Marriage and monogamy in the world of the New York Times

July 3, 2011

Mark Oppenheimer, who works the religion beat for the New York Times, has a very frustrating feature-length piece about marriage and monogamy in today’s paper. He tackles the question of whether or to what extent the practice of nonmonogamy can be a realistic option for some married couples. I say “nonmonogamy” rather than infidelity because extramarital sex in this case would be governed by rules that were part of a marriage covenant. It would be open, not secretive, and with the partner’s consent.

The article’s main advocate for nonmonogamy is an uncredentialed sex columnist named Dan Savage. Savage, a gay married man and father of an adopted child, is responsible for the recent “It Gets Better” campaign on TV.

Everything Savage says isn’t terrible. He encourages married couples to be honest with one another about everything—especially their sexual needs and frustrations; to try to save a marriage even after an affair; and to put the interests of the couple’s children ahead of one’s own interests. In his own way—and this isn’t saying as much as I’d prefer—Savage is pro-marriage. And even as he advocates nonmogamy for some couples, he admits the arrangement wouldn’t work for most couples.

Of course, the question of why nonmonogamy doesn’t usually work from his perspective has nothing to do with the Creator’s intention for humanity and everything to do with unfortunate biological and cultural programming. Savage believes that if we human beings could only get in touch with who we really are, and stop repressing our natural drives and instincts, then we would be really happy. In the meantime, since the vast majority of couples seem stubbornly unable or unwilling to separate love from sex, monogamy will have to do.

Be that as it may, what frustrates me more is this larger question: Who cares what Dan Savage has to say about sex and marriage? I mean, plenty of people care, I’m sure, but why should they? Savage isn’t an expert on the subject. He has no credentials. He hasn’t studied it. He has no therapeutic experience working with couples. He can’t cite peer-reviewed research for any of his opinions.

And all of that is fine. We all have opinions, and—look at me—I’m expressing my own. Isn’t the First Amendment wonderful? But my opinions aren’t the subject of a 5,500-word article in America’s “paper of record.” And even if they were, why wouldn’t a journalist talk to actual experts who may (and probably would) disagree with me?

But even this isn’t mostly my problem with the article. I’m a pastor, not a journalist. If you read the article, you would never know that most marriages (certainly the beginning of the marriage, which is the part that includes the vows) take place in the context of a church and a religion. Most people, therefore, even in our highly individualistic culture, reject the article’s underlying premise that the meaning of marriage and monogamy is up for grabs—that the boundaries of the covenant that couples enter into is (mostly) negotiable.

Since this is inarguably the case, wouldn’t it be helpful for the writer to bring up the subject of religion (aside from a quick glance at pre-marital counseling that clergy do and Savage’s religious upbringing)? What does the church have to say about marriage and monogamy and why? Why do most Americans seem to agree with the church on the subject, even while so many marriages suffer infidelity and end in divorce?

The article only reinforces the idea of a secularized world in which religion and God don’t matter to people anymore. This happens all the time in the media—not only in journalism, but in movies, TV, literature, music—throughout popular culture.

But pop culture, in general, doesn’t reflect reality—even as it helps to shape reality. This is why I’m happy to see those rare instances when something in pop culture takes religion seriously—even seriously enough to make fun of it. To act like it doesn’t matter to people is a terrible distortion.

I’ve written about this problem elsewhere. See, for example, this blog entry on House, M.D.

I was a proud writer and editor for Georgia Tech’s student paper, The Technique, “The Soused Libelous College Newspaper.” Does that count?

25 Responses to “Marriage and monogamy in the world of the New York Times”

  1. Paul Wallace Says:

    Thanks for the post, Brent. I think there is an assumption in the air we breathe that limits are bad for us. That is certainly a working assumption of the American marketplace and it may lurk somewhere beneath Savage’s notion of a healthy “nonmonogamy.”

    • brentwhite Says:

      I’m sure it does. We think of freedom as “freedom of choice,” the more choices the better—even if our choices destroy us. Have you seen that very funny show on NBC called “Parks & Recreation”? There’s a character named Ron Swanson, an outspoken libertarian, who’s always preaching about our need to be able to choose anything we want. This is America, by God! He wants no limits placed upon him. In one scene, as if to defy health Nazis who tell him not to, he’s at a steakhouse, eating some 50-oz. porterhouse special. That’s freedom to him.

      The Christian view of freedom, of course, is so different: it’s the freedom to choose the good. Left to our own devices, we’re not good at that.

  2. Ted Says:

    I see that you have posted about this on GetReligion.org. You do realize, don’t you, that GetReligion.org is little better than a hate group. It is financed by Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who used to call for the execution of homosexuals. See “Confessions of a Blog Addict. Or Why I Love to Hate GetReligion.org and FamilyScholars.org.” at glbtq.com. Here is the url: http://www.glbtq.com/sfeatures/confessionsofablogaddict.html

    • brentwhite Says:

      Thanks, Ted. My posting something in agreement with GetReligion should not be construed to be an endorsement of their site or its financial backers. I did read the post above, and I didn’t see any kind of Ahmanson quote about homosexuals in context. To say that he “used to call for the execution of homosexuals” is an incendiary charge. It merits a full quote in context, with an attribution to its source. I suspect he said something about wanting America to live by the Bible or something—and people infer that he means every jot and tittle, Old and New Testament… I don’t know.

      But who cares? That guy isn’t the subject of what I thought was a good post in response to a bad article in the New York Times.

      Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly agree with the (overt) premise of the site, which is that religion reporting, in general, is pretty awful. I’ve dealt with that same issue on this site many times.

      • Ted Says:

        This article, which was listed in the bibliography of the article about GetReligion, gives more information about Ahmanson and the context of his call for the execution of homosexuals. As the article points out, he now says he no longer believes it “essential” to stone homosexuals to death. Real Christian of him.

      • brentwhite Says:

        No argument from me about Ahmanson—if he is as you say. But I’m not sure what he has to do with whether or not GetReligion happens to be right in their analysis of a frustratingly bad New York Times article. Show me a left-leaning blog that analyzes news stories for bad religion reporting, and I’ll probably agree with that one from time to time, too!

  3. Jay Says:

    You write, “Most people, therefore, even in our highly individualistic culture, reject the article’s underlying premise that the meaning of marriage and monogamy is up for grabs—that the boundaries of the covenant that couples enter into is (mostly) negotiable.” if that is the case, why do you care what NYT and Dan Savage say or think?

    In fact, however, I am not at all sure that most people agree about the “meaning of marriage.” Even within religious groups, there is a great deal of different opinions. The Roman Catholic Church regards marriage as a sacrament. Most Protestant religions do not. Only the most ignorant and ahistorical relgious people think that from the days of Adam and Eve (6000 years ago) marriage has consisted always and in every culture of one man, one woman, for life (as Focus on the Family claims).

    In our pluralistic culture, there are lots of different meanings attributed to marriage.

    • brentwhite Says:

      My point is that most Americans today marry within a religious context that imposes boundaries on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior between spouses. These boundaries are imposed from outside—they’re not chosen by the couples. I wasn’t speaking about marriage since the dawn of history. I haven’t studied that… I have no idea.

  4. Jay Says:

    Most American may marry in churches, but that does not necessarily mean that they endorse that church’s definition of marriage. A lot of people choose churches to be married in on the basis of architecture or because their parents were married there. Inasmuch as most churches disapprove of divorce, it seems a bit strange that the divorce rate in this country would be so high if people felt bound by what the churches say is and isn’t acceptable behavior between spouses.

    (BTW, I have always found it curious that Jesus himself condemned divorce while saying absolutely nothing about homosexuality, but most churches accommodate divorce but condemn homosexuality. And they are supposed to be following the Bible?)

    • brentwhite Says:

      Fine. Do you think most couples, regardless of their motives for being in church, stand at the altar thinking, “I can’t wait to give nonmonogamy a try! I wonder how soon we’ll be divorced?”

      Lifelong commitment and monogamy are boundaries that couples happily sign up for when they get married. Even if adultery and divorce are in their future, I don’t doubt the sincerity of their initial vows. And if they get remarried, they’ll likely make those same vows all over again—and mean it the exact same way. Have you not noticed that human beings often fail to live up to their promises? It’s not because they make those promises with their fingers crossed.

      It’s hard to make a good argument about homosexuality from silence. So anything that Jesus doesn’t talk about in the four gospels is now permissible? Jesus was a Jewish rabbi whose own religion, unlike pagan religions in close proximity, condemned homosexual behavior. One could as easily interpret silence on the subject as an endorsement of the status quo, right?

      Besides, the same church out of whose tradition the four gospels emerged and were canonized was also the church that decided to include some writings that do mention homosexual behavior. It’s all in the Bible.

      But I’m not sure what your point is. None of my fellow mainline Protestant churches that permit same-sex weddings would go along with Dan Savage’s vision of nonmonogamy. Even gay Christians who get married in church would be rejecting that vision as contrary to scripture and church teaching.

  5. Jay Says:

    I happen to be in favor of monogamy. I am against bashing Dan Savage, who does not endorse infidelity, but does point out that monogamy is not really the norm for men within marriage and has never been.

    He makes a crucial distinction between betraying a partner and negotiating an agreement about how they are going to deal with issues. He describes his own relationship as “monagamish.:I suspect that Savage is more monogamous than most people in heterosexual marriages.He is also more honest.

    I don’t think you are very well informed about serious theological arguments about Jesus and homosexuality. Have you read the works of Theodore Jennings? Here is a link to an article that summarizes his views: http://www.glbtq.com/sfeatures/returningtothebible.html

    • brentwhite Says:

      So it sounds like your defense of Savage is along the lines of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”? Whatever… That many people fail to be monogamous (though, from what I read of people who’ve actually studied these statistics, nonmonogamy isn’t nearly as widespread as you imply) isn’t an argument against its wisdom or desirability. The fact remains that gay Christians who marry in churches that permit that are choosing monogamy in a way that goes against Savage’s vision of negotiated nonmonogamy.

      There are theological reasons for monogamy that go beyond the question of whether it works well or is practical. Have you read the Sermon on the Mount? How practical is that? How often do we fail to live up to that? I still think it’s something to shoot for.

      As for the article you link to, I have a passing familiarity with some of the author’s arguments, though I don’t know this particular writer. Needless to say, each of his interpretations is highly contested in the world of scholarship, by scholars who don’t necessarily have an ideological ax to grind. I know Johannine scholars, for example, who are pro-gay equality who strongly disagree with his homoerotic interpretation of the “beloved disciple” in John.

      They believe that this modern homoerotic reading runs roughshod over John’s theological purpose for characterizing this disciple that way. Nevertheless, if this author’s writing is fairly summarized in that article, I actually disagree that he’s making a theological argument.

      A theological argument should answer, among other things, the question, What’s a Christian understanding of human sexuality? Obviously, he would bring his exegesis of scripture to bear on the question, but exegesis alone isn’t doing theology.

  6. Jay Says:

    Theodore Jennings is a professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary. He has previously taught at Duke. I suspect he qualifies as a theologian. You may not agree with him, but you hardly have the right to declare him not a theologian.

    I don’t think non-monogamy is desirable. It would not work in my relationship. And you are no doubt correct that gay and lesbian couples who marry in a church are likely to be opting for monogamy, or at least aspiring to it.

    But the fact is that monogamy is the exception for Americans, especially American men. Some Americans do seem to practice serial monogamy, especially women, who are monogamous in relationships, but don’t necessarily stay in a single relationship all their lives.

    Lesbians are by far the most monogamous demographic, not because they are any more virtuous than anyone else, but because they are women.

    I have seen statistics that show that even highly religious people in very conservative denominations no longer refrain from premarital sex, and teenagers who sign abstinence pledges are more likely to engage in premarital sex than those who do not.

    So, actually, I think the horse has left the barn in terms of churches and others attempting to control people’s sex lives. Doing so simply adds to guilt and hypocrisy, as well as fanning the flames of bigotry against sexual minorities.

    • brentwhite Says:

      According to Wikipedia, he’s even an ordained Methodist minister and an Emory alum, too. Just like me! I hope he’ll lend his voice to a vigorous debate within our church as we struggle with the issue. I’m all for that discussion.

      I qualified what I said by saying “if the article fairly summarizes the book…” The article describes biblical criticism, not an overriding theological discussion. Both are good and necessary. But that particular article doesn’t discuss much theology. Regardless, as I say, I am well aware that these arguments are highly contested within the world of scholarship.

      You write: “So, actually, I think the horse has left the barn in terms of churches and others attempting to control people’s sex lives.”

      Maybe so, but the divorce rate is higher than the infidelity rate. Should we scrap marriage altogether? Again, that people often fail to be monogamous isn’t a good argument against it. What you seem to be saying is that the church should change because this is, after all, “just the way we are.” The premise of all of Christianity is that being “just the way we are,” whether we’re gay or straight, is the problem!

      And why do you see this issue simply as “the church” trying to “control people’s sex lives.” I utterly reject that premise. That’s propaganda. Jesus himself equates lust with adultery, which is more than a little out of step with our modern era. Who do we listen to? Jesus or the spirit of modernity? Are we surprised that Christian living is often countercultural?

      Therefore, the larger question for Christians is, Does God have a right to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies? What does God want us to do? Does it matter to God and why? Let’s struggle to answer these questions. This is what I mean when I talk about theology: it runs deeper than picking apart this or that Bible passage.

      Most Christians I know are more interested in those questions than what, for example, the United Methodist Book of Discipline has to say about human sexuality.

  7. Jay Says:

    My own view is that it is a pretty diminished view of God to think that He cares very much about people’s sex lives.

    I think insofar as God can be anthropomorphiized, He cares more about the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself than he does about sexual prohibitions.

    Given the abuses in various Christian Churches, from the Roman Catholic priest scandals to Bishop Eddie Long and Ted Haggard and on and on, I also can’t understand why anyone would look to the Church for guidance about sex.

    Still, I recognize that lots of people do and that often churches poison people’s sexuality and how they treat others. So I suppose by default I have to recognize that church do have a great deal of influence in this area, though mostly that influence is negative rather than positive.

    I think there are very good secular reasons for practicing monogamy.

    You write: “The premise of all of Christianity is that being “just the way we are,” whether we’re gay or straight, is the problem!” That strikes me as a very narrow and crabbed view of Christianity. You may be right, but I think may be the problem with Christianity. It is, of course, true that the notion of Original Sin does serve as a great excuse for human failings.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Ha! I don’t need original sin to excuse my human failings! I do just fine on my own! I can accept responsibility for my own “fall,” thank you very much!

      I believe it’s a diminished view of God to imagine that he doesn’t deeply care about every aspect of our lives—physically and spiritually—and God’s good Creation. Of course, we’re anthropomorphic when talking about God! How else can we, who only know “things” and who live in a world of “things,” get at understanding (however imperfectly) Someone who is not a thing at all—but a transcendent God? Of course language fails us! The Christian view is that God’s transcendence implies nearness: God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. And we are being suspended into existence at this moment by a God who loves us enough to do that for us. If God didn’t do so, we would cease to exist. That’s how “close” and “caring” God is toward us.

      But, in fairness, we also believe God became human in Jesus, so that helps us quite a bit! And this God who became human does certainly talk about what we human beings do with our bodies, and, indeed, what we do with our sex lives. That’s not even controversial. Jesus doesn’t separate an internal, spiritualized “love for our neighbors” from our actions in the physical world. No version of reasonably orthodox Christianity does.

      What if God knows that certain forms of sexual expression—like nonmonogamy and homosexual behavior—are not good for us? I know that you disagree with that premise, but what if? Does this God have a right to tell us what to do with them? Are there not things that we do with our bodies that can be destructive to ourselves and others? A God who, as you agree, is interested in love for neighbor should want to save us from destructive behavior out of that same love—if love has any meaning. That’s what’s at stake in the question of marriage, monogamy, and homosexuality.

      I couldn’t care less what “secular reasoning” might say. Really! I’m a Christian. I’m willing to accept that the Dan Savages of the world think I’m a complete idiot—repressed and all that. I probably am, but I also love Jesus, and I’m a terrible sinner who needs forgiveness and salvation. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Not too proud to say it.

      But it is a gnostic idea that says this physical world, including our bodies within it, doesn’t have any meaning—and that Christianity boils down to an inward spiritual outlook or experience. That’s contrary to the meaning of resurrection. That’s at the heart, for example, of Paul’s failure before the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17. He gets into trouble when he mentions resurrection. From their perspective, why would anyone want to be re-embodied. Our bodies are the problem, they would think.

      And that’s all fine, but it’s not Christianity.

  8. Jay Says:

    Well, if you are such a terrible sinner, and apparently you keep sinning because I see that you have said that over and over, why is it that you get to be minister in the UMC, but your gay brother and sister cannot? Seems discriminatory to me. Is it that homosexuality, about which Jesus said not a word, is so grave a sin that no one who is a homosexual can be a minister? Yet all those other sinners can be?

    • brentwhite Says:

      First, I hope you’re not surprised that a minister in the UMC is still a terrible sinner! Spending any time with us will relieve you of that thought! ;-)

      Second, it’s not true that my gay brothers and sisters can’t be ordained ministers. Of course they can! As with most of the rest of the universal church, however, we believe they should be celibate.

      I know it sucks, and I know it’s a sacrifice. And it’s not a sacrifice that most of us are asked to make. Fortunately for me, through no conscious choice of my own, I happen to be straight. Yay, me! You don’t think I see the discrepancy? It feels terribly unfair and discriminatory. But sacrifice is part of the deal when it comes to following Christ who, after all, shows us what sacrificial love looks like.

      On the other hand, all faithful Christians have to sacrifice some things for the sake of the gospel—including even the choice to have an extramarital affair, which, as you suggest, might be just as contrary to our nature. If we fail, forgiveness and grace are available, but we keep on striving. But we’re not going to die if we don’t have sex. Christianity was also peculiar among its neighboring religions for exalting singleness (and celibacy) over against marriage. It should be—and truthfully always has been—an option for Christian living.

      (And I’ll claw my eyeballs out if you tell me that Christians have so often tried and failed to be celibate. It doesn’t matter! It’s not a good argument!)

      But I wonder if your last couple of sentences above aren’t a little disingenuous. Say a gay Methodist feels called into ordained ministry and goes through the process of ordination (which is very long and arduous in our church). She’s openly gay but understands in advance that her new vocation entails celibacy. But she says, “I’ll do it!”

      Then at some point she fails in her vow of celibacy. Am I surprised that she fails? No. We’re all sinners. Should she be kicked out of the ministry? Not necessarily. There should be plenty of grace in the church, because, after all, all of us are sinners. She can likely repent and move forward.

      This is analogous to what you’re saying above. And I don’t disagree, as I’ve indicated… But you don’t really agree with that, do you? Because if you did, you would really be agreeing that non-celibate homosexual behavior is a sin for which repentance is necessary—just like adultery, extra-marital sex, addiction, or any number of other vices that afflict heterosexuals.

      None of us sinners gets to be United Methodist ministers as is. We’re all for grace, but it’s grace on the condition of repentance.

      • Jay Says:

        I think it is the UMC that is being disingenuous. We are all sinners, you say; but obviously you (or the UMC) think the practice of homosexuality is so grave as to be worse than any other sin. A straight murderer who is ordained as a UMC minister is permitted a sex life, but a gay person ordained as a UMC minister is not. Seems weird to me.

        I don’t know what your sins are (and in fact I think it is psychologically damaging for you to refer to yourself as a “terrible sinner), but apparently you can sin and sin and continue sinning as you do and still be a minister. But a non-celibate gay person cannot be a minister without either lying or so suppresses his or her nature as to warp their personality.

        Apparently, the UMC has their own version of DADT. A gay person can be a minister and even occasionally have sex (how occasionally, once a week? Twice a month? Six times a year?) as long as they repent.

        Hearing this makes me really admire those people who are trying to change the UMC from within. They must really feel a call in order to put up with such absurdity.

  9. Jay Says:

    One more thing: you write, “First, I hope you’re not surprised that a minister in the UMC is still a terrible sinner! Spending any time with us will relieve you of that thought!”

    Since ministers in the UMC are terrible sinners, presumably like the members of their congregations, why is it that non-celibate gay people are not permitted to be ministers yet are permitted to be members of the Church in all other capacities? (At least, theoretically. I do remember just when UMC had launched the “Open Minds, Open Hearts” campaign to try to recruit gay members, a minister somewhere in the South refused to allow a gay man to join his church.)

    Isn’t there a disconnect here?

    • brentwhite Says:

      There is a double standard between qualifications for membership versus ordained ministry. Surely you don’t disagree with that principle? Members have freedom of conscience to disagree with the church, so by all means, gay people can join and disagree. If you’re a member, you’re a member, who can do whatever members are allowed to do.

      Worshiping, serving, and loving God, even if you disagree with the church’s stance on homosexuality, is better than staying home.

      That was my last post, I promise.

  10. brentwhite Says:

    Aw, come on, Jay… I used an analogy implicit in your words in the previous post about sin in order to point out a flaw in your reasoning. A gay person cannot be a minister “and occasionally have sex.” I think you know that’s not what I meant. In my hypothetical example based on your own words, I said suppose that a gay minister is pledged to be celibate (because they agree with the church that homosexual behavior is a sin). If they sin by failing to be celibate, grace should be extended to them. After all, they recognize their conduct as a sin. If there’s a recurring pattern of sin, then that’s a different story.

    You also completely miss my point (or you’re intentionally misrepresenting it) with these words:

    “We are all sinners, you say; but obviously you (or the UMC) think the practice of homosexuality is so grave as to be worse than any other sin.”

    As I said above, the UMC doesn’t condone the ongoing “practice” of any kind of sin—no matter what that sin is. It’s neutral about the sin. Serial adulterers, for example, are not permitted to be ordained ministers.

    The difference, which I think you surely understand (and about which are being disingenuous), is that the UMC doesn’t happen to believe that sex within the confines of monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a sin. The same can’t be said about the church’s position regarding homosexual behavior. That’s the difference! That’s it.

    Maybe the UMC is wrong (along with most of the rest of the universal church) and God will show us the light, but for now, as long as we believe that homosexual conduct is a sin and a distortion of God’s intentions for humanity, the church’s actions are consistent with our beliefs.

    To put it in sharp relief, suppose the UMC said, “O.K., let’s ordain ‘self-avowed, practicing’ homosexuals so long as they acknowledge that homosexual behavior is a sin.” Would that be O.K.? Of course not. The issue is whether homosexual practice is a sin. We disagree on that point. But there was never a time in ancient church history—certainly as early as about 48-49 when we know Paul’s first extant letter was written—when the church didn’t consider it as such. If Jesus intended to revolutionize our views toward homosexuality, the church misunderstood the message from the very beginning.

    I seem to be spilling a lot of digital ink here, and you’re not engaging most of my argument anymore. It looks likes we’re finally repeating ourselves.

    I’ll give you the last word, if you wish. Thank you for your thoughtful responses. It’s been fun.

  11. Jay Says:

    This is my last post too. But it is you (or rather the UMC) who is being disingenuous. You say, “As I said above, the UMC doesn’t condone the ongoing “practice” of any kind of sin—no matter what that sin is.” But you also say you sin and sin and sin “terrible” sins. Surely, since you have not been defrocked, the UMC certainly is condoning the ongoing “practice” of whatever sins you are committing over and over again.

    I personally would not join a church in which I could be a member but not a minister. I wonder why so many gay people join the UMC. I suspect there are fewer all the time.

    • Allen Fuller Says:

      You’re missing the point ENTIRELY, Jay.

      A person who chooses to continue in a gay lifestyle is unqualified to be ordained, in the same way that a person who chooses to continue in any other sin.

      If an ordained minister has a problem with alcoholism and says “it’s just the way I was made” and continues to get drunk and misbehave as a way of life, and makes no effort to change, that would be a defrockable condition.

      In the same way, someone who chooses to live out their homosexual desires and intentionally ignore the teaching of the church and the Bible should be defrocked.

      There is no inconsistency.

      When a person is an alcoholic and admits it, and struggles mightily against it, there is grace and forgiveness to cover their failures. A minister who fell back into alcoholism– or homosexual acts– once or twice might be given grace and not defrocked. Same for other sins that we do not embrace as an acceptable way of life. God has grace for when we fall, if we sincerely repent and do our best not to live in sin again. Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery– but catch this. He didn’t say it was OK for her to continue willfully in it. He said, “Go and sin no more.”

      However, when you say that it is perfectly fine to continue to live in sin as a normal thing, and cease to struggle against it and even justify it, you are spitting upon the grace and forgiveness of God. I don’t doubt that God has more grace than we can imagine, and can forgive even this in some areas, due to our ignorance. But someone who lives this way is certainly not fit to be a leader to God’s people.

      Your *real* problem is with the definition of homosexual acts as sin, not with the idea that someone could sin and still be in the ministry.

      • brentwhite Says:

        Right! What you said, Allen… You said it better than me. But Jay’s argument about ordination concedes our point: homosexual behavior is sinful (just like alcoholism, for example). If Jay’s starting point is that homosexual behavior is really a sin, then—wow!—now we’re getting somewhere! Now our two sides aren’t so far apart. But Jay doesn’t really believe that homosexual behavior is sinful, which, as you say, is his real problem. That’s what I meant when I accused him of being disingenuous.

        I don’t think he was missing the point. He just didn’t agree with it.

        In my view, I would love to see my denomination have this kind of argument in a civil, loving, and Christian way, so we can get clear on where the points of disagreement are. Even if I changed my view on gay equality within the church, for example, it certainly would not be because I believed God “doesn’t care” about our sex lives, or that what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter. That’s a bridge too far for me.

        Is that what I have to accept in order to get around what I believe Paul is saying in Romans 1, for example, about how homosexual behavior represents a distortion of God’s intentions for Creation? I can’t do it that way. There had better be a better argument or reason for making a radical change to our church life than that. You know?

        So I’m all for having these arguments. Mostly, we don’t want to argue. We (by which I mean all sides of the issue) would rather insult and engage in ad hominem attacks. I think it’s clear from this lengthy argument that I haven’t done that.


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