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C A M P U S
Who Would Jesus Date?
Lukas Halim • “Opening Doors” proves that God is a nice guy after all • February 2000

Nietzsche, in 1887, described a self-destructive impulse in Christianity—an impulse central to its moral understanding, but ultimately directed against the very notion of Christian faith. This impulse was the will to truth. Christianity, by claiming Christ as the one true Word, commanded the faithful to seek truth. But there is no truth to be found, so doubt curdles into skepticism and eventually becomes nihilism. This is not the threat facing contemporary Christianity, nor contemporary conservatism. 

Nietzsche’s account correctly identifies a death drive in modern Christianity, but he got the source of this suicidal impulse wrong. As the recent panel discussion, “Opening Doors: Entering a Conversation on Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality,” held on February 4, demonstrated, the death of God and the descent of Christianity into nihilism was effected not through Christians’ will to truth but through a perversion of their will to love.

Christ offered universal love for humanity, which modern Christians translate to mean a call for tolerance and acceptance. But it is not tolerance Christ shows in John 2:15: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” Today’s Christian thinks that in order to love he must be “nice.” In a desire to love the sinner, he no longer hates the sin. To avoid painful disagreement, people’s opinions are valued equally. We must now tolerate all people and count all beliefs equally true, for to disbelieve or disagree is to insult. 

If this sounds like a shaky logical claim, that’s because it is. But it lets everyone feel charitable. This Christian relativism was not merely displayed by the Opening Doors speakers, it was enhanced by the panel’s format. None of the five guests disagreed with one another; all thought and argued that homosexual acts and Christianity go together like orange juice and vodka.

Perhaps “thought” and “argued” are misleading terms. For the panelists did not think so much as feel, nor argue so much as share. Most of the speakers shared their personal experiences as homosexual Christians. Troy Perry, founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, described being forced to leave his parish after revealing his homosexuality. He experienced significant guilt, until he came to understand that he could be both a practicing homosexual and a good Christian. This knowledge was not gained through Scripture or through the advice of a higher Church authority, but rather through prayer and inspiration.

Though we may find these personal accounts moving, and even persuasive, one could very easily imagine a similar story coming from a pedophile who, after feeling guilty and being looked down upon by his Church elders, came to the conclusion that Christ approved of man-boy love. He, too, could raise a call for toleration. He, too, could describe the immense pain he felt at having his natural sexuality repressed, and he could make the claim that loving physical relationships can happen between people of all ages. This would, definitely, make the Christian pedophile happier. He would live in a way that accorded with his natural desires, but his pedophilia would still be sinful.

If we conclude that to act one one’s natural sexual impulses is not necessarily good (as the pedophile example suggests), then we must use other means to decide which acts are sinful. Interpretation of the Bible seems a possible alternative. However, none of the speakers made an argument for Scripture supporting homosexuality. Instead, Irene Monroe, a Harvard Divinity School student, and Steven Charleston, President and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, argued that those against homosexuality subjectively interpret Scripture to gain power over the homosexual community. Historically, the Bible has been interpreted to justify slavery and racism, and the same is now happening with homosexuals. Biblical interpretation is largely a struggle of different groups to gain power, rather than an objective analysis.

Even if this view were correct, there is no reason to think the homosexual community would be any less subjective than homophobes; both groups have a desire for political power. The logical conclusion of this line of thought is that no assertion can be considered objective, and therefore no belief is any more true than any other belief.

If we take any kind of interpretation at all—in other words, if we are to be practicing Christians—then we must have some standard for choosing one interpretation over another. The Opening Doors panelists offered three possibilities for discerning false interpretations. Interpretations of Scripture will be discarded when they conflict with what 1) feels good, 2) feels correct, and 3) feels inevitable. Under this system, everything is up to the individual. If you disagree with the Church, start a new one as Perry did. Tradition and authority need carry no epistemological weight. Jane Ralph of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation even questioned the legitimacy of the word “Christianity,” because of its traditional, repressive connotations.

Although the speakers admitted there was an objective truth in Scripture, they did not see fit to discuss its stance on homosexuality. However, Rev. Jimmy Creech’s “Commentary on Biblical Passages Regarding ‘Homosexuality’” was included in the selected reading packet distributed at the meeting.

In the essay, Creech admits that in all the Biblical references to homosexual acts, “the act is condemned.” However, Creech goes on to argue that “there is no biblical reference that condemns same-gender sexual relations between two people who are in a mutually loving, nurturing, caring and supportive relationship.” In some passages (such as Sodom and Gomorrah, which depicts a desire to rape), Creech seems to have a good case that loving homosexual acts are not being condemned, but Leviticus 18:22 makes his argument appear extremely weak. The passage reads, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Creech claims that this passage does not denounce homosexuality, but rather idolatrous worship of Baal. That is a clear case of creative interpretation of Scripture to serve one’s own ends. It seems far more objective to take “You shall not lie with a man” to mean “You shall not lie with a man,” and not “You shall not lie with a man, except if it is a loving, nurturing and supportive relationship.” But even if Creech is right about this passage, the fact that opposite gender relationships are exalted in the Bible, whereas homosexual relationships are at best ignored, suggests that they are morally neutral.

The traditional interpretation of these passages implies a difficulty: the necessary suffering of good people. Christians call this “taking up the Cross.” This difficulty explains Americans’ discomfort with depictions of the suffering Christ. Many Protestant churches don’t have crucifixes, preferring instead images of Christ triumphant. The difficulty of a task, however, does not excuse one from its performance. Thus, both Christian and non-Christian conservatives should be concerned about the outcome of this debate. Its treatment by Christians will determine whether the great majority of Americans will embrace truth and its demands, or utopianism, weak niceness, self-interest and pride.

—Lukas Halim, a sophomore in Trumbull College, is not a Christian
 
 
 

   
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