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Matthew Vines’ Gay Reformation

Randy Potts

April 29th, 2014

Matthew Vines takes us to the end of the rainbow – the only question is if we really want to be there.

Matthew Vines, photo from The Lavin Agency

There have been books on gay apologetics for as long as there have been openly gay Christians, ever since 1972 when Troy Perry, who founded the first gay-affirming Christian church in Los Angeles in 1968, wrote “The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay.” Performing same-sex unions as early as 1970, Perry started a conversation largely ignored by the queer liberation movement that followed in the footsteps of Stonewall. By 1980, John Boswell was giving academic grounding to what was still a very new idea, that homosexuality and Christianity were not necessarily incompatible, and since the mid-90s we have seen an explosion of books telling the story of gay people who found a way to come out of the closet and maintain their faith: Mel White, Gene Robinson, Andrew Sullivan, and so on (Rosaria Butterfield is one published lesbian example). All of these men and women, however, were to some degree a part of gay culture as it has been generally understood for almost 100 years – they keep queer company, have no qualms getting a drink at a gay bar, and even in their faith hold fairly nuanced, progressive views.

Where a demand for gay civil rights was once joined to a general demand for a sexual revolution, Vines extends to its furthest point the position of Sullivan and Evan Wolfson who argued that gay people do not by their very nature upend the status quo. For Sullivan, this status quo was East Coast gay culture; he met his husband at the Black Party in New York. What’s different about Matthew Vines is that, for him, the status quo was his upbringing in a very conservative Presbyterian church in Wichita, Kansas, a congregation he has never formally left and to which he presumably hopes to return. It’s safe to assume that Vines has never stepped foot inside a gay bar and would not be ok with the general licentious and sexually libidinous atmosphere usually found there. Vines was a student at Harvard when he came out but, instead of staying on the East Coast and embracing a culture that felt foreign to him, he quit school and began a mission that now includes his new book God and the Gay Christian” and The Reformation Project , an annual gathering training conservative Christians how to take the conservative gay gospel to their churches back home.

Thus far, most attempts to ask conservative Christians to reconsider their beliefs regarding same-sex couples have appealed either to the heart, on the progressive end, or the mind, on the academic end, but both approaches fail to understand how change in the conservative Christian church occurs. Appeals to the heart, however deeply expressed, often fall on deaf ears because bearing the cross is seen as a difficult task: any tale of hardship regarding an attempt to follow Scripture will often only buttresses the importance of the struggle itself. Appeals to the mind can also fail because conservative Christians do not come to their faith primarily through intellect nor do they approach the Bible as a book that can be put under a microscope and dissected with reason and logic. At the end of the day, the Bible and the experience of Christianity for conservatives is a walk of faith borne out in testimony, prayer, fellowship, and service: tribalism, at its most basic.

This is where all previous attempts have failed to sway conservative Christians: gay apologetics have been written from the outside of this tribe looking in and the writers have been open to attack for their “lifestyle,” the focus of character assassination rather than argument. Vines is open to no such attacks and fundamentalists are already getting the memo – aside from the usual reviews, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has already published a 100-page ebook rebuttal. The difficulty here is that if they are too strident or crude in their attacks they will alienate younger evangelicals already sympathetic to Vines’ project. If character assassination won’t work and the theological debate comes across as splitting hairs, Vines wins by default, resetting the debate as a member of the tribe – as a voice from within, not from without.

There are two positions Vines’ book hinges on: 1, that celibacy has never been forced on Christians but instead has always been a choice, seen as a “gift” that some have but that most do not, and, 2, that orientation cannot be changed. This second point is helped by the fact that Exodus International, the last major organization promising that orientation could be changed, closed its doors while Vines was writing his book — with the closing of Exodus and the thorough debunking of Mark Regnerus’ problematic research there is no longer any institutional level of support for the idea that orientation can be changed.  While many among the oldest generations of conservative Americans will not accept this in their lifetime, younger generations are already living in a world where the status quo regarding orientation is that it cannot be altered. Thus, the checkmate – if you believe orientation cannot be changed and you are also persuaded by Vines that celibacy has never been forced on Christians, it follows that there must be a Christian expression of sexuality for gay people. There must be and, according to Vines, there is: covenantal marriage.

What’s somewhat unsettling to me as a former evangelical is to watch a very intelligent gay man accept the entire framework of the most conservative Christian churches in America. For many, the siren song of gay rights was really queer rights, the right to be different, to be outré, to buck norms. The marriage equality movement and the dismantling of DADT are two legs of a very different stool and Vines provides the last leg, a way for gay people to completely assimilate within even the most conservative Christian communities if they so choose. In this sense, Rachel Maddow was right when she expressed her fear that the fight for marriage equality would end gay culture as we know it. What Vines will represent for some is the last nail in the coffin for Harry Hay’s idea that gay people are their own separate culture with their own distinct mores and attributes.

This leaves us with an existential debate of our own – if we can be gay and live within any community in America, how do we want that community to look?

 

Comments

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David Malcolm
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Glad to see BTB finally covering this book! This is seriously going to cause a huge shift for a lot of Americans and that’s why the Southern Baptists are so afraid of it.

Where as previous authors have said, “What you believe hurts me, these are the consequences.”

Vines is saying, “What you believe is inconsistent with Christian tradition and with conservative hermeneutics.” And if there is anything Evangelicals freak out about it’s being objectively wrong.

I’m not done the book yet, but this is my new go to book to give conservative Christians. Vines writes with so my grace and virtually no snark. He calmly takes the reader through everything your average conservative needs to know in order to abandon prejudice and realize that if the same values they apply to other things are followed, they’ll accept gays.

tristram
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

“This leaves us with an existential debate of our own – if we can be gay and live within any community in America, how do we want that community to look?”

America is not a single community, it is a federation – politically and sociologically. Nor is “gaylandia” a monoculture. It is large; it contains multitudes. If I accept and respect myself, I can choose my part of the community and my role in it while respecting others and accepting their choices.

Kevin P
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

I can understand the fear of assimilation and how it affects overall gay culture. The fact that same sex marriage has steamrolled over many other issues in the movement is troubling (the fact that I can get married in my home state and adopt kids is great but its still shameful that I cannot legally donate blood. And marriage rights don’t exactly help homeless teens or impoversed trans women). But if Vines succeeds in making the conservative church more accepting then more power to him. Better to have them on our side regarding gay rights even if they give us stink eye for other things, like not embracing celibacy before marriage.

I personally am not religious one bit but have no problem with religious people per say. I just have a problem when they use their religion to judge and condemn and hate and discriminate. If everyone just kept their religion to themselves and their congregation, this world would be so much better off.

Gene in L.A.
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Has assimilation meant the end of the Jewish culture? The idea that assimilation turns everyone into clones of each other is groundless and silly. Gay culture, insofar as gay people want to live in it and by it, will last as long as there are gay people. Stop worrying and live as you want to, and let everyone else do the same; that’s the message, right?

Nathaniel
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Tristram, that was beautiful.

Randy and David, thank you for your thoughtful reviews. I have been debating getting this book, but with so many out there already, I had to wonder why I should go for this one and not others. Now I know: Vines will speak to my status quo, and by extension, should be able to speak to the people that have been a part of that status quo.

David Malcolm
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

If you’ve been debating buying the book at all, BUY IT!

I spent months in Bible College trying to find an affirming author who covered the things most important to be. Vines is the first one I’ve been able to find that was able to succinctly lay it all out there in a manner that will speak to conservative people and address their most important concerns early on.

There may be other authors out there who’ve done it, but he’s the first I’ve found.

Regan DuCasse
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Even for a devout Christian, I don’t see how there need be any conflict, even with gay people for these reasons.
The morality in distinguishing anti social behavior and moral sins, from pro social behavior and religious sins.

Where the religious communities fail, is in being INCONSISTENT with reconciling modern human progress, with the social justice that’s followed it with the diversity that’s a part of all human life.
And the fact that gay people are universal to all human life.
Religious belief is a cultural construct, but being gay is not.
There are several things profoundly taboo and considered wrongful in religious cultures that’s universal as well.
But is also universally accepted as a part of a human attribute, but biologically distinct.
Such as color, gender, sexual orientation or talents.
Or a part of human discovery that’s made human life healthier and advanced human life, such as contraception, autopsy and blood and organ donation.

There are human behaviors that regardless human progress and social justice can never be acceptable because they betray trust and physical safety.
Rape, assault, theft, adultery, murder and addiction do that.
Nothing in these is healthy or workable to continue.

The most morally and dishonest thing that religious people do, is to choose to not believe that these are true and a matter of more complexity than they are comfortable with or knowledgeable of.

Once you debate anyone in this manner, it’s clear that they require simple generalizations. Complex realities, that reconcile with modern social justice is something only more rational people can handle.
Even a very basic reminder of ‘treating another as you’d be treated’ isn’t up for discussion. Although that is a sound foundation to start with where the concept of morality and first doing no harm comes into play.

Intellectual cowardice seems to be the biggest barrier to the discussion going in this direction and I lost patience with that cowardice and denial a long time ago.

Eric Payne
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Not having been raised in a church — growing up, membership in a church by my family was driven not by any faith, but by my father’s desire to increase his customer base — I don’t quite understand the need to even be a “member” of any organized religion.

Isn’t faith, really, one of the most personal aspects of any person’s life? Is it really such a fragile thing that not being surrounded by persons with an “x” percentage of matching philosophies regarding personal faith threatens the individual’s ongoing beliefs?

Timothy Kincaid
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Eric,

For most people who were raised in a conservative Christian setting, it’s a matter of community. Shared values. Shared experiences.

If you are inclined to say things like, “I’m concerned about this spot on my arm, please pray”, or “the spot turned out to be benign, what a wonderful God we serve”, you don’t really want to be surrounded by people who think that you’re nuts. This leads to insular communities with their own culture, language, and way of life. In many ways, it’s very much like the gay community.

Priya Lynn
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

The gay community doesn’t threaten people with eternal torture for wrong thinking.

Ben
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Randy, is there a link to a blog post or anything where you found the ebook rebuttal? I want to see where you found it, not just the book itself, if you don’t mind.

Nathaniel
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

PL, I am sure I can find a gay Christian out there that believes non-Christians are going to Hell, but being gay is OK. The thing that unites the gay community is not any particular beliefs about God and the afterlife, but the shared connection of our sexual orientation.

Indeed, humans seem to be built to build communities around certain shared values. There are all kinds: communities for various kinds of academic studies, various kinds of leisurely pursuits, and various kinds of vocational pursuits. Dismissing one kind of community because their shared values lie in a dimension you find no value in does not make them any less valuable as human communities.

Priya Lynn
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

I’ll give you that there are gay chrisitans who believe non-christians are going to hell Nathaniel. But the gay community isn’t built around the shared value of a belief in hell.

I know Timothy likes to scold me and claim belief in hell is a fringe christian attitude only held by the most extreme religious fundamentalists but in fact 80% of christians who believe in heaven also believe in hell.

Nathaniel said “Dismissing one kind of community because their shared values lie in a dimension you find no value in does not make them any less valuable as human communities.”.

I strongly disagree with that. I think there is little of value in the KKK community just as I think there is little of value in a community that teaches naive children they may be eternally tortured for crossing ambiguous and contradictory boundaries and holds the belief that eternal torture is justifed for any crime, let alone for the “crime” of not believing in that for which there is no evidence. Believing in something you can’t prove is not a virtue.

Timothy Kincaid
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

I know Timothy likes to scold me and claim belief in hell is a fringe christian attitude only held by the most extreme religious fundamentalists but in fact 80% of christians who believe in heaven also believe in hell.

Priya Lynn,

We’ve been down the road before of you making up stuff and attributing it to me. You know where that ends. Let’s not do this again.

Timothy Kincaid
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

And to everyone else, please let’s not let this thread get hijacked.

Priya Lynn
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy, don’t call me a liar. You’ve told me that almost everytime I’ve brought up the christian concept of hell.

Timothy Kincaid
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Nope. Didn’t happen.

I think that I have told you that your understanding of Christian theology is on par with Peter LaBarbera’s understanding of the gay community. And I think I have told you that Christians generally don’t structure their lives or beliefs around a fear of eternal torture. I’ve probably even told you that it was not a universal Christian belief and given you examples of Christian faith groups who do not believe in eternal torture.

But I’ve not claimed that belief in hell is fringe.

Oh, and because of your very long history of doing stuff like this, you will not be given much rope.

Nathaniel
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

PL,
I knew that statement would get twisted. I was generalizing about human dimensions, ex: religion, not commenting on the value of any given belief you can scrape out of the midden heap of human thought. I know that you and others reject or ignore the religious dimension of humanity, but that does not qualify you to dismiss all religiously-based communities as irrelevant for everybody. And yes there are religiously-based communities that do not make good public use of their beliefs, but that is not a justification for condemning all religious communities, either. Religion, and religious thought, has value for many people, and centering a community around those beliefs is no less enriching than centering a community around a shared sexual orientation or gender identity.

Spunky
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

@Priya,

Why don’t you link to (and/or quote from) the comments in question? If it’s happened a lot, then just a couple would do. That way, we can all see and judge for ourselves instead of having to choose which side to believe.

Eric Payne
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy, you state:

“For most people who were raised in a conservative Christian setting, it’s a matter of community. Shared values. Shared experiences.

If you are inclined to say things like, ‘I’m concerned about this spot on my arm, please pray’, or ‘the spot turned out to be benign, what a wonderful God we serve’, you don’t really want to be surrounded by people who think that you’re nuts. This leads to insular communities with their own culture, language, and way of life. In many ways, it’s very much like the gay community.”

I guess I understand that; however, I’ll also say if someone were inclined to say things like “I’m concerned about this spot, please pray,” I’d be more inclined to reply, “Get to a doctor” more than to fall to my knees.

Timothy Kincaid
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

I’ll also say if someone were inclined to say things like “I’m concerned about this spot, please pray,” I’d be more inclined to reply, “Get to a doctor” more than to fall to my knees.

I dare say a good many would. Which is why people in faith communities often surround themselves with other people who believe as they do.

Priya Lynn
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

@Priya,

Why don’t you link to (and/or quote from) the comments in question? If it’s happened a lot, then just a couple would do. That way, we can all see and judge for ourselves instead of having to choose which side to believe.”.

I’ve been looking Spunky, I thought it would be easy to find but haven’t come up with it yet. ????

Priya Lynn
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Nathaniel, sorry, but I have to condemn any group that believes extraordianry claims without any evidence to back them up.

Randy Potts
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Ben, here is a link to Mohler’s original discussion, along with an ebook link: http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/04/22/god-the-gospel-and-the-gay-challenge-a-response-to-matthew-vines/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+AlbertMohlersBlog+%28Albert+Mohler%27s+Blog%29

And thanks all for reading. I didn’t intend to say this would kill gay culture but I could have been more clear. I do think Vines’ work (and the many shoulders his works stand on) will change (not kill) gay culture. On the very, very bright side, work like this might mean that ten years from now LGBT kids in conservative Christian homes will have a better lot in life. For our community specifically, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Toni Morrison, and many many others in the African-American community have written at length about the pros and cons of their civil rights victories.

I also didn’t mention that Vines does go through the 6 “clobber” scriptures – I didn’t look at this for the review because so many before him did an equally good job showing that they don’t have much to do with two gay men/women in love.

I’m with Timothy here that this is more about culture than anything – being forced to leave your entire community behind is always traumatic. While some would leave anyway, the ability to make that choice on your own terms is important. Vines has his machete out and is clearing the way for gay people to live safely where they previously feared to tread.

Randy Potts
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Eric,

You were clearly raised in mainstream culture. I, for one, was raised in a community and sent to schools where if a kid got hurt on the playground we all gathered around said kid, reached out our hands, and prayed in tongues (and yes, a doctor/ambulance would also be called if necessary.) Millions of Americans live in this subculture and being gay should not in and of itself cause them to be ejected from it. The decision to leave or stay in a conservative Christian community you grew up in should be independent of a person’s orientation and to me that’s why work like Vines and his predecessors is so important.

Ben
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Just for perspective, I now live in Iceland where we enjoy 100% equality, there is no such thing as hate crimes, and we had the first openly gay head of state (and a lesbian at that). We still have a gay bar, we still have a GLBT association with a student division, and we have a GLBT parent group too. Even though we have no reason to stay out of straight bars, or form a gayborhood, I have a higher than average percentage of gay friends, house parties are often heavily gay, and we still love Eurovision.

Some parts of “gay culture” (which I don’t belief is ubiquitous anyway) has faded, but it’s not like it’s disappeared. Informal times are still mostly gay, it’s just the formal events that we have no reason to stay segregated to stay safe.

Baker
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Randy, I’m not quite following the logic of “if you believe orientation cannot be changed and you are also persuaded [...] that celibacy has never been forced on Christians, it follows that there must be a Christian expression of sexuality for gay people.”

To play a bit of devil’s advocate, does that mean that (1) if somebody has an “unchangeable” inclination/impulse/orientation/desire towards bestiality, pedophilia, adultery, promiscuity or any other sexual behavior under the sun -and- (2) if “you are also persuaded [...] that celibacy has never been forced on Christians” that “it follows” that bestiality, pedophilia, adultery, promiscuity and every other sexual behavior under the sun must be “Christian expression” for persons so inclined?

I don’t see where the “Christian expression of sexuality” in terms of genital acts is anything other than heterosexuality within a faithful marriage. Certainly, Christians may have compassion for persons inclined to other sexual behaviors, but I don’t see that as meaning such other sexual behaviors are “Christian expressions of sexuality”.

I appreciate the desire for a “Christian expression of sexuality for gay people”, but I’m not persuaded that “Christian expression” for gay people equates to engaging in homosexual genital acts on the basis that Christians do not “force” people to follow Christian teaching.

Randy Potts
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Baker – thanks for bringing that up – I did not do justice in my summary to Vines here. On that particular point regarding bestiality, et al, and how that might be compared to two men or two women in love and seeking a Biblically-based union, Vines wrote several chapters which, as best as I can summarize them here, come down to the fruit each situation you mentioned bears. We have at least 50 years of history of the good fruit that gay couples’ unions can bear and, to a lesser degree, several thousands years of that history as well. However, we don’t have any record of good fruits coming from the other situations you mentioned.

This is, of course, a reference to Matthew 7:16.

Ben – that makes a lot of sense, that it might fade but not die out.

Eric Payne
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Organized religion is a crutch; it’s a self-sustainable cabal of individuals who seek from their God other individuals, or groups of individuals it is OK to dislike and to whom animus can be displayed without fear of Divine retribution.

Organized religions are, at their base, the ultimate “mean girls’ sorority,” extrapolated to the nth degree.

Timothy Kincaid
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Eric,

I’m leaving your comment. However, you should probably review our Comments Policy

Eric Payne
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Timothy,

I didn’t see a violation, as I wasn’t singling out any one religious belief. I, intentionally, was making a blanket comment about all religious beliefs.

Priya Lynn
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

To me religion is an attempt by primitive people to explain the world and control the masses that today is less about explaining the world and more about controlling the masses.

Gene in L.A.
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Ben, thanks for that last post. I suspected there are elements of gay culture that would not vanish with our acceptance as equal members of society. It’s good to hear from someone with experience that confirms my suspicion.

Baker
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

Randy, thanks for the followup. I’m aware of the “fruit” argument, but apparently there’s no validated, objective, empirical method by which to identify, evaluate and attribute the “fruits” from the described situations and histories, and “Christians” differ strikingly in their opinions and interpretations.

With that in mind, “50 years of history of gay couples” could be said to have born both good fruit and bad, not just good fruit and not just bad fruit. Just as importantly, it seems very unlikely that 50 years of history of gay couples would be reducible to just gay sex acts, and very unlikely that the fruits, good and bad, of gay couples would be attributable solely to gay sex acts as their origin.

Likewise, I interpret the view that “we don’t have any record of good fruits coming from the other situations you mentioned” as a matter of personal opinion and ignorance (I use the word kindly), and similar issues of opinion and ignorance apply to the “50 years of history of gay couples”. It’s not even defined what that history includes and excludes. It seems more unknown than known.

And so I still think that while there may well be “a Christian expression of sexuality for gay people,” I find the “fruit” argument too half-baked and ill-defined to compel conclusion that “Christian expression of sexuality for gay people” must include gay sex acts. It might be nice to reflect rosily on 50 years of history of gay couples, but I recall it wasn’t all roses.

Hyhybt
April 29th, 2014 | LINK

“I guess I understand that; however, I’ll also say if someone were inclined to say things like “I’m concerned about this spot, please pray,” I’d be more inclined to reply, “Get to a doctor” more than to fall to my knees.”—Why pretend it’s a matter of one or the other?

“With that in mind, “50 years of history of gay couples” could be said to have born both good fruit and bad, not just good fruit and not just bad fruit.”—That the fruit is sometimes good is enough. It seems to be good comparably often to straight relationships, which do not get a blanket condemnation just because things sometimes turn out badly.

“For many, the siren song of gay rights was really queer rights, the right to be different, to be outré, to buck norms.”—Then the question is this: is being different in ways other than pairing off with someone of the same sex a right or an obligation? Why should there be a right to be different in those other ways and not also a right NOT to be different if that fits better?

Baker
April 30th, 2014 | LINK

Hyhybt, straight couples, adulterous couples, fornicators, murderers, child abusers, thieves, pornographers and idol worshipers can all bear good fruit, but that does not establish straight sex, adultery, fornication, murder, child abuse, theft, pornography and idol worship as good “Christian expression” or as cause/source of the good fruit. I don’t believe “good as straight couples” is much of a guide to good “Christian expression”.

Richard Rush
April 30th, 2014 | LINK

Priya Lynn nailed something:

To me religion is an attempt by primitive people to explain the world and control the masses that today is less about explaining the world and more about controlling the masses.

How can any rational person witness the use of religion throughout history to control the masses, but not suspect that the underlying beliefs were largely developed and/or manipulated with control as a hidden agenda.

It’s often said that a religion’s beliefs cannot be disproved, but when there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence supporting legitimate doubt, it cannot be ignored.

Stephen
April 30th, 2014 | LINK

Randy, thanks for following up. Since this world is entirely unknown to me I didn’t at first grasp the importance of the book.

Ben, you live in Iceland? Lucky bugger. It’s in the back of my mind to emigrate there at some point.

Raymond in ABQ
April 30th, 2014 | LINK

Randy, when you come across a long URL, may I recommend going to http://www.tinyurl.com. Your long Mohler URL came out as follows:
http://tinyurl.com/lrhq8vx

Timothy (TRiG)
April 30th, 2014 | LINK

Raymond,

I dislike tinyurl and similar services. They leak privacy for no good reason. What’s wrong with long URLs? What do they hurt? Especially if you use HTML to hide them, so they don’t muck up formatting.

***

I was very clear in my own mind (I was less successful at conveying this to others) that my decision to leave the religion in which I was brought up (Jehovah’s Witnesses) was independent of my gayness. I did not leave the Witnesses because I was gay: I left the Witnesses because I stopped believing that what they taught made sense. Because I left the Witnesses, I no longer felt myself to be bound by their rules, and therefore I came out as gay. The chain of logic ran in that direction, not the other.

As I said at the time, if I was going by what I wanted to believe, I’d have headed for Liberal Christianity.

A book like this may be useful both for those who stay in Conservative Christianity and for those who leave. The benefit for those who stay is obvious, but the utility for those who leave is also great: it allows them to leave without spending ages in self-doubt, going over their own motives. I spent a long time reassuring myself that I was leaving the Witnesses for the right reasons: not because it suited me to leave, but because I had ceased to believe what they taught. If I could have stayed and been gay, if I could have cleanly separated the decision to come out and the decision to leave the religion, it would have been a lot easier.

TRiG.

Hyhybt
May 1st, 2014 | LINK

TRiG: that’s a very good point.

Brian
May 1st, 2014 | LINK

I went from evangelical Christianity to atheism and then to more liberal Christianity. It was actually in studying religion that I saw its importance to us as a species. Like anything human, religion can be used for great good or profound evil.

But I “get” why some atheists condemn religion.

Richard Rush
May 1st, 2014 | LINK

Brian,

“It was actually in studying religion that I saw its importance to us as a species.”

So, I’m wondering: Do you believe that God literally exists?

Brian
May 1st, 2014 | LINK

“Do you believe that God literally exists?”

Yes. But I think we use the word “belief” too loosely and don’t make distinctions between kinds of belief.

I don’t believe in God in the same way I believe in the existence of the material world. The existence of the material world is demonstrable via reasoning and empirical evidence. The only thing I can compare my belief in God to is intuition. I intuit there is a God, and live my life based on that intuition. I could be wrong, as many of our intuitions are, but I don’t see any harm in just being wrong about the existence of God.

Ray
May 1st, 2014 | LINK

@Ben and @Randy,

I’ve read Albert Mohler’s argument before and what seems to be common is that he cannot get his head around the idea that homosexual orientation exists.

Vine brilliantly deals with this problem by using example of how difficult it was for the church to accept Galileo’s proof that the earth revolved around the sun as 1,500 years of church doctrine to the contrary. Vine talks about how the invention of the telescope turned the Christian view of the universe upside down and how it good several more centuries after Galileo to finally publicly acknowledge that Galileo was right. That’s how Vine frames the discussion.

With Mohler, you see him **immediately** brush aside the concept of sexual orientation and just go directly into the circular argument that all we’re talking about here is straight men and women doing the nasty. I haven’t read Mohler’s eBook yet but his contribution to it is complete available in the essay Randy linked to.

I’m not a Christian any more. I was, like Timothy, a Pentecostal and Vine nails my profile in the first chapter of his book. I really am at odds with myself over religion. I won’t ever try that again, but since the experience of leaving religion was, for me, like having my arms and legs severed from my body, I’ve continued to read these kinds of books to find a little comfort and closure. I’ve read Andrew Sullivan’s “The Conservative Soul”; Mel White’s “Stranger At The Gate”, Peter J. Gomes “The Good Book”, and Frank Schaeffer’s “Crazy For Good”.

I must say, Vine’s book is remarkable. It speaks to my experience and I think it’s going to cause entrenched evangelical brains to explode. All of the books I mention here were helpful but I say Sullivan’s put some old business to rest for me while Schaeffer’s book is the greatest expose of the dirt behind the scenes of Christian fundamentalism that was ever written. Sullivan’s book is largely political but the religious stuff is pretty satisfying.

Timothy Kincaid
May 1st, 2014 | LINK

Ray,

Thanks for listing the other references which influenced you. I too found Gomes’ book to be extremely useful in breaking certain patterns of thinking.

His discussion about how the bible is a book illustrated the manner in which reverence for the bible is a poor replacement for understanding its message. There’s nothing holy in the paper or godly in the ink. The words are not divine. And once you let go of What The Bible Says, you can start thinking about what it says.

I respect those such as yourself who have, by means of study and reflection, come to a different way of faith or no faith at all. While I hold to the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels and enjoy some of the trappings and traditions of Christianity, my own journey of faith has led me far far from the where it began.

Rollan McCleary
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

From outside America I see Matthew Vines as not answering to certain basic issues like what and who really is homosexual, matters that must be answered in order to help influence such as homophobic Christian fanatics in Africa.

Most of us may accept that orientation is pretty much fixed, but American evangelicals and queer theorists don’t believe or teach so for their different reasons. What is the adequate religious/ theological response? I give certain answers as a gay theologian in
“God and the Gay Gaps in Matthew Vines’ Vision” at http://bit.ly/1izBz2C

As to Vines’ hoped for
“New Reformation” I think it has to have certain understandings as suggested in “The Fatal Flaw in the Matthew Vines, Albert Mohler Gay Debate” at http://bit.ly/1mHDclQ

Ian Streeter
May 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Don’t mean to nitpick, and it’s a while since I read it, but I’m pretty sure Rosaria Butterfield’s book is of the “I got saved and became straight and married Kent and together we serve God” variety than “I came out and maintained my faith” variety.

Ray
May 4th, 2014 | LINK

Rollan, thanks for the link referral to your articles. I’ve now read all of Vine’s book plus most of all five rebuttals in Mohler’s book and I think you capture the essence of what is going on in the debate. Among the rebuttals, Heath Lambert’s, I think, the most naive. If getting personal is the flaw in Vine’s argument, the same goes with Lambert’s. His story about a counseling client “Tony” reeked of ex-gay NARTH babble.

I don’t know if “biblical authority” is sufficient to get the whole spirit of the rebuttals. I tend to think of the five fellows “professional Christians” building a case for their own job security which appears to hinge on the exploration of homosexual orientation for their monthly mortgage money. So aside from biblical authority, I also see a sense that the authority of the Poo-bahs on the non-affirming side of the question is rattling them. I don’t know any other reason Vine would have five well-educated full-time religion teachers descend on him if the didn’t make them worry about their status in the pecking order.

Ben in Oakland
May 4th, 2014 | LINK

If I weren’t on vacation, I’d have more to say. But if I had to boil all of this down, I’d say that the dreck at the bottom of the Mohler pot is, “my bible says I have dominion over your life.” The froth bubbling away in the Vines soup is, “no you don’t.”

For centuries, the Christianists have claimed that homosexuality is a moral issue that gives them dominion over our lives, when we know it isn’t, and more importantly, doesn’t. And of course, the immorality of what they have done to us for centuries just doesn’t concern them in the slightest, because they speak for their particular, peculiar version of god.

As long as this is an argument over what the bible says or doesn’t say, when the creator of the universe seems incapable of expressing himself clearly on the subject– not that I give a shit what he allegedly has to say on this or any other subject, seeing as this particular deity is not my particular deity– then all we’re engaging in is a great deal of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Personally, I’d rather spend my time talking to people whose concern for other people outweighs their desire to speak for god, and to be his best fucking friend forever. Because I’m sure that this over identification with god and desire for dominion is their REAL issue on the other side, no matter how much they dress it up in their finest Sunday-go-to-meetin’ drag.

And this is the thing I wish I had the time to write about right now. I believe that there are basically four broad types of people that we are dealing with: sincere but misguided people, amateur bigots, professional bigots, and homo-hating homos.

I am increasingly convinced that our loudest, most fervent opposition lies in the latter class.

opaloopa
May 6th, 2014 | LINK

I think you’re kidding yourself if you think he’s a voice within Christianity. He may have grown up in a Christian home and he may want to be accepted by a Christian congregation, but there’s more to it. First, anyone can belong to what we call the visible church. All it takes is a credible profession of faith. This can be faked and often is. That is why we have a concept called the invisible church. It is comprised of those who have made a true confession of faith. Now a true confession of faith comes with an obligation to obey the Word of God. You may not think that homosexual behavior has a moral aspect, but that would be only your opinion. The scripture quite clearly makes it a part of morality. You are free to reject that. No one will coerce you. But if you claim to belong t Christ then you willingly take on the scriptures as your only rule for life and godliness. So, no matter how much a person wants to belong, if they reject the moral teachings of scripture, they leave us of their own accord. This is not to say that Christians follow the law perfectly. On the contrary, we fail quite often. But we confess, we agree with God’s assessment and we are forgiven so that we can try again. But we never dig our heels in and tell God he’s wrong. It’s pretty simple really. Do you submit to Jesus Christ and His rule as represented by the scriptures or don’t you? You are free to live your life anyway you want as am i. But what if you’re wrong?

Richard Rush
May 6th, 2014 | LINK

I’m sure opaloopa meant to say, You [I] may not think that homosexual behavior has a moral aspect, but that would be only your [my] opinion. The scripture quite clearly makes it a part of morality, [in my opinion]. “

And opaloopa continues, “Do you submit to Jesus Christ and His rule as represented by the scriptures or don’t you?” Absolutely NOT. “You are free to live your life anyway you want as am i. But what if you’re wrong?” I’m not worried at all.

Nathaniel
May 8th, 2014 | LINK

Opaloopa,
Gay and Ally Christians are not telling God that God is wrong, we are telling our fellow Christians that anti-gay interpretations of scripture are wrong. Please frame your objections in those terms, then we can have a discussion to rescue you from the anti-gay bigotry the devil has infected you with.

Priya Lynn
May 8th, 2014 | LINK

Opaloopa, the people who wrote your bible pretending to be a god are wrong.

Marg Herder
May 27th, 2014 | LINK

Ian Streeter is correct. Rosaria Butterfield is now married to a man and traveling around in conservative evangelical Christian circles proclaiming that the Bible prohibits homosexual activity. She writes that her conversion to Christianity caused her to realize her “radical lesbian feminist” lifestyle was an error.
-Marg Herder, Director of Public Information for Christian Feminism Today

sg
May 28th, 2014 | LINK

I see others have clarified Rosaria Butterfield ‘s actual position. Rosaria Butterfield is not really an example of someone who is LGBT testifying to the integration of her lesbian identity and faith. Her testimony is actually that of renouncing lesbian identity and she actively builds a case against such integration within the church, making her something of a celebrity in conservative circles: http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-are-whatand-howyou-read/

I am thankful for those who are challenging the homophobic narrative from within the Christian community.

sg
May 28th, 2014 | LINK

To be clear, I think Butterfield is WRONG. I’m for inclusion.

Hcat
June 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Maybe “orientation” in the sense of who or what we like to look at naked cannot be changed, but we can still ask GLBT people to marry ONE person of the opposite sex, and it won’t be much more of an adjustment than it is for promiscuous straights.

Priya Lynn
June 4th, 2014 | LINK

That was pretty dumb Hcat.

Ben in Oakland
June 4th, 2014 | LINK

Beyond stupid and ignorant.

Timothy Kincaid
June 4th, 2014 | LINK

Well sure.

We also could have arranged marriages to total strangers. There’s certainly a history for that.

But we are a bit beyond insisting that people marry someone they neither know, like, or wish to be intimate with.

Hcat
June 5th, 2014 | LINK

I’m only asking people to do what I did myself, and I’ve been married pretty happily for 28 years.

Priya Lynn
June 5th, 2014 | LINK

Hcat, there is no rational reason anyone should marry a person they’re not sexually or romantically attracted to and there’s many rational reasons why they shouldn’t. What you want others to do who aren’t harming you is irrelevant.

Ben in Oakland
June 5th, 2014 | LINK

So are you the promiscuous, fornicating and adulterous bisexual that you want us to be?

Timothy Kincaid
June 6th, 2014 | LINK

Hcat,

Insisting that others do what “you’ve done yourself” is perhaps the most arrogant and self-serving of all notions.

Your choices are yours and may well be good for you. But it’s irrational to assume that other share your palate, your taste in clothing, your political opinions, your religious beliefs, or your occupational selection. It borders on bizarre to think that they share your sexual, emotional, romantic, or (and I mean the word literally) lifestyle proclivities.

Eric Payne
June 6th, 2014 | LINK

Hcat,

My parents were married over 50 years and were both, as far as I know, completely heterosexual.

If there ever were two persons who should have been banned, by law, from marriage both in general, and to each other, it was those two.

Doing something — especially getting married — simply because it’s “the thing to do” for some sort of “social norm” cannot, ultimately, be beneficial to either society or individuals. I have to wonder: Does your wife feel the same way you do, or would your comments here come as a surprise to her?

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