Some Personal Observations

Over the last few days I’ve overheard three discussions about homosexuality in a religious context, which I take as a fairly good sign that it’s on a lot of people’s minds right now. Two of the conversations were nothing special, and I wasn’t near the participants long enough to work out which side of the issue they were on. One in particular, however, was quite revealing.

I went from being a very relaxed Christian to being a kind of vague theist to being a full-fledged atheist. My religious belief declined steadily over a number of years, leading almost inexorably towards complete non-belief. This is such a common occurence among atheists that I sometimes forget that it is possible for a person to grow dissatisfied with their religion without abandoning it altogether – some people change religion completely, while others simply move their allegiance to a different denomination. The girl I overheard yesterday was thinking about leaving the Catholic Church and joining a different one (possibly a Protestant denomination, although she didn’t say for sure). Surprisingly, one of the greatest concerns she had was that her prospective faith leader was ambivalent about homosexuality. She seemed to feel that gay people should be welcomed by Christians without feeling the need to ‘repent’, while most of her peers were of the ‘We’ll pray for them’ variety. At the time I was surprised at this, but it does appear to be something of a trend among the more moderate segment of the religious population.

Young Christians in particular seem to be particularly troubled by how the Religious Right portrays homosexuals. Although people like myself tend to focus more on groups like Exodus or Living Hope, there are others who are more than ready to embrace Christian homosexuals without demanding that they change who they are or abandon any prospect of a meaningful relationship. Sadly, these progressive voices tend to get drowned out in a flood of rhetoric about ‘preserving family values‘ and defending ‘traditional’ marriage.

You might expect that as an atheist I’d be adverse to accepting aid from theistic quarters, but I actually find it extremely heartening that there are theists who strongly disagree with the divisive politics of the Religious Right. Despite some notable setbacks, secularism and acceptance of homosexuality are both very much on the rise, and it’s important that everyone involved in the ongoing schism this is causing to be aware of who their friends are. I’m not too hopefuly about the prospects of complete reconciliation once things have settled down, but ‘winning’ here shouldn’t mean marginalising everyone who disagrees with you to the extent that their opinions no longer matter.


3 Responses to “Some Personal Observations”

  1. 1 Jim Thornber March 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Good post. Here’s my thoughts.

    As a former pastor of a church (I’m between assignments right now), I believe that everyone is welcome. Everyone. The only requirement one must have to come to a church I’m part of is to be a sinner. So, everyone is welcome.

    Having said that, there are certain requirements that must be followed for one to be in a leadership position, i.e., teaching a class, working with children, playing in the worship band, etc. I believe that an active homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the Word of God, and therefore it is not acceptable to allow this person to lead in areas of the church. However, the same would go for a confirmed liar, gossip, thief, continuing alcoholic, drug dealer, adulterer, or a person living with someone not their spouse, to name a few. All those are welcome to come to the church, join classes, get involved in discussion groups and even serve in a limited capacity. However, I would not allow them into leadership positions. Furthermore, if I were involved in any of those things, I would not expect the church to allow me to involve myself in a leadership position, much less be their pastor.

    Although no one is perfect, there comes a point when we must change our overt and sinful behavior if we are to be an effective witness for Christ. Although Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, He did tell her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). There should come a point in our lives that we leave the life of sin that Scripture calls sin. Sure, some things can be haggled over as to whether or not they are sins (smoking, drinking alcohol, watching certain movies, etc.), but other things can not. Accepting and loving a person while they are dealing with certain areas of their lives is one thing; allowing them to lead in areas of the church while they are dealing with these issues is another.

    Thanks for the post.



  2. 2 shamelesslyatheist March 11, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    So discrimination against homosexuals IS okay for you Jim? Why do you exclude them from working around children, even though the other “sinner” archtypes are? I hope you don’t subscribe to the baseless myth that homosexuality = pedophilia. Why is this sin treated differently than the others? Do explain yourself.

  3. 3 augustine March 11, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Although you say you welcome everyone, your own church sounds more like what I referred to as a ‘We’ll pray for them church’ – homosexual men and women are welcomed, yes, but provisionally, with the assumption that they recognise that their attraction to the same sex is wrong. That’s not really what I’d have in mind as a progressive religious movement; it seems as if it would be more likely to lead to the kind of anguished celibacy that so many ‘ex-gay’ groups endorse rather than true acceptance. What I’m thinking of would be more along the lines of an acceptance by religious leaders that the prohibition on homosexuality – although it may be found in the Bible – is nonsensical and should be reversed, just as other forms of Biblically-inspired oppression, once claimed to be inspired by God’s Word, have now been done away with. (Well, mostly done away with.)

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