Newsletter #527 – Tolerance and Homosexuality

male homosexualityLiberty University seems like an unusual setting for a gay student to describe his experiences “coming out” about his homosexuality. Atlantic magazine seems like an unusual publication for a captivating and sometimes blunt article titled “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University.” The article (April 2013 issue) is worth reading in part because of its insights and perspective on the current debates about gay issues, including gay marriage. Writer Brandon Ambrosino observes how many Christians and others brashly judge people who are gay. In contrast, many pro-gay people proclaim their tolerance while they intolerably judge those whose values or religious beliefs are anti-gay. There is prejudice, insensitivity and fear on both sides. There also are surprisingly sensitive and compassionate attitudes in both camps.

I read the Atlantic article shortly after reading D. A. Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance. Carson’s writing style can be difficult to follow. Nevertheless his book is thought provoking for any of us who are caught between the views of our culture (including our professions (including psychology or counseling) and our personal values and beliefs. Someone has said that at least in America, “tolerance has emerged as a virtue that is above all others.” Carson shows how groups of people (like many in the media, academia and caring professions) laud their tolerance but are strongly intolerant of anyone whose beliefs or religious communities disagree with the gay agenda. Try questioning gay marriage in a clinical psychology-training program and see the reaction.

In democracies we respect the rights of individuals to hold and proclaim differing beliefs and values. Christians especially – but not exclusively – feel called to stand up for what we believe to be right, to resist what we view as wrong, even if this goes against what society defines as tolerance. But surely there can be respect and understanding even among those who disagree. The Atlantic writer expected his Christian college professors to be condemning when he announced his homosexuality. Instead most were gracious even though they held to their beliefs. The student who feared condemnation from his instructors discovered that he was the one with the most fear and intolerance. What does that say to us who believe that the fruit of the Spirit begins with love? Please comment.

12 Comments

  1. Well said, Gary. Your comments remind me of the song, “they will know we are Christians by our love.” If we can hold on to our truth and withhold judgement, then we can be heard. If the overall Christian response was what this student encountered, that would do more to expose the real intolerance among those who smugly claim tolerance.

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  2. Great article Gary. I just finished teaching a 10-week-class on Counseling for Sexual issues and we spent several weeks talking about homosexuality. This article, really reflects the grace-attitude that can make a big difference in this controversial topic. Although my class finished last week I will make sure that my 20 students from 8 countries will get a copy of your newsletter and the article. Thank you for publishing this newsletter.

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  3. I appreciate your willingness to open up this topic. I confess that I struggle with intolerance towards those who claim that they have human sexuality all figured out…and to some degree with those who love labels. I have several dear friends who deeply struggle with their desires. A turning point for me years ago was when a good friend told me that he would gladly tear his right arm off and give it to me if I could deliver him from his desires. I couldn’t. All I could do was remind him that God loved him with great joy and looked forward to seeing his face each morning when he got out of bed.

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  4. I try to treat homosexuals like anyone else with a habitual besetting sin problem (eg. alcoholism, pornography, masturbation, gluttony, gossip, etc.).

    I tend to divide people into 3 categories: Inactive, Active, and Activists.
    1. Inactives have a sinful desire, but are abstaining or, at least, trying to abstain from it. I praise them and encourage them to continue to abstain from acting out their sinful desires.
    2. Actives act-out their sinful desires. When appropriate, I try to respectfully and lovingly confront them and encourage them to repent and follow Jesus more closely. Unfortunately, all too often I don’t care enough about them and so I just let them continue in their sinful ways and they continue to hurt themselves.
    3. Activists are actively trying to promote their sinful lifestyle to others in society. Those people I resist with rational arguments, while trying to maintain an understanding attitude that they are being deluded by our sinful worldly culture, and that, but for the grace of God, I would be just like them.

    Awareness of my own sin has also helped me to be more humble and understanding in these situations. It helped me 15 years ago when I was dealing with a bi-sexual roommate.

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    1. I like your categories DH. Have yu noticed, however, that people with strong views about any issue tend to resist arguments, including logic. Often we break down the resistance and reduce feelings of threat by our attitudes and gracious spirits.

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  5. Yes–Christians do not have a corner on intolerance, fear, prejudice, or bigotry. At times Christians rise to the challenge or not only living each other but manifesting God’s love to those with whom we disagree.

    I am reminded of a Christian woman I knew several years ago. She had divorced her husband when he came out as gay. A few years later he was among the first in his state to be diagnosed with AIDS. As his health failed and until his death, his ex-wife cared for him. I was astonished and deeply admired her godly commitment.

    Rodger Bufford

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  6. The Lord brought to us, over several years, in different countries, a number of folk who struggled with besetting sins. When we would listen to them, they would eventually recognize their desperate plight. We did not have to condemn them, for their own conscience was doing that. When they were ready to change, we would listen while they called on Jesus. Some made amazing progress with very little input from us; others not so much. We never felt a need to compromise God’s law, any more than Jesus did.

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