A blog post by a prominent Christian author and pastor provokes widespread response. Here are three things the article can teach us.

A blog post by a prominent Christian author and pastor provokes widespread response. Here are three things the article can teach us.

Christians need to relearn how to gag at all those gays and their yucky behavior.

This isn’t the assertion of a child; it’s a serious argument by a reputable Christian thinker.

Author and pastor Thabiti Anyabwile wrote an article last week on his blog at The Gospel Coalition (TGC) titled, “The Importance of Your Gag Reflex When Discussing Homosexuality and ‘Gay Marriage.’” In it, he argues that Christians need to “remove the ‘yuck factor’ in the gay marriage debate and that “it would be a good thing if more people were gagging on the reality of the sexual behavior that is now becoming public law, protected, and even promoted in public schools.”

Not surprisingly, Anyabwile’s remarks provoked an immediate reaction across the twittersphere and blogosphere—not just from angry gay rights activists but from his fellow conservative Christians as well. The protests were so sharp that that he was forced to offer a response and apology.

“I regret using ‘gag reflex’ as shorthand for the conscience’s reaction….” Anyabwile said. “For writing in this way, I offer my sincerest apology to every reader, not just those hurt.”

The problems with his original post are legion, and I was among those who expressed outrage that a reputable blog community like TGC would allow it to remain on their site. Yet as my blood pressure returned to normal levels, I’ve realized that there are at least three things I learned from Anyabwile’s gay rant.

1. Many Christians need to get out more. Anyabwile’s rhetoric is the kind of thing that has driven the church into a moment where we are hemorrhaging from the inside (failing to win our own families to the faith) and repelling people from the outside (failing to win new converts). But it is also a sign that we are still battling the remnants of the cultural separatism that plagued late 20th century evangelicalism.

Following the cultural revolution of the 1960s, many conservative Christians saw culture as an evil that should be avoided at all costs. As a result, they began retreating into manufactured Christian fortresses where they hoped to evade all those nasty sinners around them.

In the 1970s and 1980s, many began buying Christian books printed by newly formed Christian book publishers and sold in newly opened Christian bookstores. They wore Christian T-shirts and watched Christian movies and attended Christian schools. They were trying to stiff-arm culture in an effort to be holy, and to some extent it worked. But growing American pluralism and the advances of the digital age soon made such efforts nearly impossible. As a result, cultural separatism has given way to new kinds of thinking about how Christians should engage and influence the world around them.

But the remnants of this paradigm linger among many, particularly among Reformed Christians (of which Thabiti and TGC are a part). Many of my Reformed friends only read books by, follow blogs of, hang out with, and attend churches pastored by those who hold their theological perspectives. They are careful never to publicly criticize or challenge the self-appointed leaders of the movement. I recently visited a friend who is also a blogger for TGC. Sitting in his office, he commented on how “widely read” he has become. Surveying his bookshelves out of the corner of my eye, I couldn’t understand what he meant. Perhaps to him having N.T. Wright and John Piper on the same shelf is a sign of literary diversity.

One of the telltale signs that one has grown too culturally insular is the way one talks about those outside of the faith community. When we feel the need to tell those outside of the community that we can’t help gagging at their yuckiness, it probably means we need to spend more time actually getting to know them. Those who self-segregate into Christian echo-chambers often talk about “sinners” in ways they would never talk to them.

Christians can’t be salt and light if they’re constantly gagging at the meat and darkness around them.

2. Christians love playing the victim. Given our history, it isn’t altogether surprising that Christians love a good martyr. But the way American Christians play the victim is sometimes so breathtaking that I fail to find the words for a proper response. Nothing is more confounding, if not comical, than when Christians—who make up 80% of the country—decry their “persecution.”

“The response [to the first article] isn’t altogether surprising,” Anyabwile wrote. “It’s representative of the climate and world we live in. As many evangelical leaders have pointed out, we’re at the point now where there’s no longer any dispassionate position on homosexuality.”

When I was in third grade, a bully in my neighborhood punched me in the nose. My older brother promptly gave him a black eye in return. The bully then ran back to his house and complained to his mother that he’d been assaulted by the Merritt clan. Perhaps you’re beginning to see where I am going: If you tell someone that they are yucky and make you want to throw up, you can’t exactly pretend to be a victim of a culture of persecution when your words evoke a nasty response. It doesn’t take a tarot-card-reading psychic to predict the response such comments will garner.

Wise King Solomon once remarked, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”

Christians who decide to throw stones of strong language in public forums must stop playing the victim when they get pelted in return. Such responses makes Christians look like whiney bullies who can’t take what they dish out. If we want to engage others in intelligent, respectful discussion about our beliefs, we need to begin speaking in intelligent, respectful ways.

“Nowadays, many of the victims have become the bullies,” Anyabwile protested.

The opposite is also true.

3. Our gag reflexes are instructive. Anyabwile’s assertion that our gag reflexes are instructive is correct, though not perhaps in the way he believes. When I read the gospels, I find Jesus didn’t have much of a gag reflex when it came to “sinners.” Whether it was a scandalous encounter with a promiscuous Samaritan woman or a contentious argument over what to do with an adulterer who had been caught in the act, Jesus wasn’t repelled by but rather drawn to them. Meanwhile, the Pharisees were in the corner dry heaving.

Of course, Jesus did find himself nauseated on one or two occasions, but the source of his nausea was not those the religious community deemed sinful. It was the religious aristocracy itself. Jesus gagged at the gaggers. He was sickened by the sickened. It does us good to be reminded that Jesus was repulsed as much by self-righteousness as unrighteousness.

Whenever I find myself gagging, it is a reminder of my own yuckiness, not other’s. That queasiness is often a sign that I’ve strayed from the way of Jesus and have begun plodding the path of the Pharisee. When I smell the stench of urine seeping off a homeless alcoholic and my stomach begins to quiver or when my lunch curdles at the sight of a single mother who works at a strip club to feed her child, my gag reflex reminds me of my own yuckiness, my own tendency toward self-righteousness.

I cast judgment. I condemn. I ignore. I puff up. I fail. A lot.

None will deny that Christian theology has historically held that sexual expression is not a free-for-all pursuit of pleasure, but rather something God has designed for men and women to enjoy within certain bounds. But Christians who hold to the historic Christian position must learn to defend their position with more grace, compassion, and love then they have in the past.

Christians must stop talking about others and instead start looking them in the eyes.

Christians must stop burning bridges and instead start building them.

Christians must stop lobbing rocks and instead start living by Jesus’ admonition in John 8:7: “Let he who is without yuckiness cast the first stone.”

87 Comments

    • Marcus Johnson

      His point was not all that subtle. What was the lucid, rational point that he was trying to make that Merritt (and I, for that matter) missed?

    • It’s not really about justifying sin, Frank. In fact, nowhere in this post does Jonathan even remotely approach justifying sin at all. Rather, it’s about how we talk to people who engage in sinful activity. (Toward the end of his first numbered point Jonathan wrote: “Those who self-segregate into Christian echo-chambers often talk about ‘sinners’ in ways they would never talk to them.”)

      This post is about how we engage those who are as sorely in need of God’s grace as you and I are, not about justifying anything.

      Cheers,
      Tim

      • The funny thing about the sort of reasoning that happens in these circles of “Christians” — the ones who “talk -to- sinners” — is that they are not only allowed to make vicious and gross stereotypes about those who disagree with them: they have to in order to sustain their arguments.

        I’m looking forward to meeting an evangelist someday who is talking “to” sinners who is willing to agree with the sinner’s definition of his own sin. So far, all the evangelists I’ve met are talking to sinners about the sin God abhors.

      • Let’s be clear, Tim.

        When you talk about ‘people who engage in sin’ you are speaking of YOURSELF.

        You sin every day.

        It is very telling that you have obviously excluded yourself from this list of sinners.

        But God knows better. Doesn’t he, Tim?

  1. Seems as though Jesus does indeed have a gag reflex as it relates to sin (Rev 3:14-22). Personally grateful that sin against God (inuding my own failures) still turns my stomach.

  2. That translation from which you got John 8:7 “Let he who is without yuckiness cast the first stone” is also the one that tells me in Matthew 7:3 that I have a plank full of yuckiness in my own eye.

  3. Scott Schuyler

    Jonathan, with all due respect, your argument conveys the kind of sophmoric intellect of popular culture rather than solid biblical thinking. Using the whole “Christians are judgmental separatists” reasoning plays right into the cultures harsh judgments toward followers of Christ. Perhaps there’s a reasonable debate to be had on the graphic nature of Thabiti’s article, but to qualify it as a childish rant is inaccurate. All that said, I consider you a brother in Christ, and I am praying for you.

        • Reading the article by Shane Windmeyer of his conversations and experiences with Dan Cathy.

          From conversations such as what Shane and Dan have had, is where I had first formulated the concept of Accept, Respect, Support. You didn’t have to hold all three to be able to hold one or two of them. You could accept and respect someone, while not supporting them. You could also accept someone, even when you could not respect them (because of their style, tone or approach, as opposed to their position) and could not support them.

          It has seemed to take most people considerable time to process what these three concepts are, especially in relation to issues relating to sexuality.

          You can read about my successes and my failures at accomplishing what Shane and Dan have attempted to do, at: https://www.msu.edu/~jonesmi/ and especially at the link there: https://www.msu.edu/~jonesmi/Articles.htm which is a section under the MSU thru ACNS area.

      • Scott Schuyler

        “with all due respect”: “with the admiration that is owed.” http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/with+all+due+respect…That’s the way it was intended; don’t judge my motive.

      • Robert Hunter

        “translation” – I don’t know who you are, am incapable of reading your thoughts or motivations… but I’m still going to tell you what you really meant to say when you stated, “With all due respect”. Does that come any where close to what you meant Josh, because I would never want to assume what you meant to say and would feel much better asking a direction question. It seems so much more mature to do it that way.

    • Winifred Holloway

      I am always wary of people who end their criticism of my position with the sentence that they will “pray for me.” Passive aggression is not a Christian virtue.

    • I don’t suppose it’s occurred to you that if an entire international community thinks we’re hateful and vindictive, it could be because some of us are acting that way.

  4. The fact that the thought of what gays actually do behind closed doors still produces a negative subconscious reaction (i. e. “gag reflex”) in secular people is 1. a product of God’s image in them and 2. a point of contact with which Christians ought to use as a starting point to engage. That is Anyabwile’s point, and I think it’s badly needed.

    • Riley,
      I think it’s just as likely that the gag reflex produced by thinking about gay sex is just a by-product of being straight. It’s how you know you’re straight.

        • I can’t be certain whether the negative reaction is to the act or to the players involved.

          Point being: your negative reaction is evidence that that is not your thing. If kissing makes you nauseous, you should limit your relationships to people who don’t want to kiss you. If making out with someone of the same sex doesn’t appeal to you, you shouldn’t do it. Those negative reactions are our psyche trying to tell us what we like and don’t like. And that’s different for everyone.

          • You’re missing the point. He’s not appealing to his own gag reflex, but to the gag reflex of people he is trying to convince that gay marriage is a bad idea, in a political discussion.

          • We’ve all got “issues” (and all “issues” are common to humanity, according to 1 Cor. 10:13). Being gay is but one more issue, one more sin, that Christ died to free and cleanse us from (! Cor. 6:9-11).

            We could use more biblical compassion, and the pro-gay folks like to hear that statement, But we could use more biblical clarity too, and the pro-gay folks absolutely hate to hear that statement.

          • It’s not about attraction. It’s about basic plumbing. A man and a woman are sexually complementary. Two men or two women are not. When two people of the same sex attempt to do the impossible, that is, have sexual intercourse, it is “unseemly” to use the word chosen by the Holy Spirit.

    • That is a powerful point that should not be overlooked (or blown off) by Christians. Look at all the pro-gay media saturation that’s being done just to get America to accept the sight of two men kissing–and to their credit, most Americans still AREN’T buying that one. That “yuck factor” is still there, and honestly, it’s God-given.

      It’s clear from some of the commentary that the phrase “negative subconscious reaction” may work better for some people than “yuck factor.” So be it. The important thing is where that reaction comes from: the fact of all humans being created in the image of God and possessing a God-given conscience.

      We’ve ALL got “yuck factors” somewhere, regardless of our favorite sins. If talking about that phenomenon can help a person relate better to what the Bible is saying, then let’s talk about it.

  5. With all the romanticizing of homosexuality, even among folks who want to label themselves as “Gay Christians” – in the sense of that is the sin they’re beset by – I thought that Thabiti’s article was very proper. I don’t see folks getting upset at Tim Challies for getting up in the pornographer’s grill about the disgusting nature of that particular sexual sin, yet he brings into focus the “yuck factor” of it, warns of its deadly nature, and calls those who practice it to repent from sure sin. Why does it all of a sudden get intolerable when a brother calls for the “yuck factor” to be discussed in homosexual sin? Sin is sin right?

  6. ““Nowadays, many of the victims have become the bullies,” Anyabwile protested.

    The opposite is also true.”

    You might want to ask a growing number of small business wonders about that:

    http://blog.heritage.org/2013/06/22/colorado-baker-faces-heat-for-religious-expression/

    • If I own a business that is open to the public, I need to be mindful of the law. The law in most states is very plain that I cannot discriminate against potential customers for a wide variety of reasons.

      Think of it like this:
      I may feel that Atheism is sinful. However, I am not allowed to discriminate against an Atheist couple being married. It also benefits Christians, we cannot be turned away for service from a company offering a service because we are Christians.

      • How far do you want to take that, Steve? Must a couple opening some rooms in their home as a B&B accommodate a polyamorous trio in the same room? Are we going to force Chick-fil-A to open on Sundays to serve Seventh Day Adventists? How about Hobby Lobby?

        Your analogy fails because atheists are not doing anything immoral by getting married. Two men who want o participate in the fiction that they are getting married *are*. And no society before our present age has ever recognized the union of two persons of that same sex as being equivalent to marriage.

        • I think your analogy falls flat. No one is forcing chick-fil-a to open their doors on Sunday. But there is a long legal history requiring people to be served fairly. You can’t refuse to serve and African American if you also serve a white patron. You can refuse to serve both on Sunday if you are closed. The decision in New Mexico photography case cited this very thing. The photographer does not have to offer wedding photography, but if they do they many not choose to refuse to photography a particular type of couple.

          • You’ve missed the point, Adam. That’s why you think the analogy falls flat. No one is *yet* forcing Chick-fil-A on Sundays. But let’s leave that aside for now and think about the couple opening their home as a B&B.

            What do you say about them? One Christian couple in Britain has already lost their battle. Don’t think it won’t happen here.

            And the common ploy of equating race/ethnicity/skin color with behavior is so ludicrous I don’t plan to respond any further on that score.

          • Kamilla, you can always say what could happen. But that is just a slippery slope argument. The reality is that you don’t know that that will happen. The history right now is on the side of historical president. And that prescient is against your point. You can choose to believe the worst, but in doing so you are moving outside of the legal world and into assumption based on European law which is founded on a a fundamentally different principle.

          • Adam,

            You are wrong about he law in this country. With the exception of Louisiana where the laws were influenced by the Napoleonic Code, the foundation of our laws in this country is British Common Law. The affinity and affection between our two countries makes the common legal ties even stronger.

            In addition to the British couple who lost about everything, there is also the test case of two men threatening to sue the CofE for the right to “marry”. This is particularly concerning given the ordinance proposed in Hutchinson, Kansas last year which would have forced churches to host same sex ceremonies.

            On the matter of legal precedent, there is none that bodes well for Christians being able to freely exercise their religion. You may not like the comparison, but name one country that has gone own the road of civil sanction of same sex unions and creating the new category of “hate crimes” where legal prosecution of those who uphold Christian principles hasn’t followed.

            Go ahead. Name one. But I hope you’ll forgive me for not holding my breath.

          • Kamilla, the major difference in US and UK law is the constitution to say that US law is the same as UK or European law system.

            I am not saying there will not be requirements for business to not discriminate. What I am saying is that forcing you to do something you are not currently doing for anyone else is just something that won’t happen under US law.

            If you are a photographer for kids birthday parties, you will not be forced to start taking gay weddings. If you are a pastor that only marries people that are members of your church, you will not be forced to marry gay couples that are not members of your church. There is no evidence in US law that suggests that anything different will happen.

          • Adam and Steve,

            Just two things in closing.

            You are being willfully naive about the force of current (lack of) precedent. Our written Constitution might as well be put to the same use as the proverbial Sears catalogue for all the respect some current members of the SCOTUS give it. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not only bragged that the activism of this current court is one of the reasons she plans to stick around rather than retire, she has also defended citing precedents in international law in writing opinions.

            Second, participating in the celebration of an intrinsic evil is to sin yourself. Marriage is a moral good, though it is abused in sinful ways. Same sex unions are intrinsically evil. If we are too look on such occasions as opening a mission field, a cinematographer should look on the opportunity to do a snuff film in the same way — as a mission field.

          • Kamilla , you say that “same sex unions are intrinsically evil”. In what way ? And how is a same sex couple hurting you personally? They are not forcing you to get same sex married .

          • Hannah,

            Intrinsic evil is a term that refers to the nature of an act — it is intrinsic to the act whether it seems to harm anyone else or not. It is an act that is always and everywhere sinful. Sexual intimacy between two persons of the same sex is such an act.

            While it might not harm someone else directly, it harms others in the way every other sin harms us. It devalues truth, beauty and goodness. Same sex “marriage” harms us by devaluing marriage itself and when these couples adopt or purchase a child via surrogate they lie to that child by purposely severing him from at least one of his parents and sometimes both. They tell their children that kids don’t need a mother and father.

            We don’t define sin and evil by whether or not we think such things harm us personally. We call certain acts evil or sinful because God has said so.

            For a defense of marriage, see Ryan, Girgis and George, “What is Marriage?”

        • I guess it depends on how you view your business. Many Christians that I know view their business as their ministry. Having been a wedding photographer over 28 years ago, I can attest to the fact that weddings (even between a man and a woman) are not as morally spic and span as we’d like it. There’s drunkeness, there’s second or third marriages. It was also one way to bring Christ to people. We miss many opportunities to spread the Gospel. We spend an awful lot of time drawing our moral skirts around us, that we don’t want to get our hands dirty with sinners.

          I was in the hospital a few years back for a total of about 8 weeks. I was treated by a Jew, a Buddhist, and a Hindu. I had the chance to speak about Christ with each of them. A gay couple wants their wedding to be photographed. Great, God just opened up another mission field!

          • Yes, it’s important to witness and spread the Gospel, but by your logic it’s okay for Christian churches and clergy to perform outright gay weddings for the sake of gaining an opportunity to”witness” to the couple and their friends.

            Biblically, that just doesn’t quite work out. There has to be some limits to “witnessing.”

            Meanwhile, Christian business owners who choose not to give tacit or overt approval to gay marriage when asked to do so, should NOT be penalized for it by government bullies.

          • Doc,

            No where in my response did I say that churches should be forced to perform. That is giving church sanction to gay marriage.

            Something that some Evangelicals haven’t figured out let is that a “Christian” business who deals with the public at large is NOT exempt from laws that govern other businesses. Somewhere along the line, we have decided that a business transaction is giving any kind of approval for anything.

        • Substitute race, religion, gender, national origin, disability for sexual orientation and the answer is quite simple. We as a country fought the same battles and faced the same arguments from “godly” christians 50 years ago. Heck, the religious right was still fighting against the federal government revoking Bob Jones University’s tax exempt status in the 1980s because they had a policy against, guess what, interracial dating and marriage. The case went all the way to the supreme court which reaffirmed the governments ability to enforce non-discrimination provisions when it comes to tax subsidies and tax deductions. As long as Bob Jones University was offering educational services to the public, it was acting in the sphere of commerce and could not use the religious beliefs of any sect as an excuse to discriminate. If we adopted your view of religious liberty, then all the existing civil rights acts would be gutted because anyone could claim a “religious” reason for their discrimination. Racial and gender discrimination was justified using the bible and christianity for centuries – even up til this very day. The 1st amendment provides all the protection a church needs – the government cannot force the catholic church to married divorcees, nor force any church to ordain women, nor could it force an orthodox rabbi to marry non-jews, but it can certainly force goods and service providers that furnish public accommodations via the commerce clause to provide those goods and services without discrimination to whomever the government decides needs protection. Also, if a church or its affiliated entities accept government funds to provide social services then it must follow federal and state laws regarding discrimination in the provision of those government funded services. This is settled law – there is no religious exemption from laws of general applicability.

      • The law in my state is that marriage is defined as exclusively between a man and a woman, and therefore that male-female gender complementarity is both inherent and vital to marriage and child-rearing.

        In our state, that’s the law that *we* are mindful of.

        Please notify the state of New Mexico that their official pro-gay bullies are NOT allowed, nor welcome, to bully and fine Christian small-business owners in my state.

        • Actually, depends on which state you are in. Many states have non-discrimination laws that protect race, sex, religion, disability, and sexual orientation and gender identity. If you are in one of those states and operate a business, then it doesn’t matter if you are christian, jewish, baha’i, polytheistic, or atheist, you still have to obey the law. There is no such thing as a “christian business” – a business cannot select its employees or its customers with regards to religion – that is federal law in all 50 states. You can’t fire your employees for not being christian or not serve customers for the same reason. It’s called the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which was prompted by the civil rights demonstrations we are commemorating this week. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm

          Join the 21st century please…

          • Selected sections from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_discrimination_law_in_the_United_States

            Employment discrimination or harassment in the private sector is not unconstitutional, because Federal and most State Constitutions do not expressly give their respective government the power to enact civil rights laws that apply to the private sector. The Federal government’s authority to regulate a private business, including civil rights laws, stems from their power to regulate all commerce between the States. Some State Constitutions do expressly afford some protection from public and private employment discrimination, such as Article I of the California Constitution. However, most State Constitutions only address discriminatory treatment by the government, including a public employer.

            Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in many more aspects of the employment relationship. It applies to most employers engaged in interstate commerce with more than 15 employees, labor organizations, and employment agencies.

            Some anti-discrimination laws make exceptions for religious organizations. Religious organizations may be exempted entirely for certain categories, or may be allowed exceptions for certain types of positions.

  7. I can’t believe that people are defending Thabiti Anyabwile’s post.

    From the conservative Christian position, it seems he is trying to replace a scripturally defined sin and make it a culturally defined sin. The problem with that is that there are all kinds of things that are culturally defined as yucky that are not sin and many others that are sin that are not culturally defined as yucky. So to suggest the real problem with the Christian response to that we do not have a culturally defined yuckyness toward homosexual behavior is not really focusing on biblical reasoning in opposition to sin.

    The second problem is that he was doing exactly what Christians are usually accused of doing, having a double standard. Because he focused on the actual activities of gay sexual practice but did not give any scriptural support, just the yuckyness, I am left wondering why he has not also talked about the yuckyness of hetrosexual couples that do the same practices. Much more than half of couple regularly engage in oral sex and about a quarter of couples have engaged at least once in anal sex. So is that sin or not? Should we also feel yuckyness about that? What about those Christians that have actually advocated for both?

    None of that goes to the pastoral problems of the post. It was entirely about politics of getting more people to oppose homosexuality. But as a pastor, he has a responsibility to talk about an appropriate way to talk to actual gay people. And because no one can talk about everything in a single post, I think it would be appropriate if he has at least mentioned or linked to a pastorally sensitive post about how churches should love gay people. He did not. In fact has has not as much as I can tell mentioned grace, acceptance and love in relationship to gay sinners anywhere in his previous posts either.

    So I think the biggest problem with the post is that it is about a group of people that he labels fully as ‘other’. He then targets the ‘other’ with a type of language that is not actually loving, intended to bring about redemption or instructive to those that are in his in-group. It is fine to do as Jesus says, ‘go and sin no more’. But you don’t beat them up first and then say go and sin no more.

      • Let’s not pretend that the intended audience of that post was non-Christians. It wasn’t. I agree if you are talking with primarily non-Christians then you have to start somewhere other than scripture. But there was nothing in the post that read to me that was his real point.

        • The whole post was about strategy in political discussion with unbelievers. He was saying, “this is what needs to be brought up when talking the politics of gay marriage with unbelievers.” Obviously, you’re not going to make a convincing case to unbelievers by quoting Scripture. But you may make a convincing case by appealing to their subconscious aversion to unseemly human activities.

          • ” Obviously, you’re not going to make a convincing case to unbelievers by quoting Scripture.”

            Funny, we seem to want to use plenty of scripture in other situations with unbelievers. Not to mention that even as believers WE need to establish the Biblical basis for ourselves. WE need the foundation to be able to effectively communicate with unbelievers.

            “But you may make a convincing case by appealing to their subconscious aversion to unseemly human activities.”

            Actually, this has got to be the worst way to argue against a moral wrong. You either have an argument or not. If not, then maybe what you consider a moral wrong isn’t

          • When I read through the article by Thabiti Anyabwile I did not sense that he was referring specifically to people who were not yet Christians in his comments about strategy in political discussions. He did say, “Deep down we all–Christian and non-Christian, heterosexual and homosexual…”

            Additionally, it seems as though the perspective of the pro-gay Christian voice is not included in your perspectives. Gay marriage is being embraced by a growing number of people within the larger Christian community.

  8. I do not believe Thabiti was wrong. I do not think he should have apologized. I believe most, if not all of the scorn for his post, is misplaced and says more about Christians in the face of seared consciences than it does about Thabiti’s compassion. And finally, I think everyone should read this article. Thank You.

    http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-04-015-v

  9. I’m a pastor who has dealt with same-sex attraction since my early teen years. So, I can’t identify with Thabiti’s revulsion. For me, the idea of gay sex doesn’t feel gross — I see it, with the Bible, as sinful, but I don’t share the sense of “yuck”.
    Anyway, I can’t fault Thabiti for his revulsion. He’s disgusted by gay sex; fine. But how does announcing that on his blog move us towards rescuing unsaved people from anything? It doesn’t. It scores points with people on his own team, but most likely just alienates many unsaved people. So, while I don’t feel the same kind of upset that Jonathan does, I think he makes good points. We need to encounter people who are different, not blog about how disgusting we feel their behavior is.

    • In response to your question, “how does announcing that on his blog move us towards rescuing unsaved people from anything?” I believe Anyabwile provides his own answer to your question in his post. He says, “In a Romans 1 ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness’ world, it becomes the Christian’s responsibility to help people acknowledge what they really know but are really suppressing.”

      Most likely Anyabwile was not intending this article to be read as a gospel presentation for the lost world, but I would assume that he thinks an acceptance of the “yuckiness” of sin, as opposed to its continued suppression, is foundational to the worldview in which the gospel makes sense.

      My follow-up question is, would a Romans 1 style presentation of sin, where sin is presented as unnatural, dishonorable, shameful, etc., ever be appropriate in modern culture?

      • Anyabwile biggest mistake was to start his Romans 1 style presentation of sin with “Consider how many times you’ve read the word “gay” or “homosexual” in this post without thinking about the actual behaviors those terms represent. “Gay” and “homosexual” are polite terms for an ugly practice.”

        Your neighbors and co-workers are gay. Some of us have gay friends and family. Gay people are sitting next to you in church. Maybe they use different words (same-sex attracted) in a Christian context but in the wider world gay is synonymous with same-sex attracted. Some will be gay and virgins. These people cannot be reduced to sex acts. To do so is to dehumanise them.

        • Joe – Thanks for your reply. I think it gets to the heart of my question, that is if I am interpreting you correctly. Let me try to summarize, and you can correct any misunderstanding.

          It seems that you are saying that any reference to the actions associated with homosexuality for the purpose of calling those actions sinful, distasteful, etc., is inappropriate because it reduces people who participate in said actions to the action itself.

          Assuming that this is a correct understanding, would you apply the same standard to other actions? For instance, should we avoid calling stealing sinful or shameful because it reduces a thief to the action of stealing? Are there any activities that people participate in that we can rightly identify as dishonorable or shameful?

          • If Anyabwile had said “I believe all sex outside of marriage is sinful”, I don’t think his post would have caused such a stir. It wouldn’t target gay people. It wouldn’t alienate Christians who experience same-sex attractions (who need support not condemnation). It wouldn’t reinforce the reputation Christians have for being obsessed with sex and despising gay people.

        • I would then ask, in the wider world what is bisexual synonymous with?

          I know it’s cumbersome to say, “same-sex sexual attractions” instead of “same-sex attractions,” but there is a significant difference between the two terms, even within the gay community as well as within the segment of the Christian community who experiences some level of same-sex sexual attractions, but who do not desire to express those attractions in intimate same-sex sexual behavior.

          Even the British or the American TV series Queer as Folk, expresses this. Most of our same-sex attractions are not sexual in that they do not trigger sexual arousal.

          Thus, I have not seen that the term, gay, used today in the wider world actually is synonymous with same-sex attraction. That would be offensive to people who are only heterosexually sexually attracted who are attracted to people of the same sex in a wide range of non-sexual ways.

          • What is bisexual synonymous with?

            Both-sexes attraction. Except nobody ever says that.

            I appreciate the fact that a married man who experiences same-sex attractions (either exclusively or because he is bisexual) might not want to say he is gay. But that doesn’t change the ordinary meaning of gay. A gay man who is a virgin is still gay. Does our sexuality only exist when we have sex? Are we asexual at all other times?

          • I doubt this post will show up in the right sequence. It’s meant to follow Joe’s response to me.

            That’s my point. We tend to refer to someone who is bisexual as them being gay. I think this is somewhat the same as how our culture refers to people with a percentage of African American heritage in their background as African American. Or someone with a certain minimum percentage of Native American blood in their ancestry as Native American.

            A person who experiences same-sex sexual attractions and who is a virgin might not be gay, in the cultural definition of gay. Their identity could be straight or bisexual. And when we consider the APA definition of sexual orientation, it also encompasses much more than just sexual behavior and sexual attractions. Our sexuality is so much more than our sexual behavior. That’s why they are trying to present the definition that they do for sexual orientation.

          • Mike, I understand the point you are making about being “attracted to people of the same sex in a wide range of non-sexual ways” but I don’t think such people get labelled gay. Nor do I think the people who say they are bisexual get labelled gay – although they might be lumped in with the LG & Ts.

            I’m happy for people use whatever labels they like – or not use labels at all. My original point is that gay is generally defined as being (as you put it) same-sex sexually attracted – so Anyabwile’s approach risks offending anyone who uses that label. ‘Gay’ functions as a public identity. It isn’t simply a euphemism for private acts.

          • Joe, I think the article in the RNS Roundup today about Cory Booker addresses who can be implied to be gay and why. The section from the Roundup said:

            “Across the border in New Jersey, Democrat Cory Booker’s somewhat ambiguous sexuality is becoming a campaign issue, with his GOP opponent calling Booker’s private life “kind of weird.””

            From my experience people who are straight in their sexual attractions can be thought to be, implied to be, accused of being, gay, for a host of reasons. The story regarding Cory and the man running against him is just one example of dozens that come to my mind from people I have known.

      • You do realize than anyone who isn’t already a member of your particular sectarian version of christianity could care less how many hoops you jump through to justify your ignorance and prejudice, right? You are free to believe whatever you want but you are on the wrong side of history and just as we now view racists who used the bible to justify slavery and jim crow as evil, your reactionary views on gay people will be viewed with the same contempt. Society evolves – we don’t live in a bronze age culture where purity codes were used to enforce kin groups – they are an anachronism.

    • Can you change your religion if you believe something is true? Or do you, like Mark, have to work out what to do with your life once you believe Christianity is true?

  10. Gay things are OK

    Here’s why —

    1. Man’s ways are of the Lord,………….Proverbs 20:24

    2. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing or how you feel about yourself, so keep it between yourself and God.
    BLESSED are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something or thinking of themselves in the way they know is best………..Romans 14:22

    3. All things are allowable, all things are lawful, all things are permissible…….1 Corinthians 6:12…….1 Corinthians 10:23

  11. The author makes several valid points and those who choose not to comprehend and apply them will find themselves, very soon, to be obsolete and useless. Fine. Get out of the way of REAL Christians who want to reach the world for Christ and stop making the word (of spreading The Gospel) so very much more difficult because you cannot get over your bigotry.

    Get….out….of….our…way you useless, saltless, hypocrites.

  12. My favorite part of Anyabwile’s blog (rated MA):
    “We are talking about one man inserting the male organ used to create life into the part of another man used to excrete waste.”

    The male organ used to create life is also used to excrete waste (so much for intelligent design)! That in mind, heterosexual coitus sounds pretty icky:
    ” We are talking about one man inserting the male organ used to excrete waste into the part of another woman used to create life.” Gag at will.

  13. Jonathan, have you read the comments to the TGC piece? It’s like an in-depth Q&A with Thabiti Anyabwile; he answers nearly every question and objection. It also shows that you weren’t the only Christian scratching his head over his comments.

  14. After reading Thabiti Anyabwile’s article at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2013/08/19/the-importance-of-your-gag-reflex-when-discussing-homosexuality-and-gay-marriage/,

    I think I have a fairly good idea of what he is trying to say. With some more time, I could try to paraphrase it. At the core, I think he is saying that the term, gay, is so fluid in our culture, that it can mean a vast array of different things at different times. That it is intentional for others to be misled for the benefit of the person using the phrase. It is often important for others to not understand the definition that the user of the term, gay, has for the term. A good example would be the phrase that is generally stated something like, “a loving, long-term, committed relationship.” But on the other hand, in our culture today, the term, marriage, may not even be intended to be for life, but only for an undesignated period of time. That would be some of the reasoning behind why some people do not choose to get married even though they are in a monogamous relationship. For others, marriage doesn’t represent the idea of monogamy, even from the beginning.

    I have said for over a decade that it would be helpful for us in this country to separate the concept of a legal state marriage from that of a religious marriage. That would at least help to clear the water regarding some of these issues.

    The comments appear to be disabled to his article so I can’t see what Thabiti Anyabwile’s responses were to those who he dialogued with there about his statements.

    Beginning around 2003, I began speaking about this cultural shift that he is describing. My phrase was, “the window is closing.”

    I think it is difficult for Thabiti Anyabwile to do what he desires to do, where he says:

    Our apologetic task is to bring to the surface what has been written on the conscience and cannot be not known. We need to do this with as much kindness, insight, warmth and fairness as the gay journalist in the private boardroom ten years ago. And we need to do this soon.

    Even if we use good and accurate vocabulary, if someone else is insistent on creating their own definitions of the terms that we use, then it becomes a greater challenge to communicate successfully. Cultural shift is rarely about accurate communication. It is, however, often about effective communication – communication that is effective because it is not accurate. This is the pattern of how the US was established. It is how it continues through to today in our culture and society.

    For example the phrase, equal rights for all – what did that really mean…? Statements like, “If I can do it, you can do it” – what does a statement like this actually mean? Freedom of religion – what was that actually intended to mean when the country was a colony, an emerging independent nation, a global super power?

    However, I sense that it will still be difficult for Thabiti Anyabwile to be gracious as he attempts to make his points. I think that showing respect, includes being able to absorb what is expressed back to you. But it would be worth reading through his responses to the comments to the article if they were still available somewhere.

  15. I’m not sure if Joe is posing his question to KC or to me or to Jonathan. So, I’ll give it a shot.

    As I get older, I find ever more diversity in what Christianity is – or at least what people say that it is to them. So, for me to try to accept and respect people who present to me that they are a Christian, I need to keep my mind wide open. I can appreciate why people would change either their religion or their particular perspective on their religion. I think this shows that they have tried to think more carefully about faith. Not that people who don’t shift in their faith might not also have thought carefully about their faith.

    So, it’s difficult for me to honor the broad range of people’s understandings of what Christianity is, and to then be able to address what I do about Christianity once I believe that Christianity is true. What I would do would only be in regards to my understanding of Christianity. Sometimes we don’t even do what matches what we believe – so it does get complex quickly. I have met a few Christians who feel that they have not sinned in years. That would not be me.

    I can appreciate just how much some people want to have Christianity be something different than what they were first exposed to regarding what Christianity is, especially when it goes against the grain of something important to them. I can also appreciate how much of Christianity is presented from within a person’s own worldview.

    So, for me I want to work out what to do with my life, with what I have discovered from my study, my observations, my exploration, my consideration, my conversations… all of that….. Of what has become my present understanding of what I have come to believe is true regarding Christianity as well as what is still a mystery to me. And what maybe is intended to be a mystery in this life here on earth.

  16. Jonathan,

    I don’t have a problem with Anyabwile’s suggestion that we should resist euphemisms designed to disfavor us in a debate. Anyabwile’s big mistake in thinking, from my perspective, is his presumption that anatomical precision in discussions about sexuality would change anything in a world in which so many people are consuming high volumes of Internet pornography. “Normal” has been redefined for an awful lot of people.

    Of course, that observation doesn’t mean much for anyone involved (doesn’t side with you; doesn’t side with Anyabwile), and it’s not even the reason why I entered the thread. I just felt obliged to say SOMETHING about the main point of the post before picking a nit. :-)

    Your observation that American Christians are sometimes too quick to claim victim status is well-taken. Although I might not apply that general observation in this case, I certainly would in others. And yet you offered the idea that Christians “make up 80% of the country” as evidence that Christians are not being persecuted in the USA. This is not, in my opinion, relevant evidence in arguing against the idea of Christian persecution.

    Yes, it is true that the Christians presently being persecuted in Egypt or Sudan or Iran are being persecuted by non-Christian majority populations, but on the whole, an enormous amount of the persecution of Christians has been perpetrated in societies that were almost entirely Christian. Whether we would discuss the treatment of Byzantines during the Crusades, Continental Anabaptists, English Separatists, or Massachusetts Baptists, let us not forget that the broadest categories of census data are no reliable indicator of where persecution will occur and against whom.

    I think that a time is coming—shortly to appear on the horizon—in which Christian laypeople who simply believe that sex is sin when it occurs between two men or two women and who refuse to pretend that they believe otherwise will be denied the opportunity to pursue their careers, serve in the military, associate with one another on a university campus, etc. That’s not imprisonment, torture, or execution, but it certainly is discrimination. I think discrimination can be persecution, too. Don’t you?

    And when that kind of persecution comes, I think it is likely that the leading polls will still show that a majority of Americans will still describe themselves as Christians. They just won’t regard themselves as that KIND of a Christian.

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