Swinging from the Vine / 836 posts / 2,891 comments / feed / comments feed

so you’re the group who’s ok with gays?

As I mentioned in my post the other day, I have the privilege of meeting with lots of different folks (is folks a word that very few people use? I often get chuckles when I use it) to talk about alternative Christian community, Emergent Village, the emerging church, post modernity, interfaith dialog, etc. I tried to get a local mega church pastor to talk to me before delivering his diatribe against Emergent to his congregation but he didn’t respond, which is a shame because his rant was pretty baseless and ridiculous and sadly, most of his congregation likely swallowed it whole - hook line and sinker…thankfully, my parents who are congregants there actually *did* take the time to ask me some questions which led to a really rich and wonderful conversation.

Anyway, one of the comments I hear quite a bit either directed to me or quoted to me by others is - “oh, Emergent, they’re the people who are ok with homosexuality right?”

The last time this came up I sort of cocked my head to the side and raised an eyebrow in disbelief. It was feined disbelief but I sort of wanted to play along to see what transpired.

I gave my typical response about emerging being diverse, how the “issue” is not an issue, it’s about people and as such is very nuanced…yada yada….but I still find it such an odd dividing line. This particular pastor basically had a couple use it as an excuse to stop attending his church - well, you’re sort of emerging and those emerging folks are ok with gays. His question to me (out of genuine curiosity) was “where is this coming from?” Because he was surprised by both assumptions - that he’s emerging and that he’s “ok with homosexuality”. So, I pose the question to you….

…aside from the obvious answer - that some of our figure heads in EV have come out with definitive statements about the issue - where is this coming from? Is it really just the only thing people can come up with as a reason to avoid the conversation? I’m curious what your experiences have been.

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  1. Existential Punk — February 18, 2009 #

    i guess i might have contributed to this by creating Queermergent in January. i agree that if people do think being gay is a sin that they should not stop conversing with people who think differently. What are they so afraid of anyways? People do not hold that much power over others. There are plenty in the emrgent conversation who are not ok with homosexuality being accepted. It is plain ignorance to disassociate with people over this issue.


  2. Don Pratt — February 19, 2009 #

    You’re asking a question that has been pondered for at least three decades by a growing progressive Christian movement. It parallels the question, “Why are we so sex obsessed?” And I don’t have an answer. Some of us progressives blame the Evangelist Paul. However, the reality is that the ‘issue’ is hardly touched in the Bible. I’m curious too about what others think. Peace.

  3. Thom — February 19, 2009 #

    I don’t hear that as much in the New Jersey area. Around here I have gotten mostly quizzical looks when I saw the word emergent. For people who do know about emergent around here it has been preached against for being mystical and anti-Protestant/Evangelical. From what I gather emergent/emerging voices are more rocking the status quo and anti-traditionalist and almost Roman Catholic—all bad things in many peoples’ eyes.

  4. Mak — February 20, 2009 #

    Adele - I’m not sure these folks are THAT up on emerging to find out about something in a month so I doubt it’s your fault. You make a good point about the power others think people have…or the power others give away. What I really want to say when it comes up in questions directed to me is “so what if I am “ok with homosexuality”?” As you said, what are you afraid of?

    Don - one thing I always go into in these conversations is why there’s an automatic leap from the notion that someone is drawn in intimacy to someone of the same sex to the actual sex act. It’s an issue I continue to find frustrating.

    Thom - That’s very interesting. My friend was “mentored” by one of my old pastors when he was in seminary and the concern of that mentor was that he was reading “too much catholic stuff” (namely Merton at the time). I find it fascinating that that’s not so much of a concern anymore…at least not a communicated concern.

  5. Ken — February 21, 2009 #

    I am the confrontational type, so I would probably use the opportunity to draw the person into a debate on the issue. But the problem is that some people are very emotional about it, and very stuck in their own pattern of thinking, and they typically use homosexuality as a litmus test for fellowship. One answer I have used is bringing up the point that LGBT persons feel unloved by the Christian community, even hated by them. And so we have to find better ways to interact. Emergent is one of the few conversations seeking to find those better ways. Most people find it hard to argue against love.

    On a slightly different topic, I was recently asked to become involved in a purity group that seeks to help people overcome negative sexual issues, primarily sexual addiction. When I asked them to describe their approach to LGBT issues, they said that they offer services and referrals for those seeking help with “unwanted same sex attraction”. The use of the word “unwanted” seemed a nuanced approach to the issue, and one I am still processing. I realize the role that societal pressure has played in causing certain sexual orientations to be “unwanted” by some. And at the same time, I’m not completely convinced that working through the societal issues toward self-acceptance and self-love is always the right answer for everyone who deals with this. But the idea that this purity group only focuses on unwanted sexual attractions leaves me with the assumption that they are at least not taking a stand against people who are ok with their own sexuality, whatever it might be. I don’t know if that is a cop-out, or truly a measured and thoughtful approach… Maybe their thinking is that they can only help those who want help? That makes sense. Anyway, I am still thinking through the full ramifications of delineating wanted vs unwanted same sex attraction.

  6. Existential Punk — February 22, 2009 #

    @ Don, i talk about this in a piece i did for the Ooze called SEX-CRAZED: America’s Christian Subculture: http://www.theooze.com/articles/article.cfm?id=2205 i do not know why but offer some insights.

    @Makeesha, right on, SO WHAT?!

    @Ken, i have been through these ex-gay ministries to get rid of ‘unwanted same sex attractions” and to ‘pray away the gay” because i was told being gay was a sin and i would go to hell. i finally learned this is who i am and reconciled it to myself and G-D. i enjoy being gay and following G-D. i think much of these unwanted feelings come from societal and religious pressure. i could only white knuckle it for so long. i do not knock those who do not want to be gay but it should be a decision made out of honest desire and reflection and NOT outside pressure from anyone.

    Warm Regards,


  7. Ken — February 26, 2009 #

    Adele, I agree with you there. The societal and religious pressure is huge. And I’m not sure that its even possible to make a decision without any of that outside pressure creeping in. At the National Emergent Conference a couple years ago I attended a women’s breakout where they were discussing the role of women in Emergent (and following, in the church at large). I made a comment there (Mak might remember??) about being frustrated with ladies in our church who are in agreement with the idea of lesser or different roles for women. And another gal there at the breakout made a great comment. She said they were “trapped in the bowels of the patriarchy”. I never forgot that phrase! People get programmed and its hard to unprogram them. At the same time, while I am tempted to dismiss all the ex-gay stuff as Uncle Tom programming, I am still not comfortable painting everybody with the same brush. I watch a documentary like Bill Maher’s Religulous and see him interviewing one of the ex-gay ministry people and he makes them look so foolish. But then I have to wonder if there are some people who are truly affected in a positive and healthy way by these ministries? Is there some good that is being done despite all the bad that is done by reinforcing the negative pressure? I agree with you in that I don’t want to knock people who don’t want to be gay, but isn’t there also a loving responsibility to encourage people to break free from the programming? Part of me wants to point a finger at groups like Exodus and say “Stop it! You’re hurting people!” But another part of me wants to protect the right and ability of people to seeks answers if they are struggling. I’m drawn to the gray areas like this… the in-between places where truth is relative to the individual. We all have to work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling, as the good book says… thanks for the response.

  8. Richard Harty — February 28, 2009 #

    I think this issue became the vehicle to raise money as the abortion issue began to loose momentum. Parts of the evangelical movement needed something they could draw battle lines over and this issue was an easy target.

    Divisive issues are great marketing tools because they present easy black and white choices. By presenting homosexuality as a threat to family values this provided a huge money making front to raise money against this “threat.”

    It allows Christians to ignore their own faults by creating a target for their self righteousness. It preys on paranoia and ignorance. It gives an outlet for people’s anger under the guise of righteous indignation. This is very addicting.

    It also allows them to portray Christians fighting a war against the devil. And the backlash can be presented as persecution of Christians, a sure sign of the end, and helps to deflect the fact that Christians are the majority. There’s very little not to like.

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