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Some SideB Objections

Cynthia B. Astle reprinted my
“What Would It Take to Convince Me I Am Wrong on the Gay & Lesbian Issue” post on her United Methodist Insight web site.

In the comment thread there I find this:

You have expressed all you think wrong, so what would you do?
How would you handle the problem?
How would you teach what is sin and not offend?
How would you uphold scripture and Church Law but still be welcoming and inclusive?
Why do you assume the right lies when most of what they share of the homosexual lifestyle is found in Gay literature by their own hand available for all to read on homosexual sites, books, articles and homosexual activists?
Why do you assume study of that literature is of evil intent when the intent could just as easily be to come to an informed decision?
Now that you have pointed out what is wrong, share with us how to do it right.

— Posted by
d September 20, 2012 15:30:33

I can understand why this person finds me unduly critical of "the right." This may be partly due to the fact that the “What Would It Take to Convince Me I Am Wrong on the Gay & Lesbian Issue” post was a follow-up to the previous day's post "Why Christian Opposition to Homosexuality Never Dies" which attempts to demonstrate the rationale of the SideB position, and why, in spite of all efforts to the contrary, it still arises.

In that sense, I was defending the SideB position — but in a way that I hoped could be helpful to both sides. The intent was not to persuade but to clarify and explain.

So, I can see how this person, reading the second post and not the first, could feel I'm just being negative about "the right."

I can certainly engage in criticism of SideA. There have been some foolish arguments on SideA — though, over time, they are getting better and better. But, I can easily cherry pick quotes from SideA literature to make it look ridiculous.

For all the good that does.

Actually, I don't see things as being "right" or "left." I generally assume that there is some amount of truth on both sides. I assume that if a controversy has persisted over time, there are probably some reasons — some truths, some human needs — on both sides. This is why the controversy persists. Yes, there is a liberal theological tradition. I am not especially fond of it. But, I think people who have points of view that I don't agree with nonetheless often say things that are true.
There's an old saying: "even a broken clock is right twice a day." So, there is always a chance that my opponent amy be right. In fact, many people who look at life differently than I do are far more than a broken clock — they are quite perceptive — and often their angle on things helps me to see things I might otherwise have missed.

I'm not sure how the mainline denominations can get past the SideA / SideB divide, but it must begin with honest and reflective listening. I have discovered that people's stories are often the basis of their theological positions. So, honest and reflective listening needs to be much more than just abstract theological debate.

People can mount a very sinister picture of gay and lesbian people — and their supposed intentions — by picking and choosing quotations from various writers and publications here and there. In case you don't know already, people do that same thing to prove that all evangelical Christians are really (secretly) trying to set up a theocracy in the U.S.A. Sinister pictures of the "Gay Agenda" are not helping us communicate and understand each other.

When someone has a different point of view than I do I assume there is a reason of that. I need to see more than their position, their anger, or their polemics. I need to see what it is in their life that places them on that side of the issue.

And, I think that is the only way to come to an informed decision.

I am one of those people who think the UMC made a huge mistake at General Conference in not acknowledging our differences on the gay & lesbian issue. It perpetuates and unhealthy condition. I think Adam Hamilton & Mike Slaughter were right — there are sincere, informed Christians on both sides of the gay & lesbian issue. It is high time that people of good will acknowledged those differences and sought to understand one another.

A preacher cannot teach sin and not offend. But, one need not offend unduly. Ask yourself: how do I address issues of marriage and divorce? Or: any of a host of other issues that I know affect the lives of my congregation? The preacher seeks to be clear, but also to be caring.

And, again, when addressing the gay & lesbian issue, I think the preacher must acknowledge that there is difference of opinion. If you don't people will find out anyway. This is the information age, after all.

A SideB preacher may lose some gay & lesbian people — or their relatives — from the congregation. But, then again, maybe not. Have you made it clear that you still wish to be the pastor of these people?

This is not some sort of abstract theological issue — it affects the families of our churches.

The Christian virtues of
"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" need to guide our thinking and our behavior toward one another. And, if we find ourselves in deep and painful disagreement with one another — so be it. But, let's fight like Christians.

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