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.)
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.