odd man out.

Introduction to Unpopular Opinion

#1: Harmful Actions

#2: Muddled Messages

#3: Inconsistent Theology

Somewhere in between the APA’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder and the Supreme Court’s rulings on Proposition 8 and DOMA, marriage equality started to feel like the inevitable outcome of our culture’s dialogue about same-sex relationships. As our culture’s understanding of sexuality has developed, traditional Christian sexual ethics have grown more and more counter-cultural. My thesis throughout this series has been that, in addition to their emphasis on political action, the behavior of conservative Christians in the midst of our culture’s transition has severely damaged their reputation and their credibility, such that their faithfulness to a position that used to be the majority position appears increasingly outdated, intolerant, and hateful. In my opinion, three factors contributed to a negative attitude toward Christians. First, Christians often haven’t felt the weight of what the gay community has historically suffered, and Christians have often perpetrated or failed to prevent harm against sexual minorities. Second, the predominant Christian voice hasn’t effectively separated itself from negative, unloving messages from the past and, in certain factions, the present. Finally, many Christians have opened themselves to legitimate criticism by expressing and applying their theology of sexuality inconsistently. If our actions preach more loudly than our words, then I’d say the conservative Christian movement has, at its worst, effectively sent the following message to sexual minorities and those who support them:

"We really do love you! But we’re occasionally going to hurt you and let others hurt you. We want you to know God loves everyone, but we also really want you to know gay sex is sinful. In fact, if you forget everything else we say, remember that: Gay sex is sinful. That might sound harsh, but the reason we believe what we believe about gay sex is because of the bigger picture of what the Bible says about marriage and sexuality, which we can basically summarize in four words: Don’t have gay sex."

If I’m right that most non-Christians perceive traditional Christian sexual ethics as intolerant and hateful but that this perception wasn’t an inevitable outcome of the clash between progressive and conservative values (i.e., if I’m right that conservative Christians and same-sex couples can peacefully coexist), where do conservative Christians go from here, especially if they still want to testify to the goodness of God in a meaningful way? I don’t think it has to start with their sexual ethics changing, as if that’s the only way to step toward healing and reconciliation—though I would say relationship with a living God requires constant re-examination of our doctrines and positions in light of God’s activity in the world today, especially as our broader understanding of sexuality evolves. (It’s also important for conservative Christians to re-examine the purpose and effectiveness of the political actions they’ve taken thus far, since that remains the primary point of contention in our culture’s dialogue about homosexuality.) What is needed is conservative Christians coming to terms with the reality of the world in which we live and reexamining what it means to demonstrate the love of God to people in a culture that increasingly takes as a given the inherent goodness of same-sex relationships. God’s love is constant, but the means by which we communicate God’s love are not. When our actions manage to communicate the good news of God’s love we find in Scripture, we’ll breathe the very words of life people—yes, even gay people—so desperately need.

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