Here’s a post from Christian apologist Terrell Clemmons about efforts by gay activists to redefine Christianity so that it is consistent with homosexual behavior. This particular post is focused on Matthew Vines. NOTE: Matthew Vines has tweeted to say that he is not engaging in any sexual behavior, so we are criticizing his position, not his personal actions. I have updated my comments to make it about behavior, not Matthew.
In March 2012, two years after having set out to confront homophobia in the church, Matthew presented the results of his “thousands of hours of research” in an hour-long talk titled “The Gay Debate.” The upshot of it was this: “The Bible does not condemn loving gay relationships. It never addresses the issues of same-sex orientation or loving same-sex relationships, and the few verses that some cite to support homophobia have nothing to do with LGBT people.” The video went viral (more than three quarter million views to date) and Matthew has been disseminating the content of it ever since.
In 2013, he launched “The Reformation Project,” “a Bible-based, non-profit organization … to train, connect, and empower gay Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on homosexuality from the ground up.” At the inaugural conference, paid for by a $104,000 crowd-funding campaign, fifty LGBT advocates, all professing Christians, gathered for four days in suburban Kansas City for teaching and training, At twenty-three years of age, Matthew Vines was already becoming a formidable cause célèbre.
Terrell summarizes the case he makes, and here is the part I am interested in:
Reason #1: Non-affirming views inflict pain on LGBT people. This argument is undoubtedly the most persuasive emotionally, but Matthew has produced a Scriptural case for it. Jesus, in his well-known Sermon on the Mount, warned his listeners against false prophets, likening them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. Then switching metaphors he asked, “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” The obvious answer is no, and Jesus’s point was, you can recognize a good or bad tree – and a true or false prophet – by its good or bad fruit. From this, Matthew concludes that, since non-affirming beliefs on the part of some Christians cause the bad fruit of emotional pain forother Christians, the non-affirming stance must not be good.
Terrell’s response to this is spot on, and I recommend you read her post to get the full response.
Matthew Vines in particular, and LGBTs in general, appear to be drivingly fixated on changing other people’s moral outlook. But why? Why are they distressed over the shrinking subset of Christianity that holds to the traditional ethic of sex? Note that Matthew found an affirming church in his hometown, as can most any LGBT-identifying Christian. Affirming churches abound. Gaychurch.org lists forty-four affirming denominations – denominations, not just individual churches – in North America and will help you find a congregation in your area. Why, then, given all these choices for church accommodation, are Matthew and the Reformers specifically targeting churches whose teachings differ from their own?
One gets the sense that LGBTs really, really need other people to affirm their sexual behavior. Certainly it’s human to want the approval of others, but this goes beyond an emotionally healthy desire for relational comity. Recall Matthew’s plea that non-affirming views on the part of some Christians cause emotional pain for others. He, and all like-minded LGBTs, are holding other people responsible for their emotional pain. This is the very essence of codependency.
The term came out of Alcoholics Anonymous. It originally referred to spouses of alcoholics who enabled the alcoholism to continue unchallenged, but it has since been broadened to encompass several forms of dysfunctional relationships involving pathological behaviors, low self-esteem, and poor emotional boundaries. Codependents “believe their happiness depends upon another person,” says Darlene Lancer, an attorney, family therapist, and author of Codependency for Dummies. “In a codependent relationship, both individuals are codependent,” says clinical psychologist Seth Meyers. “They try to control their partner and they aren’t comfortable on their own.”
Which leads to an even more troubling aspect of this Vinesian “Reformation.” Not only are LGBT Reformers not content to find an affirming church for themselves and peacefully coexist with everyone else, everyone else must change in order to be correct in their Christian expression.
This is the classic progression of codependency, and efforts to change everyone else become increasingly coercive. We must affirm same-sex orientation, Matthew says. If we don’t, we are “tarnishing the image of God [in gay Christians]. Instead of making gay Christians more like God … embracing a non-affirming position makes them less like God.” “[W]hen we reject the desires of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a lifelong covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God.”
Do you hear what he’s saying? LGBTs’ relationships with God are dependent on Christians approving their sexual proclivities. But he’s still not finished. “In the final analysis, then, it is not gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is we who are sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.” In other words, non-affirming beliefs stand between LGBTs and God. Thus sayeth Matthew Vines.
The rest of her article deals with Vines’ attempt to twist Scripture to validate sexual behavior that is not permissible in Christianity.
One of the things I love about Terrell is that I am so used to Christian women, especially single Christian women, being incredibly wishy washy and lame on every issue you can imagine to Christians, from foreign policy, to economics, to business, to abortion, to same-sex marriage. Just absolutely dominated by the secular culture, straight down the line. That’s why Terrell’s article was like water in the desert for me.
I think the trouble with Vines needing affirmation stems directly from his advocacy of sexual behaviors not permitted by Christian teaching, which naturally result in a desire to get people to approve of it, so that the sinner can delude himself into thinking that what he is doing is not wrong. I.e. – if I can get lots of people to agree with me and silence those who disagree then what I am doing will be right. I am a chaste man now in my late 30s. I have not so much as kissed a woman on the lips. There is no celebration for what I am doing, not even in the church. Most of the Christian women I meet think that the purpose of relationships of is for the man to make the woman happy, or else she can divorce him and take all his wealth and future earnings. But you don’t see me complaining that people need to validate my choice to be chaste. And the reason is, that even if the entire world were against me, the morality of chastity is self-authenticating. It doesn’t matter how many people make me feel bad about what I am doing, I have the direct experience of doing the right thing – and it comes out in the way that I love women upward, giving them my whole heart.
Matthew Vines is annoyed that we expect homosexuals to work through their same-sex attractions, abstain from premarital sex, and then either remain chaste like me, or marry one person of the opposite sex and then confine his/her sexual behavior to his/her marriage. But how is that different than what is asked of me? I have opposite sex-attractions (boy, do I!), but I am also expected to abstain from premarital sex, and either remain chaste, or marry one woman for life, and confine my sexual behavior to that marriage. If I have to exercise a little self-control to show God that what he wants from me is important to me, then I am willing to do that.
Believe me, I understand what it is like to be without a woman’s love and support. I started out with a cold, distant, selfish, career-oriented mother. I dreamed about marriage since I was in high school – I remember praying about my future wife, even then. No one that I know has a stronger need for validation and encouragement from a woman than I do. Yet if I have to let that go in order to let God know that what he wants matters to me, then I will do it. I have been rejected by women because they refused to understand that what God has entrusted me with (education, career, wealth, health) is NOT for them to control for their own enjoyment. I am open to a woman telling me, logically and with supporting evidence, how to use my resources (or pool our resources) to serve God better. But I am not willing to marry if it means that the resources that God has entrusted to me will be redirected to fun and thrills, as her feelings dictate. I already have a Boss. I am not the boss. I don’t need a different boss. My relationships, if I am going to have any, are going to reflect what God wants, not what I want, and not what she wants.
My service to God is not conditional on me getting my needs met. And my needs and desires are no less strong than the needs of people who engage in sex outside the boundaries of Christian teaching. We just make different decisions about what/who comes first. For me, Jesus is first, because I have sympathy with Jesus for loving me enough to die in my place, for my sins. I am obligated to Jesus, and that means that my responsibility to meet expectations in our relationship comes above my desire to be happy and fulfilled. For Matthew, the sexual needs come first, and Scripture has to be reinterpreted in light of a desire to be happy. I just don’t see anything in the New Testament that leads me to believe that we should expect God to fulfill our desires. The message of Jesus is about self-denial, self-control and putting God the Father first – even when it results in suffering. I take that seriously. That willingness to be second and let Jesus lead me is what makes me an authentic Christian.
Matthew Vines and Michael Brown had a debate on the Bible and homosexuality, and I summarized it and commented on it in this post. Note that at the time of writing, I thought that Vines was engaged in the behaviors he was advocating for. There is also a good debate featuring Robert Gagnon and a gay activist in this post. There’s another debate between Michael Brown and Eric Smaw in this post.