Monday, April 01, 2013

Telling ourselves lies

I have recently been thinking about a trend in the Christian, or perhaps I should say "Christian," response to the homosexual agenda. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying the trend is entirely new. I know that in various ways it's been going on for a long time. But let us just say that I've recently come upon some examples thereof, two of which are new, and one of which isn't all that old.

That trend is telling lies.

What do I mean by this? Here's what I mean: Some allegedly Christian organization, church, or individual (and I have both Protestant and Catholic examples) will do something that obviously functionally communicates endorsement of homosexual activity and that conveys a scandalous presentation of homosexual relationships as normal. But a pretense, an explicit pretense, will be maintained that this isn't what's going on. To wit:

A Jesuit boys' high school has recently allowed two boys to go to its prom (Junior Ball) together as a couple. Let that sink in for a minute. Here is the disgusting letter by the principal (whose official title is "president"), Fr. Edward F. Salmon, S.J.,  defending the decision. In it he expressly maintains that by allowing a homosexual couple as a couple to come to a school ball together he is not endorsing homosexual behavior. I'll wait here while you get control of your incredulous laughter. Yes, seriously, that's what he says.

He also has such a warped mind that he makes an express analogy to the heterosexual couples coming to the ball and says that, by allowing the homosexual couple ("our brothers," he keeps calling them) to come as a couple he isn't endorsing homosexual activity any more than he is endorsing heterosexual activity by letting heterosexual couples come to the dance.

That is incredibly twisted. I respond: Of course a prom is endorsing heterosexual activity. And a good thing, too. No, no, I don't mean that it's endorsing premarital sex right at this moment between those particular couples. They aren't married yet. But they might get married later. A dance to which one brings a date tacitly endorses the concept of the complementarity of the sexes, of heterosexual romance, leading ultimately (we hope) to loving, permanent, physically consummated, fruitful marriages. In other words, to heterosexual activity. Some young man might bring his future wife to such a dance, and that would be a charming and a natural thing.

Equally, for two young homosexual men to go to the prom together as an identified couple, and for the school to allow it, endorses the notion of homosexual romance. Which, tacitly, normalizes the idea of homosexual activity. This is blatantly obvious.

So Fr. Edward F. Salmon, S.J., is lying. I'm not going to try to force myself to believe that somehow he's suffering from invincible ignorance, because I can't make myself believe that. He isn't. He knows exactly the victory for the homosexual agenda that this decision constitutes, he knows how his decision and the events of the dance itself will contribute to the normalization of homosexual "love," and he's lying about it.

Example #2: Wheaton College has just started Refuge (isn't that a sweet name?), an LGBTQRSTUVWX...etc., etc., student club. (Yes, I just started typing in random letters and keys at a certain point there.) Here is the smarmy article about it. Please note that the definition of the target group is worded in a carefully value-neutral fashion: "students who experience a sexual orientation and/or gender identity that varies from the majority." Uh, yeah, it just varies from the majority. It's not, you know, intrinsically disordered or anything.

The article, on behalf of the college, claims that this "conversation" about homosexuality (it's always a conversation, isn't it?) does not contravene the school's explicit student covenant which disallows homosexual acts, because having such a club doesn't involve endorsing homosexual acts. The group is just there to provide support, love, etc., etc., to LGBTQRTSTPVX!#$!$...students.

This is a lie.

Many people at Wheaton must know that this is a lie. One of the homosexual (or something-or-other) students pretty much lets ol' Felix out of the bag by saying:
“I saw my future as something that was really bleak because, identifying as gay, I felt like I had been told that I was allowed to be a Christian as long as I fulfilled a certain set of requirements and as long as I stayed miserable and de-legitimized this very real aspect of my life,” a Refuge member said.
So in other words, this student's perverse sexuality is, so he believes, part of his very identity, and the existence of this student group makes things better for him than they were before, he thinks, because now he doesn't feel like he needs to "de-legitimize" that "very real aspect of his life." Well, yes, in terms of Christian teaching, he does need to de-legitimize it, because it isn't legitimate. That aspect of his life is a temptation to extremely serious sin. So it definitely should be thought of in negative terms. It isn't something to legitimize, and it shouldn't be the core of his identity. And setting up this student group is endorsing the idea that it's a legitimate identity and needn't be stigmatized.

Here are a couple of other smoking gun paragraphs. First,
A Refuge member also expressed hope that the Wheaton community will change its approach to this topic.
“There is no reason to fear talking about such topics, and I hope that our campus can approach conversations about the LGBTQ experience in a humble and loving way,” a Refuge member said. “We should be eager to talk honestly about it and not be afraid of perspectives that may be different from our own. I don’t think we should shy away from any conversation no matter how difficult it may seem to us.”
What are these "perspectives that may be different from our own"? Why, what could those differences of opinion be, I wonder? A nanosecond's thought yields the answer: This group (I'll just go out on a limb and hypothesize) includes students who deny the school's position that homosexual acts are wrong. But not only are they not being kicked out for rejecting the school's statement of faith and morals on this point, they are instead being encouraged to promulgate their false ideas more widely and not to have those ideas condemned, to have a "conversation" about them instead. In fact (next smoking gun), members of Refuge want Wheaton's entire atmosphere to be less, shall we say, oriented towards heterosexuality in its "all-encompassing assumptions":
Another source of frustration for Refuge members is the lack of sensitivity in language due to the assumptions about the gender identities and sexual orientations of Wheaton students.
“Whether because of the homophobic comments and jokes in the dorms … or the all-encompassing assumptions made in public … there are many ways that LGBTQ students can be made to feel marginalized or isolated,” a Refuge member said.
Heaven forbid that people talking casually at Wheaton, or speaking in public, should assume that most people are heterosexual. Instead, they should be guarding their tongues at every moment to avoid manifesting heterosexist assumptions about normalcy and about the heterosexual orientation of their audience. Such assumptions could make any homosexual students who might be listening feel "marginalized or isolated."

And I haven't yet pointed out that the T in that alphabet soup refers to gender-confused individuals who are choosing by their behavior to present themselves as members of the opposite sex. Cross-dressing and insisting on being called "Diana" and using the women's bathroom when you were born a biological male aren't just some kind of private temptation. They are in-your-face behavior. Who knows whether there are any male-female transgenders (or vice versa) living in the Wheaton dorms. One hopes not. But the very existence of Refuge tells them that they're welcome if they want to come. We're just here to help and support you, etc., etc.

Obviously, the formation of Refuge at Wheaton means that Wheaton is not remaining true to its principles on these matters. The formation of this group does amount to an endorsement of homosexual activity and other gender-bending activity.

So the school is lying. Probably several specific, concrete people at the school are lying, and have lied, to get this organization approved, about what they must know are the implications and will be the effects of this club.

Now, here is my most controversial example. (Controversial only because, given the circles I hang out with in the blogosphere, this post is more likely to be read by people who will feel uncomfortable or even be offended because of the blogger I'm about to mention than by people who hold a brief for McQuaid Jesuit high school or Wheaton College). Example #3, which is a bit older but has been bothering me for a while.

Catholic blogger Mark Shea, whom some people still think of as some kind of conservative, wrote this incredibly smarmy post in which he idolizes a "gay man" as a "saint." This "gay man" was a professional opera expert in Seattle and a music teacher in a volunteer position at Shea's church. Based on his obituary (see following quotation) it appears that he lived with a homosexual "companion" of many years, whom, the obit. tells us, he is "survived by," just as he is "survived by" his father. Gay partners are family, y'know. This is what the obituary says about the relationship:
Paul Hearn of Seattle, Mr. Lorenzo's longtime companion, said they met when Mr. Lorenzo gave a lecture at the University of Washington 13 years ago. Though Hearn was not Catholic, their first date was to St. James, he said.
Hearn said Mr. Lorenzo brought him to the Catholic Church and broadened his appreciation of opera. The two would pray together and do morning liturgies. "We were monks in love," he said.
The priest of Lorenzo's parish is full of praise in the obituary as well.
"He was a born teacher and a perpetual student who never stopped learning," he said. "He was the quintessential renaissance man. He had a passion for beauty and a passion about his Catholic faith. As much as he loved opera, it was his faith where all this came together and made sense."
Mark Shea castigates anyone who thinks that this was a scandalous relationship or who even asks whether the couple was celibate. Now, if we accept that the couple was actually celibate (which, according to an update Shea added later, Hearn, the "in love" partner, did claim in private communication to Shea, some time well after Shea had first written the post), they were nonetheless living in such a way that the world at large would be led to believe that they were not celibate. Unless Hearn is lying, they conceived of and were presenting their relationship as romantic (they were "in love"). It is utterly, utterly perverse and scandalous for a supposed Christian to endorse and to embody to the world in his own person the idea of homosexual romance, even if it should happen to be the case that the romance is not consummated. But Shea insisted, over and over again, even before receiving any definite communication on the question, that it was no one's business whether they were actually celibate. So, in Shea-world, it was fine for this pair to be together as an openly homosexual couple, qua couple, saying that they were "in love," going on "dates," the first of which was to church. It was fine for a person living in such a way to be admired greatly and vocally as a Christian by everyone, including his priest, in his Catholic church. In Shea-world, who is to blame if someone says, "Gee, this certainly looks like a sexual relationship. Isn't that a problem? Isn't that a cause of scandal? Should this man hold even a volunteer position of leadership of any kind in a Catholic church? Should we be holding him up to our children and to the world at large as an example? Should we be praising him to the skies?" Shea blames the person who asks those questions! Such a person is nosy. He's wondering about something that is "none of his business." Instead he should join Mark Shea in gushing about a "gay man who was a saint."

I will say it right here: The claim that a homosexual "partnership" does not functionally endorse and normalize homosexual behavior is a lie. It's such an obvious, grave, foolish, pernicious falsehood that anyone who puts it forward for serious consideration is to be blamed. Someone, somewhere, is lying. Perhaps it isn't actually Shea. There are always different levels of this sort of thing. There are those who promulgate propaganda knowing it to be utter baloney. There are those who are complete dupes. Though, when the issue concerns the intersection of morals and cultural meaning in ways that are readily accessible to any mature and aware American Christian, it's harder to accept that anyone who says such a thing is really a complete dupe. And there's the large grey area in between, where people say edgy things because they think it sounds profound to do so while strangling their own common sense in the cradle and lecturing other people for allegedly being nosy and judgmental.

Perhaps someone lied persuasively to Mark Shea, aided and abetted by something in the water in Seattle that makes Catholic bloggers susceptible to such nonsense. Maybe it was his priest who taught him this bizarre version of, "Don't ask, don't tell." Which really is, "Hey, they can go ahead and tell people that they are a romantically connected homosexual couple, 'long-time companions,' but no one should ask if they are actually having sex. Then we can assume that they aren't and can venerate and practically suggest the canonization of one member of the couple when he dies, as a shining example of Christian life and devotion." Someone, somewhere, is telling a falsehood that, at some level, he must know to be a falsehood--namely, the falsehood that such a relationship does not functionally promote and endorse homosexual behavior as legitimate.

Shea is so mixed up by the "priests he has talked to" that he thinks it could be legitimate for a priest to counsel a homosexual person to continue in a sexually active homosexual relationship--this is clearly what Shea means to be referring to in the context--because, for various "special reasons" peculiar to that relationship, it would be "more destructive" to end it. See for yourself. It's right in the post. So Shea is so confused about these matters by the people he's listening to that it would be difficult to know how to un-confuse him.

This is the level that we have fallen to in various Christian communities: Openly touted homosexual romance is fine. Live-in homosexual couplehood is fine. Homosexual couples "in love" are fine. Homosexual couples going to dances together are fine (at McQuaid Jesuit High School). Self-styled homosexuals who don't want to "de-legitimize this area of their lives" are also fine (at Wheaton). As long as they don't come right out and say that they are presently having sex with each other, they're fine. We'll just go on loudly pretending that nothing in any of this endorses homosexual behavior. The next step is apparently to say that, you know, even if a pair of known homosexual "partners" are having sex, the rest of us sometimes fail to control the sin of gluttony.

Perhaps Wheaton would balk at that point, though. Or would feign to balk. For right now, my guess is that students in Refuge can hold pretty much any moral opinion, but the school claims (truly or falsely) that students can't admit to being presently sexually active, because that would be hard to square with the student covenant. But give them time; they'll probably start openly using the gluttony line next year. Maybe the year after that they'll tell us that it would in some cases be "more destructive" for homosexuals to get out of their sexual relationships. Where precisely on the whole continuum the Jesuit high school falls in its day-to-day workings, we probably don't want to know.

Lies are bad for Christians. They are at least as bad for Christians working in groups as they are for Christians as individuals. In groups, human beings toss lies back and forth like hacky-sacks until they can't remember what's true and what's false anymore.

Start by thinking clearly. Go on doing it. Neither listen to lies nor be confused by them nor promulgate them, even if they sound conveniently non-judgmental. If you don't maintain this kind of mental clarity, you will harm more people than just yourself.


John Bugay said...

Hi Lydia, this is doctrinal. Roman Catholic homosexuals are encouraged, over time, to "gradually and resolutely" stop having sexual relations.

From the CCC:

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

But in the meantime, well, you know...

Lydia McGrew said...

John, yes, that is some fairly unfortunate wording in the Catechism, because one could get the impression from it that simply abstaining from homosexual acts is equivalent to "Christian perfection." (Of course it isn't. Plenty of people even with homosexual desires have refrained from such acts while not claiming that they had attained Christian perfection!) Nor is it the only example of unfortunate, indeed, highly unfortunate, wording in the Catechism.

However, in defense of our Catholic conservative friends (I mean the actual conservatives), I would add that

a) when someone receives absolution he is supposed to make a firm purpose of amendment

b) when someone receives absolution he is supposed to avoid the near occasion of sin.

Both of these are fairly obviously incompatible with actually, deliberately, intentionally remaining in a homosexual relationship, including continuing to live with a homosexual partner with whom one is tempted to sin. Any priest that deliberately counsels a penitent to remain in an active homosexual relationship is doing something gravely wrong, because he is counseling him _not_ to have a firm purpose of amendment. We can see this if we consider the parallel in a heterosexual case: If a priest counsels a man living with his girlfriend to go on living with her and not to split up with her, even though they are not intending to get married, the implication is that he's actually intending to go on having sex with her outside of marriage.

Lydia McGrew said...

I should also point out, again, the Wheaton case. Nor is the only such example. Calvin College is another. So this problem of playing "see no evil" semantic games while actively doing things that really do endorse homosexual activity cuts across the Protestant-Catholic divide.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Obviously, the formation of Refuge at Wheaton means that Wheaton is not remaining true to its principles on these matters. The formation of this group does amount to an endorsement of homosexual activity and other gender-bending activity.

So the school is lying."

Hi Lydia, great post.

What do you think Wheaton President Ryken is going to do about Refuge? What would you do if you were President of Wheaton?

If he does nothing, along with other high-level functionaries doing nothing about Refuge, would you send your kids to Wheaton?

Lydia McGrew said...

TAUD, I'm sure the president of Wheaton won't do anything about the group for the simple reason that Refuge is being carefully walked through all the steps to make sure it is an approved student group with all its paperwork in order. Once that has been insured (which the article announces it has been), I'm not sure what power the President individually has to stop it, and he would certainly encounter a lot of opposition if he tried. I doubt very, very much that he is going to try. The article also implies that Wheaton's Provost, Stanton Jones, is on-board with the existence of the group. Would the President go up against the Provost, even if he were so inclined? Seems unlikely.

As to your other question, of course I wouldn't send one of my kids to Wheaton, even if I could afford it.

William Luse said...

Roman Catholic homosexuals are encouraged, over time, to "gradually and resolutely" stop having sexual relations.

But the Catechism doesn't say that. It says that they are to "approach Christian perfection," which cannot be translated as: keep sodomizing each other, but not so often. If the Church grants permission to engage in intrinsically immoral behavior, it defies the divine authority on which it claims to have been founded.

Lydia McGrew said...

I agree, Bill, that the catechism doesn't say exactly what John Bugay interpreted it as saying. OTOH, the wording is _very_ unfortunate. It seems to me that the reference to "Christian perfection" is a mere distraction. There is no point in even bringing it up in the context, as the reader is instead expecting the paragraph to continue talking about homosexuals' duty to abstain from sexual relations. The word "gradually" is also unfortunate. Even to use it when the immediate context is discussing the commission of mortal sin could easily lead to misunderstanding.

One tries to imagine the occurrence of that last sentence in the discussion of other sins. Murder, for example. "With the help of disinterested friends, by prayer and sacramental grace, those who have urges to commit ax murders can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection." Or pedophilia, "With the help of the sacraments and disinterested friends, pedophiles can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."

Even though the sentence can, and by Catholics must, be interpreted so that it is not condoning continuing in homosexual relations, it is highly, highly unfortunate wording, and the question of why the sentence is even in there is pertinent, as is illustrated by the thought experiment of putting a similar sentence in a paragraph about other sins.

Hopefully my saying so is not offensive. I know that there are many conservative Catholics who regret a number of wordings in the CCC, so it doesn't seem that it should be.

William Luse said...

I'm not offended. What offends me are Catholics who take the unfortunate wording as permission to do evil.

Unknown said...

I think the wording has to do with the fact that sins of a carnal nature are extremely difficult to master, and the bonds of habit they exercise are often extremely strong. THe authors probably thought that a demand to immediate and total cessation or repentance would lead people to despair, or open up the Church to the criticism that its vision of sanctification was unrealistic. Such sins sometimes do take a long time to overcome completely, until the temptation to them is finally purged from the mind, and real freedom accomplished.

If that is so, it makes the wording no less fortunate. I'm just offering what I think is a possible explanation.

Lydia McGrew said...

Be that as it may (the difficulty of resisting sins of a carnal nature), Christians are in fact called not to commit homosexual acts, period, end of discussion. It shouldn't matter what people would say. As it is, I would say that _those_ considerations lead to _that_ wording only because, frankly, someone who wordsmithed that paragraph didn't really think homosexual acts are all that bad. Therefore he could write wording that might be taken to imply that it's okay to only gradually stop committing them, and whoever he was didn't much care that it would be taken that way. Had he thought they were really all *that* bad, he wouldn't have allowed all of those considerations about the "difficulty of stopping carnal acts" to result in that wording--as my above examples show.

In any event, I would like to think that this sort of thing would be particularly clear if a man were living with his mistress. Let us suppose that everyone in the situation is fully agreed that the man and the woman aren't married. There's no question or ambiguity on that point. And they are in a sexual relationship. It would be completely wrong to counsel him to continue living with her. It's an immoral relationship. If he can't marry her (say he's married already), he needs to break off the relationship.

William Luse said...

"It would be completely wrong to counsel him to continue living with her. It's an immoral relationship."

That's why I don't think the words mean what some would like to think. It's more likely that whoever crafted that paragraph is just a sloppy craftman. (It wouldn't be the first time.) It's no more difficult for a homosexual to lay off the sex than for a heterosexual. Just say no.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Lydia, would you send your kids to Hillsdale?

Also, could you take brief look at Diana West's column and see if you think it falls under the general category of telling ourselves lies:

Lydia McGrew said...

TAUD, w.r.t. your first question:

At the moment, I'm not contemplating sending any of my children to any residential college. It's very expensive, for one thing, as compared with various options that allow them to live at home. I've heard many good things about Hillsdale and have nothing specific against them with the possible exception of the claim I have heard that their philosophers tend toward the continental side. :-) Also, since they are not _actually_ a Christian school, and for that matter are not a dry campus and do allow males in the female dorms (though not all night), I would have to satisfy myself in more detail regarding the actual moral atmosphere at the school before even considering paying the big bucks to send a child there. If you are about to tell me that they have an alphabet soup student club for sexual perversions, that would cashier it right there. It's a question I've never investigated as the question has not been a practical one for me thus far.

As to your second question, I have not the slightest idea why you would relate that subject to this subject, and I'm not sure that I want to know the explanation. Perhaps you accidentally posted an incorrect link.

Christine said...

Excellent post, Lydia. And you are right about the unfortunate wording in the modern Catechism. It could be much clearer. (This is not the only section that comes across as unfortunately vague--there are other passages as well that have led to confusion.)

But those who would use its wording to justify continued indulgence in mortal sin are completely off base. Christ has very strong words about the extent to which we MUST avoid sin, even going so far as to "it is better for thee to enter into life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire." Mark 9:41

Lydia McGrew said...

Thank you, Christine.

I don't actually know of anyone (though I'd bet such people exist) who use that phrase in the Catechism for that purpose. I didn't find it in Shea's column, even where he defended the terrible advice of priests to homosexuals to stay in active relationships. Perhaps that's just because it hadn't occurred to him.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Another smoking gun paragraph in the Wheaton article:

“I came to understand that what I was told my future had to look like because I am gay was not something I was excited about,” a Refuge member said. “I think it is absolutely wrong to communicate to LGBTQ students that their future need be any less fulfilling than those of straight students just because of their orientation.”

At the risk of sounding callous... them's the breaks kid. Don't blame us that you were born with a perverse form of mental illness. Deal with it, lose the whine, and try a little humility instead. In other words, man up.

Lydia McGrew said...

There were several candidates for obvious paragraphs in that article. I figured that they'd probably try to pretend that all he meant was that he could be so very happy in Jesus or something in his future, so his future could still be "just as fulfilling" globally, blah, blah.

Which, I completely agree, is _not_ what he meant.

Lydia McGrew said...

And he might not have been born with the problem. It might have been a result at least in part, even in large part, of factors in his life after birth.

But regardless, I really doubt he meant something "spiritual" by that statement.

Funny question, though: If asked, would he admit that? Or would he dodge on what he meant?

Anonymous said...

Lydia and Yankeegospelgirl, this is somewhat off topic but I saw you both commented in the pyro post on Rosaria Butterfields book. I felt like jumping out of my chair. I have the same grave reservations about her and her book. But you two are the first and only other people apparently on the planet that I have found able and willing to say so. I did not read the whole book, but parts of it. I have links to Patrick Henry College and dear friends who work there and I listened to her interview on the website. This only brought more red flags. I would love to read more of what you have to say about her. I feel like she should never have written such a book and that it is going to be a real divider in the conservative community. whether she is a real or a phony, I do not pretend to know. But something is definitely fishy.

Lydia McGrew said...

Dear Anon,

I do have a link to Southern Gospel Yankee, and I do appreciate YGG's comments, but your best way to contact her directly would be (I would guess) via the info. on the contact page at her blog, which is here:

Thanks for your comments, and it was good of you to pick this post to put them in, because it is related to the topic of this post.

I have not read Butterfield's book (something you doubtless saw in the thread), and my purpose in that thread was quite narrow, though for some reason FT could not seem to understand that or to answer what I was saying on its own terms: It was quite evident that FT was attempting to scold a reader (YGG) for not "showing respect" to Butterfield's academic creds. Moreover, his reference to Butterfield's colleague as being one of the "foremost voices in critical theory" showed a level of positive evaluation of Critical Theory which I felt I could not let go unremarked. After all, to put it a little crudely, if one said, "Her chairman is one of the foremost voices in Poopy Studies," this would hardly be seen as a great recommendation! So he was encouraging some kind of deference to this junk sub-field of Critical Theory and was using YGG's lack of formal credentials to imply that she had no right to criticize it. Moreover, in one of his last comments before closing the thread, he had the silly gall to say that if postmodern deconstructionists read a work of art before deconstructing it, this is sufficient for the demands of academic integrity! What a joke! I can assure anyone that it is entirely possible for postmodernists to read a work of literature and still do "work" that has _zero_ academic integrity when they write about it. Indeed, deconstructing a work of literature *by definition* lacks academic integrity.

All of this I was entirely capable of commenting on without knowing anything about Butterfield.

It sounds to me from what YGG has written as though she has (pace Frank Turk and his sycophants) listened to enough of Butterfield's speeches and the like and thereby supplemented reading the first chapter of the book to be permitted to voice some hesitations about her!

Certainly what YGG is bringing up is a phenomenon I have seen elsewhere--ex-homosexuals say things that are somewhat questionable, and no one is allowed to question them because of a kind of affirmative action effect. Christians want so dearly to have homosexual "voices" that agree with us on the moral issue that we're pretty much walking on eggshells. A prominent example of this (whose writing I _have_ read) is Joshua Gonnerman who blogs at First Things. What a mess! He still has this "positive gay identity," though he thinks homosexual acts are wrong.

And of course Mark Shea's attitude towards Perry Lorenzo (in the main post here) is another example of the same phenomenon.

Lydia McGrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lydia McGrew said...

Not having been exposed to what Butterfield is saying directly, I speak here tentatively. My _impression_ about her is that she is probably doctrinally sounder than someone like Gonnerman. However, my impression is that she is still encouraging this kind of "openness" to homosexuals as part of "ministering to them" that needs to be questioned in its own right. For example, suppose that a homosexual couple starts coming to your church and making it evident to all and sundry (including children) that they regard themselves as a couple, that they are lovers, etc. Is this a good thing for the church atmosphere? Yeah, it's so "mean" to bring up that question, but it's an important question. It's perfectly legitimate for parents not to want their kids exposed to that as though it's normal. I myself would not even want to normalize a guy living with his girlfriend to my children and would be careful about our family friends for that reason. A fortiori, I would not have a guy and his boyfriend (!) in my home so that my children started referring to "Bob and Billy" as a couple as if this were a normal thing, hey, they're just our friends, etc.

Might this get in the way of proper "hospitable" ministry as Butterfield conceives it? My impression from what I've heard is that it would.

These tough questions need to be asked, but it sounds to me like Butterfield is the last person of whom they are going to be asked. She's being treated as some kind of expert in "how Christians should treat homosexuals."

So, again, my _impression_ is not so much that there is something "fishy" about Butterfield, as if she isn't what she appears to be, but rather that she represents a trend to "let's be sure to all be super-nice all the time to the gays so we can win them to Christ" and is strongly pushing this on Christians, and that kind of thing very often doesn't turn out well. It has other effects and repercussions, effects of normalizing homosexuality functionally.

Anonymous said...

Lydia, thank you very much for your response. I have several red flags including the ones you have mentioned. Another one is just the defiling nature of this sin and encouraging Christians to discuss it in public forums with men and women together. No discretion or care. This type of exposure to sin - what will that do to the next generation? Her criticisms of Christians often sound like an outsider's criticisms rather than how a Christian might address the weaknesses of fellow Christians. Unduly harsh and like a caricature, rather than what I have personally experienced as a believer of 20 years. Her criticism is doubly confusing because of her praise for the pastor who initially contacted her. Why not just leave it at his example? One last thing: she mentioned in the interview about asking another christian woman "What did you have to give up to be here?" Meaning, what was required of you to "give up" to be a Christian. I thought it a very strange question. The woman told her that she had had to "give up" a child; as in she had a child die. The whole exchange was weird to me and did not make sense to someone who is familar with true biblical salvation. It is not what we "give up" to be saved. It is what Christ has done. He is the one who sacrificed His life for sinners. It's His sacrifice, not ours, that gives us peace with God. It is not my sacrifice(s) which God accepts but Christ's atoning work on the cross.

Anyways, thanks for responding.

Lydia McGrew said...

Yeah, I'd heard about that "what did you have to give up."

To me, it's a very childish question. First, it shows a kind of defensiveness. The implication is that everyone is in the same boast. God forbid she should have to feel that her sin is any _worse_ than anyone else's. She's got to justify herself by making other people "share their dirt" about the sins they had to give up. That makes her feel like they're all in the same boat. Childish. Grow up and confess your own sin and stop badgering other people to drag them down to your own level.

Second, and related, it shows a kind of voyeurism. She wanted to pressure other people to tell about the sins in their past. That's bad. You should never be asking people to tell you about their past sins. That's between them and God.

I don't get the bit about "giving up a child." What? Perhaps the woman's child became a missionary or something?

In any event, none of this encourages clear thinking. And when it comes to this issue, we desperately need clear thinking, not muddy thinking.

Lydia McGrew said...

*same boat

Lydia McGrew said...

Feel free to invite YGG to participate here. She's obviously familiar with what Butterfield has said much more than I am.

Anonymous said...

The other thing that was suspect was the timing of the release of Butterfield's book - just as the legality of
"homosexual marriage" was being debated by the Supreme court.

So, bottom line there is still alot of pride and blind spots. It is unfortunate that she was encouraged to write a book, encouraged to act as a sort of authority on these things and is being encouraged to speak to groups about it. As you said, as if she is some sort of reliable authority. I don't believe she is, whether from spiritual immaturity or ???. I really pray that Christians will wake up and stop being so naive and accepting. We really do not have a biblical understanding of the power and evil of sin, the depravity and deception of the human heart and our deadly enemy - the devil. The scriptures tell us about them plainly, but we have been so influenced by post modernism and political correctness that we tend towards those rather than clear scriptural thinking and behavior.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Butterfield now has a pretty standard approach to depravity, sin, etc., so if you listened to an entire speech of hers, you would hear her talk about total depravity and the "predatory" nature of sexual sin in particular. I think she does recognize that it's a serious thing and one of the devil's weapons. But I think she, like the rest of the church, still wants to label homosexuals as a "victim group," so that even while we recognize that what they feel is sinful, we somehow still have to feel guilty, because the church has Gotten It Wrong, in some significant way.

Anonymous said...

I see, so she does make biblical comments about sin and depravity.

But then the practical outworking of how to treat it, how to address it, and so forth is where the problem lies?

Lydia McGrew said...

There are clearly a number of practical outworking problems. One of them arises from the "all sins are equal" issue. That's just so huge. Unfortunately, there is a certain type of Protestant that simply does not understand that "sexual sin" is not a full description. Some sexual sins are *unnatural*. Others (e.g., heterosexual fornication between a boyfriend and girlfriend) are wrong and grave but are not unnatural. It's pretty clear to me from what I'm hearing that that distinction is one Butterfield doesn't grok.

Then there is all the victim-group breastbeating being called for by churches.

Then there is the exaggerated and misleading notion of "hospitality," which comes along with a failure to understand the "expectation of normalcy" issue for children and young people discussed on the other thread.

Then there is the voyeurism of "what did you have to give up?" which also brings us back again to the idea that everybody has "dirt" and that we all need to be talking about our "dirt." To the contrary: We live in a "too much information" society. Moreover, it simply isn't the case that everybody has "dirt." And finally, the Christians around Butterfield didn't owe it to her to share their past sins as some sort of payment in return for her repentance. Her demand that they do so was unhealthy on many levels.

And finally, there is the problem of not making our position clear to prospective converts out of fear of offending them or driving them away. Quite frankly, it is *not true* that any homosexual person you are hanging out with "already knows" what you think about his behavior. To the contrary, there are enough Christians out there making excuses for this behavior that not being clear could easily be misunderstood, which amounts to a bait and switch after the person converts.

I'm concerned that the "open" kind of approach to prospective converts that Butterfield recommends could easily create exactly this sort of confusion.

Anonymous said...

Lydia, good points. Yes Christians in general do not understand that certain sins are worse. Most understand that God hates all sin. And all sin has the same penalty: the wages of sin is death - Romans 6:23

But some sins are obviously worse, deserving greater condemnation, both in the eyes of men and in the eyes of God. such as murder and in this case, homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

What gets me is that Butterfield is a pastor's wife. She says that she spends alot of time in the scriptures. Yet if that is true, how can her conclusions be so consistently unbiblical? I feel sorry for her in a way because it's almost like she was asked to write a book before she was prepared to write from a spiritually mature perspective. Simply having a compelling testimony and an impressive academic resume does automatically qualify you for writing such a book.

Lydia McGrew said...

Anon, I apologize for neglecting to moderate your comment for so long. My fault.

The thing is, being a pastor doesn't mean what it should mean, especially on this issue. An example of this sort of thinking was just sent to me today. It was written by Barnabas Piper. A little googling shows me that BP isn't currently a pastor, but does anyone doubt that he could be if he wanted to be and that he eventually will be? He gives enough advice to pastors, that's for sure!

And he was _expressly_ denying that we should refer to homosexuality as being unnatural, _expressly_ spinning the "all sins are the same" line. Guess he hasn't read Romans 1:26-27 recently. He can take up his beef with the natural-unnatural distinction with the Apostle Paul.

This sort of trendy denial is rampant in the evangelical community, including in leadership. Butterfield isn't even the worst example, I would guess.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Ironically, Butterfield's "all sins are alike" position mysteriously disintegrates when she talks about people in the church "turning their back" on Christians struggling with homosexuality (with no specifics, of course). She said in so many words "Maybe that's an even worse sin." So much for all sins being alike. Who cares about consistency when it comes to getting in our requisite number of jabs at the conservative church?