In moments of doubt, many of the religious residents in our community turn to the guidance of spiritual leaders for ways to look at difficult situations.
Pastors Andrew Wollman and Karl Shelly, who have already weighed in on their opinions of homosexuality and religion in Pastor’s Pen columns (May 19 and June 23, respectively), as well as subsequent Letters to the Editor, answered some additional questions from The Goshen News in regard to their reasoning, opinions and applications in and out of church life.
Their responses follow:
Why do you think there’s such a big schism in Christian thinking toward the acceptance or opposition of homosexuality?
Shelly: There are many reasons why Christians are divided on homosexuality; reasons that actually have nothing to do with that issue.
The root causes of the disagreement stem from different ways Christians understand Scripture, experience God’s spirit at work in the world, and trust advances in human knowledge.
How we think about these things sets up a framework to process the contentious issues of the day.
Homosexuality is simply the latest issue to divide Christians. Previously, the divide was over other controversial issues; like wealth, slavery and the role of women. But homosexuality is getting all the attention now, in part because cultural attitudes are shifting on this issue.
In general, when cultural understandings shift, the church has a difficult time of it. Nearly all Christians — including me — would agree that the church should not blindly follow the movement of culture. In fact, in many ways, the church is called to be counter-cultural; to lift up God’s alternative vision. But examples like slavery and the emancipation of women remind us that cultural shifts can sometimes be a great blessing (and in both of those examples, progressive Christians were leading the way). So the church has to discern, and depending on one’s framework, that discernment can take us in very different directions.
Wollman: The simplest reason for this schism is simply one word: sin. Sin is like a cancerous cell, the further it goes, the more it spreads and corrupts and the more tenacious it becomes. And like cancer, the only hopeful solution is to cut it out.
By tradition, Sin is “cut out” through confession and absolution. The only way this can come about is if people actually understand homosexual behavior as a sin to begin with. Which means God’s law has to work on their heart. Those who ignore or reject God’s law, either refuse to believe or don’t know they’re infected, and therefore do not see the need for surgery.
Historically speaking, all sins grew more and more acceptable as time goes by. Consider just back to the 1950s and 60s. Lucy and Ricky had to be shown sleeping in separate twin beds with a nightstand in between them, because anything more than that was considered too risqué. From there came two in one bed; then a short time later, the sexual relations being shown in that one bed, but under covers. From there, a little more skin showing, to now, complete nudity 24 hours a day on cable.
This is how sin works. Some in power find it acceptable, they find ways to justify their sin, and before we know what’s happened, our children are being tainted in every way imaginable, and God is sickened by our blatant behavior.
Homosexual behavior is the same. It used to be called, “coming out of the closet” because things done sinfully are normally done “in the closet; in the dark; secretly.” Nowadays, homosexual people are claiming a minority status as if they were a race, and worse than that, we’re granting it to them. Now they proudly “come out” and tell the world about their orientation.
This has happened over time as all accepted sin happens. Get a few celebrities championing the cause, and before we know what hit us, everyone is brainwashed into thinking God is perfectly content with it all. People have exchanged “Thus saith the Lord” for “Thus saith Oprah.”