Al Mohler, influential president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has gotten himself into a bit of a tiff with Professor David Gushee of Mercer University. Gushee wrote a provocative piece at Religion News Service. It’s a good read. Gushee posits that society has moved to the full embrace of LGBT equality. Given, for example, the anti-gay platform of the Republican Party I have some reservations. His conclusion is that individuals are either for or against equality. The middle ground has vanished and people can no longer finesse the issue
That doesn’t sit well with Mohler who writes: “Ask Not for Whom the Volcano Erupts; It Erupts for Thee: A Response to David Gushee.” There are few things as satisfying as classy understatement. The subtitle to Mohler’s polemic reads: “Do the sexual revolutionaries and their erstwhile supporters and theologians understand just what they have set loose?” Yes, Al. Hordes of gays and transgenders and they all out for your blood. Better triple-lock your doors at night. Ugh.
Crixus: “Shall I begin?”
…Churches, institutions, and individuals committed to the Christian church’s historic sexual ethic, held consistently over two millennia, now find themselves faced with a stark choice — join the sexual revolution or face the consequences.
Oh, for the love of dog, you would think that we are forcing people to be gay or transgender or to marry someone of the same sex. Ah, but the victims:
Those consequences include social marginalization, overt discrimination,the censure of the cultural elites, and worse. Christian colleges and schools are now openly threatened with the loss of tax-exempt status and participation in federal and state student aid. Christian employees in businesses large and small are told to get with the program or get lost. Getting with the program does not mean simply working amiably with all, regardless of sexual orientation. It means openly and enthusiastically celebrating every demand and aim of the LGBT community. Entire professions will soon be closed to many Christians who, for example, cannot, without violating their Christian conscience, perform sex-reassignment surgeries.
Much of this is just Christian mythology. Most of those people who don’t see LGBT citizens as their equals are not too concerned about social marginalization. Apparently the disapproval of “cutural elites,” whatever that means, is of considerable concern to Mohler. Christian colleges and schools are most certainly not going to lose their tax exemptions or eligibility for Title IV federal student aid.
Christian employees (as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists) are simply required to do two things in business: 1) Refrain from proselytizing and 2) Not discriminate on the bases of sexual orientation or gender identity. Their celebratory approval is most certainly not required! Why must they insist that we require their approval? The surgeon thing is laughable. Doctors who perform sex reassignment surgery are specialists. Mohler is saying that a physician who objects to sex reassignment surgery would not be able to specialize in sex reassignment surgery.
This is the reality we now face, and the onslaught is coming fast. Major LGBT organizations are now pressing their demands and gaining traction. …
Onslaught? Marauding hordes of lesbians are at the gate? One of these days the Equality Act will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include LGBT citizens and taxpayers. At the moment the makeup of the House of Representatives prohibits that from happening. If the Act can protect Mohler’s voluntary superstition then it can certainly protect us.
Now, along comes a voice to warn us that the deluge is coming and to argue that we had better prepare ourselves for disaster or save ourselves at last by joining the revolution.
That voice is Professor David Gushee of Mercer University. In a recent column at Religion News Service, Gushee announced: “Middle ground is disappearing on the question of whether LGBT persons should be treated as full equals, without any discrimination in society — and on the related question of whether religious institutions should be allowed to continue discriminating due to their doctrinal beliefs.
What Gushee says is this:
Openly discriminatory religious schools and parachurch organizations will feel the pinch first. Any entity that requires government accreditation or touches government dollars will be in the immediate line of fire. Some organizations will face the choice either to abandon discriminatory policies or risk potential closure. Others will simply face increasing social marginalization.
First of all, the government does not accredit schools. That is done by private accrediting agencies who set their own standards. I would think that the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools is going to provide a safe harbor. Certainly President Obama’s executive order requiring federal contractors to be nondiscriminatory with respect to LGBT hires, promotions or subcontractors would be sustained by a Clinton administration.
The Christian right has pretty much worn out the “religious freedom” nonsense by feigning persecution. It is clear that freedom in that context really means the freedom to discriminate. Catholic schools need to stop discriminating against staff, students and even parents. They should comply with nondiscrimination laws just like everyone else. The ministerial exemption is perfectly fair.
Back to Mohler:
Just in case we missed his point, he lowers the boom: “Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.”
Let me be clear. I agree with Gushee’s main point. Middle ground is indeed disappearing on LGBT issues. Indeed, the very idea of middle ground or a “third way” on these questions is ludicrous on its face. I have been making this argument in public for well over a decade. In 2005 I wrote an article with the title, “No Middle Ground on Homosexuality.” My argument then and my argument now is that the normalization of LGBT behaviors and relationships and revisions of human identity is incompatible with a commitment to biblical authority and the historic faith of the Christian church defined by Holy Scripture.
The demand of the LGBT revolution is not merely toleration or even legalization, but required celebration. …
Mohler was a bigot long before 2005 but a “milestone” has been enshrined for us. One more time. No one gives a flying fuck whether Mohler approves of us or not. Aside from the fact that these people think that the sun orbits them, we do not “celebrate” something as natural as sexual orientation. There is no need to do so. I have no problem with a religion rejecting LGBT people as congregants. The First Amendment says that they have every right to do so. Adherents are free to believe whatever they please. The way Mohler describes it you would think that he is being forced to change the ideology of conservative Christianity. They just love feeling persecuted.
When it comes to actions to be taken against Christians and Christian institutions, Gushee’s language is very informative. He raises “the related question of whether religious institutions should be allowed to continue discriminating due to their doctrinal beliefs.”
It depends upon who is being discriminated against. If you hire someone to run a church cafeteria then whatever nondiscrimination laws are in place should apply. Those laws and ordinances have been passed and signed into law by officials select by a majority of the electorate.
What makes David Gushee’s essay so interesting, and so troubling, is the fact that he poses as a friendly critic to traditionally minded Christians. After all, not too long ago he was himself arguing that homosexual acts and relationships were incompatible with Christian faithfulness. …
He also published a book, Changing Our Mind, which told the story of his theological transition and included essays by Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, and Matthew Vines. The arguments in the book offer nothing new to the debate, but they did signal Gushee’s apparent 180 degree turn on LGBT questions.
People evolve as they become better informed. Even Christianity grudgingly changes over time without being forced to do so. While they do not enjoy full equality in some conservative denominations, women have made significant advances over the last 50 years.
As I said, David Gushee means to pose as a friend to those conservative Christians who even now refuse to get with the program. Alan Jacobs at Baylor University has pointed to a word that jumped off the page of Gushee’s essay the first time I read it. He calls upon Christian conservatives “to reconsider their position voluntarily.” He wants to give us time to abandon over two thousand years of Christian conviction . . . but not much time. The stick is not far behind the carrot.
I must have missed the part where Professor Gushee has some form of autocratic government authority to do all these awful things. I do not know what the “or else” part of that threat is. It could be as simple as empty pews. Nevertheless, free exercise of religion is a well respected constitutional right. Is there a campaign for a constitutional amendment that I am unaware of? One that would remove religious freedom from the First Amendment?
The language and framing that he [Gushee] deploys in both of his articles (and in his recent book projects as well) clearly implies that conservative Christians are a menace to the cause he champions. He has described evangelical Christians as the last major hold-outs on the road to full LGBT equality, and he claims to be a full convert to the LGBT cause.
That seems about right to me. The menace is not religious belief. It takes many forms including the offensive orations of multimillionaire pastors; The effort to impose religion on public policy; Pernicious litigation to effect a license-to-discriminate and more. Blaming natural disasters on marriage equality serves no purpose except to advance the denigration of gay people. All the derisive noise is not going to make a single gay person straight.
As he said, there is no real middle ground. The only way to avoid being destroyed in the lava flow is to abandon two thousand years of Christian conviction. The sexual revolutionaries have shown an amazing willingness to accept converts to their cause. Barack Obama and both Bill and Hillary Clinton stand at the head of that list. All three were on record opposing same-sex marriage until they publicly converted, repented, and joined the revolution. Count on the list of religious leaders answering that altar call to grow as the volcano trembles.
That is not what he is saying. And, yes, people make different choices when they are better informed. In 1950 a Senate report titled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government” was distributed to members of Congress.
Let’s be honest. Politicians go with the flow. There is also the difference between personal belief and public policy. If religious leaders change their position on same-sex marriage it is likely because they see that it fosters no harm while providing benefits to the gay couple, their children (if any) and society as a whole. Opposing same-sex marriage is just another way of demonstrating disapproval of gay people. If people did not disapprove of gay folks then they would not disapprove of their marriages. But it’s a free country. You can worship my sub-woofer for all I care.
…Professor Gushee’s warning has been both delivered and received. His words clarify where we stand, and I agree that the earth is shaking under our feet.
At the same time, I have to wonder if the sexual revolutionaries and their erstwhile supporters and theologians understand just what they have set loose.
Ask not for whom the volcano erupts; it erupts for thee.
Although promised, the world did not come to an end;
- After the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas
- When the hate crimes bill was passed
- When Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell came to an end
- After United States v. Windsor killed DOMA
- When the Boy Scouts of America accepted gay scouts (Mohler himself said they were doomed).
- After Obergefell v. Hodges determined that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.
We will continue to advance including rights for transgender citizens. In the end it won’t matter a whit to Mr. Molher or to Christianity in general. If churches become more accepting of LGBT people I think that advances society but no one is forcing them to do so.