I have been struck recently by the number of offensive comments which are being made by conservative evangelical Christians against LGB&T people.In a long and painful thread on my Facebook page recently, the ‘sin’ of homosexuality was placed alongside murder, adultery, theft, violence, & paedophilia by one well known church leader.
And in a recent survey by Evangelical Alliance participants were asked how the church should respond when sinful behaviour comes to light in the church. Almost inevitably, one of the ‘sinful’ scenarios outlined was "An openly gay or lesbian couple wanting to be involved in church life." This was immediately followed by, "A convicted sex offender wanting to be involved in church life".It is hard to underestimate how offensive this is to LGB&T people.
Even when conservative evangelicals try to be conciliatory, they often fail to see how offensive their statements are. In response to Steve Chalke’s recent statements in support of same-sex partnerships, Evangelical Alliance have taken the step of making their guidance on “Biblical and Pastoral Responses to Homosexuality” available as a free download – previously it had to be purchased from them.It tries to be reasonable and balanced, reminding us that we are all sinners and should not look down our noses at other people’s sins. One of the editors is Andrew Goddard with whom I have worked and for whom I have the greatest respect. Yet even so, most gay and lesbian people will find its contents highly offensive. Perhaps conservative evangelicals genuinely do not realise how offensive their statements are?
So I have decided to turn things upside down. I have done this not out of malice or a sense of getting even, but rather in the hope that it might help conservative evangelicals to understand how it feels to be portrayed in a way which they will probably find offensive.
At the heart of EA’s “Biblical and Pastoral Responses to Homosexuality” are ‘10 Affirmations’ which form the backbone of the book. I have rephrased each of them to represent they way in which many gay and lesbian people will hear their carefully crafted statements.
I have called the re-written version “The 10 Commandments of the Evangelical Alliance” and I hope that they will cause some conservative evangelicals to think twice before making fine sounding but offensive statements against gay people.
I apologise in advance if you read this and take offence – causing offense is not my intention – as I am sure it is not your intention either.
The 10 Commandments of the Evangelical Alliance
1. Thou shalt focus, first and foremost, on sin - and not love. All expressions of ‘love’ shall only be based on our foundational concept of ‘sin’, and not on the character of God, or the quality of relationship. Above all, 1John 4:16 shall not apply when we talk about homosexuals.
2. Thou shalt attempt to be loving towards homosexuals, recognising that we have often failed to do so in the past and present. Thou shalt also pretend that our continual focus on sin and our highly conditional and restrictive acceptance of homosexuals does not victimise or diminish people who are attracted to the same sex.
3. Thou shalt pretend that marriage is, and has always been between one man and one woman entered into for life, contrary to the majority of marriages in the Bible. Recognising our superior moral high ground, thou shalt focus all your indignation on homoerotic sexual practice as incompatible with God’s will, as revealed in the way we tell you to interpret the few bits of Scripture which appear to say something on the subject. Thou shalt not listen to anyone else’s interpretation of Scripture. In doing this we reject any suggestion that we are being narrow minded.
4. Churches shall only offer an unconditional welcome to those homosexuals who agree with what we say – except for the condition that if they change their minds, we will change our attitude towards them too. Thou shalt not let these people call themselves ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ or ‘bisexual’, but instead encourage them to minimise their sexuality by referring to themselves as ‘those who suffer from same-sex attraction’.
5. Thou shalt not accept or endorse the fact that other Christians, including evangelicals understand sexuality differently. Thou shalt only support churches whose Biblical interpretation is impervious to change.
6. Thou shalt fight as hard as possible against Christians and Churches who seek to encourage life-long, faithful, committed partnerships, while doing comparatively little to encourage heterosexuals to live out their marriage vows faithfully and permanently.
7. Thou shalt hold up as iconic examples, all homosexuals who have successfully emasculated (or efeminated) their same-sex attraction, while ignoring all examples of same-sex couples who have lived faithfully together in life-giving partnerships for many years.
8. Thou shalt support and encourage individuals and organisations which seek to change, heal, re-orientate, and deny those who suffer same-sex attraction any possibility of finding fulfilment in a loving, life-giving, exclusive relationship with someone of the same sex. Thou shalt do this in spite of evidence of damage or coercion from those who have suffered from such ministries. Thou shalt also ignore the overwhelming majority of professionals in psychology, psychiatry, and mental health. They are not Biblical and do not know what they are talking about.
9. Thou shalt expel from church membership and ministry all those who take a different Christian view on sexuality. Such relational consequences in church membership are a natural response to anyone who disagrees with us and their blood shall be on their own heads.
10. Thou may offer a highly conditional welcome to any actively LGBorT person who is brave enough to walk through our arches (although we never mention Bi or Trans people as we clearly don’t know what to think about them). They are welcome as long as they accept that we have the right to preach at them, make them feel uncomfortable, and restrict their membership and participation. They shall be left in no doubt that the only way to the Kingdom of God is by renouncing their sexuality and embracing our values, prejudice, and the version of God we present, made in our own image.
If you want to read the real book from Evangelical Alliance, you can download it from this link – alternatively, Andrew Goddard (one of the authors) has posted an admirably brief summary of the “10 Affirmations” which are at the heart of the book.
Update (26 March 2013)
I appears that Evangelical Alliance has today removed the optoin to downlaod the book from their website for free - the links above now go a page which simply lists the '12 Affirmations' as the authentic mainstream evangelical view, and invites you to buy the book. I find it strange that last month they wanted as many people as possible to read it, but now they seem to have suddenly changed their minds.....