Southern Baptists & the Homosexual Culture

With the New York State Senate on the verge of taking up an historic bill which would legalize same-sex marriage, the cultural battle over this hot-button issue is not going away anytime soon.  In fact, the push for gay rights will continue to pick up steam, plowing over everything that stands in its way.

Within the next three to five years, our nation will undergo a sea change in its perception of gay rights, including the rights of gay couples to marry.  President Obama, whose position on gay marriage continues to evolve, will finally make public what most everyone thinks he already believes, namely that gay Americans should be afforded the same rights to marriage as heterosexuals.  Even as he was raising millions in campaign cash from the New York Gay, Lesbian, and Bi-Sexual community on Thursday night, the President came as close to openly supporting gay marriage as he has to date:

“I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” the president said at a Manhattan fundraiser, his first geared specifically to the gay community.

With some recent polls now showing a majority of Americans favoring gay marriage, homosexuality and the gay lifestyle will be normalized within our culture.  To speak negatively against gay rights will be the equivalent of using racist language.  Already we are seeing the speech police “re-educating” comedians who would dare to use language in their acts deemed unacceptable by gay rights groups.  The irony of a comedian having to apologize for his comedy is priceless.  For the record, I think what Tracy Morgan said was crude and offensive.  I don’t care for his brand of comedy at all.  However, his public apology tour illustrates the slippery slope we are on when it comes to speaking out against gay rights issues.

Apologies for how some homosexuals have apparently been treated are not limited to the world of comedy.  In perhaps one of the most interesting developments in the religious world, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s leading voices, spoke of the need for Evangelicals and Southern Baptists to repent (i.e., apologize for) their homophobia.  Questioned by messenger and blogger Peter Lumpkins about Mohler’s recent statements on homosexuality, Dr. Mohler gave a passionate answer which seemed to hold sway within the Convention Hall.  Mohler said:

We are not a gospel people unless we understand that only the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ gives a homosexual person any hope of release from homosexuality. The gospel is what we stand for and the gospel is the only remedy for sin. And we have also exhibited a certain form of homophobia of which we must, absolutely must, in gospel terms repent precisely because we believe in all the Scripture teaches about homosexuality and all that the Scripture teaches about sin. We must recognize that our job isn’t done until our churches look exactly like the church described in 1 Corinthians 6 where those very sins are articulated. And then it says “but such were some of you, but you were washed.” Our job is not done until sitting in the pews among us are those of whom it is said – I once was that. As we say – I once was something else. We are sinners saved by grace. Until there are those who are trapped in that sin sitting among us, we know we’ve got a gospel job to do. (link to the full video exchange here)

Because of sickness, I was unable to attend any session of the Convention in person, even though I traveled to Phoenix to do just that.  Like most Southern Baptists, I have the video available to watch.  After watching both the question by Peter Lumpkins and the response by Dr. Mohler and reading the blogosphere’s take on the matter (here), it appears that we are having a Strother Martin “failure to communicate” moment in SBC life.  Or perhaps better stated, a failure to hear what the other side is saying.

Many, as evidenced by the feedback on SBCVoices, a popular blog for opinion and analysis among Southern Baptists, appear to be favoring Dr. Mohler’s opinion and rejecting Peter Lumpkins’ position by a 9 to 1 majority.  I’m not sure that the balance of opinion on this issue is related more to the substance of the positions taken or to the personalities who have chosen to take said positions.

I think that Mr. Lumpkins had every right to ask a question of an entity President from the floor of the Convention.  Regardless of how he asked the question or whether he knew the answer to the question before it was asked (not necessarily a bad thing) or how he was dressed when he asked the question, I’m glad that we still have a Convention where anyone — famous blogger or unknown pastor — can be afforded the opportunity to ask leaders pointed questions.  When our leaders start ducking questions from grassroots Southern Baptists, we will begin to see a further erosion of trust among the people of the SBC.

All in all, there is not much to argue with Dr. Mohler about regarding his answer.  In his customary well-articulated and passionate way, Dr. Mohler answered the question in a way that satisfied most in the crowd that day.  I know that Dr. Mohler knows that words have meaning and that using certain words sends a message — either directly or indirectly.  The one area where I would disagree with Dr. Mohler is in his use of the word “homophobia” and his contention that:

“we have also exhibited a certain form of homophobia of which we must, absolutely must, in gospel terms repent precisely because we believe in all the Scripture teaches about homosexuality and all that the Scripture teaches about sin.”

Homophobia, which is a political term of the left, has been used as a bludgeon against those who oppose the gay rights agenda, most particularly conservative Christians who speak out against homosexuality.  I wish that Dr. Mohler would have used other language to convey the truth behind what he was getting at.  He could have said that Evangelicals and Southern Baptists have not treated their fellow human beings — particularly gays, lesbians, and bisexuals — in a way that honors them as a person made in the image of God. 

However, regardless of how many folks try to defend Dr. Mohler at this point, I simply choose to disagree with his use of the word “homophobia.”  I believe it has muddied the waters and will continue to be a source of contention in the days to come.  Why?  Because now we will have to define what is and what is not considered a “form of homophobia.”  Who gets to make that determination?  Is it homophobic to oppose gay marriage?  I suppose it depends on who you ask.  Can a Southern Baptist church in New Mexico urge their members to email and contact their state legislators to voice their opposition to civil unions without it being seen as a form of homophobia?  Is it a form of homophobia for a Christian wedding photographer to refuse to photograph a gay wedding?

In the end, no one else can make those determinations for me or my church.  Even one of the most well-respected theologians of our time cannot make that determination for you or your church.  How Southern Baptists navigate the treacherous waters of the gay rights movement in the days to come will be interesting to watch.  There will be many voices clamoring to steer the ship on this issue.  Whose voice will have the most sway?  We shall see.

9 comments for “Southern Baptists & the Homosexual Culture

  1. Lydia
    June 24, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    “However, regardless of how many folks try to defend Dr. Mohler at this point, I simply choose to disagree with his use of the word “homophobia.” I believe it has muddied the waters and will continue to be a source of contention in the days to come. Why? Because now we will have to define what is and what is not considered a “form of homophobia.” Who gets to make that determination? Is it homophobic to oppose gay marriage?”.


    • David M
      June 25, 2011 at 7:34 AM

      I agree 100%. In an on going effort to “reach out”, I have already had Dr. Mohler’s “words” used to stifle communication. Progress with that individual was eradicated and his view of how he thinks “I view him” have been corrupted, possibly beyond repair.

  2. June 25, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    Howell, this is exactly what I do not understand. For years I understood homophobia to be a derogatory term, a verbal baseball bat to bash Christians as unkind, hate-filled mongers and bigots. When I read of what Dr. Mohler indicted us, I could not grasp it. I agree with much of what he says about showing grace and recognizing “we were once that”, but to say we are homophobic in the context of this single issue, is to say we are sin-phobic. When we are accused of committing some grievous error in Christian conversation and walk for standing on biblical ground on one sin, then we are standing on sinking sand for all sin. All sin is sin is exactly the problem. To accept one over another is no more right than to reject one over another. Will we now re-write the Word of God, to not only neutralize gender, but to neutralize specific sins? Will we edit out and eliminate the words, fornication, idolatry, adultery, lying, stealing, pride, murmurring, and divisiveness because it offends another to bring it into the Light?

    Before Christ I was the dregs of society and walking in the opposite direction of anything close to God’s Word. I didn’t walk in darkness, I was darkness. After Christ I turned around and walked the other way…in the Light, and I received the illumining light of His Spirit and the lamp of His Light in Scripture. It was easy to see some sins I had to walk away from; it was not easy to see others. I found myself repenting every single sermon, and every time I read the Word of God. For in the process of sanctification, it is not a matter of choosing to give up the more visible sin and holding onto the less visible. It is the yielding of sin to the HOLY SPIRIT’s convicting voice and walking on in the light of the knowledge every single moment of my life. It is not easy to do so, but it is simple to see.

    I have no sin “pride”. I cannot march the streets and hold my head high and flaunt my sin as an acceptable lifestyle–untouchable to criticize or reject. I feel I can only bow down and crawl to the cross and accept the grace I’ve been given in my LORD’s sacrifice and payment for my sin….all of it. I cannot stand at a podium and condemn my brothers and sisters for anything. Not one thing. I cannot condemn a lost person…for they are condemned already. I can only offer them the Hope I own in Christ–the sufficiency of His grace.

    If the bonds of sin we commit are not something we can talk about, then why would anyone need to be set free? Why would Jesus have to die? What hope do we need, if not for the sin we commit that called for the Perfect Sacrifice to attone? Do we take out the passage wherein Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt for daring to look back to the sinful city after God’s warning? Do we stop warning? Will we be guilty of silence?

  3. June 28, 2011 at 8:18 PM


    So good to meet you at the SBC even if for a single minute. Thanks for taking the time to post on this here. I’ve personally become too much of a lightning rod at SBCV to ever think even-handed exchange could take place when the issue involves me. The nutty nonsense going so far as to suggest I was unshaven, hair uncombed, and even wandering around from microphone to microphone is so deranged it’s hard to believe gospel preachers actually would publicly write such things with their names attached.

    For the record, I wore comfortable attire–Levi 514s, cowboy shirt, and my Vintage Corral Bone Wing & Cross cowboy boots when I stood at the microphone (the one and only microphone I approached). In fact, I’d place my duds beside most any of the preachers at the Pastor’s Conference, confidently knowing my clothes would blow theirs away! How comical. I actually wore the “official” dress suggested by our President Wright :^). Ah, but some men are so ravingly blinded by their dislike of me personally, their rational sense dissolves ever so slowly away.

    Finally, Howell, as to whether or not I knew the answer to my question, I most certainly did think I knew the answer to the question as I asked it. The problem is, I was dead wrong. Period. Since my very first post on the issue up to June’s convention, I assumed JM either botched the quote or mangled the context for the quote. It’s all on record. I said so many times. The fact is, I stood in awe after Mohler said, “I made those statements. Those are not alleged words; those are actual words.”

    Have a great evening, brother. Perhaps we’ll have a real chat sometime.
    With that, I am…

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