Clarifying My Sarcasm

A commenter, Steve, writes:

Zach,
After reading your blog, I am confused about what you believe. Do you believe that Christian are not Bible illiterate? What do you believe the Bible says about same-sex marriage or abortion?…….I can appreciate sarcasm as much as the next person but I would think you would like to convey something positive in this post not just tear apart someone else’s statements. I would love to hear how you would approach these issue. Assuming you see them as issues for a Believer living in the world today. If you don’t I would really like to hear your reasoning(sincerely, this is not meant sarcastically). Thank you.

Steve is right. In my previous post I pretty much just tore into Dobson’s statement with out explaining myself very well. I apologize for that. As I read it back just now, I can see how some of you came away with that feeling. I will now try to explain myself a little more clearly and answer his questions as best as I can.

First, my main contention with Dobson’s statement is that in his opinion, if more Christians had a stronger Biblical world-view, or his world-view, then only the societal problems that he cares about will be solved. Time and time again the religious right claim they have a broad platform when addressing the cultural ills we face, but time and time again, they prove themselves wrong. It’s as if the only reason to be more Biblically literate is so that Christians can fight a culture war. What’s the word I’m searching for here…….pharasitic, that’s it. It’s not that the issues that Dobson cares about are unimportant; it’s just saddening (sometimes maddening) that the Bible is treated more as a device for casting stones rather than moving us towards mercy, humility and acceptance.

“Do you believe that Christian are not Bible illiterate?”

I do believe most Christians are Bible illiterate and I think I’m one of them. The more I read and study the scriptures, the more I realize how truly clueless I am as to what this text fully communicates. The complexity involved in understanding the Bible’s different literary properties and historical contexts is so overwhelming to me. For me to assume that it should impact everyone else the same as it does me is a false assumption in my mind.

“What do you believe the Bible says about same-sex marriage or abortion?”

Regarding same-sex marriage, the bible doesn’t say anything about that specific issue. In Leviticus is says that homosexuality in general is an “abomination” but it also says we should have all homosexual offenders put to death. So citing that as a text that is relevant today while not attempting to kill as many homosexuals as possible is kind of odd.

Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality at all but does speak out against sexual immorality in general. Whether or not he believed monogamous, same-sex relationships are good or bad is not known.

Paul does address the issue and I believe it is debatable what can be taken away from his writings. One thing is for sure and that is Paul did not address the specific issue of monogamous relationships between two men. He addresses male prostitutes and sodomites in 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 (sodomy is also heterosexual practice. When assigning leadership positions in a church, are heterosexual males asked if they commit sodomy with their wives?) but does not address homosexuality in a monogamous or marital setting. Obviously, I realize this debatable and some, if not many, will disagree with me here.

In regards to abortion, I do consider it an act of violence on another human being and I believe the Bible speaks pretty clearly about that. I consider myself “pro-life” not only in relation to abortion but also in the contexts of war and capital punishment.

“How do you approach your friend who is homosexual and tell them about Christ?”

In the same way I would approach it with anyone else.

“How do you talk to some who goes to a Church led by a Homosexual Pastor?”

I find this to be an interesting question. To answer it I would say that I would talk to them like I would talk to any other church-going follower of Jesus. But your question leads me to ask you how you would talk to someone who has a pastor or leader at their church who has been divorced? If a church leader who has been divorced has been put into a leadership position, it was done so not out of the strict adherence to the scripture, but by the church community coming to a consensus that it was appropriate despite what the scripture has to say about divorce. Some churches wouldn’t hire someone who had be previously divorced but others would. Would you say that one church is more biblical than the other?

Thanks for your comment and, again, I apologize for my sarcasm and for not being clear. I hope this post clears the air as to where I stand with some of these sticky issues. I realize we may disagree but that’s the spice of life and I’m truly appreciative of the dialogue. I do wish you woudln’t post a bogus email address with your comments though. “steve@yahoo.com”?…..yeah, right. that’s real. 😉

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17 thoughts on “Clarifying My Sarcasm

  1. Good thoughts, Zach. I appreciate your honest answers. So often within the “Christian bubble” we bicker and argue about issues that have little or nothing at all to do with the real message of Jesus. Most people claiming to be Christians rarely detour from the main points: the sinfulness of man, the need for salvation, Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice, salvation through faith in Him, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Most of the time these become so commonplace, so matter-of-fact. But we often bicker over the non-essentials, those externals that focus our energies away from what s truly important. I thank you for being transparent and allowing us to see where you stand on some of these issues.

  2. Z, To those types of questions (like the last one that Steve asked you), I’ve developed a standard response: human beings are not hypothetical, so I refuse to answer hypothetical questions about hypothetical persons. Because, the fact is, who knows how you’d respond to someone who has a gay pastor? — it really depends on which gay pastor (and, let’s be honest, we’ve all met a few gay pastors, whether we know it or not).

  3. Zach,
    Thank you for your honesty in answering my thoughts. I also appreciate the dialogue. Obviously our beliefs on certain issues are different and I don’t have a problem with that at all. It is difficult to be a religious leader in the world today and especially a Christian Leader. Believers and non-Believers are ready to pounce on every statement. I feel that your are right Dobson was talking about his view of what the Bible has to say on these topics. I hope he speak from his point of view and where he believes God has guided him. It doesn’t mean I have to believe what he believes and it doesn’t deminishes these issues.

    The divorced or gay pastor are difficult questions. I do know that it is not my place to sit in judgement, whether it is someone else visiable or invisiable sins or the way they intepret the Bible. I am attempting to live a Christ Like life and grow in a closer relationship with him. (sidebar: my personal belief is a huge problem in Churches today is member’s beliefs are based on a Pastor not there individual walk with God) He also calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. So the second part is where some of the Christian debate comes from “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” What has he commanded? How do we witness? And the debate goes on….

    Again thank you for your comments and I do enjoy the sarcasm. My central point was to shed a little serious light on the issues and how is tearing apart a Christian Leader’s beliefs being open to someone who may believe differently from you. Email me some time.

  4. Zach, your response to homosexuality neglected one of the most strong and obvious New Testament passages. Romans 1:26-27 can only be avoided with some laughable hermeneutical gymnastics. It comes in 1:18-32, a section demonstrating the universal depravity of humankind. It does not just speak of homosexual sex outside of marriage, for Paul’s contrast is men leaving “the natural use” of the woman and burning in lust for one “another.” If you want to take the equality-ride hermeneutic, don’t. If 1:27b stood alone, that might be a possibility. As it is, 1:27a makes the issue clear; it is the exchange of heterosexual relationships for homosexual relationships.

  5. Matthew,

    I’ve noticed that you’ve performed your own hermeneutical gymnastics by leaving out Romans 1:25 in your reference. Verse 25 clearly puts these following verses in the context of idol worship. Because of their idolatry, God gave them over to their desires. Does this mean that Paul is condemning all homosexual acts, or those tied to idolatrous worship, given the context of the chapter? Is Paul condemning the concept of same-sex marriage? I don’t believe this is clear and, therefore, it remains debatable in my mind.

  6. Zach,
    The depravity didn’t come about in the context of idol worship, it came about as a result of idol worship. There is a huge, huge difference. It wasn’t the idol worship that made it depraved. Because these people didn’t worship the true God in a true way they were given over to depravity; among many other things, homosexuality….let me know if you’d like a more thorough exegetical and contextual analysis of this passage, I’d love to put some work into that over the next couple of weeks and email you a word file, perhaps you could post it and then respond to it and allow others to respond. I could probably have it on your “desk” by Christmas. Anyways, I’ll try not to post so many cantankerous posts on your blog anymore. I’ve just been really concerned for Christ’s body and very interested in the emergent church for the last few months. I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago through a friends link. I appreciate your willingness to allow me into the discussion!

  7. I appreciate your offer to dig deeper on these verses and I’ll leave it up you on whether or not you want to put in the time. I don’t see how your in-depth study will convince me with any certainty that Paul condemned monogamous, same-sex relationships, but I’ll surely consider whatever you send.

    In the end, even if you’re right on this, it will not change my posture towards homosexuals. I cannot condemn them any more than I can condemn myself. I believe I’m called to accept them in the same way God has accepted me and all of my rough edges.

    May I ask you to clarify the concerns you have in regards to the body of Christ and how that relates to the emergent or emerging church?

  8. zach, i don’t think that anyone here is saying that the church should condemn homosexuals over and above others (or at least anyone here). so that in and of itself is a misrepresentation of what the issue is here. no one posting on this thread is at variance with your assessment in the second paragraph of #8, so don’t make it sound like they are.

    the issue isn’t whether or not homosexuals are any more or less deserving of condemnation from the church. the issue is whether or not homosexual practice is spoken against in the new testament, and whether it is an acceptable practice WITHIN the body of christ. and i would say that it isn’t acceptable.

    i would also say that it is equally as bad as any other sin (particularly those i commit). we are not talking here about whether or not westboro baptist church is justified in its pursuits (which it is obviously not). we are talking about trying to figure out what is and is not acceptable practice WITHIN the body of christ. that has nothing to do with whether or not we should love and welcome gay people from outside the church.

    if i had a gay friend who is not a christian (which i have a couple of), i’m going to love them and be there for them. i’m not going to say, “you’re going to hell, you know. you’re gay, so that means you’re a sinner.” i’m going to let them know that i care about them and that i’m there for them. if they want to ask me what i think about being gay, i’ll tell them (which has happened). but i won’t do so in hostile or hateful manner, and i’ll make sure they know that i don’t condemn them any more than i condemn myself.

    however, if i have a christian friend that is unrepentantly abusing drugs, i am going to go to him and say, “i love you, and jesus loves you, but he didn’t die so that you could do this shit. he died so that you could have freedom (of course, this is a simplistic paraphrase, but would be part of the message).” and if i had a christian friend who was unrepentently having habitual extramarital sex (which includes homosexual sex), i would say the same thing to him.

    your comments imply that if a person thinks homosexuality is wrong, then that person will automatically single out gay people and be hateful toward them. that’s just wrong, and, to be honest, i’m kind of offended.

    also, paul and jesus were both jews. everyone knows what jews of that day thought about homosexuality of all kinds, and if either paul or jesus (who were thoroughly jewish as guys like n.t. wright have proven) thought that homosexual relationships were permissible, then they would have said so.

    granted this isn’t the strongest argument against homosexuality, but given what both paul and jesus said about other pracitices that were looked down upon by jews of the day, it seems pretty likely (almost definite) that they would have not been silent if they thought that homosexuality was ok.

    once again we’re not talking about whether or not jesus would eat with practicing homosexuals (tax collectors weren’t just bad because of a cultural stigma, they had a cultural stigma because of their sinful business practices, and jesus didn’t endorse those), because he would. we’re talking about whether jesus would command them to give up that lifestyle if they wished to follow him (similar to what he asked of the rich young ruler, or the disciples for that matter) and live out the kingdom.

    sorry for the novella, i’ll try to keep things shorter from here.

  9. Sean,

    I respect the fact that you have your views, but I can’t make some of the leaps you are making here.

    For one, I can’t base my opinion here on what Paul and Jesus “probably believed”. It’s a very shaky argument. After all, both Paul and Jesus were Jews but Paul (a pharisee) thought it was perfectly fine to systematically murder people who had different beliefs. I’m pretty sure they would be in disagreement on that issue. Maybe that would lead us to think that they could possibly have some other disagreements as well. Obviously, Paul had a change of heart eventually, but to say that just because they were both Jewish that they probably agreed on this issue is simply a stretch I’m not willing to make when it comes to possibly denying justice to homosexuals who desire monogamous relationships. Like I’ve said before, I could be wrong and it’s certainly debatable.

    Also, I never once implied that anyone here is saying it’s ok to be hateful towards homosexuals. How you came to that conclusion I have no idea. If you are offended, I apologize but I think you’re offended at what you’ve read into my comments rather than my comments themselves.

  10. Zach,
    1> Clarifying my concern for the church and that concern’s relation to the “emergent church”: I am, at this time, a full time student and I also work in youth ministry at a church. I’ve read a little bit of McLaren’s work. I’ve also interacted with other youth workers, who happen to be seminary students who are quite enthralled with the work of McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, et al. I once sat for some weeks in a small Bible study that you were part of in Chandler, AZ and experiened what I now know was my first taste of the emergent ethos. While I highly laud and personally embrace some of the emphases of the emergent church (the desire to interact culturally and the concern for social justice), the more I have been privy to the “conversation,” the more I am appaled by what I hear and feel. First of all, the general attitude and ethos, to stick with that term, seems to be overwhelmingly reactionary and cynical. The issue is more ex-evangelicals who are disenfranchised because of their personal experience and who will do whatever it takes to push the evangelical buttons, than people who know what they stand for. The intense vitriol towards other Christians who are conservative, right-wing, and modern is striking and saddening. The book of 1 John has reminded me lately, Zach, that hatred for the brotherhood is a sign that one does not have eternal life (or, to use synoptic gospel terms, has not entered the kingdom of God). Further, I am troubled by the “Sola-Cultura” approach to Scripture. Though the emergent leaders claim to be aware of understanding the baggage one brings to the text (if I’m not mistaken, a-la NT Wright’s “critical realism” cf. Wright, The NT and the People of God, pp 31-46, among others (maybe Derrida and other deconstructionists)), they themselves actually approach the text with culture as the supreme authority. A case in point is your willingness to accept, without in-depth study, a stance that says homosexuality is acceptable, or at least a stance that says “I don’t know.” I know, at that point, you will say “I have studied.” I’m sorry, Zach, but as an even somewhat new student of the New Testament (I hate to pull this card), your reasoning and approach to the text is not sound. It becomes clear that the priority in your exegesis is maintaining a preconceived notion of what the Bible can or cannot be saying. This notion is based on 1.) acceptable cultural norms, and 2.) the so-called “hermeneutic of love,” which sounds unobjectionable but actually overemphasizes one of God’s attributes (love) as if he had no others (wrath, justice, etc). I see this trend present not just in you, but in other “emergents.”
    These are a few of my concerns: 1.) hatred and cynicism for the church, and 2.) giving culture (ie postmodernity and her bundle of ideas) priority in our approach to Christianity, instead of vice-a-versa.
    The issue where it becomes my place to have concern, I think, is a.) the fact that I believe, as I walk in the Spirit, that this zeal and concern grows, and b.) this is my generation of Christians, too. I’m 22 years old and I want to follow Jesus and “turn the world upside down” with a bunch of my contemporaries who love Christ more than anything else and who do not submit to culture, whether premodern, modern, postmodern, blah blah blah. As I see some of these ideas, in some quarters, begin to sweep people away, my heart aches and is zealous that we don’t turn Jesus into a fluffy, lovey-dovey, Jewish rabbi, who preached some ambiguous message about “the kingdom.” I could go on and on about my concern, Zach, but you are probably either not reading this anymore (don’t blame ya) or not hearing what I’m saying. Please prayerfully and genuinely consult the Scriptures and allow them to speak their message clearly. Thanks again for allowing me to give input, but this will be my last interaction. I sincerely hope that you will turn from hard-heartedness and cynicism and especially from your approach to Scripture that superimposes what is culturally acceptable upon it.
    -MW

  11. One problem in the emergent community is the same as exists elsewhere in the church: the idea that opinions are an acceptable substitute for deeds.

    Emergent describes itself as a conversation, not a movement, and all too often the description is acccurate; we tend to emphasize talk over action.

    Emergent Christians are often outspoken in their criticism of the old guard, but there has yet to rise within the community a prophet’s voice challenging those “in the conversation” to address their own inconsistencies.

    The unfortunate result of this outspokenness is that many “outside the conversation” consider emergent believers to be arrogant, cyncial, exclusive and hostile.

    Matthew expressed concern that we not turn Jesus into “a fluffy, lovey-dovey Jewish rabbi” — I think you need not worry about that. The one message missing by and large from the majority of emergent blogs that I’ve frequented is the idea that we are to treat those we disagree with in a loving manner. There are exceptions, of course, but we still have a way to go on this one.

    And for the record, Jesus did preach love as the ultimate value, and he preached loving actions and attitudes towards others as the litmus test for genuine spirituality. He emphasized love above everything else. There’s nothing fluffy about that.

  12. no, steve, there is nothing fluffy about that. however, the brand of love that some within the emergent community preach isn’t the kind of love present in the sermon on the mount. tolerance and acceptance are paramount in the ‘love’ that many in the emergent movement espouse. and i’m not talking about a biblical tolerance or acceptance. i’m talking about a cultural connotation of tolerance and acceptance happening WITHIN the church.

    it’s like i mentioned earlier, many in the emergent conversation fail to make a distinction between jesus eating with sinners and jesus calling sinners. there is a big difference there. to eat wtih jesus, one did not have to change who they were as a person to be accepted. however, to follow jesus, one could not stay the same person. to interact with the church, a person doesn’t have to change or be changed. however to be part of the church, the same cannot be said.

    and conversely, the big problem with many conservative evangelicals is the exact opposite. they will not allow anyone to interact with the church until they have changed themselves. that’s equally wrong. i guess, based on my own approach, that i could be classified as emerging (which i have been), but i don’t really know if i want the distinction because of the exact things you mentioned, steve. just like i wouldn’t want to ally myself with the religious right. with the religious right and the emergent church, it’s like a two party system, they are simply two extremes on a spectrum overreacting to what MIGHT have some truth in it.

    also, zach, i’m not saying that the “jesus and paul were jewish” argument is the best argument, or my main argument. i just mentioned it. and also, paul murdering christians, if i’m not mistaken came more from him being a roman citizen than being a jew.

    zach, in the second paragraph of post #8 you said, “…if you’re right on this, it will not change my posture toward homosexuals. i cannot condemn them any more than i can condemn myself.” you said that i read something into your comments. i don’t think i have to read into that at all. you said, essentially, that saying homosexuality was wrong meant that someone would then have to treat homosexuals unfairly (or at least differently than you already treat them). that’s what i found offensive. because it seems that you’re trying to build up a strawman so that you don’t have to interact with possibly valid arguments.

    and i still hold to my stance that if you can see jesus and paul as completely and thoroughly first century palestinian jews (which is what they were), then homosexuality is untenable. again, read some n.t. wright or most other modern biblical scholarship. i find it odd that most (but not all) people who do say that homosexuality isn’t necessarily wrong aren’t biblical scholars but theologians. there is a big difference there, and the implications of that fact are huge.

  13. Sean,

    I’m sorry for not communicating myself well. I do not want to suggest that because you have a different view than me that you would then automatically treat homosexuals any worse than I would. I may allow them more freedom in the context of their role in the Church, but because I’m a drummer and not a church leader, I’m not in any position to make those kinds of decisions anyway. In the end, I believe both sides of this issue have validity and both sides should tread lightly when debating the issue. I can respect the argument of those on the other side of the issue so I’m sorry I gave you that impression.

  14. thanks for clarifying. i do appreciate it, because i hear the whole “if you think homosexuality is bad, then you automatically hate all gay people and treat them horribly” deal from too many people.

    i also agree that we should tread lightly when debating the issue, which is one problem i have with the right. however, i still do think the issue should be breeched (with tact), but many on the left are unwilling to even discuss it.

  15. OK, I am way late to the conversation, but I wanted thank you Zach for posting this. I have long struggled with the complexity of this issue. The more and more I study and read, the more I tend to agree with you Zach; I’m fairly certain that monogamous homosexuals are not committing sin. I’m glad you brought up the divorce issue too, because as Claiborne talks about in his new book “Jesus for President” the divorce (something Christ addresses specifically) rate for Christians is higher than the rest of America; meanwhile these same people are saying that homosexuals are threating “family values.” Oh sweet irony.

    Anyways, Zach, I was curious if there is any authors you’d suggest that speak directly to this issue. I’d love to do some more research.

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