Reaction to a blog article - "Can you be pro-gay and still be evangelical?"

The blog itself is a commentary and follow up to an article claiming conservative Christians selectively apply Biblical teachings in the gay marriage debate... But the central question of this follow up is worth its own discussion, I think.

Blog article:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/02/25/can-you-be-pro-ga...

His assertion is clear - people use the word "evangelical" in at least two (if not more) vastly different ways. Leading some to make accusations not unlike the RINO cry (republican in name only) that some evangelicals are claiming to be what they are not (EINO?). 

I'm curious what peoples reactions to the blog article and the argument he presets, as well as your own personal definition of what it means to be an evangelical christian (whether you are one, or not). 

Speaking personally - I admit to falling into the latter category he discusses - Evangelical as a social/political/cultural classifier, rather than a specifically theological one. And the ramifications of that are interesting. 

Tags: culture, debate, evangelical, gay, theology

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 but also because the self-described evangelicals for gay marriage seem to have no theological commitment to any traditional Christian view of sexuality. 

I think this might be part of the point he was making about theological evangelical positions, versus cultural. The theological evangelical position can make room for many different interpretations of biblical sexuality, including not placing much importance of it, compared with the grand scheme of conversion, activism, etc. The cultural evangelical position, really cannot be so fluid. That difference is where you start to get the EINO (for lack of a better term) statements... 

I don't really disagree with your impression of the rest of it, though I think it not intended to be insulting, I can see how it could be read that way - though, the argument presented against Merritt/Powers was very weak. This is not to say that Merritt/Powers were automatically right - I disagree with his assertion there - but the "Moorohler" rebuttal was pretty terrible, and mostly consisted of "you're not an evangelical, then." 

And should add, this is part of what I wanted as well - to learn what you consider important when defining what an evangelical christian is. To you, "traditional christian views on sexuality" includes abstinence (though outside of Paul, I don't know what support there is for that).  - and is an important factor to you. What else?   

I'm not sure how much theological flexibility there really is, within the evangelical tradition as it exists, and given my philosophical leanings, I'm naturally quite suspicious of any attempt to provide an abstract definition of evangelicalism, divorced from the historical context.  I've read various Catholic and Protestant attempts to justify discarding the traditional Christian view of sexual morality (probably more Catholic than Protestant, actually) and haven't been that impressed, for a few reasons.  They nearly all seem to be attempts to abandon the tradition in favor of the new secular hotness, rather than attempts to think through potential problems with the tradition.  For instance, if you want to dismiss Paul, that's one thing, but for an evangelical to so breezily dismiss him, well, I think that's pretty clearly getting into EINO territory.  I think there's support for abstinence outside of marriage in other parts of the New Testament besides Paul's letters, but for an evangelical, Paul should be enough. 

The point I might be most sympathetic on is complaints about the reification of moral expressions into dogmatic absolutes, but think the complainers tend to overlook their value for instruction, if nothing else. 

My primary criticism of these sexually liberal evangelicals (for lack of a better term) is that they are reconsidering orthodox notions of sin in this area not because of honest intellectual conviction but because orthodoxy is hard, unpopular, and unfashionable.  Which, I recognize, is a difficult assertion to support (how can I really know what their motives are), so I report it as my impression, not a demonstrable fact.

As to why it matters, I think a tendency to minimize sin leads to minimizing salvation.  I doubt many things at times, but if anything in Christianity is true in my experience, it is that we, and particularly I, are sinners in need of a savior.  I've reflected quite a bit on the heroic attempt in Zarathustra to redeem time and "It was", and it isn't sufficient.  And so I'm very skeptical of those who would tell us that the tradition is wrong, and what we thought was sin isn't.  All may be well, and all manner of things may be well, but if so, it will be because of redemption and forgiveness, not because they are well now.

Interesting points, Nathanael. Thanks for taking the time to clarify your thoughts. 

A couple more points:

1.  I would add that the picture of the billboard used to head the blog post serves as an illustration of my point.  It (and the explanatory website behind it) presents an extremely speculative interpretation of Scripture as incontrovertible fact.  Reading the explanatory essay by the billboard's sponsors, I didn't observe someone putting themselves under the authority of Scripture, but someone eager to force their values onto it (that their treatment of sexual relations in Roman culture was also a bit off didn't help my impression of the author's intellectual integrity).  One obvious question: if this interpretation of the gospel accounts is so obvious based on language and culture, why didn't the early church, which was far more familiar with the language and culture than the the folks behind the billboard, interpret it in this way?  One answer, I suppose, is the usual: Paul corrupted everything.  Lots of folks have that view, but I don't see how an evangelical in any sense of the tradition of that term can.

2.  On the subject of Jesus, the gospel accounts, far from showing him lessening the demands of the Law regarding sexual morality and marriage, actually show him radicalizing them.  He offers forgiveness to sexual sin, as to all sin, but on the matters of adultery and divorce he invokes standards far more stringent than those of the letter of the Law.

In summary, for these, and other reasons, I think that many of those arguing the compatibility of Christianity with modern sexual sensibilities are far more eager to remake Jesus into their image than to be remade into His.

 He offers forgiveness to sexual sin, as to all sin, but on the matters of adultery and divorce he invokes standards far more stringent than those of the letter of the Law.

I don't disagree with you here. And that was part of the point that the blog was reacting to - that many evangelical's impose the marriage restriction on homosexuals, but NOT on adulterers, divorcees, etc. That there is an implicit hypocrisy in which elements of Christian sexuality, they choose to bother with enforcing. 

I think there can be an element of hypocrisy.  My view is that the way Christians rolled over on divorce, in particular, made it much harder to win on gay marriage.  Those fights may have been lost anyway, with technology and wealth making it much easier to mitigate the consequences of relaxing moral standards on sexuality, but the ease with which many Christians accepted changes to heterosexual moral codes certainly made it harder to resist.

That said, I don't fault those who, in say 2005, chose to focus on blocking gay marriage (where at least limited success could be achieved) over ending no-fault divorce (politically impossible). 

Certainly from a practical standpoint, that makes sense. But it does certainly weaken the biblical argument against. 

"It matters not that Merritt and Powers’s argument is so supremely superior to Moorohler’s — anyone with a modicum of intellect can see that. Merritt and Powers present an airtight argument. It’s a stupid law, as most anyone can see, and it surely isn’t defensible by any biblical argument."

The need for additional wording such as "supremely" and "modicum" and even "surely" reveal the weakness of the statement. The need to ridicule is also noted as weak.

I did know an Episcopalian (not an Evangelical) who objected to the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop because he was having sexual relations outside of marriage, which was not proper behavior of a presbyter.  She supported changing the law to allow for civil (and religious) gay marriage, though, and admitted her position wasn't reasonable. 

But it is possible to get stuck on one part of "traditional sexual morality" while letting the others go, especially when we're talking about voters rather than theologians or even politicians.  I think everyone picks and chooses what parts of "traditional Christian morality" will be important to them.  I don't know that any Bishop has ever been objected to because he was a glutton, for example.

Distinguo.

1.  It's inevitable that homosexual acts and/or homosexual partnerships will be common, whatever the civil law is.  Then I'm free make my judgments about civil gay marriage based on prudential considerations not related to sexual morality.

2.  Whatever influence prohibiting gay marriage in the civil law can have on homosexual acts/partnerships, it's outweighed by other benefits of accepting gay marriage.

3.  The civil law should not regulate sexual morality.

There are probably other ways of thinking in which support for civil gay marriage is not a direct expression of one's beliefs on the morality of sex in various circumstances.

I'm not sure what "pro-gay" means.  Do I need to wear a pink t-shirt which says, "I don't love the cock, but my best friend Wagner does"?  Or is it sufficient to not give any fucks where you stuff your penis so long as it isn't being done to me, on me, or with my money?

Anyway, to help out with some of the definition of those Charismatic Evangelical Fundamentalist Christians:

Charismatic = Cheerleaders

Evangelical = Pep Squad

Fundamentalist = OMG, Dance Squad? WTF?!?!?!?!?!

In this context what you're looking for is any church which has a stack of Chick Tracts in the foyer.  Or, anyone who thinks Josh McDowell is right on the money but has no idea who Aquinas is.

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