Writing for the Huffington Post, Derek Penwell, a liberal Christian author, activist, editor, and minister, put forth a direct challenge in his article, “9 Arguments From the Bible Fundamentalists Should Have to Make.”
When he speaks of “fundamentalists,” for him clearly a derisive term, he is referring to Christian leaders like James Dobson, Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins.
But Penwell is not just a name-calling rabble rouser. Instead, he is “a lecturer at the University of Louisville in Religious Studies and Humanities” and “has a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Louisville.”
Personally, I think his challenge is great, since Jesus often challenged the status quo during his earthly ministry, and it was frequently the religious leadership who came under the most intense fire. And Jesus does have a habit of upsetting our theological apple carts and exposing our sacred cows.
So, to Dr. Penwell and those who agree with his positions, I say, “Your challenge is warmly welcomed!”
Out of the 9 arguments Penwell would like to see us make from the Bible, I’ll focus on these two:
“I’d like to see a biblical rationalization of the assertion that same-gender marriage is a more urgent danger to the institution of marriage than the pervasiveness of heterosexual divorce.”
And, “I’d like to see how the Bible comes to the aid of those who would stand idly by while LGBTQ kids endure the dehumanizing and often deadly effects of bullying – all the while protesting that the real issue isn’t the violence suffered by children, but the preservation of religious freedom for those who’ve suffered (let’s be honest) very little for their faith.”
With regard to the first challenge, I’ve said for many years that no-fault, heterosexual divorce in the church has done more to destroy marriage than all gay activists combined, so I’m the last one to minimize the corrosive effects of heterosexual divorce, especially when there are no possible biblical grounds for the divorce and, worse still, the remarriage.
That being said, there are profound differences between the push for “same-gender marriage” and heterosexual divorce. Most pointedly, same-sex “marriage” calls for a fundamental redefinition of marriage whereas heterosexual divorce tears at the fabric of marriage.
Both are bad, but when marriage is redefined, it effectively becomes meaningless. (I devote one full chapter of “Outlasting the Gay Revolution” to this very subject.)
To explain more fully, according to the God-ordained purpose of marriage laid out in Genesis 2:18-24, the man did not just need a companion but a helper, one reason being that a major purpose of marriage was procreation. (By design, only a man and woman can procreate, so only they are candidates for marriage, even if infertile. By design, two men or two women cannot procreate and so are not candidates for marriage.)
So, the woman was taken out of the man (she’s called ishah, woman, in Hebrew because she was taken out of the ish, man), which is why only the man and woman can unite as one – because they were one.
They are not same + same but same-yet-different + same-yet-different, and only they can cleave and weave together.
And although there are variations of heterosexual marriage in the Bible (all forms other than one man and one woman not being ideal, according to the Scriptures) and although divorce was allowed in the Old Testament under a number of circumstances and in the New Testament under a few circumstances, every marriage required a man and a woman.
Jesus himself reinforced this (see Matthew 19:1-6), and every teaching in the Bible relative to marriage, every law, every example, every parable, presupposed a man and woman, from “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) to “Husbands love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25).
In stark contrast, every reference to homosexual practice in the Bible, rightly interpreted in its ancient cultural context and rightly applied to today, is condemned in the strongest of terms.
To countenance “marriage” as the union of any two people is to violate the spirit and the letter of the Scriptures and, to repeat, to render it meaningless. Why then limit marriage to two people? And who is to forbid female husbands and male wives (this is already accepted terminology in the U.K.)? And what of the social implications, in which Christians who cannot in good conscience accept this radically new definition of marriage are suffering genuine personal loss? Does not Jesus care about this very real injustice?
And that leads to the second challenge, which, unfortunately, sets up a real straw man. I don’t know any solid Christian leader who is standing idly by while LGBT kids get bullied in school and mistreated at home.
All the leaders I work with call for compassion, urging parents to love their kids unconditionally, and all of them renounce all bullying, whether the victims are gay, obese, an ethnic minority, or something else. And, as I have argued elsewhere, one can readily teach that bullying is bad without having to teach that gay is good.
At the same time, it has become increasingly clear that gay activism is the principle threat to our freedoms of speech, conscience and religion, and it is insensitive and even cruel to allege that Christians have suffered “very little” for their faith as a result of gay activism.
To be sure, we are not being beheaded for the Gospel (nor, for that matter, are gay kids here in America being beheaded), but tell Angela McCaskill, a highly educated, deaf, African-American woman, that her suffering was minimal; tell the Christians who have lost their livelihoods, who have been kicked out of universities, who have been subject to years of taxing court cases, who have experienced the most vile threats, even against their families – tell them they’ve suffered “very little.”
In fact, I challenge Dr. Penwell to renounce hypocrisy and double standards and to stand with Jesus in opposing both unjustified divorce and same-sex “marriage” and in opposing both the harassment of LGBT’s and the attack on conservative Christians.
The ball is back in your court.
The culture war is not over! Gain hope, courage and practical advice in Michael Brown’s latest book, “Outlasting the Gay Revolution: Where Homosexual Activism Is Really Going and How to Turn the Tide”
Media wishing to interview Michael Brown, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.