Russell and Duenes

What You Believe About Homosexuality Doesn’t Matter

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Tyler Smither wrote a little piece called What You Believe About Homosexuality Doesn’t Matter. I came across it because one of my good friends posted it on FB. So I thought I’d interact with it here. Mr. Smither words are italicized below.

I refuse to engage in [the debate over homosexuality]. The way I see it, the time for that debate has long since passed. The stakes are too high now. The current research suggestions that teenagers that are gay are about 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. That puts the percentage of gay teens attempting suicide at about 30-some percent. 1 out of 3 teens who are gay or bisexual will try to kill themselves. And a lot of times they succeed. In fact, Rev. Schaefer’s son contemplated suicide on a number of occasions in his teens.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the “current research” is accurate. It appears that the author makes his assertions about suicide prior to making his theological assertions in order to soften the reader up for a false dichotomy. In other words, only a cold-hearted brute could fling aside gay teen suicide attempts just to keep his or her theological purity on homosexuality. We naturally feel compassion for these teens, and rightly so, and  thus it becomes perhaps more understandable if the Christian drops the whole homosexual “debate” altogether. But does true compassion and biblical sentiment toward gay teens stand in contrast to gay teen well-being? We’re clearly supposed to feel that it does.

The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin. Let me say that again. It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way. So, I’m through with the debate.

If I understand Mr. Smither correctly, his argument means that when “people are dying,” biblical truth must stand aside. In other words, if God says something is true, something like, “neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9), and people react to this truth in ways that threaten their own lives, then this spiritual truth must stand down. But would God really say something that would be of ultimate harm to human well-being? Does not the Bible take pains to say both that God is love and that God will refuse the kingdom to the sexually immoral? Indeed it does. Therefore, either God is incoherent, or pitting these two things against each other is a false move. I’ll go with the latter.

Then Mr. Smither implies, though he does not say so explicitly, that the biblical teaching on homosexuality conveyed by many Christians is the very “reject[ion] and dehumaniz[ation]” which makes gay teens “feel their only option left is to end their life.” But this is a dubious, and may I say, rather tasteless insinuation. I don’t doubt that there are many people who go by the name of “Christian” who have trashed and degraded homosexuals in the name of the God. God has a bit to say about them, too, in the Third Commandment. But my experience within Christendom and among Christians tells me that the vast, vast majority of Christians who actually do seek to live in the way of Jesus take extraordinary pains to be kind and inclusive towards homosexuals.

Further, it certainly does not follow that because a Christian or Christian church told a homosexual that God finds his or her homosexual behavior to be sinful and wrong, that this is the reason for the homosexual’s suicidal ideation or action. The decision to commit suicide is complex, multi-faceted and uniquely individual. Mr. Smither has no basis for drawing a causal connection between the preaching of biblical texts on homosexuality and gay teen suicide. One could just as easily point to the great number of homosexuals who have been rescued from suicidal thoughts by the teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful, that repentance is required, and that God graciously gives repentance. This does not exempt Christians from being winsome and wise in how they state God’s truth and how they position it, but it simply cannot be the case that God’s Word preached is the cause of human suicide. Other things are going on, things which the Bible also speaks to.

When faced with the choice between being theologically correct…as if this is even possible…and being morally responsible, I’ll go with morally responsible every time. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian during World War II. He firmly held the theological position of nonviolence. He believed that complete pacifism was theologically correct. And yet, in the midst of the war, he conspired to assassinate Adolf Hitler; to kill a fellow man. Why? Because in light of what he saw happening to the Jews around him by the Nazis, he felt that it would be morally irresponsible not to. Between the assassination of Hitler and nonviolence, he felt the greater sin would be nonviolence.

Mr. Smither apparently thinks it’s not possible to be “theologically correct.” Yet here he is speaking theologically, and I assume he thinks he’s “correct.” That’s rather cheeky. And again he tells us that “theological correctness” is pitted against “moral responsibility.” So teaching what God says in the Scriptures is morally irresponsible? This is a false dichotomy extraordinaire! If this is one’s position, it’s time to hand in one’s resignation. The jig is up. This is tantamount to saying that the teaching of God about sexual ethics is morally irresponsible, that is, it leads to suicides. How, I wonder, does Mr. Smither ascertain in his ministry which teachings of the Bible can be counted on to produce good, healthy, warm feelings in human beings and which ones can be counted on to produce suicidal tendencies?

I like Dietrich Bonhoeffer as much as the next guy. Indeed, I count him a great saint and an inspiration. But I’m not sure he should get the final word on what is and is not morally responsible behavior in any given situation. It’s not like we can just appeal to Bonhoeffer and . . . end of story. Could he have been wrong in his assessment of what was needed in response to Hitler? Because Bonhoeffer chose to try and take Hitler out, should we extrapolate to the argument that whenever we get the sense that biblical teachings might lead people to react badly, we should discard as imprudent and irresponsible the biblical teachings?

We are past the time for debate. We no longer have the luxury to consider the original meaning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. We are now faced with the reality that there are lives at stake. So whatever you believe about homosexuality, keep it to yourself. Instead, try telling a gay kid that you love him and you don’t want him to die. Try inviting her into your church and into your home and into your life. Anything other than that simply doesn’t matter.

Aside from Mr. Smithers implication that “the original meaning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church” is what leads homosexual teens to suicide, I wonder if there is anything greater at stake than teenage lives. How about teenage eternities? If “the original meaning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church” is that homosexual practitioners will not inherit the kingdom of God, and if Paul’s letters in the Bible are the very words of God, as they claim to be, then ought we not be even more concerned about the spiritual lives that are at stake? The spiritual stakes are eternal, not merely temporal. Yet here is where we get down to brass tax, for the logical end of Mr. Smither’s line of thought is that there is no eternal judgment waiting for the sexually immoral. Either that, or he’s saying that homosexual behavior does not count as sexual immorality. Either way, the Bible clearly opposes him on these counts at every turn.

I think it is fair to say that just about every, if not every, Christian I know or have ever known would happily tell any homosexual kid that they “love him and don’t want him to die.” They might also, however, believe that loving the homosexual kid means, at some point, calling that kid to sexual repentance and holiness. They may not say it within the first meeting of the kid, or even on the 37th meeting. However, if one thinks, like Mr. Smither, that it’s best to just shut up about it, rather than trying to move the kid toward repentance and faith, then the Bible says that such a one is not really loving the kid. Love must be wedded to truth, and the truth is, the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Not only that, but sexual immorality leads ultimately to pain, loneliness, bondage, despair and destruction. God’s design for human sexuality, whatever one might think of it, is healthy, joy-producing, holy, good, pure and beautiful. God is not against sexual pleasure and prosperity. Indeed, he invented it. Nothing less could come from a holy and good God. God’s designs lead to human flourishing if entered into by faith. Plenty of Christians invite gay teens into their churches, their homes and their lives. But to argue that this is the end all, be all, beyond which nothing else matters, is not only contrary to what God teaches, it’s not beautiful, not redemptive, and not loving. It does not take the homosexual teen seriously as a human being in the image of God. Jesus called all sorts of people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. Some responded in faith, others not. Jesus called Zaccheus to faith, and Zaccheus repented and turned to the deeds of light. Jesus called the Rich Young Ruler to faith, and he turned away. But Jesus knows what is best for us, and for homosexual teens. His truth, lovingly and wisely ministered, is a balm to battered souls – not a battering ram – and provides the only sure path to joy, both in this life and in the eternal life to come.



Written by Michael Duenes

December 21, 2013 at 10:06 pm

One Response

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  1. That’s a lucid, reasonable, and loving critique of that rather problematic blogpost. Very nice.


    December 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm

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