The church in general and the SA in particular (at least for the moment) in the aftermath of the Eyewitness News program “Cold Facts” – followed closely in FSAOF blog) is under constant attack from the public where the Church is called to account for the prevailing double standards and selective biblical adherence.
There are several issues where the various Christian communities need to consider why we deny gay people the warm acceptance that we willingly give to other people who violate the expectations of purity in many different ways.
Divorce: One of the clearest examples of selective biblical faith must surely be divorce. Moses’ laws accepts divorce in certain cases (Mark 10.2-12), but in the same text Jesus raises the bar and condemned divorce and remarriage declaring its unfaithfulness. Here is a clear case of a chosen lifestyle that goes against the Bible’s word (instructions). Despite this, the Church has long blessed serial-monogamy (multi-marriages), and both welcomed and ordained people who clearly live outside what the Bible prescribes.
Female priests: When Paul writes that the woman should be silent in church (1 Cor 14:34) and that women are not allowed to teach men (1 Tim 2:12) he provides an exegetical interpretation where one willingly accepts the weight provided by the historical perspective and with pleasure adds the weight of Jesus’ positive attitude toward women (especially as he is portrayed in Luke). This, in spite of the Bible’s clear words and the Church’s historic attitude toward women. The modern church says that the original human dignity, human beings created in God’s image, outweighs Paul’s admonition to the women of Corinth. I believe it is important to understand that from a historical perspective, it is just as unthinkable to have a female priest as a gay priest.
Extramarital sex, remarriage and cohabitation: On these issues the church stands on rather a weak biblical foundation. It is clear that Paul takes a strong stand against promiscuity. From a biblical perspective sex (sexually activity) at home within marriage has no place, rather it is sex that confirms and shapes/forms marriage. Promiscuity must therefore be equated with ‘multi-marriage’ and cohabitation must be likened to marriage from a biblical perspective, which also means that to end and move away from each other must be equated with divorce. Only if we see the world from an informed perspective based in the Word, can we act correctly in pastoral roles. In other words, if cohabitation (a sexually active relationship) can be considered marriage as the ‘fellowship’ may encourage fidelity and eventually formalize a regulation defining the relationship. (marriage). On the issue of promiscuity one can then, also on Biblical grounds, argue that Paul advises against such a lifestyle (be it homosexual or heterosexual) although the Bible on the whole does not actually condemn polygamy.
Sex during menstruation: I do not know of a single church where this is spoken about, thought it is part of the same Moses’ law that ‘reliably’ dictated existing same-sex relationships. The usual rationalization is that one does not meddle in ‘what happens in the privacy of the bedroom of married couples’; perhaps this attitude should also include LGBT persons.
Pork: the list of Old Testament legislation that Christians generally ignore is long but significantly it may well be that just the (traditional Swedish) Christmas baked ham and hot dogs fall on the list of things which the Lord declares detestable the (tuevah) of Moses. Paul explains clearly in Galatians and insists that compliance with a small portion of the demands complying with the law in its entirety.
Perhaps it is true that if the church continued to say that it is inappropriate for a LGBTQ person to become a member (or leader, or as in the case of the Salvation Army, a soldier), we have to revisit some of these issues. Because there is a host of other offenses that our congregations clearly approve of, by not distancing itself from it and sometimes even encourages (‘chances’ and lottery in the church, overweight/obesity, judgmental of other people, etc.). I still wonder when the last person was denied leadership or membership based on their greed, inhospitality, divorce / remarriage, or because they eat too many biscuits with their coffee (gluttony)?
If the Salvation Army (to direct the spotlight on the faith community I am a member of) continued to announce that the great soldier’s landscape is a lifestyle choice that aims at sanctification, and if you mean by sanctification following a regulations of conduct, should corps not treat all violations against these regulations in the same fashion?
If we choose to discriminate against certain behaviors and rule violations, but look the other way with respect to other behaviors and rule violations, we as a faith community make ourselves guilty of a double standard, that which “Eyewitness News” and part of the public have accused us of.
Though it is clear, the path through the catalog of sins is a path which the Church has tried before with mixed success. Maybe it’s time to consider the way of grace. Where we, together with Paul brings to us the freedom message that Jesus preached. Where we recognize that the church is not a club for saints but a healing place for sinners, and when I say sinners, I mean all people. Is it not so that we all miss the target, not only sexually but also outside the bed room. Let us stop being hypocritical and admit that we have not figured this out trying to live a life of holiness, that it is not only about to denying oneself certain behaviors, but instead it is about how we love God and how we love our neighbor. Therefore, we are a church fellowship, seeking to learn how we (one) live a life (enfolded) in love.
I believe that from a secular perspective, a church with that attitude is not only accepted but will be invited to actively participate in the public debate.
Translation: Dr. Sven Ljungholm