If you’ve been following along in your bulletin, you likely already know that there’s a fracturing in some of the more liberal Protestant denominations of Christianity in our country over same-sex marriage (in particular) and the seeming embrace by certain churches of what’s been called the ‘homosexual agenda’ (in general).
The fact is, it’s deeper than just that.
In a small and unscientific survey in Oklahoma, writer Carla Hinton found (at least locally) that what’s driving these denominational fractures is more general than homosexuality – it’s disagreement and/or departure from the Bible and its teachings.
Paul, writing in Romans 3, tells us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. So why, you may ask, is homosexuality such a big deal? All of us sin – most of us start sinning when we wake up in the morning and don’t stop ‘till we go to bed at night, in fact. We may not realize it, but we do. And the blame for not realizing it falls primarily at the feet of lousy preaching and teaching of God’s word, and in two major ways.
The first is that modern ‘Christian’ preaching mainly teaches that God loves us, cares for us, forgives us, and accepts us all just the way we are; it completely misses (or majorly downplays) the flip-side of that coin: that God is also holy, demands we be as holy as He is, is wrathful against unrepented sin, and will send unrepentant sinners to hell for their actions. We’ve lost the ideas put forward by Jonathan Edwards and the writer of Hebrews, who both warned us about falling into the hands of a holy, angry God.
The second point is that too many preachers and teachers over-promote the idea that Jesus’ death on the cross atoned for our sins, so we’re safe from sin now. It’s true that Christ’s death broke the chains of sins which wrapped us up and made us incapable of loving and honoring God, but Jesus and the writing apostles and disciples (the New Testament writers) emphasize over and over again that this does not eliminate our personal responsibility to follow to the best of our sin-limited ability God’s laws and rules. Of course we’re going to sin – Christ broke the chain, but the stain remains like a particularly persistent grease spot; when we sin (not ‘if’, folks, but ‘when’) we know, as the apostle John wrote, that we have an Advocate before God to plead our case.
Because of bad preaching and teaching, we get the following: Jesus told us there’s only one unforgivable sin; the Bible intimates that there are different degrees of punishment for different degrees of sin. Therefore, there must be ‘big’ sins and ‘little’ sins. Apparently, James’ reminder that all sin is the same in the eyes of God doesn’t get any air-time, because that teaching alone would put paid to the ‘big/little’ sins idea.
But the ‘big/little’-sins false-dichotomy can be seen in how we justify certain behaviors: ‘everybody does it’ and ‘oh, that’s not so bad’ have become defensive catch-phrases for those who unrepentantly and unreservedly indulge in their pet ‘little’ sins; we don’t call extramarital sex ‘fornication’ anymore, ‘adultery’ is no longer the only viable reason for divorce, and we ‘tell fibs’ or ‘little white lies’ or ‘fabricate’ rather than outright lying.
Shoot, we don’t even call them ‘sins’ anymore. Unless, of course, they’re ‘big’ sins.
So how did homosexual behavior become a ‘big’ sin? I think part of it has to do with the fact that it’s opposite – heterosexuality – isn’t sinful.
Heterosexuality isn’t inherently sinful – it becomes sinful when it’s misused, as in fornication and adultery. So long as it remains within the boundaries God placed on it – the marital arrangement – it’s totally acceptable, even endorsed, by God. Homosexuality, on the other hand, has no ‘boundaries’ which make it sinful – it’s inherently sinful in the eyes of God. It’s not a corruption of something good – it’s a corruption in and of itself.
Additionally, when heterosexuality is used in a sinful way through fornication and/or adultery, most fornicators and adulterers aren’t out proclaiming their sins – you don’t hear or read about ‘proud’ fornicators or ‘proud’ adulterers, do you? Nope; in fact, we rarely hear about fornication and adultery unless and until the fornicators and adulterers are caught, and then only if they happen to be politicians, priests, pastors, actors, and the like – you know, famous people.
But when it comes to homosexuality, it’s as if that particular sexuality must be proclaimed to all the land. Think about the public ‘coming-out’ announcements of actors, actresses, politicians, school kids, etc., etc. They have an uncontrollable urge, I guess, to make sure that everybody knows about their sexual choice/preference/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.
And for all their arguing that heterosexuals ‘shove their sexuality down peoples’ throats’, that’s a load of projection if I’ve ever heard one.
Am I saying that homosexuals are asking for the abuse? Nope. I am saying that they’re painting targets on their backs by their public proclamations of their sexuality. And those who feel the need to publicly proclaim their desires aren’t doing those who wish to do as heterosexuals do and keep their sex-lives private any favors. Believe me, I think a general ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ policy works wonders for both homo- and heterosexual people.
And now, back to my original intent.
If you read some of the stories of these break-away churches, one thing becomes clear – the break was, in most cases, hardly spontaneous. Problems with doctrine and biblical fidelity built and built and built, and then came a moment when the breakaways finally saw the last straw break the camel’s back – often that last straw was openly homosexual clergy and/or allowance for same-sex marriage. But again, these were final straws atop a stack of other straws.