A lot of information (and misinformation) has been swirling around concerning a recent report by the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child which criticizes the Catholic Church. Among the claims that keep being repeated is that the UN has called on the Church to “change its teaching” on homosexuality. It’s a claim repeated gloatingly by some in the media (“see, we told Catholics they were wrong, now the UN says so”), and with outrage by Catholic commentators (“how dare those liberal desk-drivers at the UN tell the Church what to do!”). But is it actually true? And, either way, what difference does it make to our efforts to reach out to the LGBT community?
One of the minor injustices of Martin Luther King’s legacy is that he was such a good speaker that he is often remembered more for moments of soaring oratory, (“I have a dream, today!”) than for the quality of his mind and the clarity of his arguments. The following excerpt from his April 16, 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” illustrates that he was not only a powerful speaker: he is also a first-rate thinker. Indeed, a case could be made (though I do not make it here) that King is the most significant figure in twentieth century American discourse about the Natural Law.
The central point of King’s argument, which he takes from Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, is that there is a law higher than human law, and that any human law which is at odds with this higher law is unjust. All human beings are bound to obey the higher law, and thus are bound to obey human laws which are in harmony with this higher law; but, for the same reason, they are bound to disobey laws which conflict with the higher law.
The letter was written in response to a “A Call for Unity” published April 12, 1963 by a group of white Birmingham clergy, criticizing the protests led by Rev. King and local African American leaders.
Many of you have likely seen this picture that Nevine Zaki posted in 2011, depicting Christians in Egypt protecting Muslims during prayer:
Suppose that a prominent secular gay organization, hoping to better understand and respond to pro-family Christian groups, sent a reporter to interview Heidi Fleiss, the former Hollywood Madam, in order to get her perspective on why men and women want to marry and start families, and to gain insight on why some of them try to make marriage and family policy a major political issue.
I would think that most of us would recognize this as one of the least intelligent strategies available for understanding what motivates pro-family Christian groups—something more worthy of an article in The Onion or a Saturday Night Live skit than a serious article by activists who hope to affect social policy.
However, on Wednesday, Life Site News published an interview with Joseph Sciambra, a former gay porn actor, escort, sadomasochist, and Satanist. The interviewer, Peter Baklinski, asked Joseph:
Your experience with homosexuality is absolutely terrifying, especially when you relate the kind of sexual acts that were forced upon you and that you forced upon others. What you related of your experience seems quite alien from anything having to do with the political push for gay “marriage”. From your experience on the gay scene for ten years in the 90’s, what do you think is really behind the push for gay “marriage”?
Scripture clearly teaches that sin comes from the heart. For example, in Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus teaches that the sins that defile a person come from inside a person’s heart, rather than from outside. In order to truly address our own sins, including the sins described in the previous two posts, we must address the condition of our hearts. The gospel is not really about behavior modification, but about inner transformation. Therefore, in this post, I will discuss some of the attitudes of the heart that contribute to sins against sexual minority people. Despite the fact that I’m not straight, these sins in particular are ones that I have often had to address in my own life, and that I have not completely overcome. However, I believe it will be edifying to bring them to light.
A very common sin, and one that Jesus addressed repeatedly during his earthly ministry, is that of self-righteousness. I think that a lot of straight Christians see themselves as fundamentally better people than most sexual minority people. This is not a truly Christian attitude, because we are all sinners who rely on God for salvation and sanctification. We have done nothing to earn a better place in God’s eyes through our own actions.
I think I was in middle school when the pastor of the little Southern Baptist Church I grew up in preached about Jesus’ words on the subject of divorce for the last time. Afterward, he received a great deal of criticism from many in the congregation—including a number of Sunday School teachers and other influential members—who were divorced and remarried.
After that, he did not preach any more sermons condemning divorce.
On the other hand, when there were sermons that denounced the homosexual agenda, or called for reinstating the biblical death penalty for homosexuals, the pastor’s call was met with a resounding “amen,” and there were no protests from the congregation. So those sermons continued throughout my youth, and were still occurring from time to time when I left for college.
In Christian discussions about sexual identity issues, the notions of “sin” and “morality” often come up. Typically, gay sex is in focus. There are often complaints about how the gay community is promoting particular sins or forms of sexual immorality. As someone who holds to a traditional understanding of sexual ethics, I agree with some of these concerns.
However, I think this is a far too limited way to view sin and morality. Christian morality cannot be reduced to sexual ethics; other issues are critically important as well. Furthermore, many complaints by Christians demonstrate much greater concern about certain sins committed by sexual minorities than about sins committed against sexual minorities, if sins against sexual minorities are acknowledged at all. Sins against sexual minority people are in fact serious and common, and as Matt Jones discusses in “What Is Love?,” true concern for sexual minorities requires us to acknowledge and fight these sins.
I grew up in the Eastern Orthodox Church and continue to call her home so whenever I see her handling the topic of homosexuality poorly it grieves me. This has never been so true as with the continued debate in Russia over the rights of its LGBT citizens. I feel very strongly that there must be a better way to discuss family values and uphold the basic rights and safety of a country’s citizens than Russia has been demonstrating. The Russian Orthodox Church’s involvement in the current debate only adds additional hurt and only legitimizes the Russian government’s persecution of LGBT people.
A couple of days ago, Thabiti Anyabwile put up a post on his Gospel Coalition blog entitled The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and “Gay Marriage” (warning: post contains graphic language).
There are a number of problems with this post. Before criticizing, however, I want to make a couple of points.
First, prior to reading this blog post, I knew relatively little about Anyabwile; however, the only contexts in which I had heard of him had been overwhelmingly positive. So I want to be clear that the negative things I say about this particular post are not intended to be an overall judgment of Anyabwile. I know too little to make such a judgment, and, aside from the problems with this particular post, everything else I have heard about him has been positive.
Second, many of those who have criticized this post have done so because they disagree with Anyabwile about the morality of gay sex. However, I agree with him that gay sex is contrary to God’s plan in creation, and have written extensively on the subject (see, for example, The Great Debate, this speech at Georgetown University, or, for a briefer statement, this speech at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette). I share his concern about the way American culture has ceased to respect the sanctity of marriage, and have been defending the traditional Christian understanding of marriage for many years now.
(I will add that as a Lord of the Rings fan who loves to fly, the photo of the Air New Zealand 777 in painted in the Lord of the Rings livery was a pleasant distraction in an otherwise disappointing post.)
Having said all that, however, this post is one of the more problematic discussions of homosexuality I have seen in a serious Christian publication in recent years.