Jonathan Rauch Is Wrong About Genuine Evangelicalism

 

This article was written in response to an article by Jonathan Rauch in The Daily News. I submitted it to The Daily News as a rebuttal but, alas, they did not need it. Here it is anyway! You can read Rauch’s article here. (Jonathan Rauch is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.)

 

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Jonathan Rauch’s Op-Ed in the Daily News, “The Last Gay-Marriage Holdouts,” demonstrates many of the misunderstandings, assumptions, and wrong opinions that float to the top when people discuss evangelicals and homosexuality.

First of all, Rauch misses the nuance involved when he refers to those “young people who disagree with their elders who disproportionately [prioritize] anti-gay rhetoric and doctrine.” The “disproportion” he refers to has to do with those in the church who ask, “Why do you focus only on the sin of homosexuality and not the sin of lying, etc.?” The issue here is that, when addressing those who support homosexuality—either inside or outside of the church—we are not dealing with people who admit that homosexuality is a sin. We are, instead, dealing with those who say it is normal. So when people try to make this distinction they are invariably comparing apples to oranges. The church does speak out against lying and adultery and hatred and all manner of sins. But the Supreme Court did not meet recently in order to say that lying is a basic human right or that murder is protected by the fourteenth amendment. To those who agree that homosexuality is sin, we can talk about where it ranks among sin. But to those who want to compromise the Bible and normalize homosexuality, the traditional evangelicals cannot help but speak out.

Second, these days a distinction must be made between what is passing for evangelicalism in the media and traditional evangelicalism. Traditional evangelicals are not worried or concerned about becoming “cultural strangers in their own land.” Genuine, Bible-believing Christians have never made cultural acceptance their number one goal. Going forward, anyone wanting to be intellectually honest will need to observe the distinction between the new liberal evangelicals, and those genuine, traditional evangelicals who still hold to the authority of Scripture.

Third, Rauch claims that all evangelical congregations include openly gay members. This is simply not true. For one thing, I assume that this is simply a sloppy use of the word “member.” Show me the evangelical church that has openly gay members—people accepted into membership with full knowledge that they were practicing homosexuals—and I will show you a church that is not evangelical.

Next, to compare Jesus’ interaction and approach to the woman at the well who was living in adultery (John 4) and the current debate over the acceptance of homosexuality and, further, to connect it with the concept of inclusiveness, is simply bad hermeneutics.  Jesus did not offer inclusion to the woman at the well! He confronted her sin and invited her to come clean. When the church takes this approach to homosexuality it is referred to as homophobic!

The next subtle assumption comes with the question, “Why would God create gay people for a life without sexual intimacy and loving companionship?” The traditional evangelical answer? He didn’t. He didn’t create people gay. They were not born that way. Nevertheless, in order for those with same-sex attraction to be in right standing before God they will have to renounce homosexuality conceptually and in practice, daily crucify same-sex desire, and may very well have to live their lives as ones chosen by God to be single. People throughout history have been able to live without sexual intimacy for reasons not as lofty as a right standing before God. And to assume that sex must be a part of a fulfilled life is to sell humanity short.

What is happening in evangelicalism is a purification process. Those young “evangelical” pastors who are suffering from the pains of “cognitive dissonance” and the agonizing conflict between “head and heart” on this issue are simply not evangelicals. Not because traditional evangelicals  don’t care about those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. Many of us do; all of us should. But allowing sympathy to trump truth is to take a fools path. Americans need to learn again that just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that he or she hates you. That type of thinking represents an arrested emotional development.

Finally, Rauch is right about one thing: American evangelicalism is on a collision course with itself. When it is over, true evangelicals will continue to stand behind the Bible. The rest can join those American Catholics, mainline Protestants, Mormons, and the Pope whom Rauch indicates all support homosexuality.

 

 

 

Failing the Smell Test: Evangelical Christian Publisher Endorsing Gay Christianity?

Here comes more of what we are going to see a whole lot of: Christian ministries, organizations, publishers, and business leaders trying to thread the needle of compartmentalization between what they say they believe and what they are actually practicing or willing to endorse. In the last three weeks, there have been three notable instances demonstrating the struggle that is coming and which, in fact, is already here.

 

World Vision

First it was the World Vision fiasco when the decision was made to hire same-sex couples for the U.S. World Vision staff (See the Christianity Today article). Though the decision was reversed, it revealed some startling logic from its president, Richard Stearns. After “the World Vision board had prayed for years about how to handle the issue” of “recognizing same-sex relationships,”  World Vision decides to look the other way and hire same-sex couples saying, “We have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue,”  as though that was a good thing. Not only does such logic fail to realize that by making the choice to hire same-sex couples, World Vision was siding with particular churches, but it also demonstrated World Vision’s willingness to check its spiritual and theological integrity at the door for the sake of the operation of its mission. 

 

Chic Fil A and Dan Cathy

Then, it was Dan Cathy who, in the midst of a campaign to promote his new food line and push his business ventures into the gay-rights holy ground of New York, who told USA Today,

All of us become more wise as time goes by . . . .We sincerely care about all people. . . . I’m going to leave it to politicians 
and others to discuss social issues.

Once again, the idea that it is a noble gesture to “pass the buck” and defer to “politicians and others” to decide what is right and wrong. I’m not saying that a person has to take his beliefs and create a media storm as Cathy did when he publicly stated that he supported the traditional biblical view of marriage. But now, though his views have not changed, he seems to have retreated for the sake of “customer service.”

 

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Finally, WORLD magazine reports online that,

Convergent Books, a publishing imprint under the same corporate umbrella and leadership as the evangelical WaterBrook 
Multnomah Publishing Group, is scheduled to release God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines next Tuesday. Vines, a 
24-year-old former Harvard student, attempts to refute biblical passages that declare homosexuality a sin (Can a divided 
publishing house stand?).

Waterbrook Multnomah publishes such authors as John Piper, David Jeremiah, Kay Arthur, and David Platt. Steven Cobb heads up both Waterbrook Multnomah and Convergent. In fact, according to The Christian Post, the two publishers or imprints are virtually the same: same leader (Cobb), same staff, same everything. Just a different name. The CP also reports from an inside source that

Multnomah is now consciously trying to hide from NRB [National Religious Broadcasters] and its members the fact that it is putting out this new project. Insiders are reporting threats should they release any such information outside the company… 

Essentially, Steve Cobb is asking traditional evangelicals to ignore the fact that he is also willing to publish titles that are pro-gay Christianity. More compartmentalization. It is hard to imagine that someone in a board room did not at one point say, “Wow! There’s a whole new market with gay Christianity! Evangelicals aren’t going to like it if we publish gay Christian material but there is too much money at stake if we don’t. So, let’s publish the material under a different name. Maybe no one will notice.” We noticed!

 

Yet Another Example: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Last year, I expressed concern to the Thomas Nelson Publishing company my concerns about an author they endorse, Rachel Held Evans. (Not that they had published a pro-gay Christian book, but that an author they publish also endorses gay Christianity, and by implication, Thomas Nelson.) Just visit Evans’ website and soon you will realize that she is a liberal Christian trying to reform traditional evangelicalism. In part I wrote,

I have always held Thomas Nelson in high regard, assuming it to be a trustworthy publisher upholding evangelical beliefs and values, I am greatly disturbed that you have chosen to stand with an author who openly supports gay Christianity, the Gay community, and by association at least, same sex marriage. . . . The issue is not about the church’s need to lovingly embrace those who are struggling and need the love of God. The issue is that she accepts gay Christianity on its own terms and thereby the whole “Christian LGBT” agenda and perspective. She directs her audience to the Gay Christian Network and others who support the gay “Christian” lifestyle. Am I to assume, by association, that Thomas Nelson also supports the same? 

A rep. from Thomas Nelson replied, in part,

The personal opinions and political views expressed by an author are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect that of the company. Thomas Nelson publishes products written from a Christian worldview, and we respect our author’s right to express their personal opinion. We cannot comment on anything concerning Ms. Evans other than the book that she has published through us.

In other words, We only want to be responsible for what we publish. If one of our authors stands against traditional Christian values, we kindly ask you to forget that while you are reading her books that we publish. 

 

Failing The Smell Test

Back when Bill Clinton was elected the first time, he astutely realized that if he would focus on the economy (“It’s the economy, stupid!”), Americans would look the other way and ignore his Jennifer Flowers discretion if they thought it would help their pocketbooks. He was right. Then, after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he was able to stay in office, even though he was impeached by the House. Is this where the country began to get comfortable with compartmentalizing personal indiscretions as long as publicly the job gets done? Maybe. But when did the Church get comfortable with turning a blind eye to a person’s character or beliefs just so long as they don’t sin around us? It’s like saying to someone who is accusing a man for beating his children, “Hey, he’s never beaten his children around me so it’s none of my business.” Whether it is raising money for the needy, selling chicken , or selling books, it seems that some of the leaders and influencers looked up to by traditional evangelicals are willing to suspend or table their convictions for the sake of business.