Anti-gay group hosts “Can you be Gay & Christian” forum


I admit that this is, indeed, a very long post, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. This is my report of the forum “Can you be Gay & Christian” and includes my thoughts and interpretations of the various statements and messages put forth there. I will also go on record publicly saying that I am ashamed that no gay or gay-friendly clergy found it wise enough to present the other side of this very important debate. To think that I was the only person there to speak against the messages taught is scary – especially considering that I hadn’t the time, the knowledge or the language to help any of the possible teens, young people or adults struggling with accepting themselves in their relationship with Christ and having to grow up in an environment that tells them they will never be quite good enough unless they change.

Synopsis

On Thursday, September 20, 2007, I was able to attend the “Can you be Gay & Christian” forum hosted by the Coalition of Conscience at the FIRE Church in Concord, NC. I posted about the forum first last month and then on Thursday (there is some good discussion on Thursday’s post).

The original intent of the forum, according to Coalition of Conscience director Dr. Michael Brown, was to have an open and honest dialogue between the Coalition of Conscience and members of the Charlotte-area gay & gay-friendly clergy.

Brown said he had invited members of the clergy from thirteen area churches – including the New Life Metropolitan Community Church, MCC of Charlotte, Myers Park Baptist Church, St. Martin’ & St. Peter’s Episcopal Churches, Holy Covenant UCC and Jay Bakker’s Revolution Church. Brown also said up to 500 personal invitations to the event were handed out at the Pride Charlotte festival at the end of August. He also noted that this was his third or fourth attempt at organizing a public discussion on issues of sexuality & Christianity with members of the Charlotte-area LGBT community.

Unfortunately, none of the invited gay or gay-friendly clergy or many (if any) of the LGBT community members showed up to the event. In fact, I did not meet even a single other openly gay (and self-affirming) person at the event other than my friend Shawn (who was nice enough to come with me to the event).

In a pre-event interview with Brown, he explained the purpose of the event.

“We want to open a door of grace to the gay & lesbian community. We are convinced from the Scriptures that Jesus is against homosexual practice. We are equally convinced that Jesus died for homosexual and heterosexual alike,” Brown said, “We know there is a lot of misunderstanding. We know that a lot of gays and lesbians have been driven out of churches as if homosexuality was the worst of all sins…. Just by saying, ‘Let’s talk about it,’ hopefully we can break a wall down there.”

At the beginning of the forum, however, Brown made his point very clear: One cannot be gay & Christian, or rather, one cannot be a self-affirming gay person and Christian:

“If you mean, can I be a devoted follower of Jesus while struggling with unwanted sexual desires, while saying I know these are wrong, I resist them, I don’t give into them, I do not practice homosexuality, I’m celibate and I’m abstaining from these things and my goal is to be pure in front of the Lord, but I’m still struggling with these things… Can you be gay and follow Jesus? In that sense, yes. And that’s the same as a heterosexual struggling with lust, desire, temptation outside of wedlock. However, if you mean can I practice homosexuality? Can I engage in romantic and same-sex relationships and does God endorse those things and can I be a follower of Jesus at the same time? The answer is absolutely, categorically no. The Scripture leaves no room to question that.”

Brown then went on to address the “Clobber Passages,” those passages of the Bible most often used to condemn homosexuality. Of course, Brown used his own interpretation of Creation, Leviticus, Romans and I Corinthians, without mentioning that many Biblical scholars throughout the entire world disagree with his interpretation (which is why it was so unfortunate that no gay or gay-friendly clergy showed up to make a presentation).

While Brown’s language was, indeed, couched in what one could certainly call “compassionate” language, it nonetheless left no room whatsoever for a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person to be both a devout follower of Christ and self-affirming. The language used, not only by Dr. Brown but by the other panelists as well, I found to be based entirely upon a common premise found in anti-gay theology: God does not love gay or lesbian people just as they are (I’ll expand upon this thought later, in my “Points I took concern with” section in this post – near the bottom).

Another member of the panel during the forum was Stephen Bennett, the leader of an ex-gay ministry. Bennett calls himself a “former homosexual” and gave his testimony during the forum. Relating his childhood of growing up with an alcoholic father, never fitting in at school, desiring the attention and approval of both his father and his fellow schoolmates, Bennett eventually made the case that a part of his “homosexual sin” was directly tied the love he never felt from his father.

At the end of his story, Bennett said that he was “looking for the love of his father in the arms of other men.”

During his very emotional testimony, Bennett related his “introduction to the Wonderful World of Homosexuality,” after he was dumped by the college school mate with whom he had his first gay relationship. Bennett related how he met with past school mates who were also gay.

“They introduced me to the gay bar scene and for the next eleven years my life was on a downward spiral as I got deeply involved in the homosexual lifestyle,” Bennett related.

He told of his heavy use of drugs and alcohol, promiscuity and one-night stands and his always unrequited searches for “Mr. Right.”

Finally, Bennett settled down into a happy relationship with another man, a relationship that lasted three years. According to Bennett, however, his happy life would turn to torment when an old friend visited him and spoke to him about the Bible and how she said it condemned homosexuality.

“Then she opened to Romans chapter one,” Bennett said, “And then she read to me the three things, ‘Stephen if you continue in this life’ – and I lost many friends to AIDS, I’ve buried numerous boyfriends in the ground who’ve died from AIDS and lost many dear friends. She said three things may happen. Number one, God may give you over to your sin. Number two, God may allow you to believe the lie and number three, he’ll make you a reprobate in his sight, meaning never have the chance to come back to the Lord… But that scared me so much, just like the Ethiopian eunuch I said, ‘What must I do to be saved?’

“Within two days I was out of my partner’s bed and in about two weeks or so on my way with my walk with Jesus Christ.”

Frank Turek, an apologist and professor at the FIRE School of Ministry was last to give his presentation, which consisted of “non-religious arguments” against the “validation” of same-sex relationships. For the most part, Turek’s presentation focused solely on marriage rights for same-sex couples and why the government shouldn’t endorse them.

Among Turek’s claims was that the “traditional family” is our “National Immune System” and that without traditional marriage, our nation and world society would be nothing. He also claimed that marriage for same-sex couples is about nothing more than recognition and acceptance, what he called “normalization and validation.”

Using taken-out-of-context quotes from gay leaders such as Andrew Sullivan and Michelangelo Signorile, Turek attempted to back up his claim that all gays wanted was to radically change the institution of marriage to the point where it meant nothing.

At the end of his presentation, Turek asked “Two Final Questions,” directly opposed to each other and based on what I think may be among some of the most twisted and illogical premises I’ve ever seen.

His first question was “What would be the effect on society if everyone lived faithfully in traditional marriage?”

He asked responses from the audience, with some answers: No STDs, no adultery, no abortion, no welfare, less crime, poverty would go down.

His second question was “What would be the effect on society if everyone lived faithfully in Same-Sex marriage?”

His response was that, “It would be the end of society. It would be over.”

While no one can really say that Turek’s answers to these two questions are entirely false, we can say that the two questions are entirely and utterly unrealistic and absolutely impossible. Gay folks aren’t asking for all people to be forced into same-sex relationships… we are asking that we be allowed to enter into relationships recognized by our government. Heterosexual people will always remain the overwhelming majority of people on earth and I don’t think we have to worry about a decline in our population just because of the allowance of marriage equality.

_____________________________

Video & Audio

I wish I had more time to write on what I saw and heard at the Forum. I wish I could actually put the entire video up, but unfortunately I cannot. I am currently working on a high lights video and, below, are two videos with my personal testimony I gave to the audience and the response to my testimony.

Gay & Christian: Matt Comer’s Testimony

Gay & Christian: Response to Matt Comer’s Testimony

Perhaps the most distressing part of the forum came when my claims about extremist anti-gay views (such as those of my child-hood church) being an extension of the message being taught at the forum were confirmed by a member of the audience.

A Christian audience member first says that he agrees with me in that gay & lesbian people should not be killed, but then goes on to advocate the use of capital punishment against gay & lesbian people. His claims are similar to those I related in my personal testimony from my experiences in my childhood church. Dr. Brown, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Turek respond vigorously against the claims, although the Christian audience member’s words support my claims that it is only a small step from condemning so-called “homosexual behavior” and actively pushing for more violent and extreme responses against gay & lesbian people themselves.

The audio below contains the full exchange.

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You can download the audio to your computer with this link (right click & save file as or save target as)

Highlights of the Forum

__________________________________

Some Forum Points that Concerned Me

There were numerous things said or insinuated within the forum that concerned me or with which I have to take issue.

From each of the panelists – Dr. Brown, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Turek – I had to take a step back and, in some ways, bite my tongue during the forum as I heard things that were either patently false, illogical or straight-up (excuse the pun) prejudiced and exclusionary.

Point One: God’s Love of Gay & Lesbian People & Comparisons between Homosexuality & Other Sins
Throughout the entire forum, numerous comparisons and linkages were made between homosexuality and sins such as pedophilia, incest, bestiality, adultery, alcoholism, lust and others. Sometimes the linkages were made in the form of a “slippery slope” argument (InterstateQ.com reader Jarred takes on the “slippery slope” defense against LGBT people in his blog).

There is one major difference between my sexual orientation and sins such as those I listed above. In each instance of adultery, incest, bestiality, adultery, alcoholism or pedophilia, a person (or more than one person is hurt). In my loving, life-long, committed relationship with another human being (who may happen to be a man), no one is hurt just as no one is hurt when there is a loving, committed, life-long relationship between a man and a woman.

Going further: In adultery, the one cheating on his or her partner is hurting that partner because he or she has actively betrayed their love, commitment & trust; also, the one cheating on his or her partner has also committed a sin in the eyes of God, as he or she has broken the promise made to God – and the partner – during the blessing of the relationship being broken.

In pedophilia, a child is not emotionally or mentally (not to mention, physically) able enough to make a decision on matters of sexual activity. In this instance, an adult betrays the trust, love and innocence of a child by taking advantage of the power he or she has over that child. The abuse of that child leaves life-long emotional, spiritual, psychological and, often times, physical scars and harm on the child.

In bestiality, one seeks only to fulfill a selfish, self-gratifying personal, sexual purpose. The animal is unable to return any love or commitment to the person. The animal is not human and the person engaging in such sexual perversity is not able to enter with the animal into any life-long, committed, mutual relationship, a place where the emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically intimate relationship of sex firmly belongs. The person hurts him or herself by denying themselves the fulfillment of human love and mutual devotion and commitment.

In alcoholism, the alcoholic not only hurts himself through the act of a continual poisoning of his or her body (the “temple of the Lord”), but the alcoholic also harms those around him or her. The alcoholic’s loved ones, friends, other family, community, employer and co-workers are all affected by the alcoholic’s continued drunkenness and inability to adequately care for himself, family, community or career.

In the act of incest, the two family members engaging in such activity help to contribute to the breakdown of the family unit. As put by InterstateQ.com reader Casey:

Briefly, one of the best arguments against permitting adult incest is the destabilizing effect that having family members as potential sexual conquests would have on the trusting intimacy of the family setting. For example, if adult incest was legal, how could I as a daughter trust that my Dad was just being protective when he encouraged me to “wait until it’s right”… as opposed to just trying to save me for himself? Things like that truly would destabilize the family unit in a way that is much more logical than the claims that having two mommies confuses kids. Thus, there is a very clear line and an entirely separate rationale for keeping incest illegal – it isn’t about sexual liberty, it’s about genuine family stability. Not to mention the concerning genetic aspects.

In short, incest breaks down the family unit by destabilizing the trust and mutual, non-sexual, familial love found within the family. This breakdown harms every individual in the family unit and contributes to the breakdown of society, as I think all people – gay or straight – agree that families (of all shapes and sorts) are the foundational building blocks of our society.

In lust, a person objectifies another person in an air of personal, sexual, self-gratification. Notice the word “objectifies.” While lusting, a person turns another human being – another beautiful creation of our God – into an object with one use: sexual gratification. Instead of seeing another person as a full member of God’s creation and a human with full dignity, the lusting person will see another as an object to a means.

In each of these instances, and more, the sin is a sin because it harms either the person committing the sin or the other people around the person committing the sin, or, in some cases, all the people (and more) involved. In life-long, committed, monogamous relationships between two people (either same-sex or opposite-sex), no harm is done to any person.

In terms of God’s love for gay & lesbian people, I cannot believe that my God would condemn me only for the love I feel and experience with another human being (male or female). I do not believe that my God would eternally separate me from His presence because I lived a life of love inside a life-long, committed, monogamous relationship with a man, experiencing the same and intense love and mutual devotion, care and support that is felt by straight people.

Also, I do not agree with Brown’s assertion that one cannot be gay & Christian. I feel as though any person who is a believer in Christ is indeed saved. This is called Free Grace. And while one is yet a sinner, one is saved by Grace. While I still find myself lying, cheating or stealing, I can still be assured that God has saved me. So, if “homosexual behavior” is a sin, Free Grace would still stand and a person would still be saved if they believe fully that Christ is their personal Saviour. When God makes a promise of salvation, he does not break that promise. For a person to live his whole life following & loving Jesus, what kind of promise-breaking God would send that person to hell simply because he or she felt love?

Point Two: The Linkage Between Bennett’s “Gay Bar Scene” Life with the “Homosexual Lifestyle.”
During his testimony, Stephen Bennett makes two statements which seem to conflate the lives of all gay & lesbian people with an unseemly and dangerous lifestyle of drugs, drinking & promiscuity.

He says he was introduced to the “Wonderful World of Homosexuality,” thereby insinuating that there is one and only one type of gay or lesbian person and that there is one and only one type of a so-called “homosexual lifestyle.”

Later, Bennett expands what he means by a “World of Homosexuality.” He says: “They introduced me to the gay bar scene and for the next eleven years my life was on a downward spiral as I got deeply involved in the homosexual lifestyle.” He tells of his troubles with drinking, heavy drug use, the selling of illegal drugs and promiscuity.

What makes his statement so wrong and so detrimental is his conflation/linkage/comparison of “the gay bar scene” with “the homosexual lifestyle.”

Gay & lesbian people – just like straight people – are varied, diverse and different. All people – gay or straight – live very different lifestyles. While Bennett (along with other ex-gay activists) so easily conflates “the gay bar scene” with a so-called “homosexual lifestyle,” I have never seen any one try to conflate any lifestyle of a straight person involved in a straight bar scene with the entire spectrum of different lifestyles experienced by straight people.

Gay or straight, people live varied lifestyles. Some people live quietly as students or scholarly people who sit at home and read all the time. Some people are athletes. Some people are career politicians. Some people are home-makers, house-wives and house-husbands. Some people spend all their time working in a law or financial career. Some people do nothing with their lives and sleep all the time and, yes, some people – both gay and straight – are involved in a life-killing, harmful and dangerous bar scene filled with illegal drug use, heavy drinking and promiscuity. Although some people may be involved in some sort of action, we cannot say that all are that way because some just happen to be.

Point Three: The Health of Gay & Lesbian People
Throughout the entire forum numerous mentions were made of AIDS. Although no panelist directly connected HIV/AIDS to gay & lesbian people, there were many times, especially in Bennett’s testimony, where AIDS was mentioned.

In Frank Turek’s presentation, it was noted that “some studies” supposedly showed that gay & lesbian people lived up to 30 or more years shorter than the average person. This is one of those patently false statements, as it is assuredly based on the debunked, non-scientific studies of Paul Cameron, a person repudiated by almost every major medical and psychological association for his unprofessional behavior and his non-scientific “studies.” More info on Cameron’s “Obituary Study” here.

Point Four: Bennett’s Testimony
Stephen Bennett’s testimony was emotional and moving. As I told him immediately following the close of the forum, I respect his testimony and life story and do not condemn him for it. I told him that I take issue with how many of the ex-gay organizations portray these important issues but that I do not harbor any malice against people who describe themselves as “former homosexuals.”

During his testimony, however, Bennett stated that this was only “my testimony, but there are many others who have gone through what I’ve gone through” and that many others have successfully changed from gay to straight.

That may be true, and if so, I can’t do anything about it. I do take issue and concern over the apparent forcefulness of the ex-gay industry’s attempts to say that all gay and lesbian people can and should change.

Just as Bennett claims that this was only his testimony but that there are many others that have experienced what he has, there are also many, many people on the other side of this debate – people like me and especially “ex-gay survivor” Peterson Toscano – who have experienced the opposite. There are gay & lesbian people, many of them, who have tried and tried and tried to change in order to fit into the church and who have never been successful. There are people who have gone through ex-gay therapies or other means to changing who have never been able to change from gay to straight. I’d dare say that for the majority of gay & lesbian people, change is not possible.

So then, the church gives gay & lesbian people two options: Change or forever live your life with the absence of a healthy, mutual, life-long, committed & monogamous relationship by remaining celibate (something Paul says that only a few are really called to do and that one must enter into voluntarily, not forcibly).

Point Five: God’s Word is the same now, then and forever
As a Baptist I firmly believe that, yes, God’s Word is the same now, then and forever. I believe that Scripture is unchangeable. But unlike my fellow Christian brothers and sisters of FIRE Church, Coalition of Conscience and other more conservative Christian strains, I do believe that the Bible is something human beings continuously come to understand in different and better ways as time progresses and as God reveals more truth to us.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people saw God and the spiritual world around them in a much different way than we now see it. In fact, Judaism does not even teach that there is a hell, or a place of eternal separation from God.

At one time in history, Christians believed that slavery was condoned by God and, in fact, if one were to read the Scriptures one could certainly find passages supporting that premise. The good news is that we – as God’s Children and under His Divine knowledge – have moved forward through new revelations of what He intends for humanity. We now know – no matter what the Scripture says – that slavery is not condoned by God.

At one time in history, people believed that Scripture condoned the treatment of women as nothing more than the personal property of her husband. Just as with the issue of slavery one can certainly find Scriptural passages to support this claim. However, like slavery, human kind has grown past this erroneous interpretation of God’s plan for humanity. We (well, at least I hope that the majority of us) now know and fully believe that women are equal to men and are not their personal property.

The Bible has also been used by Christians to condemn Jews, inter-racial couples, children, the disabled, the mentally ill and many, many more throughout history – including gay & lesbian people.

Now, humans are finding that the Bible does not necessarily condemn gay & lesbian people. Humans – through Divine knowledge – are coming to see that the love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is no different than the love between a man and a woman. If there is one Scriptural and Gospel message that we can all agree upon, it is certainly the call to love others and to be loved by others. True, deep, compassionate, mutual and equal love between two humans who commit to live their lives together is never wrong and more and more Christians are coming to this conclusion.

The panelists were right: The Bible does not change… but, unfortunately, they do not understand the concept that our human understanding of what Scripture says and what God intends for us does indeed change as we grow in new spiritual revelations from God and as we bring more people into God’s loving arms and fold.

Point Six: “Un-natural Love” and “Counterfeit Relationships”
During the forum, Bennett claimed that the love and relationships of gay & lesbian people are “un-natural” and “counterfeit.” At the end of the forum he even told me that if I were to only take one and just one thing away from what he said, then I should remember that I “will never find Mr. Right.”

I’ve covered a lot of these points in Point Five above, but I feel it is extremely important to say that love is love. The love of a man and a man or a woman and a woman is no different than the love found between a man and a woman. Love is not harmful, dangerous, fake, “counterfeit,” or “un-natural.” Love is just that: love. No human should be able to tell another human that their committed, life-long, mutual and monogamous relationships and love is not valid. To do so is to place yourself in a position of judgment over another human being’s ability to love and be loved – something for which God clearly designed every human being.

Point Seven: Turek’s Claim that the Marriage Movement seeks only to bring “Normalization & Validation”
In his presentation, Frank Turek claims that gay & lesbian people do not truly desire marriage for marriage itself. Using taken-out-of-context quotes from gay leaders, Turek says that gay & lesbian people only seek the acceptance and recognition (something he calls “Normalization and Validation”) of their so-called “lifestyles.”

He quotes Andrew Sullivan who said that marriage is really the only reform that matters because it will provide many of the legal protections LGBT people are fighting for in other pieces of legislation. This quote is not meant to say that gay & lesbian people only want marriage because we seek to force an agenda on anyone, but rather fighting for marriage is more worthy a use of our time as a community because in the end we will gain many things: The right to marry the one we love and have that relationship consecrated by law – something we should all enjoy – and that we will also gain many other legal rights all citizens should have gay or straight.

He also quotes Michelangelo Signorile who uses quite radical language in saying that gays should fight for marriage and then destroy an “archaic institution.” Unfortunately, Turek must not realize that Signorile’s views are far, far, far from mainstream and that the majority of LGBT people probably do not even know who Signorile is.

_______________________________

I have done my best to present the forum “Can you be Gay & Christian” in the most accurate way possible. As I promised Dr. Michael Brown, I have attempted to represent the words of each panelist as fairly as possible. I have used quotes where possible and attempted to interpret the words and statements of each panelist as fairly as possible. With that said, however, it is only common sense for everyone reading this to realize that my particular interpretation of these words and statements will be far from the interpretation arrived at by any of the panelists and likely, by many of the audience members who may agree with the panelists. As a member of the minority group to which these words and statements are directed, one should be wise enough to expect that I may find something offensive or take issue with something that the majority group would not find.

If any clarifications need to be addressed, I’ll be open to that, but I will stand by my assertions in regard to my equality not only in the eyes of God and the Church, but also the law.

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Comments
26 Responses to “Anti-gay group hosts “Can you be Gay & Christian” forum”
  1. Matt-

    Thank you for your compassion, your convictions and your courage. I think you did an admirable job of pointing out the double standard nongays use, the flawed logic of nongays and the tortured exposition which reads back into scripture, modern views of homosexuality which were not being addressed in the Clobber Passages.

    God bless you my friend!

    Rick

  2. Awesome Matt! I really applaud your courage & forthrightness.

    Having been a Christian but not currently one & not being gay, either… well, I can’t say I know where you are coming from exactly, but I am able to recognize that spark of true humanist spirit that comes through in your testimony.

  3. Matt says:

    Don’t get me wrong Concerned Citizen… I’m still a Christian and I don’t think I’d exactly define myself as “humanist.” Thanks for the comments.

  4. David Seamon says:

    Matt,

    I saw your testimony on Pam’s

  5. Matt says:

    Yes David… Pam emailed me last night/this morning to tell me she’d put a post up. Pam and I are good friends and I thank her for helping to get this story out.

  6. David Seamon says:

    Matt,

    I saw your testimony on Pam’s Houseblend and came to your site to read your account.

    Your testimony was superb–to the point, heartfelt, and sincere. Perhaps what you said changed a few minds in the audience. You have an extraordinary gift–people can’t help but listen to what you say because you manifest an honesty that is palpably real. Few people can do that.

    The panel members’ responses to your words were insensitive, immature, and demonstrative of the immeasurable ignorance of so many “learned” Christians.

    You clearly have a gift, and I hope you will not expend it on “philistines” like the ones you had to deal with here. Somehow, you can make a “virtuous circle,” which, just by your doing it, will indirectly do much to derail (and heal) the kind of “vicious circle” these so-called Christians provoke.

    Trust who you are and find your way. You can do remarkable things.

    David S.

  7. Joe T. says:

    On another note, why is Pam House complaining about anything at all going on in any other NC town when Durham is such a disaster? The Committee For the Afairs Of Black People in Durham just endorsed Victoria Peterson for City Council! Nifong’s chum. The one who enticed the New Black Panthers to burn down the lacrosse house. The loudest homophobe in town. Don’t those people in Durham GET it yet? And then they’ll complain about the civil suit. Pam House won’t write about that (for some mysterious reason- lol).

  8. Casey says:

    Excellent report, and an inspiring testimony. Gotta say, I smiled to see my comment included above – glad you found it useful. Best wishes and keep up the good work, my friend.

  9. Here are some basic points to remember when dealing with reactionary religious rhetoric:

    1) The Bible is not the word of God! The Bible is man’s interpretation of God’s word. The Bible as we know it did not even exist in Biblical times. There were different books in it than you find today, and different versions of the books we know. And none of it was in English! Over the years, the Bible has been heavily edited, sometimes for partisan ideological purposes. Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman details the evolution of Scripture in his books “Misquoting Jesus” and “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture”.

    2) The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about the “sin” of homosexuality! It’s about the sin of gang rape. A similar story in Judges depicts the gang rape and murder of a woman by townspeople. Just as in the story of Sodom, the townspeople were destroyed. Needless to say, the overwhelming majority of Gay men aren’t gang rapists. On the contrary, we are often the victims of gang rape perpetrated by hostile heterosexual men, especially in prison.

    3) The Holiness Code, found in Leviticus, which includes the infamous prohibitions against male-on-male sexual conduct, does not apply to Christians and never has. It was imposed as punishment on the ancient Israelites for the act of worshiping a golden calf. It applied only to them and to people who converted to Judaism. If you’ve never read the book of Galatians, read it now in a good translation. In it, the Apostle Paul confirms that the Holiness Code does not apply to Christians!

    4) Paul was not God. Jude was not God. Christians follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, not of the Apostles. If what the Apostles taught parallels what the Savior taught, then fine. But if they deviate from his teachings, as Paul and Jude did in their comments about homosexuality, their words cannot be considered doctrinal. Jesus Christ never taught that God gave sinners over to “unnatural” sexual urges, and he never said that homosexual folk will not see Heaven. That last passage is a mistranslation, anyway.

    5) Stephen Bennett misquoted the passage from Acts about the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch did not ask “what must I do to be saved?” That question came from a rich man who approached Jesus Christ. Let me say a few things about the word “eunuch”. It did not mean “castrated man” in ancient times. It meant a man who had no sexual interest in women; its etymology has no connection to castration at all. The word had a very strong homosexual connotation, and indeed, was the equivalent of the modern term “Gay man.” Many eunuchs were not castrated. Those who were castrated often were not homosexual. Castration was a barbaric attempt to create the kind of man who could be trusted to look after women, which is what eunuchs usually did. In Matthew 19, Jesus Christ spoke of this type of man, “born eunuchs” who by nature don’t mate with women. Many Gay Christians, including myself, recognize that He was talking about them in that passage. Read Matthew 19, and note that the Savior never says eunuchs should be celibate. Note that He never says eunuchs must stop being eunuchs. Also note that He connects eunuchs to Heaven, a direct contradiction of what the Apostle Paul said. For more information about the role of eunuchs in Heaven, read the 14th chapter of Revelations.

    6) The specifc laws that Christians are mandated to follow are listed in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 10. The lists do not contain any laws prohibiting homosexual conduct.

    While I understand your motives in attending this conference, I must question the wisdom of you doing so. Why did you find it necessary to commune with such twisted individuals? Were you looking for validation from the organized church? As you surely learned, you’ll never get it. But the important thing to know is, you don’t need it! The Gospels affirm Gay identity. Jesus Christ affirmed Gay identity. Nothing else matters. The people who staged that conference were idolaters who worship the Bible instead of God. You don’t need anything they have to offer, because the path they encourage LGBT folk to doesn’t lead to Heaven.

  10. I read the post, I know you are a Christian. I meant it as a compliment in the same way Martin Luther King,was a humanist & Ghandi. Both religious people that I admire. I hold them in high regard for being decent human beings, aware of having a higher consciousness,who had compassion for their fellow human beings enough to lead them out of the oppression they were in.

  11. Casey says:

    Stuffed Animal… a large part of why I admire Matt’s decision to go into that conference is because it represents a profoundly Christian act – he went into the lion’s den to preach the truth, in the hope that there might be a few with ears to hear. At its heart, that was Christ-like. The fact is, by preaching hostility to and exclusion of people with a homosexual orientation, particularly brothers and sisters in Christ, many of today’s churches are committing a grave sin. How often did Jesus say that it was imperative that all people be allowed to come freely to Him? And finally… I don’t see how it is possible to read the stories of the early church, particularly in Acts, and believe that you can follow Jesus while being unwilling to confront injustice with truth and love. We are not an isolationist faith, we cannot stick our heads in the sand. Matt saw an opportunity to speak prophetically, and he took it. Well done to him.

  12. You’re one brave dude.

    It’s unfortunate that representatives of the Affirming congregations did not show up. But let me be honest. Even in the moderate Baptist that I grew up in where same-sex relationships were not affirmed – no pastor or leader in my church would have looked you in the face and claimed that this is an issue of heaven or hell.

    That’s not compassion, Matt.

    Moderates and Progressives in Baptist life definitely do not speak in unison on the issue of homosexuality. But for us, it’s not a litmus test. The Christian faith demands responsibility, accountability and monogamy. And we value committed, healthy relationships. But most sensible, truly compassionate Christians are not willing to draw a line in the sand over this issue.

  13. Shawn says:

    Hey Matt– I thought you wouldn’t mind if I threw in my two cents.

    One point I thought was unaddressed in your response that I had, was exactly this: If I could choose my sexual orientation, I would choose to be gay. If Stephen Bennett had the ability to choose and chose differently than I would, well, that’s the value of individualism within our culture. But if I were given that same choice, I wouldn’t choose to be straight. Not every gay person wants to be or can be straight, and it’s ridiculous to think that such a thing is necessarily possible.

    Fairly accurate rendition of the evening, however. The only other point that I would make is that, even though I had a lot of these conversations while on the Ride, this convergence was difficult for me to be a part of. Though I can and could point out those things which you have mentioned– the fallacies, etc. of their statements– the issue isn’t that they perpetuate this information. The issue is that, in a sense, they believe they are doing right by g-d to believe such.

    How do we reach these people?

    Also, I’d like to bring up an interesting point regarding why perhaps no other self-affirming gay people were readily apparent at this meeting. Not discrediting your statement above, but as a corollary, if you were asked to share stage space with someone who vehemently believed that not only were you lying to yourself about who you love, but that you were counterfeit in your relationships and that your belief in g-d wasn’t divinely inspired, I highly doubt you would find any sort of merit in attending that event.

    Just my two cents, Matt.

  14. Kelsey says:

    Hey Matt,
    I too applaud your boldness in getting up to share your heart, which I indeed saw through your testimony, for I was there too.
    If I could though I would ask one question of you. How can Scripture truly remain the Word of God, if it is left up to the ever-changing interpretations of man to validate it? You said you believed that Scripture is unchanging, which i would take a step further to say that God Himself is unchanging. How could He then give such conflicting “revelations” between the ages of men, both being “right”, and yet remain unchanging in His ways? It just doesn’t add up.
    Just a few thoughts….feel free to respond.

  15. Matt says:

    Kelsey… I want to thank you so much for your comments and thoughts and the kind manner in which you came to my website to have a dialogue and conversation. I wish more people would be as kind as you. Unfortunately most people who may not agree with me on these subjects would rather use degrading language.

    Since you haven’t done any of that, I appreciate it and I think our conversation will go well.

    You stated: How can Scripture truly remain the Word of God, if it is left up to the ever-changing interpretations of man to validate it? You said you believed that Scripture is unchanging, which i would take a step further to say that God Himself is unchanging. How could He then give such conflicting “revelations” between the ages of men, both being “right”, and yet remain unchanging in His ways? It just doesn’t add up.

    Yes, I do believe that the Word of God is unchangeable, but exactly how do you view the Word of God? Is it literally the words on the page or something more? If your answer would be that the Word of God are only the words on a piece of paper, then I’d ask you to look deeper and caution you against idolatry. The Bible teaches that the Word of God is, indeed, Jesus Christ himself. In the Gospel of John, Scripture says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    So then, we come to learn that the Word of God is much, much more than simply words written on a piece of paper. Indeed, the Word of God is Christ himself.

    So… That means that the Word encompasses more than just those words and the language on that paper; it encompasses both the life, the teachings and the spirit of our Christ.

    As human society has grown we have come to realize, through the renewed learning and re-thinking of the Bible and with the help of God and the Holy Spirit, that some things sanctioned in the past (even by the Bible and, supposedly, God himself) are not right and are, in fact, morally, eternally wrong.

    A thousand years ago people believed that God condoned slavery and you can certainly find passages in the “Word of God” (i.e. The Bible) to support such a claim. You can find certain passages in the “Word of God” (i.e. the Bible) to support a claim that says a woman is merely a man’s property. The good news is that Christ has set us free… which also means that we know certain things once seen as sanctioned by God are wrong. We see that human love triumphs over hate and exclusion. We see that gay and lesbian people, yearning for nothing more than a stable, loving and committed relationship that is no different than the love experienced within straight couples.

    I took great offense to the panelists’ assertions that my love for another man is “counterfeit.” My love is just as valid as any others.

    I don’t believe the real Word of God changes and I believe that every generation must take a look at the world around them and question what is right and what is wrong, using the our Christ as the guide. In recent times we have done that, leading to the end of slavery, the end to the subjugation of women and so many more wrongs. Hopefully, we will come to see that Christ’s love also sets free from hate & exclusion those faithful, Christ-seeking gay & lesbian people currently left out of God’s fold (as managed by humans here on this earth).

  16. Casey says:

    Heya Kelsey,
    You raise some excellent questions, and I’d like to jump in, if I may. It’s all about the assumptions you bring to the it, whether it be the Bible or these questions you’ve just asked. In asking “How can Scripture truly remain the Word of God, if it is left up to the ever-changing interpretations of man to validate it?” and “How could He then give such conflicting “revelations” between the ages of men, both being “right”, and yet remain unchanging in His ways?” you’ve premised your questions on a pair assumptions. First, that God would never allow humanity to erroneously interpret His word, or to correct itself through the movement of the Spirit, and secondly that all of humanity’s conclusions about scripture have been due to His “revelations” through the years. I would challenge both premises.

    Throughout the Gospel, Christ begins or ends his parables with “those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” His audiences included those who had read scripture, who knew the words of God in their bones… but clearly implied here is that not everybody will understand, and that some previous understandings have been flawed. The entire Sermon on the Mount has Jesus saying “you have heard it said, X, BUT I say to you…” – implying that what men have been teaching about God is not what Christ meant to be taught. Yes, God is unchanging – but our understanding of Him and His prayers for us grows as we come to know Him more, as we are molded to be more in His image.

    Do you believe the same about God now as you did in your first Bible study, your first encounter with Him? Probably not – you’ve grown wiser, discovered more about the culture into which Christ was born, its history and symbolism… you’ve experienced more of life and perhaps have learned that much of the beauty of our faith is that it is a faith, and not a science… there is much we do not know, cannot know, even with the Bible in front of us. I would dare say it asks more questions than it answers, and does so for good reason. This book, like the challenges of our lives, point us toward God… they almost compel us to our knees to say “God, why?” – and through asking, coming into relationship with Him.

    You’ll recall how one day, people asked Christ “who sinned?” to cause a man to be born blind. Surely, it is logical to believe that blindness is sub-optimal, as bad for humanity as, say, confusion about scripture. But Jesus answered that nobody sinned – the man was born blind so that the glory of God might be revealed in him. How often did the blind reach out to Christ in ways that those with sight did not? They knew they needed God – and in much the same way, we who are hated for being glbt are driven to cry out to the Father for His love. We know our need, we know that there are things beyond our control (how better to know that when “your own” body betrays you?)… we know in a way that is unique, how powerful God is, and how weak we are. We know how amazing is His grace. But the point here is, God uses things human beings find flawed to achieve great things. He uses the weak to lead the strong.

    As a gay person, when I became a Christian, I had to struggle with the question of why a good God, a God that I knew loved and accepted me as I am, created me as I am… why that God would allow His church to be so cruel to His gay and lesbian children. Such cruelty could not be the ideal for the church, same as blindness could not be the ideal for humanity, I thought. But eventually, it came to me, like my beloved’s voice whispering in my ear… the power of our God is most clearly seen in His power to redeem. Humanity breaks things – we divide ourselves one against the other, we oppress, we are confused, we sin – but the glory of God is revealed when He takes our brokenness in hand and redeems it. By this, I do not mean His glory is revealed when God turns gay people straight – the shattered languages of Babble were not reunited at Pentecost; the Spirit spoke to all in their own tongues, transcending division in a way which continues to impress people to this day. I mean that God uses our brokenness for His purposes. When the day comes that the church embraces GLBT people, transcending the sexism, privilege, pride and fear that underlie homophobia, it will bear witness to the love and greatness of God, and His promise of welcome to all – and the glory will all be His. Until that day, I will patiently endure, tell my story, and pray that His kingdom come.

    Blessings to you,
    Casey

  17. Shawn Landis says:

    Hey Matt, i skimmed over your report here. Good deal. i look forward to reading more of what you have here.

  18. Kelsey says:

    Hey Matt,
    I appologize for this late reply, I was out of town for the weekend.
    Anyway, I guess I should clarify my views on the Word of God. I do not belive that it is just words on a page. The Bible is inspired by God and it is alive. Jesus was called the Word and I do believe that He is the Word walked out in the flesh.
    You mentioned slavery, and I think that is a prime example of people people can interpret the Word to advocate/prove their wrong beliefs. Slavery in Biblical times, especially among the Jews, was very different than it was a couple hundred years ago here in the states and the rest of the world. Slavery was not based on race back then but mostly on social status. People would sell themselves into slavery to help pay off a debt, or if they wanted all of their needs to be provided for by a master. So I belive the culture needs to be understood better when it comes to this issue.
    When it comes to the new covenant, if anything the standard rises. Jesus begins to deal directly with the heart. Now, not only is something a sin when you do it outwardly, but it is a sin when commited inwardly. For example, not only murder is sin, but hating your brother. Not only is adultery sin, but lusting after another. He deals with the conditions of the heart.
    When it comes to the outward rules that changed, they were mentioned in the New Testament, such as when God told Peter in the vision that he was to call nothing unclean that God has made clean, speaking about the food laws at the time. (Acts 10) Paul himself ate with the gentiles, which probably included pork from time to time.
    I know a lot of times an argument for homosexuality, is that Jesus never mentioned it as sin, so its ok.
    I think that the reason that he didn’t mention it, was there were no changes that needed to be made to what was already mentioned, in the Old Testament on that issue, as far as whether or not it was sin. (Mind you, some of the direct punishments of the Old Testament for sins have changed with the new covenant and that was laid out in the NT. If you want references i can get them to you.)
    Now there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus loves homosexuals, and i agree that He did come to set us free from hatred and He calls us to walk out our lives in love for one another.
    I’ll leave you with this analogy. There is a man who is blindfolded and en route to walking over the endge of a cliff. One man informs him of his direction and tries to stop him, even to the point of trying to take off the man’s blindfold so he can see. Another man looks at the man, but says “I don’t want to bother him, it’s his life.” Which one truly loves the man? Which one is his friend?

    I really appreciate you allowing me to dialogue with you and I hope we can continue. 😀

    In Him,
    Kelsey

  19. Kelsey says:

    Hey Casey,
    You’ve raised some good questions as well. 🙂
    I actually do believe that God allows people to misinterpret His word, in the sense that God has given mankind free will and He is not going to make people think rightly. I will clarify though that I believe all misinterpretations happen outside of the Bible itself. Everything written in the Scriptures is not man’s opinion, but it is God’s opinion, which is steadfast.
    Yes, I do believe that we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God, but that should never contradict Scripture. The Bible is our written guide on how we should live, and even though the Holy Spirit moves and gives us revelations of who God is, He will never contradict the Word either. Jesus Himself never contradicted Scripture and He is not about to begin. God does not suffer from multiple personalites.
    I do not wish to downplay your struggle here though. I do believe that you were “born that way” in the sense that all of mankind is born with a sin nature, but everyone has different tendensies/weaknesses that they struggle with. Nicodemus came to Jesus and Jesus told him that he had to be “born again” (John 3). In order to begin the new life, the old life has to die. The two cannot co-exist with each other. 2 Cor 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” If anyone is going to be “in Christ” the old life has to die. It’s not always easy…im not going to lie and say that it is. Some things are more deeply rooted than others and they take more time for uprooting (though God could certainly do it in an instant).
    And though I know you would differ with me, I would consider homosexuality an issue of the heart, not merely a physical issue, such as the blind man. Desire is rooted in the heart. Jesus came to change hearts, so why would it be any different for homosexuals?
    I am sorry for any real hatred or cruelty that the Church has responded to you with; for that i apologize. Jesus respondes much differently than most of that.
    Thank you for your openess and willingness to share with me, it is much appreciated.

    In Him,
    Kelsey

  20. Casey says:

    Kelsey,
    When it comes to the nature of scripture, I don’t think we’re disagreeing as much as you seem to believe. I’m with you in that the text of the Bible is true. I just don’t think that text means what you think it means – I think that with regard to homosexuality, Christians have misinterpreted that text, for a variety of reasons. Gay Christians like myself take the Bible seriously, and have good reasons for believing that it does not categorically condemn same-sex relationships. (Justin Cannon over at inclusiveorthodoxy.com has a pretty decent, brief explanation of the basis for that interpretation – given your openness to dialogue, I highly recommend you check it out.) Basically, there’s nothing about a committed same-sex relationship that contradicts scripture as we understand it. Condemning such relationships, and discriminating against them, however, would be a sin – “call not what I have cleansed unclean” and all that.

    I’m glad you mentioned Nicodemus and the idea of being born again – do you recall the rest of that exchange? There was confusion about how a man could be born again, because clearly he could not physically return to his mother’s womb – at which point, Jesus pointed out that this rebirth is a spiritual thing. Over and over in the gospels, people don’t get this concept, insisting that the physical is what matters, rather than intangibles like faith and the work of the spirit. I think we’re running into the same issue today with regard to homosexuality – an obsession with the physical aspect of the behaviors condemned in Leviticus (anal sex) rather than the motive for such an action (in the context of that society, either idolatry, rape/dominance of an enemy, or degrading somebody as being less than a man). The spirit of an action is often what gives it moral significance, and that is the case with sexual behavior, straight or gay.

    As you say, Jesus never contradicted scripture – but he did often clarify it. You actually contradicted yourself above, by implying that Jesus changed the law by raising the standards – not only was it wrong to murder, but also to hate. Thing is, it was always wrong to hate – the hatred imbued in murder is what makes it wrong. Same with homosexuality – it was the motive behind the actions that made them condemned in a lot of contexts – but unlike murder, it is possible for two people of the same sex to be intimate with pure hearts… and it is that intimacy I’m defending as never having been condemned.

    Finally – I believe it is absolutely possible for somebody who is gay to be born again and to remain gay… because I’ve been blessed by God to have done so. In many ways, my previous self has died, and my life has changed. I know what it feels like for the Spirit to convict me of sin, even sexual sin… and I also know what it feels like when God reminds me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image… and that includes my sexual orientation. Many straight people have been born again, and recognized that their sexual behavior was improper – so they change their behavior, but it does not change their orientation. The same thing happens with gay people – our attitudes toward sex can change, but the object of that desire does not. That does not mean the old life has not died – it only means that the orientation is not what Christ is changing in me. There is no need.

    I implore you – for the sake of argument, imagine what it would mean if I’m right, and homosexuality is not a sin. What does that tell you about God, that the homosexual is also made in His image? What do we discover about God in the loving bond between two men, or two women? Isn’t there something divine about a relationship of love and mutual sacrifice that nobody can ever claim is just “nature’s way of fooling us into breeding”? Something supernatural about the choice of such couples to make homes for the rejected children of the world, adopting them into their families freely, in a way that mirrors God’s choice to adopt us all? Think about it. Pray. Then respond – I’ll be waiting.

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