, so they resort to distortions and scare tactics. That’s always a dead giveaway for a losing argument."

      "I wonder how teenagers -- already steeped in positive gay portrayals on television (think Glee) and in movies, and already friends with plenty of kids who have gay or lesbian parents, or who are gay or lesbian themselves -- will reconcile this unit with their experience. Some will certainly take the SBC bait, hook, line, and sinker, becoming the anti-gay zealots of the next generation. But for others, this may be the unit that pushes them away from the church -- especially those closeted teens -- and that is sad. Still others -- those struggling teens, perhaps -- could even be driven to suicide by this hateful and bullying lesson."

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Comments by readers to the Religion Dispatches article:

A SBC pastor posted the following comment which paints a bleak future for non-Christians and secularists of all sexual orientations:

"I am an SBC pastor of the kind who believes that homosexual behavior is a sin, no better and no worse than any other non marital or extramarital sexual behavior. Don't hate me for it -- but it is what I understand the Bible to teach. That is a point upon which the LGBT and I will just have to agree to disagree.

At the same time, I believe that God affirms, even commands, love (Greek. agape, philia, or storge) between men or between women, indeed among all people. That love ought to be expressed with justice and grace. This is a point upon which I hope we all can agree.

To me, the saddest part of this entire disagreement, is that we have people on both sides basing their primary identity on what they do with their genitals, rather than their relationship to Jesus Christ. There is so much more to being human than sexual intercourse. It is to the area of 'so much more' that LGBT and straight people need to go in order to establish the kind of caring relationships God wants all of us to have.

We are all broken. None of us will find peace, righteousness, forgiveness, salvation, or spiritual fulfillment through our sexual behavior, whatever it may be. We find those rare qualities only through the Grace of God shown uniquely in Jesus Christ."

A gay male responded to the pastor's comment:

" 'We are all broken'... yes, many LGBT people are broken. Broken by the outrageous scapegoating, violence and hypocrisy committed by an unfortunate number of God's supposed evangelicals.

As a gay man, I have had to leave the Christian faith, as I've been become disgusted with biblical cherry-picking as well as the utter silence from the majority of 'good christians' as decent LGBT people are singled out, discriminated against, and often, targeted for bullying and/or physical violence.

Jesus would weep at the beliefs and behaviors of untold MILLIONS of his followers, hating others in his name. Truly my favorite prayer has become 'Jesus, please protect me from your followers'.

If you choose to believe that we are all sinners, and less than perfectly whole, that is your right. I have come to know a God presence/spirituality that is free from such limitations, and feel well and truly blessed to be free from Christian dogmas.

I implore you though, to do the work of your savior, and go the extra mile to recognize that LGBT people are uniquely persecuted and 'sinned against' in this world....far more so than other 'sinners' (adulterers? haven't seen so many of them beaten to death lately)...how many 'sacred' marriages can most heterosexuals have? Married/divorced, married/divorced in an endless cycle. ... While gays can't even have ONE?"

Many of the postings to this article on Religion dispatches are well worth reading. 2


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Webmaster's comments. Bias alert:

I wonder how many youths:

  • Have been already subjected to thousands of homophobic remarks from church, family, and fellow students during their relatively short lifetimes,
  • Who are now just beginning to discover that they are lesbian or gay,
  • Who are confused and depressed, and
  • Who are looking for some information to help them come to grips with their feelings of same-gender sexual attraction, and their expectations for the future,

find such dehumanizing, uncaring writing from their church, and high levels of homophobia within their families, and school community intolerable. Some simply cannot endure such pain in the hope that at some time in the future "It gets better." Some will be pushed over the edge into suicidal ideation and perhaps completed suicide by attending this course.

Estimates of the percentage of older teens and young adults who are lesbians and gays vary greatly. We suspect that an accurate number is about 5%. (Many religious conservatives estimate 1 or 2%. Some LGBT groups still estimate 10% on the basis of Kinsey's studies. Much of the public assumes 20% or more.) Yet a common belief is that about 33% of suicides by people of that age are committed by lesbians and gays. This is a crisis situation for the North American culture. When schools and churches teach young people about homosexuality, it is of vital importance that they do it with the realization that there are many people in the audience who are struggling with their lesbian or gay orientation and are in a fragile state.

The cost to fundamentalist and other evangelical denominations of rejecting the LGBT community is high. A book has been recently written by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group titled "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church." The note that 59%: "... of ... young Christians disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15."

Two of the six main reasons why they leave are that:

  • "... churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in (29%)," or "Christianity is anti-science (25%)."

  • "Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental." 5

If the Southern Baptists, and most other religious conservatives are correct that homosexuality is a choice, then this course might fulfill its intent by helping young people choose heterosexuality. But if religious liberals, secularists, the main associations of psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, the entire LGBT community, etc. are correct in believing that sexual orientation is discovered not chosen, then we can expect the trail of coffins containing the bodies of dead LGBT youth to continue to lengthen. The solution, of course, is dialogue between the two sides. But little debate and no significant level of dialogue is happening. This author feels that the reluctance to dialogue exhibits depraved indifference by both sides to the lives of vulnerable youth.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Rick Prall, "Introduction to KNOWN," a video, at: http://www.lifeway.com/
  2. Candace Chellew-Hodge, "New Southern Baptist Curriculum Bashes Gays," Religion Dispatches, 2011-NOV-08, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org
  3. "Basic Insights: Purity Matters: Session 2 -- Pure Loving," Life Way. Downloadable in RTF format at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/
  4. "Basic Insights: Difference Makers, Section 3 -- Marriage by Design," Liveway, Downloadable in RTF format at: http://www.google.com/
  5. Image of book cover David Kinnaman, "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church." Baker Books (2011). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Cost as of 2011-NOV-11 was $10.98 plus postage in hardcover or $9.17 in Kindle eBook format. Cheaper used copies are often available.

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Home page > Conflict > Homosexuality Religious groups > Southern Baptists > here

Copyright 2011 & 2012 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2011-NOV-11
Latest update: 2012-JUN-25

Author: B.A. Robinson
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