Monday, April 28, 2014

Matthew Vines, God & Gay Christians

Matthew Vines

Dagnabbit, I'm going to have to buy and read Matthew Vines' God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

Al Mohler hates it. There's one reason. Anybody who brings the full wrath of this Southern Baptist Convention hit man down on his head deserves all the support he can get.

Matthew Paul Turner loves it. There's another. He's one of my favorite bloggers --- himself a recovering Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. Compartively, IFBs make Southern Baptists look like moderates.

The spectacle of fundamentalists and evangelicals demonizing LGBT people and elevating sex acts to the key position in the Christian narrative gets a little tedious sometimes.

But these guys do a heck of a lot of damage to gay kids gifted into families that don't deserve them. And their loud, unrepentant and arrogant wickedness does considerable damage to the church as a whole. So they do bear watching.


Vines, now 24, and gay, grew up in Wichita, Kansas, in a conservative Presbyterian congregation (that left the Presbyterian Church USA when it liberalized its regulations concerning gay clergy). After studying philosophy at Harvard for two years, he took a leave of absence to study in depth the literature related to the six biblical references to sexual acts between people of the same gender.

Vines condensed his findings into an hour-long presentation delivered at a United Methodist Church in Wichita during March of 2012. The videotaped presentation was uploaded to YouTube and went viral. (more than half a million have watched it). The gave rise to the book, which was issued last week.

Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a popular evangelical blogger, acquired a pre-publication copy of Vines' book, wrote with colleagues a lengthy rebuttal entitled God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, and launched it as a free e-book the same day. (You do get the question mark, don't you? Gay folks can't be Christian in the fundamentalist world.)

It would appear that Mohler believes the mild and soft-spoken Vines has Southern Baptists cornered, all 16 million of them. 

"Evangelical Christians in the United States now face an inevitable moment of decision," wrote Mohler in a blog post announcing launch of the e-book. "While Christians in other movements and in other nations face similar questions, the question of homosexuality now presents evangelicals in the United States with a decision that cannot be avoided. Within a very short time, we will know where everyone stands on this question. There will be no place to hide, and there will be no way to remain silent. To be silent will answer the question."

Mohler then proceeds to explain why the church and the gospel will fall if people who love other people of the same sex are acknowledged lovingly by Christians.

"To heck with Jesus," Mohler might as well have written, "lets get down and dirty, straight to the sex."

That approach, Turner suggests in an online posting of his own, serves principally to "cause division, push people away from churches, promote the gospels of arrogance and callousness, and castrates the body of Christ, rendering us useless but for punch lines."


Actually, there's nothing new in Vines' book --- which he acknowledges. It is a compilation of thoughts and analysis and alternative interpretations involving what sometimes are called the biblical "clobber passages" that have been available for years to those interested in tracking them down.

It is, however, a compilation wrapped into a well-written, readable package entwined with the compelling narrative of Matthew Vines' life. Vines identifies as a Bible-believing evangelical Christian --- and that seems to be what scares Mohler and others so much.

Among Vines' central contentions is the thought that biblical authors had no concept, when writing, of sexual orientation --- or that loving, committed relationshps between same-sex couples were possible.

These arguments resonate in many areas of the larger church with alternate understandings of what the Bible is and how it is to be used and interpreted.

But they are extremely threatening in a culture that, like Aaron and his golden calf, has cast the Bible in precious metal and elevated it on a plinth to be worshiped on an equal footing with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


The surreal aspect of the whole deal for many of us who grew up gay in a culture dominated by the evangelical and/or fundamentalist mindset is how much power this wing of the church is willing to cede to us. 

I'm reminded of Matthew 7: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!”

If Southern Baptists are this scared, how much sand do you suppose was incorporated into their foundation?

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