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.