Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Homosexual activism and the SBC

As I mentioned in an earlier post I received an interesting phone call last week. A "radio show host" from the midwest asked to interview me about "the Southern Baptist view of homosexuality." Well, with that as a lead in, I almost declined to take the call. After struggling with for a minute or two over the best use of my time, I picked up the phone. Rick identified himself as a researcher and talk show host who was collecting information about the SBC's "attack" on homosexuality.

I asked him what he meant since I had not heard of such an attack. He referred to the previous night's Larry King Live show which, I later discovered, featured Al Mohler and others discussing gay "marriage," homosexuality and the movie, "Brokeback Mountain" (we noncablelites always find out about Larry's shows after the fact). What Rick heard upset him and he concluded that Southern Baptists were on the warpath against homosexuals.

After several minutes of trying to explain that no one person can speak for all Southern Baptists I was able to explain that the Bible does condemn homosexual behavior as sin, along with fornication, adultery, lust, theivery, dishonesty, etc. He seemed unsatisfied with my answers and asked if we could "go off the record." It was then that he identified himself as a "Christian homosexual" who was in a long-term civil union.

He took that revelation as a license to unleash a string of accusations and castigations against me that lasted for half an hour. After we moved past that, Rick apologized for losing his cool and said that he simply very frustrated because people like me are trying to deny people like him basic civil rights. Furthermore, when people like me say that homosexual activity is sinful it incites hatred and violence against people like him and people like him are fed up with it and are planning to retaliate. He told me that several homosexual rights groups are planning to picket local Southern Baptist churches with signs that say, "Don't let your children go inside this building. They will be taught hatred and bigotry."

Rick said that he didn't want to see that happen but unless the "war" against homosexuals (specifically, the opposition of civil unions for gay people) stops, he fears such responses will become commonplace. By the time our conversation ended, we had come to a meeting of the minds. He acknowledged that my contention that he is unconverted and in need of salvation from Jesus Christ was not "hate speech," but in fact, very loving. I assured him that, as a Baptist, I would fight for his right to be wrong in his beliefs even while condemning those beliefs.

He said that our conversation had "opened his mind" to things he had never considered before. He also said that he had never had a conversation like that before--certainly not with a Southern Baptist pastor. I assured him that there are many such pastors who would take a similar view to my own and that, unfortunately, he simply had not come across any of them yet in his research. He even asked if he could give my phone number to several leaders of "gay rights organizations." I said, sure. Then he asked if he could quote me. Well, I have been misquoted enough to know how dangerous that is, so I agreed with the provision that he write down very specifically my statement.

Here is what I said: "You may say that Tom Ascol believes that homosexuality is a sin that will send people to hell, just like others sins will, such as adultery, fornication, theft, lying and murder. Tom Ascol also loves homosexuals and wants to see them come to know and love Jesus Christ as Lord through the power of the Gospel."

Those are true statements. All of us are sinners. It is foolish and very much unlike Christ to disdain someone because his sin is less culturally acceptable than your own. Sometimes we conservative evangelicals have sent the wrong message by the way that we have positioned ourselves on moral issues. It is as if we are saying that it is OK to be opposed to the living God (which all unbelievers are) as long as you are not opposed to God while being homosexual. We do not believe that and we must be careful that we do not miscommunicate that we do.

I love these words from the Apostle Paul:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
Brothers and sisters, all of us are in these verses somewhere! There is great hope for homosexuals to be converted to Jesus Christ. After all, if He saved me, then He can save anyone. On more than one occasion I have said to the church that I serve that I look forward tot he day when our meetings are filled homosexuals, prostitutes, adulterers and fornicators who have come not to protest and not because we have glossed over the reality and seriousness of sin, but because they have seen in us people who know what it is to be saved by sovereign grace. When we live grace-filled lives, we adorn the doctrine of our God and demonstrate to people of all backgrounds and orienations that Jesus Christ is a great and gracious Savior of real sinners. That's the kind of pastor I want to be and the kind of church I want to be a part of. By God's grace and power, it can happen.

Pray for my new friend, Rick. I hope that I can talk to him again, soon.


justin said...

Thanks for this model of how Christians should react to homosexuals. I am a Southern Baptist in preparation for the ministry, and I see un-Christlike hostility towards homosexuals too often among my fellow seminarians.

T A Blankenship said...

Thanks for the comments. I too look forward to that day when all those who are in any sinful lifestyle can see us and our churches as loving them, and desiring them to come to the knowledge of the Truth, and receive redemption in Christ Jesus.

Phil Siefkes said...

I appreciate your Biblical response to Rick, and give thanks to God that He has enabled you to respond graciously.

allofgrace said...

Thank you for your candor and graciousness. I read the transcript of the Larry King show in question. I felt Dr. Mohler did an excellent job of presenting the evangelical view of homosexuality, while remaining gracious to those who disagreed with him. We need more of that attitude in evangelicalism. Homosexuals are no more or no less sinners than anyone else. Our thoughts and desires concerning them should be the same as for any other lost person....that they come to know Christ and Him crucified.

Stephen A Morse said...

Tom, great example. I would love to have the opportunity to speak with someone like that. I am afraid though, homosexual or not, 30 minutes of wrath is very hard to endure. God bless you!

shick said...

I had to read this sentence a few times before I understood it. It is as if we are saying that it is OK to be opposed to the living God (which all unbelievers are) as long as you are not opposed to God while being homosexual. Thank you so much for this insight. I think this is also useful in witnessing to non-homosexuals that are against christianity because of what they 'think' it is against.

Alex F said...

Thanks for addressing this issue, Tom. I have long felt that evangelicals too often yell and scream about homosexuality while winking and ignoring (or at least not getting worked up about) other sins like divorce, fornication, etc. I received a mailer from some family group whose pitch for money was nothing more than inciting fear about homosexuality.

It is easy for us to get worked up about homosexuality because, for most of us, it is so alien and foreign and "other." We don't get it and it doesn't hit close to home.

The press will certainly focus on the issue and we can't back down from truth. But I wish we all could evidence a biblical approach like that you have demonstrated and elucidated here. We are all sinners in need of grace. Sorry for the long comment!

Daniel Wiginton said...

Thanks for posting on this topic. I really appreciate your thoughts.

A Christian Prophet said...

We pray for and with Rick. Jesus teaches all-inclusiveness, not judgmentalism. The important thing is miracles are not only possible, but natural when we get our preconceived ideas out of the way.

JLF said...

Now this was refreshing to read, after such nonsense as this. What a study in contrasts!

I am thankful to the Lord for preachers today who are not afraid to call a spade a spade and stand on the authority of the Word of God with love, wisdom, and tact.

Andrew Nicewander said...

amen, Brother Tom

jerng said...

sounds absolutely productive :)

Larry said...

I agree with what is being said here. However, I will point out a couple of things. One reason we probably don't get as 'worked up' about other sins is that the folks engaging in those sins haven't organized themselves into advocacy groups pushing for the legalization and acceptance of their sin. We don't see adultery pride parades for example.

Secondly, I was involved for many years in ministry to homosexuals. I often saw that those coming out of that lifestyle expected the church to treat them specially. They say loud and long that their sin is no worse than anyone else's but then when the church does not bend over backwards to 'understand' them or cater to them in a special way, they become offended. One cannot have it both ways.

I don't say this to excuse overlooking other sins or to excuse un-Biblical treatment of homosexuals, just to point out that sometimes there are other factors at play as well.

Micah said...

...folks engaging in those sins haven't organized themselves into advocacy groups pushing for the legalization and acceptance of their sin.

Mostly because those battles are already lost, adultery is already "accepted" and viewed and engaged in nightly through television.

We don't see adultery pride parades for example.

Mardi Gras?

I think homosexuality bothers us more not because it offends God but because it offends us, its an in-your-face rejection of what we think is right and because of its taboo-ness. Those attitudes might be a result of our inner recognition of God's Law, but as with most human responses to the Law of God it seems to turn into a sin of our own in that we view the law-breaker as somehow worse than ourselves.

ScottyB said...

Great Post

thank you Tom this is what it's all about

Gordon Cloud said...

Excellent article. I often wonder if the excesses of hatred that some Christians demonstrate towards homosexuals (and other sinners too, for that matter) don't stem from an overblown sense of self-righteousness rather than of love for God.

Burt Harper said...

I pray that all Christians would have the same Biblical view about homosexuality as you do Tom. Wonderful story.

mxu said...

Thank you for this post. I've linked to it.