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Posts for October, 2015

Albert Mohler disavows secular reorientation therapy – and what that means

Timothy Kincaid

October 6th, 2015

MohlerDr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a fierce opponent of marriage equality or other social acceptance of gay people into civil life on an equal standing. But he is also a thoughtful opponent and has, over the years that we have been watching him, made concessions that some of his fellows were less willing to make.

As early as 2007, Mohler was able to reflect that there may be some biological basis for sexual orientation. In any case, he recognized that sexuality was not merely a behavior nor a chosen attribute which could be rejected.

In response, Mohler happily pondered a future with biological manipulation so as to “avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin”. He did not explain what other sinful temptations should be biologically avoided or whether this conflicts with free will theology.

While recognizing that orientation was, in fact, a real matter, Mohler has never been one to believe that one should live a life consistent with the way that God made you. Rather, he believed that whatever mediatory step could ‘cure’ the homosexual should be sought.

But times have changed. And, as is the case with many churches today, the Southern Baptists are shifting from railing against The Godless Homosexuals and instead trying to find ways to include them in the flock. In fact, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a conference titled Homosexuality: Compassion, Care and Counsel for Struggling People.

Part of Mohler’s shift involves recognizing some realities. (AP)

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said so-called conversion or reparative therapy doesn’t carry the redemptive power of prayer.

“In the case of many people struggling with this particular sin, we do not believe that some kind of superficial answer whereby they can turn a switch from being attracted to persons of the same sex to being attracted to persons of the opposite sex,” Mohler told reporters at the start of a three-day conference on homosexuality and how to offer pastoral care to gays, hosted by the Louisville seminary.

“By God’s grace, that might happen over time as a sign of God’s work within the life of that individual. But … for many, many people struggling with these patterns of sin, it will be a lifelong battle,” Mohler said.

This is a rather important statement.

First, this is a recognition of the world around him. Mohler is now accepting that sexual orientation is, for nearly everyone, a fixed attribute.

Of course there is the God-talk. Through God all things are possible. If we have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. God can divinely change one’s orientation just as easily as He can change their skin color, their sex, or their height.

But He just doesn’t seem to have any inclination towards doing so. And the recognition of this fact is of extreme importance to youth growing up in conservative Christian culture.

While being told that you will likely always “struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions” and should pray for strength to resist them is hardly the ideal emotional place for a young boy or girl, it is far preferable to being told that there’s something wrong with you and you need to go to the doctor. Or that you are willfully rejecting God and choosing sin. Or don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

But this welcome shift makes the theology of Mohler’s position much more complicated.

When the Southern Baptists were preaching against The Homosexuals who were out there living a homosexual lifestyle, it was pretty easy. Just repent of those sins, change your ways, marry a nice young Christian woman and live as God wants you to live. And the fact that no one was doing this was not a threat to doctrine so much as a confirmation of just how hedonistic and debased The Homosexuals were.

But now that Mohler accepts orientation as a descriptive of one’s innate attractions, and now that the church wants to reach out to homosexual people (and recognizing that they are likely to stay same-sex attracted even if they are in the church) what do you do with sin? In fact, how do you define sin?

Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, said the conference, expected to draw about 2,000 people, would showcase how “uniquely biblical” counseling can lead to repentance. He said the organization opposes reparative therapy.

“We believe that repentant faith is the means of change,” Lambert said.

The conference’s goal, he said, is to give counselors “a growing love and care for people who struggle with sexual sin, homosexual sin. We want people to have a growing wisdom about how to come alongside them and walk with them through a process of care.”

I suspect that Lambert and Mohler think that they know what they mean. They are going to invite in The Homosexuals and show them love and prayer and work with them until the homosexuals just realize how pathetic and sinful they are. Just have repentant faith about homosexual sin and they’ll offer care.

That’s not going to happen. It just isn’t. To the extent that gay people want to join a church, there is a loud chorus of those who will not only allow you in the door but will march for your civil rights and celebrate your marriage. The Southern Baptist Church is not going to hit the top ten list for gay converts.

But while The Homosexuals are not going to trot down to the Southern Baptist church to be saved, this change in outlook will have a tremendous impact on youth growing up in the church. And on the church itself.

Because while this conference celebrates repentant faith, it doesn’t answer the key question: What the hell is homosexual sin?

That used to be easy. It was the Homosexual Lifestyle (which never needed definition). You’re gay and that is sinning. But if we are to welcome gays into the church and if we recognize that it’s a “lifelong struggle”, then being gay can’t stay a sin.

So what is this homosexual sin, exactly?

From a church perspective, we can define sexual sin – or at least for heterosexuals. Lusting privately, acting on that lust through porn or even engaging in fornication or adultery. And while everything on that list is officially off limits, it’s really only fornication, adultery, or a disruptive addiction to porn that ever rises to the level of getting attention.

Fourteen year old Johnnie masturbating to online porn is sin. But, well, let’s be real. Every fourteen year old Johnnie in the church is masturbating and everyone knows it. It’s certainly not something that is going to start a culture war or receive special attention from the pulpit.

But what if Johnnie is masturbating to gay porn. Is that different?

Theologically, that’s a toughie. Yes, all sin is the same in God’s eyes, but not all sin is the same in the eyes of the church. And if you’re Albert Mohler’s age and have spent decades fighting the homosexual agenda, you aren’t likely to see the two as the same. If Johnnie isn’t struggling against these horrible temptations and completely miserable, he’s sinning. And masturbating only encourages more of this temptation. To SIN!!!

But Johnnie, and his friends, are not likely to see his sin any different from a straight boy’s sin. If masterbating is wrong for one, why is it extra-wrong for the other? After all, you said orientation isn’t chosen. So why is one worse than the other?

And what’s more, the younger generation of Baptists are likely to call out their elders on the disparity. Without the presumption that gay people are inherently bad, it’s hard to make much of a case.

And if attractions are biologically based – ie. how God made you – then attractions in their own right cannot be sin. If being attracted to the Disney starlet and putting her poster on your wall is acceptable to Baptist parents, how can they find it wrong when it’s the latest boy band? Can little Susie find Nick Jonas cute, but not little Johnnie?

And is dating sin? Good Christian dating with no kissing, much less anything approaching second base?

Once The Homosexual is no longer the sinner out there but welcome in the church, pat answers can’t go unchallenged. And presumptions seem less convincing when you’re no longer in an echo chamber. If the Big Sex Sin is sex outside marriage for straight kids, then why have special rules on gay kids? That’s not welcoming. That’s not pastoral care.

For a while the Baptists will declare homosexual temptations lead to sin and should be avoided. And that heterosexual dating is in line with God’s plan but that gay dating leads to sin and is itself sinful. But how can one repent for being tempted – that isn’t Christian doctrine? And “dating” is hard to define in the mind of teenagers.

Mohler and the Baptists are going to find it increasingly difficult to draw a line with any consistency. Once you love people and let them in the door, all your inconsistencies tend to be glaring.

I suspect it will eventually come down to, “Just like we tell the straight kids, you can’t have sex before marriage. Ever. Period. Except you can never get married.”

And that’s when it will all fall apart. Because that logic is so arbitrary and cruel that it cannot withstand the inspection of Christian compassion. Once you accept someone’s humanity, once they are no longer the hedonist living some lifestyle, then they become real. And that is when the Baptists will find that the teachings of the Presbyterians and the Methodists down the street have some merit and will decide that same-sex marriage can reflect God. It will be some time, but this is the eventual conclusion.

Now, I’m happy that the Southern Baptists are moving towards more inclusion. But I think it will mean something very different from what they are expecting. And it will be amusing to watch.

Evangelicals pledge to defend traditional marriage by witness and example

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2015

Those who make a living defending God and the family from television commercials, gay pizza eaters, and children’s books are frothing and spewing about the Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality. They are pledging that they “refuse to accept” the ruling and calling for a constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, the most prominent Evangelical Christians are taking another path entirely.

Evangelical Christianity (in this instance) is comprised primarily of Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, conservative Lutheran, conservative Presbyterian, Brethren, Reformed, and other smaller denominations.

Of these, the Pentecostal movement has mostly stayed out of the political fray. This is consistent with their tradition of seeing themselves as outside of the world to a large extent. Also mostly outside the political debate have been Brethren, Reformed, and the more conservative cousins of Mainline denominations.

But for many years, Southern Baptists railed against homosexuality and fought a culture war determined to keep equality out of the hands of their LGBT brothers and sisters. And those states in which Southern Baptists hold sway are chuck-full of anti-gay politicians who make little effort to hide their animus.

However, a few years back I noticed that there had been a shift in the Baptists’ approach. The SBC, though still hostile and hurtful, appeared to be largely stepping out of the battle. And their response to the Supreme Court ruling, along with other leading Evangelicals, is even more an evidence of this disengagement.

In a statement entitled Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage, a virtual who’s who of evangelical leaders staked out their position in response to marriage equality being found to be constitutionally protected. Signatories includes such leaders as David French, Eric Teetsel, Jim Daly, John Stonestreet, Marvin Olasky, Paul Nyquist, Albert Mohler, Richard Land, Ronnie Floyd, and many more.

Absent from the list were the usual clutch of firebrands, extremists, and lunatics. And the statement reflects a serious approach based less on political rhetoric and hyperbole and focused instead on how this change impacts the lives of those who share this faith.

Yes, they proclaim that “The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman”, when anyone with a Bible would be hard pressed to find such a marriage within its covers. But this is a statement of faith, a proclamation of belief, rather than a call to arms. And their objection to the ruling is termed as a dissent.

The meat of their statement is in what they commit to do.

    The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
  • teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
  • affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
  • love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
  • live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
  • cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

I will, of course, fight any of their democratic efforts to exclude me from full inclusion in society. And I’m not sure that we would draw the same boundaries for religious liberty. But otherwise I don’t find much with which to quibble.

Should Evangelicals live up to this mandate – to live respectfully, loving all people, and affirming dignity and respect – I would find them to be good neighbors and decent people. And if they wish to live an example of what marriage ‘should be like’, that would certainly go farther than all the name-calling and rejection that they have engaged in over the past several decades.

Southern Baptists resolve to oppose equality

Timothy Kincaid

June 18th, 2015

The Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Columbus, OH, earlier this week and the theme seemed to be gay marriage. As Jonathan Merritt noted,

SBC president Ronnie Floyd preached a fiery sermon declaring, “the Supreme Court of the United States is not the final authority, nor is the culture itself, but the Bible is God’s final authority about marriage and on this book we stand.” At a press conference on Wednesday, leaders released a letter signed by 16 past denominational presidents–including my father, James Merritt, who presided from 2000 to 2002–stating, “we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court.” And the denomination’s political arm released a legal guide for churches, schools, and ministries to protect themselves as culture grows more comfortable with same-sex marriage.

But the most significant action was a resolution passed by the denomination declaring their ‘public witness’ opposing the rights of other citizens to marry. And, as far as resolutions go, it’s a mess.

It starts with a bunch of whereas statements, the first two of which show such astonishing ignorance of scripture that I marvel that they can be claimed with a straight face.

WHEREAS, God in His divine wisdom created marriage as the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18–24; Matthew 19:4–6; Hebrews 13:4); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) recognizes the biblical definition of marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,” stating further, “It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race”;

Yes, the carefully selected scriptures do discuss marriage between a man and a woman. The first is one of the variations of the Creation Myth presented in Genesis (it is paired with the more commonly recognized seven day timeline of creation/evolution).

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.”

So the Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found as his complement.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called “woman,”
for she was taken from man.

This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

Which is a lovely parable, but it says nothing about marriage being “the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman.” In fact, as far as this tale is presented, the man and the woman didn’t enter into any covenanted union at all.

The second scriptural passage is Jesus’ rejection of divorce, in which he quotes Genesis.

“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” and He also said:

“For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh?

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

And at that point the Baptists quickly slam their Bible shut, lest they accidentally read the 12th verse of Matthew 19, in which Jesus rejects binary gender definitions.

But irrespective of whether the discussion of eunuchs can be distanced from the Baptists’ selection, again this text is not definitional. Jesus is quoting Genesis to reject the cruel practice of dumping wives after the new wears off and leaving them (at that time) without any financial security. He wasn’t defining marriage.

The third biblical reference is even less supportive of the whereas assertion.

Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.

I see no “biblical definition” there.

And the reason that Baptists can’t actually point to a passage in scripture in which it defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” is because such passages don’t exist. A scholar of the sacred texts in ancient times would likely be highly amused at such a definition and find it to be a rare family structure, rather than indicative of God’s commands or expectations.

Let’s consider what most familiar marriages and family structures looked like in the Bible as shown in the Bible stories.

  • Adam joined with the only woman in existence, Eve, without assistance of any pastor or covenant.
  • Abel and Seth married their sisters.
  • Abraham married his half-sister Sarah. And when she didn’t conceive, she gave him her maid with which he had a child.
  • Jacob (Israel) married two sisters, the first through fraud and deception.
  • Moses likely had at least two wives, one of them Ethiopian
  • David had at least six wives, in addition to Jonathan, whose love was “more wonderful Than the love of women”.
  • Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
  • Daniel was a eunuch with whom God brought the Chief of the eunuchs “into favour and tender love”.
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace story) were also eunuchs
  • There’s no mention whether Jonah married. Nor Elijah. Nor Elisha. Nor Joshua.
  • Lot (who escaped Sodom) slept with his daughters so they could have children
  • Rahab, one of Jesus’ ancestors, was a prostitute
  • Jesus didn’t marry, nor did most of his disciples
  • The first Christian convert was an Ethiopian eunuch
  • Other than Isaac and Noah, I can’t think offhand of any biblical marriages or biblical family structures that are of the sort that would be allowed in a Southern Baptist church today.

    But lest there be any lingering confusion about the definition of marriage as “one man and one woman”, the early Christian church did, indeed, lay out what the requirements were for marriage. But only for some. Titus 1:5-6

    For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

    The bishops (elders) of the church were to be the husband of one wife. By this reference we know that there were some in the church – not appointed bishops – that were not (nor expected to be) husbands of one wife.

    Irrespective of what one believes about the value of restricting marriage to heterosexual unions, claiming that one man / one woman marriages are in any way “biblical”, much less defined as such in the Bible, is self-delusion and absurdly so.

    But it isn’t just in the Whereas clauses that this declaration falls apart. The Resolved clauses are no better:

    1. RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16–17, 2015, prayerfully call on the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the right of the citizens to define marriage as exclusively the union of one man and one woman; and be it further

    2. RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists recognize that no governing institution has the authority to negate or usurp God’s definition of marriage; and be it further

    3. RESOLVED, No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage; and be it further

    4. RESOLVED, That the religious liberty of individual citizens or institutions should not be infringed as a result of believing or living according to the biblical definition of marriage; and be it further

    5. RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention calls on Southern Baptists and all Christians to stand firm on the Bible’s witness on the purposes of marriage, among which are to unite man and woman as one flesh and to secure the basis for the flourishing of human civilization; and be it finally

    6. RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists love our neighbors and extend respect in Christ’s name to all people, including those who may disagree with us about the definition of marriage and the public good.

    [numbering my own]

    Reading the second and first resolved paragraphs together leaves a very confused message. Basically the SBC is claiming that the Supreme Court has no authority over marriage and also begs them to let anti-gay states ban equality. They reject the court’s authority while requesting that the court rule as they wish.

    Similarly the fourth, fifth and sixth paragraphs are incompatible. In the sixth they declare their love and respect to all people, but in resolve number 4 and 5, they basically assert that Baptist clerks and cake bakers should refuse service to gay people.

    What these Baptists fail to realize is that their declaration is inherently lacking in “love and respect”. It is directed externally, declaring what courts should do, what gay people should not do, and defending their own rejection of their neighbors.

    The only way this can be seen as “love and respect” is through the notion that whatever Christians do, regardless of how cruel, is by definition “loving” and that the difficulties that they place on others is “for their own good”.

    Ultimately, this resolution has no weight. They can “not adhere to” any “legal redefinition of marriage” that they choose, be it marriages between gays, mixed-race couples, or those of different faith. They can “stand firm on the Bible’s witness” (as they see it) all they like. They can defend to the death their right to believe whatever they want to believe. They can reject the authority of courts to their heart’s content.

    But in practicality, marriage equality is coming. And they can do nothing to stop it.

    And this messy, contradictory, self-congratulatory statement of self-righteousness is not likely to serve them well as they go about the business of trying to evangelize to a nation that finds their rejection and exclusion to be morally reprehensible.

    SBC bans chaplains from “giving the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle”

    Timothy Kincaid

    September 6th, 2013

    We haven’t heard much from the Southern Baptist Convention lately. Onetime players in the Culture Wars, over the past year or so the SBC has pulled back from a political response to the changes in social acceptance of homosexuality and has refocused on its religious response. They decided to treat gay couples much like they would treat heterosexuals who are not living in agreement with the Convention’s sexual teachings.

    This is both a pragmatic response to a shifting culture and a theologically sound position. It places the emphasis back where the Epistles held it, within the body, and reminds Southern Baptists that Scripture talks about one’s own failings, not that of one’s neighbor. (And as anyone who has lived in the Bible Belt can attest, Southern Baptists need all the reminding they can get).

    But that is not to suggest that the denomination has changed its position. And new guidelines issued to SBC chaplains by the SBC’s North American Mission Board illustrate the extent to which Baptists still continue to theologically oppose homosexuality and gay marriage. (As an aside, I sincerely hope that NAMB does not have branch offices in Louisiana or Los Angeles).

    In addition to direction on pastoral care in pluralistic setting, the NAMB placed some pretty severe restrictions on its chaplains, which make up about 15% of Military chaplains. (Baptist Press)

    Restrictions — The guidelines state that “NAMB-endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-sex relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off of a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing. This biblical prohibition remains in effect irrespective of any civil law authorizing same-sex marriage or benefits to the contrary.” Chaplains also are prohibited from participating in jointly-led worship services “with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who personally practices a homosexual lifestyle or affirms a homosexual lifestyle or such conduct.”

    No doubt the mission board thinks that these are reasonable restrictions, but in practice I think this will be hard to live by and increasingly so in upcoming months. I suspect that chaplains in the field will either come to ignore these rules or perhaps find other affiliation.

    What this says, in effect, is that a chaplain is restricted from offering any relationship counseling to men and women whom they know and work with, and whom they respect and care about. It says that they cannot affirm monogamy, advise consideration for the other partner’s concerns, or present tips and tools for successful negotiation of a relationship. Further, it says that they cannot personally attend the celebrations of a chaplain’s friends.

    These are personal restrictions that, while cumbersome, may be understood to be a sacrifice for their stance. However, there are also professional restrictions that may prove to be disastrous to a chaplain’s career, relationships with fellow chaplains, or even ability to perform their duties.

    The new restrictions disallow a chaplain to conduct marriage retreats that include same-sex couples. As any such retreats sponsored by the US Military will not allow discrimination, these rules remove an SBC chaplain from conducting or participating in all group relationship training or retreats other than strictly sectarian retreats sponsored by outside groups.

    And, though I suspect they did not intend it, the most difficult rule to observe will likely be the restriction on jointly-led worship services. Far far more chaplains – and denominations – “affirm a homosexual lifestyle” than the SBC may consider. If not at this exact moment, then quite soon the vast majority of United Methodist chaplains, United Church of Christ chaplains, Episcopal chaplains, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America chaplains, Presbyterian Church (USA) chaplains, as well as many others will encourage the establishment and maintenance of committed same-sex relationships. They will celebrate, or at least counsel, same-sex marriages. And the restrictions state that SBC chaplains cannot jointly lead worship with them.

    This is probably more consequential than many readers realize. To refuse joint worship is to not “be in fellowship” with fellow believers. It is to say that this doctrinal difference is so severe that it severs the body of Christ. It’s a very big deal.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. A demand that SBC chaplains snub their fellow ministers may prove to be a fatal flaw in that denomination’s missionary effort.

    New SBC Leader Lumps Gay People With Racists and Child Molesters

    Jim Burroway

    June 19th, 2012

    The Southern Baptist Convention elected its first African-American president this week, marking an especially historic milestone for a religious denomination which owes its very existence to the nineteenth century split from its northern brethren over the Southern Baptists support for slavery. But when Rev. Fred Luter from New Orleans spoke following his election, his remarks remind us that Southern Baptists have merely exchanged one form of prejudice for another:

    “Only the Word of God can change the heart of a racist; only the Word of God can change the desire of a child molester,” he preached. “The Word of God can change a lifestyle of a homosexual. The Word of God is the only hope for America today.”

    SBC Leader denounces death camp pastor

    Timothy Kincaid

    May 24th, 2012

    From the website of Dr. Warren Throckmorton:

    I asked Bob Stith, National Strategist for Gender Issues at the Southern Baptist Convention, for his reaction and he said Worley’s words were “a vile outburst” and said,

    I think it is important to say in the strongest terms how disgusting and unchristian his comments are.

    He added that the church is not in the Southern Baptist Convention.

    I want to commend Stith on his response. I wish it were heard more broadly.

    SBC has some bad news for itself

    Timothy Kincaid

    May 15th, 2012

    For many years, conservative Christians have played a word game with themselves and the public. When it came to discussions about sin and love, there was a careful distinction between the person and the behavior. They could joyously love the sinner (but not his sin) so much that they longed for his soul to know God (and give up all that sin). But when it came to individual rights and civil liberties, that distinction evaporated. When talking about whether someone should have job security or the right to rent an apartment, suddenly the Bible declared “it’s a sin”.

    This allowed conservatives the comfort of convincing themselves that the American public still agreed with them, still deferred to them on matters of religious conscience. Should Connecticut allow marriage or should Lincoln choose to ban anti-gay employment discrimination, well at least they know that they are accommodating immorality.

    But now they are losing the sin debate. After decades of seeking intentional civilly enforced discrimination against gay people because “the Biiiiible says it’s a siiiiiiiin!!”, the public isn’t buying it.

    Gallup, for the third straight year, has found that Americans find “gay and lesbian relations” to be “morally acceptable”.

    But that’s the liberal secular press, you know, so not all that impressive to conservative Christians. And besides what is “gay and lesbian relations”? We are talking about homosexual behavior, not relations!

    But now LifeWay Research (a project of the Southern Baptist Convention) has conducted a poll about American attitudes about homosexuality. And it is most decidedly not good news. Or, at least, not for those who have convinced themselves that real Americans know in their heart of hearts that sin is sin and Baptists can be trusted to tell you what it is.

    They didn’t ask about “gays” or “relations” or “morally acceptable”. They asked about sin. Homosexual behavior and sin. And they discovered that a majority of Americans no longer believe that homosexuality is sin.

    Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?

    44% – Yes
    43% – No
    13% – Not sure

    And the news went downhill from there. Not only are Americans split on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, it turns out that being anti-gay is a hindrance to church growth.

    If you were considering visiting or joining a church, would knowing that the church taught that homosexual behavior was sinful impact your decision positively or negatively or have no impact?

    Who cares? I mean, really, do that many people really decide their church based on it’s views on homosexuality? Really?

    Yep. A whopping 58% said that it would impact their decision and the split didn’t go to the anti-gays. While a third of respondents wouldn’t consider a church’s views on homosexuality when making their selection, 36% said such teachings would negatively impact their decision while only 26% considered it a positive.

    And as for evangelizing, it turns out that the non-churched really do care about Teh Ghey and they don’t want to hear you preach against it. Only 3% said they’d prefer a church that is anti-gay, while 72% of Americans who never attend a place of worship would rather not sit through Sodomy Sunday, thank you very much.

    And even the good ol’ fashioned literalist believers aren’t as committed as they used to be. Just over half of them would consider a ‘homosexual behavior is sin’ stance to be a positive factor in their church selection.

    And, of course, there are the discouraging facts that younger people and urban people are increasingly less tolerant of anti-gay theology, along with city dwellers and the educated. The future looks grim for the anti-gay moralists.

    But we’ll have to see how this report impacts the Southern Baptist Convention. They are not exactly known to be theological trend setters. And many Baptists possess an ability to choose what they wish to believe, irrespective of, oh, polls or studies or reports or nonsense like facts and are quite convinced that they speak for real Americans.

    For example, the good Baptist folk in Jacksonville, Florida, are fighting a proposal to ban employment discrimination.

    The measure will “further infringe on the religious freedoms of Christians, and the majority of mainstream Americans who do not accept such alternative lifestyles as normal.”

    Of course, the Baptists in Jacksonville also believe that there is no “protection under the ordinance for followers of Jesus Christ”, that it would impact “clubs, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts” and that firing gay people is a “Christian belief”, so it may just be that Jacksonville Baptists are a whole separate brand of stupid. (To be fair, two Jacksonville Baptist churches are endorsing the measure.)

    Ultimately, I’m guessing that there will be a lot of talk about “doing what’s right, not what’s popular” while quietly toning down the rhetoric. And in, oh a few decades or so, the SBC will apologize for “failing to affirm the civil rights of the homosexual person”.

    Meanwhile, in other news, wackadoodle extraordinairre Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association had this advice for presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

    Pink Bibles and six degrees of absurdity

    Timothy Kincaid

    December 15th, 2011

    I hate the Culture War. It wastes time, harms my communities, and makes enemies out of people who would otherwise be friends. And sometimes the consequences of prioritizing this nonsensical War results in decisions that are truly deeply wrong.

    Take the latest action by the Southern Baptist Convention. In order to make sure that “evil” is punished, they are denying funds to breast cancer screening. Let me explain:

    Evangelicals have an emotional attachment to the King James Version of the Bible. But as that translation was conducted between 1604 and 1609, it isn’t easy to read or understand. Yet, many conservative evangelicals have been suspicious that newer translations include changes to the meaning of scripture. And though these changes are often the result of the discovery of additional text sources or intensive research, they been seen by some as a tool for those who seek to corrupt or twist the meaning of scripture.

    So as to prepare a more readable Bible, but one which could be trusted to be scripturally inerrant, the Southern Baptist Convention funded a new translation, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The goal of the inter-denomination team was “to convey a sense of the original text with as much clarity as possible”. The new Bible began rolling off the presses last year.

    As part of a promotion, LifeWay Christian Resources (a seller of Bibles and other Christian books and paraphernalia) marketed a copy of the Holman Christian Standard Bible bound in pink. And for every pink Bible sold, Lifeway contributed a dollar to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation to be used for breast cancer screening and awareness.

    That’s kinda cool. If you’re going to buy a Bible, why not help fight breast cancer at the same time?

    But then the Culture War stepped in and the surrealism began. Because:

    * The Southern Baptist Convention owns Lifeway Christian Resources
    * Lifeway gave a dollar of each pink Bible sold to the Susan G. Komen Foundation
    * Komen used the funds to screen women for breast cancer
    * The screening was facilitated through local chapters
    * Some of the local chapters contribute funds to Planned Parenthood specifically to be used for breast screening
    * Planned Parenthood also performs abortions

    Well, there you have it. As Susan Tyrrell of the Bound4Life blog put it, “The sign might as well read, ‘Buy a Bible and support abortion!’ ”

    Whatever one might think about abortion, surely Planned Parenthood and the Southern Baptists can agree that breast cancer is a bad thing? No. They can’t. Because the Southern Baptist Convention is in a Culture War and right now they hate Planned Parenthood more than they hate breast cancer.

    So LifeWay is canceling the program and “recalling” the Bibles. (Tennessean)

    “Though we have assurances that Komen’s funds are used only for breast cancer screening and awareness, it is not in keeping with LifeWay’s core values to have even an indirect relationship with Planned Parenthood,” Rainer said in a statement.

    And although Komen’s funding of specific Planned Parenthood programs paid for 139,000 breast exams and about 5,000 mammograms, detecting 177 cases of cancer in the past five years, the lives of those 177 women are immaterial. They are just collateral damage in a Culture War.

    Petition Calls On Southern Baptists To Apologize

    Jim Burroway

    June 13th, 2011

    A large group of Southern Baptists will gather in Phoenix this week for their annual convention. As leading proponents of ex-gay ministries, they have been front and center of a larger anti-gay political movement. Several LGBT advocacy groups plan to greet the convention with a gathering of their own. Faith in America, Soulforce, Truth Wins Out, Get Equal, and the Association of Affirming and Welcoming Baptists will join a local group of Phoenix-area clergy known as Believe Out Loud for a demonstration calling on the Southern Baptist Convention to apologize for the harm its teachings have caused the LGBT community, particularly to the youth. There is an online petition which will be hand-delivered following a protest outside the SBC’s annual meeting in Phoenix on Wednesday, a day that marks the religious group’s historic apology to African Americans for supporting slavery and Jim Crow laws.

    So far, more than 5,000 people have signed the petition calling on the SBC to apologize. You can add your name to the petition here.

    Mohler concedes inevitability of social acceptance of same-sex couples

    Timothy Kincaid

    February 26th, 2011

    Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is now admitting that their arguments are not going to win over society, or even all of those who sit in pews listening to their anti-gay sermonizing (Christian Post):

    “I think it’s clear that something like same-sex marriage is going to become normalized, legalized and recognized in the culture. It’s time for Christians to start thinking about how we’re going to deal with that,” he said Friday on the Focus on the Family radio program.

    The Southern Baptist made it clear that he was not saying that they are giving up. Marriage is still an institution Christians need to save, particularly in their own community. But Christians also need to start learning how to deal with the shifting culture and even face the fact that they may lose a few from their flock.

    “I think we’re going to be surprised and heartbroken over how many people are going to capitulate to the spirit of the age,” he noted. “We’re going to find now that there may not be as many of us as we thought.”

    He’s right.

    Southern Baptist concession: churches can also belong to groups which include gay-supportive churches

    Timothy Kincaid

    February 25th, 2011

    We finally have an answer at to the extent to which Southern Baptists can coexist with gay folk. And yes, it does include several degrees of separation.

    Southern Baptist Convention churches cannot “affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior”.

    A Southern Baptist church cannot have a single gay member.

    A Southern Baptist church cannot refuse to take a position on homosexuality. They must actively exclude gay people from the life of the church or they will be kicked out.

    A Southern Baptist organization cannot include a single church that fails to actively oppose homosexuality and exclude gay-supportive members. Failure to expel that church will get them evicted from an SBC school campus even if every other member church is ragingly homophobic.

    But there is finally, finally, a limit to their anti-gay positioning. You can be a Southern Baptist church that belongs to an organization that is not ragingly homophobic, provided that you are sufficiently anti-gay. (Christian Post)

    The Alliance of Baptists affirms gay marriage and permits members of any sexuality.

    But the Executive Committee members decided against banning all churches that are members of the Alliance from also being members of the SBC, according to the Associated Baptist Press. Instead, it decided that each church’s qualification should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    Of course, that wildly liberal position might not make it past a vote of the convention. It sounds an awful lot like compromise with sin, you see.

    There’s still no word as to whether Southern Baptists are allowed to speak to their gay postman, accept change back from their gay grocery clerk, or avoid kicking the dog of their gay neighbors. But I am pretty sure that their gay kids are not to be welcomed at Thanksgiving.

    Dispute in Baptistland

    Timothy Kincaid

    January 25th, 2011

    Earlier this month we reported that the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary had booted the Tarrant Baptist Association from their space on campus due to the Association fellowshipping with Broadway Baptist Church, a congregation that does not reject gay worshipers. Now it seems that the Seminary didn’t exactly have that right; the Association holds deed to the property on which they reside. (Baptist Standard)

    In 1982, the seminary provided Tarrant Baptist Association land and the funds to build its office building, granting a 99-year lease on the property, Meredith explained. At that time, the seminary and association entered into an affiliation agreement stipulating the property would not be used for commercial activity, and the association and seminary would commit to remaining in theological harmony, he said.

    In 1997, the property agreement was renegotiated, and Tarrant Baptist Association received the deed to the property, he said. “The affiliation agreement remained intact,” Meredith added.

    Further, it seems that the affiliation agreement has provisions for resolving dispute and the Seminary does not have unilateral determination. A three person panel is supposed to be assembled to mediate a resolution.

    But, apparently believing that “but, but, but Teh Ghey!!” trumps all, the Seminary is insisting that the Association give them back the property and go away with their heads hung low in shame. The Association is taking a different position.

    Tarrant Baptist Association’s executive board subsequently met a few days later and unanimously approved a motion asking the seminary either to purchase the property from the association at fair market value or submit the matter to a three-person arbitration panel.

    It will be interesting to see how this is resolved.

    Southern Baptists kick out group that tolerates Broadway Baptist

    Timothy Kincaid

    January 15th, 2011

    Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, takes a bit of a don’t ask, don’t tell approach to its gay members. The church avoids taking theological positions on homosexuality – saying that they neither condemn nor condone it – and gay members are fairly open.

    But the Southern Baptist Convention has no room for anyone who does not actively condemn gay people and seek to make their lives miserable. To be a Southern Baptist Church in good standing, it is not adequate to delegate such matters to individual conscience. Rather, opposition to homosexuality must take on the importance given to matters of faith such as the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, and redemption from sin.

    So in 2009 Broadway Baptist Church was booted from the General Baptist Convention of Texas, the a statewide affiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist organization.

    But it seems that the SBC is a lot like a sixth-grade girl who is seeking to control who is popular and who is not. Not only have they banished Broadway Baptist from the ‘cool kids’ clique, but they will kick out anyone who dares be their friend.

    And the Tarrant Baptist Association, the Tarrant County group of Southern Baptists, dared to be friendly with Broadway Baptist. In fact, they allowed them to be part of the 395 churches that worked together in the county to provide support, outreach, and growth. How dare they?

    So the Tarrant Baptist Association, in turn, was kicked off the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I’m not kidding. The official county association of Southern Baptist Churches was booted from their office in the Southern Baptist seminary because they didn’t ostracize one church who wasn’t adequately anti-gay. (Christian Post)

    Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has asked an association of churches to leave its Fort Worth, Texas, campus because the seminary says the group has a member church or churches that tolerate homosexuality.

    A 1997 affiliation agreement between Tarrant Baptist Association and the seminary for use of an office building on the campus requires that the two organizations remain in “theological harmony.”

    The seminary, which is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, contends that the association has violated the agreement for retaining fellowship with a church or churches that don’t adhere to the denomination’s position that homosexuality is a sin.

    From time to time some prominent Southern Baptist leader will rhetorically ponder, “Why do the homosexuals think we hate them? We don’t hate them, we love them and want them to live according to God’s Plan for their lives.”

    Stop pondering.

    Here is why we think you hate us. Because if one congregation is willing to let gay people even sit in the congregation, you kick them out of fellowship. Because if one collective of churches dares let such a congregation participate in ministry, you kick them out of fellowship.

    We think you hate us because if you demonstrate rejection to a group whose only crime is to allow a member church whose only crime is allowing gay individuals to worship, then we KNOW that your animus, your contempt, your derision, and your rejection of gay individuals is of a level that if it is not truly hate then it is impossible to distinguish from it.

    SC Baptists confirmed their opposition to your immoral behavior and deviant lifestyle

    Timothy Kincaid

    November 18th, 2010

    Just in case you were wondering, the Southern Baptists in South Carolina want to make it perfectly clear that they ain’t like those homo-lovin’ Lutherans. In their state convention they voted on a resolution to remind us – in case we forgot or were confused – that they don’t like Teh Ghey so much. (Greenville online)

    The resolution on “homosexuality and religious liberty” noted the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religious expression, “including speech pertaining to social and religious values.” It said Christians “must also use our freedoms to defend traditional marriage, protect the sanctity of human life, and combat the propagation of immoral behavior and deviant lifestyles.”

    And they aren’t in confusion about what message they are sending.

    “Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians have been portrayed by the media as intolerant or dangerous because of our commitment to Christ and our belief in biblical precepts,” it said.

    Yep. I’d say that pretty much covers it. Intolerant and actively endangering the lives of children who grow up hearing them spew their bile.

    Southern Baptists support discrimination in the military

    Timothy Kincaid

    June 17th, 2010

    In a move which shocked absolutely no one, the Southern Baptist Church took yet another vote to make sure that everyone is absolutely clear that they don’t like gay people. They don’t like them in the church, they don’t like them getting married, and they don’t like them serving in the military.

    In a long-winded declaration which decried “Normalizing the open presence of homosexuals in the armed forces” repeatedly, over and over, ad nauseum, the Southern Baptist Church declared:

    RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, 2010, affirm the Bible’s declaration that homosexual behavior is intrinsically disordered and sinful, and we also affirm the Bible’s promise of forgiveness, change, and eternal life to all sinners (including those engaged in homosexual sin) who repent of sin and trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11); and be it further

    RESOLVED, That we oppose changing current law to normalize the open presence of homosexuals in the armed forces, and insist on keeping the finding of Congress that sustains current law, which states that even “the presence in the armed forces” of persons demonstrating “a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” creates “an unacceptable risk to . . . the essence of military capability”;

    Praise Jesus, feel the love. We can be “forgiven”, but not “normalized”. And all that normalization would “destroy the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

    Of course this is all out of love. And the Southern Baptists, they don’t hate us, nosiree.

    Well I have a question for Dr. Land and his merry band of Baptists: if you love us so much, if your policy positions are not based on hate, then why is it that there is not one single, solitary, stand alone, sitting out there, mild little instance – not one – in which you haven’t taken the position which is most harmful to the lives, liberties, freedoms, and happiness of gay people?


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