An Open Letter To My Gay Brother In Christ

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

June 28, 2016

Dear Isaac,

Thank you for your open letter to me published in The Huffington Post. The first thing I want to make clear is that I really do love you, brother! Although you disagree with some of my thoughts and beliefs, I truly do feel loved by you. My prayer is that you know you are loved in return, even though I do not agree with all of your thoughts and beliefs. After all, isn’t that what tolerance is about?

I’d like to interact directly with your open letter to me. In so doing, I will quote you directly and then respond appropriately. You wrote:

Dear Conservative Christian family,

Being the son of two pastors, I was taught to love the sinner, but to hate their sin. The first time I saw two men kissing I hated what they had done and hated that I had to watch.

As I’ve read through Facebook, Twitter and various articles online, there are many conservative Christians, asking one question: “Why are we being blamed for the Orlando shooting?”

I agree, Isaac! It seems utterly incoherent to blame Christianity for the terror attack in Orlando when it is only consistent Christianity (following the Law of Christ) that grounds homophobia or persecution of homosexuals as objectively wrong and evil. Based on this hasty generalization I noticed on social media in the aftermath of the terror attack in Orlando, I wrote an article which specifically explains what follows logically from three world views:

1- Consistent Islam: this attack was GOOD as Muhammad’s final commands were to kill the infidels (Take five minutes to understand by clicking here).

2- Consistent Atheism: there was NOTHING objectively WRONG with these attacks. In fact, on naturalistic atheism it is unavoidable. Terrorists are therefore not responsible for their actions (click here to understand exactly why).

3- Consistent Christianity: this attack was objectively WRONG and EVIL! According to the law of Christ, all humans are commanded to love all humans (even the ones we disagree with). According to Jesus, we are to love everyone from our neighbors to our enemies. Thus, one who consistently follows the teachings of Jesus will demonstrate love to all people (even the ones he disagrees with)!

I concluded by stating: “Is there a best choice option? Yes there is. The one supported by all of the evidence and the same one commanding us to love! Bottom line: If you agree that the Islamic terror attack against homosexuals at the gay nightclub were objectively wrong and evil, then, to be logically consistent, you must reject atheism, Islam, or any other view that disagrees with the teachings of Jesus Christ. If you think terror and persecution against the homosexual community is objectively wrong, then you ought to be a Christ follower!”

Isaac, you said:

I fear that conservative Christians are being lumped in with the homophobic shooter, ISIS and religious radicals because, to the LGBT+ community, these are the groups who maintain the system that produces homophobia.

Your fear is a legitimate one, Isaac. Consistent followers of Christ (genuine Christians) are unfairly being “lumped in” with those who consistently follow the teachings of Muhammad. This conflation is logically incoherent as Jesus and Muhammad reached totally different conclusions on issues such as these. So, if the LGBT+ community and others are reaching these incoherent conclusions, these must be based on pure ignorance in regards to knowing the difference between the Law of Christ and the teachings of Muhammad.

I’d like you to understand that homophobia is not only demonstrated by the shooter, the boys who punched me in the park, or the uncle who called me “faggot.” Homophobia, at its core, is hatred that changes the way LGBT+ people understand their value.

I completely understand that, Isaac! If someone (LGBT+ or not) understands that their value is based on the fact that they are created in the image of God and loved by Him perfectly, then this infinite love engulfs any hate coming from an ignorant and finite human. According to the Creator of the universe, your value surpasses that of the entire universe itself!

According to consistent Christianity, one can rightly affirm that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” This includes each and every human who identifies with the LGBT+ community. A secular view of the world cannot logically offer this to the LGBT+ community.

The true effects of homophobia don’t exist on the external surface where crime is committed. They rest in the fabric of the human soul who has been taught that they aren’t as good as their heterosexual neighbor.

It is always good to see people affirm the reality of the human soul, Isaac! This is what I spend the majority of my time writing and speaking about. If humans are immaterial souls in the image of God, then, as I mentioned above, objective equal and unalienable rights make logical sense.

With that said, however, if a person in the LGBT+ community has been taught that he or she is not as “good” as a heterosexual neighbor, then I would ask “what do you mean by, ‘good?’” Jesus is clear that “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). According to the teachings of Jesus, the Apostle Paul can logically conclude that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

So, according to the Law of Christ in the New Testament, all humans are sinful and anything but “good.” We are all in the same boat together if we like it or not. Some might struggle with lust and others with pride. Some might struggle with the sin of greed while others struggle with intolerance, but we have all fallen short and we all need a Savior!

So, I would point out that a proper theology will ground the fact that we are not only all equal in the eyes of God, but also that we are all equally sinful.

You see, the blossoming of homophobia is violence, while the root system is the cultural/religious mindset that’s comfortable branding an entire group of people as relationally inferior, spiritually immature, as well as socially and sexually deviant.

While I have agreed with most of your letter thus far, Isaac, I think you have made a hasty generalization here. The “root” of homophobia is not necessarily a “branding of an entire group of people,” as incorrect regarding their opinions on sexuality. Rather, the root of the problem lies in what each worldview explicitly teaches or implies how that specific group of people ought to be treated.

When the messages of your churches and the sermons you clap for; when the messages you deliver as our parents, leaders, and well-intentioned friends negatively shift the way we, people of the LGBT+ community, feel about our version of love, our relational offering, or our position in this world [as God’s beloved children], the system of homophobia is working through you.

Isaac, what do you mean by “our version of love?” The question is this: does your “version of love” correspond to reality? What makes one person’s subjective “version of love” better or worse than the other’s version? What makes the LGBT +’s “version of love” better or “more right” than the conservative Christian’s view of love? What makes your view of love better or worse than Jerry Sandusky’s view of love or the view held by the guy in NAMBLA?

Without some objective reference point external to humanity, we are all simply left with nothing but our subjective opinions. Now, you affirm Christian theism, thus, it follows that you should also affirm that God is our objective reference point that we should point to when asking the questions of how we ought to live. Moreover, as a Christian you are necessarily a Christ follower. Therefore, we know how we ought to live through the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ.

When I discovered that I was bisexual, homophobia started to teach me: I am not clean emotionally, romantically or spiritually. I am a perverted boy. My body was my enemy.

Well, Isaac, this is not what “homophobia” taught you, but this is what the Law of Christ teaches in the New Testament. This is the same Law of Christ that you as a Christian are bound to (unless you are a “Christian” in name only but do not really care to follow the Law of Christ). I have already provided scriptures from the New Testament stating that no human is clean, good, or righteous; we are all perverted boys and girls in one way or the other. Moreover, the Apostle Paul clearly taught that our bodies possess natural desires to behave in a manner that is antithetical to the way God wants us to behave (Galatians 5:17); however, since we are immaterial souls (as you pointed out above) who have these bodies, then we can make free, but hard, choices not to act on our natural desires. We can take our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and when we do that consistently and over time, then we can become transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). This is even supported by the science of self-directed neuroplasticity.

So, your body can be “your enemy” (which is only true if substance dualism is true), in the sense that if left alone to its natural devices, it will behave in an animalistic fashion. However, Isaac, you are not a mere animal; rather, you are a supernatural soul created in the image of God that is not bound by the laws of nature. Therefore, you can make free choices to resist your natural desires; you can take your thoughts captive to obey Christ and behave accordingly!

So, I did the right Christian thing: I hated my sin. But when your “sin” is loving, [you are] left with no option but to hate your entire self.

Issac, this belief of yours is false on several levels. First of all, your sin was not “loving,” as Jesus taught that all humans are supposed to love all humans (Mark 12:31; Matthew 5:44). However, the model of sexual relationships that Jesus taught was this: One man and one woman, becoming one flesh, for one lifetime (Mark 10:6-9). You are making the logical mistake here of conflating sex with love. I can honestly say that I love all human beings; I can also honestly say that I am committed to having sex with only ONE woman for the rest of my life. It logically follows that we can truly love other humans without having sex with them.

Your sin was not “loving,” Isaac; you are commanded to love and you are supposed to do that much. Your sin, however, was having sex with those God does not want you to have sex with. Moreover, you were choosing to have sex with those that God did not intentionally design you to have sex with. So, because you committed the logical error of conflation, you reached the false conclusion that your only option was to “hate your entire self.” The correct conclusion to reach would have been to recognize that your body desires to behave in a manner (for one reason or another), that is antithetical to God’s desires for you to behave. Since you are not simply a “meat robot,” and you are so much more than a mere “bag of chemicals on bones,” you, as an immaterial soul, can freely choose to take your thoughts captive on a regular basis and say: “Although I have a physical desire to act on x, I will freely choose not to act on x.”

As a diligent Christian boy, I knew God was going to kill me — an eternal life in hell.

Isaac, I don’t know what your theological views of hell are, but I am firmly convinced that the only people who are in hell are those who would rather worship something or someone else besides God. That is to say, there is no one in hell who truly loves Jesus Christ! There is also no one in Heaven who does not love Jesus above all.

I am good friends with a man who has been gay for many years; however, when Brady Cone fell in love with Jesus, he decided that he loved Jesus more than his own desires. Brady made the free choice to take his thoughts (based on his natural desires) captive and instead, obey Christ. Brady is the epitome of a Christ follower. He is a Christian not just in name, but demonstrates his love for Christ by his actions and his lifestyle.

Brady makes hard choices every single day to keep the Law of Christ. In fact, Jesus makes it clear twice in the fourteenth chapter of John: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), and, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). It is obvious by how Brady Cone chooses to live, that he loves Jesus – even though it is not always easy; in fact, most of the time it is pretty hard. Brady will be the first to tell you that it’s worth it! Check out Brady Cone’s website here! He would love to dialogue with you.

Can you imagine what this feels like for LGBT+ people who loved God so deeply?

Well, based on the teachings of Jesus and the revelation provided by God, if one really did love God “so deeply,” then they would (at least) want to keep the Law of Christ. As I noted above, the Law of Christ is clear that we are to love ALL people, but this does not mean have sex with all people. Again, it is a logical error to conflate the two.

The voice of the shooter, the same voice we project onto God, had made its way into my self-dialogue, “Kill him!”

I am so sorry to hear that, Isaac! It is sad when so many incorrectly “project” the sinful and false ideas of humans “onto God.” God has provided revelation through Jesus Christ in the New Testament so that we can know how we were intended to live. When people have a proper understanding of this reality, then it is easy to take our incorrect thoughts captive. Thus, when “Kill him” enters your mind, you can know that thought does not correspond to God; it does not correspond to reality.

I needed to avoid the once-and-for-all mistake of loving a man (and the peril for which I was doomed). I began praying for God to take my life before I made an irreversible sin.

Isaac, again you conflate love with sex; they are not the same thing. More importantly, the only once-and-for-all mistake that would damn a person to hell is to eternally keep other things in front of God and to eternally reject the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul even made it clear that he was “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15). If this is the case, then there is no specific or individual sin that is “irreversible.” The atoning sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient for the justification of all people – IF we freely choose to accept it and to enter into a true love marriage with our creator.

And when God wouldn’t [take my life], I reached for suicide.

Oh Isaac, this breaks my heart. I hope you see now that we are not called to be perfect – Jesus did that for us. We are simply called to “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12) and sincerely strive to follow the Law of Christ. We are called to take our thoughts captive every day, but guess what: God knows we will not be perfect at this! God simply wants us to be honest about what is a sin and what is not, and for us to strive to live a life that honors God.

You see, when Christians use “Love the sinner, hate the sin” to make themselves morally peaceful while loving a “sinner” like me, they’re giving ordained permission to and normalizing the same hatred that burgeoned in the young shooter’s heart and fueled my desperation for suicide. Both the shooter’s disdain and my self-hatred developed over time — starting with a small religious seed of instructions: “…hate the sin.”

Isaac, with all due respect, not only is this last statement of yours false, it is also dangerous. Statements like these often make the LGBT+ community and their advocates hate pastors, Sunday school teachers, and all other Christians who take the Law of Christ seriously. Moreover, the Islamic shooter’s desire to kill the LGBT+ community in Orlando was not based on “hate the sin,” as you suggest; rather, it was based on “hate the sinner!” You are grossly conflating the Law of Christ with the teachings of Muhammad. They do not teach the same thing!

If one thinks that God exists and created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, revealed this purpose to humanity through Jesus Christ, and then provided a divine “stamp of approval” via the resurrection (which we have historical evidence for), then they ought to logically conclude that we should “hate the sin, but genuinely love the sinner!”

However, if one truly thinks that Islam is true, understands what Muhammad taught in the Quran and the Hadith, and believes that they ought to be obedient to his commands, then they will try to kill all people who do not hold their same beliefs. The first on the list will be the LGBT+ community. Watch this short video to gain a proper understanding as to why many Muslims become jihadists.

Hating sin is not a bad thing and I’m sure you would agree. For example, based on your letter, you seem to think that homophobia or any intolerance demonstrated against the LGBT+ community is sinful and wrong. So, since you are a self-professed Christian, then according to the Law of Christ, you ought to love the intolerant homophobe while simultaneously “hating his sin,” (thinking he is objectively wrong) at least if you desire to be consistent.

But it doesn’t stop there. The mindset of “Love the sinner, hate the sin” has even tricked those of us in the church. Love cannot be in cahoots with hatred.

This is true in regards to all humans. We should love all humans no matter who they choose to have sex with. For example, I can sincerely tell you that I absolutely hate the sin of Jerry Sandusky (I hope you do too, Isaac) and his choice to have sex with little children in the Penn State locker room! With that said, however, I sincerely love him as a human being and I desire the best for him. I hope that he freely chooses to repent and worship Jesus. That choice is up to him.

You brought up a disanalogous example and said:

For example, how can you love me yet hate my Hispanic skin? In this light, Christian claims of loving me (while hating how I love) feel like a sham.

Isaac, the only “sham” here is conflating the color of one’s skin – which we have no choice over – with the manner in which we choose to behave – which we do control. These are two different kinds of things and to continually conflate them is a logical error that ultimately leads to false conclusions.

The problem has been in our conservative churches for decades.

There are a couple of problems with that statement, Isaac. First, if by “decades” you mean around a couple thousand years, then I will give you that much, but I think the real problem here is how you are defining “conservative churches.” If a conservative church is simply one that teaches the Law of Christ found in the New Testament, then the problem you have is not with conservative churches today; rather, you have a problem with the teachings of Jesus Christ himself! Therefore, ultimately, you have a problem with the same person you claim to follow as a Christian.

Is it possible that we, the Church, have blurred the distinction between tolerance and unconditional love? I feel foolish for trusting you this long, and I am part of you.

What do you think, Isaac? One must first disagree with another person’s thoughts or actions before “tolerating” them. Do you disagree with me? Do you choose to tolerate me anyway? Do you unconditionally love me even though I think you are making some incorrect choices?

Without our sanctuaries, where would you have us turn? Thank God for open and affirming churches, our cohesion as a gay community, and sanctuaries like the Pulse.

As a pastor, I can tell you that my church is open to all and we affirm that all people are created in the image of God, loved by God, but separated from God because of our sin. We also teach exactly what sin is according to the Law of Christ so that we can be aware of it, repent from it, and no longer need to be separated from God because of it. I hope the church you attend actually reads the teachings of Jesus and his hand-picked apostles (the New Testament). I hope you practice good hermeneutics in attempting to reach the best interpretation of these writings. If you are attending a church (“Body of Christ”) that has nothing to do with the Law of Christ, then it is no church at all. It is a “church” in name only.

Many of us in the LGBT+ community are not bullying you into abandoning your religious values. We’re simply asking for camaraderie.

I am glad that you said, “many of us,” Isaac, because the fact of the matter is that some of the LGBT+ community are, in fact, bullying those who believe that the Law of Christ corresponds to reality. For example, recent legislation in California is threatening to close private universities like my alma matter, Biola University, because of their commitment to keeping the Law of Christ and to “THINK BIBLICALLY ABOUT EVERYTHING,” as their motto says. Not only is this legislation against Christian universities unconstitutional and intolerant, it is the height of hypocrisy!

The leaders at Biola University will be the first to stand up for the inalienable human rights of those in the LGBT+ community even though they will point out that the choices to act on their homosexual desires is antithetical to the Law of Christ. With that said, however, we all seek the same as you – camaraderie! It is really possible for you to love me even though you think I am wrong on a few things, and it is really possible for me to love you, even though I think you are incorrect on a few things.

We are all part of the same family at our truest core, so can we work together? Can we participate as comrades in the process of healing? It will take us time, but we have to start now.

Amen to that, Isaac! We are all humans created in the image of God. We are truly and objectively equal because of this. In order to heal, we must all be committed to truth and love (Ephesians 4:15) and we must be careful to avoid logical fallacies which lead to false conclusions. I agree with you, Isaac, we do need to start now!

Please, help us build relational and religious paradigms free of hate. If we can accomplish this side-by-side, we could very well eradicate the divisions that keep us attacking one another. We may even save lives.

Your Hispanic, bisexual brother in Christ,

Isaac

If we are going to truly eradicate the divisions that actually attack one another, then we need to understand exactly what logically follows from each worldview represented at the table. Consistent following of the teachings of Muhammad will lead to attacks upon the LGBT+ community and all others who disagree with Muslim doctrine. If we keep turning a blind eye to this fact in blissful ignorance, many will continue to experience painful collisions with reality!

Bottom line: Isaac, if you and I both would have found ourselves at the club in Orlando that fateful night, I can tell you this: the Islamic terrorist would have to get through me before he could harm you or anyone else in the LGBT+ community! Consistent Christ followers count those we disagree with as friends, and “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Your brother in Christ,

Tim

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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