"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, March 1, 2019

Schisms In The United Methodist Church - Why Legitimate Objections To LGBTQ Secular Progressivism Are Dismissed Out Of Hand

The United Methodist Church has been riven by doctrinal differences for decades.  While this is nothing new – the history of the second and third centuries of the Christian era is a chronicle of early Christianity's perennial fight against heresy; and Martin Luther’s Reformation was nothing less than the most dramatic and eventful schism in Christian history – it still is newsworthy.  How could a church almost 300 years old, having worked and reworked its charter, covenant, and application of founding principles fall into such a state?  Were not the teachings of Wesley and the pondering and judgments of Methodists ever since enough to solidify the church and insulate it from the secular heresies of the modern age?

Image result for logo united methodist church

Apparently not, because like everything else religion is a matter of interpretation.  One would have thought that Paul’s clear, unmistakable, and persistent condemnation of homosexuality would be enough to cloture debate or even prevent unnecessary debates on gay marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy - the current issues the church is facing - from occurring:
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done…Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:26-32)

Image result for images st paul

Paul is no less explicit in Corinthians (6:9-11):
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The Old Testament is no less condemning:
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Lev 18:22)
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood-guiltiness is upon them (Lev 20:13)
Yet, because such universal and unequivocal condemnation undermines the legitimacy of the current, socially acceptable trend of LGBTQ orthodoxy, Paul's meaning is questioned.  Paul was not condemning homosexuality, per se, gay advocates insist.  His statements merely illustrate the nature of sin as the exchanging of a God-given good for a counterfeit good, and hence idolatry.   Paul was referring only to ‘lustful’ rather than ‘loving’ same-sex relationships.  Paul wrote in the 50s of the first century after Christ and like any other writer was a product of and influenced by the culture of his times.

Yet Paul within the context of Christian history, was not just a lieutenant or an advance man promoting a new product.  He was an apostle, chosen and anointed by God.  His words, influenced thought they may have been by popular culture, mores, and opinions carry heavy weight.  The Gospels are no different.  Whoever they were, the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were as close to the epicenter of the new religion as anyone.  There words cannot be summarily dismissed in the post-modernist terms of Lacan or Derrida. 

Paul’s term, ‘degrading passions’ is not relative but all-inclusive.  ‘Same-gender sex is inherently a dishonorable use of the human body and contributes to the person’s and humanity’s ongoing spiritual spiral away from the glory and honor the creator intended’, notes Michael Gorman (Apostle of the Crucified Lord).

Not only do both Old and New Testaments specifically single out homosexuality as an ‘abomination’, but both, especially the New Testament, proclaim the importance and sanctity of the heterosexual family/couple.  Adam and Eve are not just representative symbols of human procreative life, but specific representations of primal human pairs.  The story of Jesus and the Holy Family is not simply expressive of the Gospels’ depiction of historical heterosexual pairing but a mythical representation of the essentiality of Mother, Father, and offspring. The Old Testament’s seemingly endless Hebrew genealogy (Kings, Numbers) is nothing but a history of the importance of procreation, lineage, and purpose.  In Exodus Pharaoh comments on the Hebrews’ fertility, complaining that such numbers threaten his rule; but for the Israelites such procreative bounty is a fulfillment of God’s destiny.

Image result for images old testament god

he point is only that the conservative wing of the Methodist Church as well as that of Episcopalians, Baptists, and Catholics, is under undue pressure to conform to modern, secular inclusionist convictions about sexuality.  According to such thinking, if a phenomenon exists, then it is legitimate.  Inclusivity means the acceptance of all comers.  There can be no a priori judgment in a relativistic world. What is, is valid, unquestionable, and undeniable.

Conservative Christians deny this secular relativism and contend that there are such things as perennial if not absolute values.  The fact that one moral code has been applied by every higher civilization since the ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans – honor, courage, justice, fairness, compassion, and honesty – gives it some universality if not permanence.   The New Testament provides a religious context for this code and adds many new dimensions to the appropriateness and rightness of human behavior.  Other religious texts – the Koran, the Vedas, and the Tao – follow the same moral order.

Why then are such originalist opinions so roundly dismissed by the progressive, secularized wing of mainline churches?  How can a relatively new take on human sexuality – the LGBTQ phenomenon is only decades old – possibly have more historical and philosophical legitimacy than the old, traditional one? Is not this progressive agenda, dismissive of any historical, textual, and philosophical principles arrogant and self-serving at best?

Image result for images lgbtq protests

In other words, why is it too much to accept conservative Methodists’ objections to gay marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy? In fact, shouldn’t a Biblical interpretation carry a special weight and significance?  Even if the Bible is only myth, it is a myth which has persisted for millennia; and like all myths has expressed something essential about humanity and human nature.  It seems presumptuous at best to deny history, Biblical text, mythology, and ancient and modern philosophy in favor of a short-term, recently devised progressive interpretation of faith and spirituality?

The United Methodist Church may not survive these doctrinal differences intact.  After the recent (3/19) conference in which traditionalism was confirmed and approval of either gay marriages or the ordination of LGBTQ clergy denied, there can only be a radical split along doctrinal lines.  Accommodation, compromise, and mutually acceptable solutions are difficult within any corporate environment and especially difficult where the presumption of absolute belief and right is involved; but not impossible. Yet the zeitgeist of 21st century America is one of separatism, identity, and exclusion. ‘Don’t want it, don’t like it, don’t take it’ is the operational aphorism.  Churches cannot possibly survive American secular divisionism.  Disagreeing parties will have to go their own ways.

The only reason why such religious separatism is a problem is because by hiving off, one capitulates.  The progressive view – historically and doctrinally very difficult to justify at best - is allowed to exist if not flourish within an accommodating, welcoming, and supportive secular establishment; while the conservative view must fight to regain legitimacy, traction, and territory in a decreasingly small minority.

Every religious confession has its doctrinal issues; and the more that secular progressivism takes hold, the more complex and difficult resolution will be.  Rather than the very disciplined and logical debates held in the time of Clement, Tertullian, Aquinas, and Augustine to determine the ideological foundations of the church, today’s discussions are more often than not a priori and settled.  Of course X is true, correct, and absolute; and debate based on emotional righteousness rather than reason is quickly clotured.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.