Evangelicals are starting to acknowledge the harm they’ve done to the LGBT community.
For example, at this year’s Q conference in Boston, Gabe Lyons told those gathered that the church ought to repent for how it’s treated gays and lesbians. Then he went a step further, offering a public apology to Andrew Sullivan (in response to the above quote).
Megachurch pastor David Whiting began a recent sermon on homosexuality apologizing for the “hatred, anger, dislike, and disdain” churches have shown to gay people. With visible remorse, he acknowledged that “Christians have gotten a reputation for being homophobic because many Christians are homophobic.”
Reflecting on the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, Christianity Today editor Mark Galli called on evangelicals to repent of homophobia, fear, and prejudice.
Atlanta pastor Dewey Smith took heat for a recent sermon in which he compared the dehumanization of gays to the experience of blacks at the height of the slave trade. “We have done what the slave master did to us,” he told his parishioners.
What we’re seeing is more than just a “few bad apples” in the church. People are starting to realize this is more than just the sin of those who wave homophobic signs at funerals. The church’s woeful track record belongs to otherwise respectable evangelicals, not just the fundamentalist fringe.
Each person mentioned above maintains a traditional view of marriage. Each believes Scripture unequivocally prohibits same-sex intimacy.
With each apology or acknowledgement of wrongdoing, they went on to reaffirm their traditional beliefs, almost as if to say, “Please don’t judge our theology by our actions.”
Which should lead us to ask…
At what point does a widely acknowledged pattern of unloving behavior indicate something more than just the faulty application of your beliefs?
At what point is it no longer possible to separate a particular set of beliefs from its fruit?
What if our catastrophically misguided treatment of gays points to a deeper issue?
If your theology leads to behavior that is unloving or unkind, chances are there’s a problem with your theology.
Belief informs behavior. Your actions are shaped in part by your theology.
In which case, the ultimate test of any rule or doctrine is not, “Does it cohere intellectually?” but, “Does it encourage me to be more loving to others?”
If “love is the fulfillment of the law,” then any law which does not lead us to be more loving is not worth fulfilling.
For ages, Christians argued slavery was OK. They had Scripture on their side. They had history on their side. The inhumane treatment of blacks was proof enough they were wrong.
For ages, Christians argued women were inferior. They had Scripture on their side. They had history on their side. The degrading, humiliating treatment of women was proof enough they were wrong.
In both cases, a lack of love exposed a faulty belief system.
In the present debate over sexual ethics, it might matter less which side can line up the most proof texts or which side can make the best appeal to history. It might matter more which side proves itself to be the most loving, the most compassionate, and the most hospitable.
As Peter Enns wrote recently:
The best apologetic isn’t having a better intellectual system. The best apologetic is… how Christians live positively toward others. What difference this “belief system” makes in our global community.
We are the apologetic.
If you affirm the traditional view but lament the church’s treatment of gays and lesbians, you can resolve to be more loving. That in itself would be a good and holy thing.
But maybe we should go one step further and ask if there’s a connection between our convictions and the way we treat others—and then resolve to bring both into alignment with the Great Commandment.