Nice things like respect and social admiration. Nice things like good radio and romantic novels that aren’t pre-cycled TP. Nice things like a fair historical analysis (are you sick of “Hitler was a Christian!” yet?) nice things like positive perceptions in the media.
It’s because of things like this:
That’s a handwritten lawsuit from a certain Nebraska resident who claims to be representing Jesus Christ and God in a lawsuit against- and oh, how I wish I was kidding- all homosexuals.
The self appointed plaintiff goes on to: “Contend that homosexuality is a sin, and that they the homosexuals know it is a sin to live a life of homosexuality. Why else would they have been hiding in a closet.” (punctuation and word order as per the original). As evidence for her proposition, the plaintiff presents passages from Leviticus, Romans and “Jenesis”.
Thankfully, the lawsuit was thrown out without so much as a hearing. Said Judge John Gerard: “A federal court is not a forum for debate or discourse on theological matters.”
This is beyond embarrassing. Its beyond an eye-roll and a sigh. Because, unfortunately, its sickeningly diagnostic.
What is it about the issue of homosexuality and the American church that makes us look so buffoonish? What is it about the topic of homosexuality that leaves us perpetually (but remarkably unknowingly) putting our feet in our mouths?
We claim to listen to Scripture, but instances such as this make that a hard claim to purport (cf: 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 & John 8:7). Additionally, the problem is continually revealed to be that we don’t listen to culture. We don’t listen to culture and so we don’t have the slightest clue of how to address culture . We listen to our Christian subculture- yes- and from thence we attempt to blast our intellectually incestuous rhetoric into ‘the world’. Which goes over like a pork pizza at a Bar Mitzvah.
It is not the calling of the church to conform the world to our standards; its the calling of the church to conform ourselves to God’s grace. There’s no room in said job description for applying diagnostic morality vis a vi legislation. None. Nu-uh.
Jesus said that the world would hate us because he is not of the world. But- generally speaking- the “world” doesn’t hate the American church; hate would signify some level of adversarial respect. Culture doesn’t take us seriously enough to hate us.
Uh…^^^^^…. can you blame them?
Please take note of the pronoun here: “we.” I want to be clear that I consider myself to be in the same camp. For, as my pee-wee football coach used to say: we win as a team, we lose as a team. My fellow Christians, we sin as individuals but we lose as a church. Doesn’t matter if its sexual sin or social sin- all of Egypt suffered even though only the Pharaoh told Moses “no”. God is concerned with broken systems just as much as he is concerned with broken people- his redemptive power is not limited contrary to our narcissistic notions.
And as a group we bear the following indictment: we don’t listen, we talk (he blogs, ironically). And because we don’t listen we can’t hear the laughter generated by our own absurdity.
The issue of homosexuality is not black and white. It is complex. Because it is a matter of sexuality. And sexuality has a lot to do with personhood and human beings are anything but black and white. And they certainly don’t fall under the label of “issues” nor should they ever be handled as such.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy O’Toole profiles a man by the name of Ignatius J. Reilly. Ignatius is a poignant character by any standards. He’s fat, repulsively unkempt, given to unashamed bowel movements, loud, selfish, narcissistically arrogant and incestuously intellectual; he spends his days berating his mother and writing his uncompleted works of self-designated genius while bemoaning the ‘mongoloids’ that have overrun society. Examined theologically, Reilly serves as a startling portrayal of the state of the American church.
At one point, Reilly self-righteously bewails the moral decay of the miscreants with whom he finds himself forced to interact. In between audible bowel movements, Reilly proclaims:
“A firm rule must be imposed upon our nation before it destroys itself. The United States needs some theology and geometry, some taste and decency. I suspect that we are teetering on the edge of the abyss.”
Wait…was it Reilly– or did I read that in the handwritten lawsuit?
My point is that American Church is indeed on the edge of an abyss. But that abyss isn’t “the gay agenda”, it isn’t liberal disregard for Biblical authority or abandonment of loyal translations and submissions to church tradition. The abyss is that of our own making, the corner we’ve backed ourselves into, the mountain we’ve sworn we’ll die upon.
Because America is on the verge of entering the post-Christendom era, whence Christianity is being increasingly separated from matters of the state and quickly dethroned from its temporary role as a cultural authority. The icons we continue defending in the midst of so-called “culture wars” are not the gospel- after all, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. What we’re defending is our own religion, the grip we have on Christianity as we know it, the grip that doesn’t allow for conversation because we’ve not stopped talking long enough to hear what the other side might have to say.
The posture of the American Church towards culture needs to be one of listening. Simultaneously, we ought not listen to Scripture- we ought to live it. And living in Biblical truth means living with great concern for how we portray that truth to those around us, for the stories we tell with the lives we lead.
It’s laughable to reduce that story to a handwritten lawsuit filed against someone else’s moral decision. Nor should we allow our story to be conveyed in anyway that it might be taken as such. The imperative is on us, not the culture; the teacher cannot blame the students for her shoddy communication.
If a 66 year-old lady from Nebraska can teach us anything (besides how ‘Genesis’ really should be spelt) its that it’s time we took a moment to listen.