May 12, 2011
Jim Walliss Sojourners magazine has decided not to publish an ad by Believe Out Loud, an organization which describes itself as follows:
We believe Jesus message compels us to welcome all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Show the world that you can be Christian AND believe in LGBT equality. Join the movement to unite a million Christians for LGBT equality in the church and beyond.
Although in past years, Sojourners has taken stridently liberal positions on all manner of hotly-contested issues, tacitly endorsing homosexuality is, apparently, too far a stretch. Sojourners constituency, board, and staff are not of one mind on all of these issues, wrote Wallis at the Sojourners blog this week.
This indubitably is true: At least one of the publications Board members, Ron Sider, is a signer of the Manhattan Declaration, as is contributing editor Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. In signing the Declaration, they joined other signatories (including this author) in affirming that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise? How, indeed.
Wallis, a man of the Left, in his blog avoids stating what he did in a 2008 Christianity Today interview:
I don’t think the sacrament of marriage should be changed. Some people say that Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality, and that’s technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it’s not gender-neutral.
Wallis interpretation of Scripture in this statement is correct. But in his 2008 book, The Great Awakening, he argues for civil unions from the state and even spiritual blessings for gay couples (from congregations prepared to offer them). In that same book, and in repeated interviews that have echoed it, Wallis also disingenuously argues that matters related to homosexuality should not be fundamentally divisive. As he wrote in his piece this week:
… the major differences of theology and biblical interpretation in the church with regard to issues such as the nature of homosexuality, gay marriage, and ordination are not issues that should be allowed to divide the churches that local churches should lead the way here, and that an honest, open, respectful, and, hopefully, loving dialogue should characterize the church on these very controversial questions.
This makes no sense: To suggest that homosexuality, with all its implications about human dignity and sexuality, children and family, society and law, should not divide is sort of like saying a woman can be a little pregnant: Either she is or she is not.
Homosexuality is a defining issue for the church not only because of all of its social and moral implications, but most profoundly because the Bible offers no ambiguity as to its teaching that the only sexually intimate conduct sanctioned by God occurs within marriage between a man and a woman.
However, in his blog post, Wallis is not yet done playing intellectual Twister:
It is our hope that differing viewpoints are not silenced, but are lifted up in a display of Christian, and often interfaith, sisterhood and brotherhood. It is for this reason that we wish to engage first and foremost in dialogue on difficult issues within our editorial pages, and we typically do not display advertising relating to issues amongst people of faith that have unfortunately, and too often, been reduced to political wedge issues.
Really? So, someone who advocates for the Just War tradition will find a welcoming audience among SoJos editors? How about an explanation by Evangelical George W. Bush for Americas attack on Iraq, or by a believing Pentagon general engaged in Americas strategic defense? Or perhaps Wallis will soon publish articles on abortion, marriage and homosexuality by such theologians as R.C Sproul or John Piper, or on religious liberty by such scholars as Daniel Dreisbach or Mark David Hall, or by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute or the Acton Institute on the virtues of capitalism and the danger of coercive charity (which amounts to Wallis definition of justice). I await such with unbated breath.
Homosexuality is not a wedge issue, except in the sense that its advocates make it one. The teaching of the Bible and the position of its faithful followers has not changed. Those driving the wedge are the ones who would compel Evangelicals and orthodox Catholics to deny key components of their faith in order to accommodate a community of people whose insistence on theological acceptance is animated not by biblical teaching but moral desperation.
No matter what your theological perspective or biblical interpretation on the issue of homosexuality, every Christian has the obligation to defend the lives, dignity, and civil rights of gay and lesbian people, writes Wallis. Lives and dignity, yes. Civil rights insofar as they are law-abiding citizens? Sure. But civil rights based on their sexual practices? No. To affirm such is to create an unconstitutional class of rights based on a type of conduct, which opens the door for rights of a kind never imagined by our nations Founders or by simple common sense.
There is no love in affirming something that, however sincerely held, remains objectively wrong and ultimately harmful to those who practice it. To show Christian love to a homosexual means, in part, graciously, winsomely, and patiently affirming that he or she bears the image of God and is precious to the Creator. It is also, with a humble and merciful spirit, to share Gods unambiguous plan for human sexuality and the hurtful consequences of veering away from that plan.
Not to do so is less than loving, less than biblical. Less than Jesus.