Friday, December 01, 2006


Managing Confrontational Language In The Public Square

Matt Green in his article below believes we should use Christian language in secular panel discussions and avoid terms that mislead. "Sexual Orientation" according to him does not properly describe homosexuality nor does it factor in the possiblity of God changing those who display such an orientation. Green may have a point especially in places where political correctness guts the christian message.

Its different in Singapore. The Prime Minister was questioned at a press conference by a reporter concerning homophobia (I saw it on youtube) . PM Lee replied that his government's challenge was to provide space for gays without disregarding people who consider homosexuality a sin. He used the "S" word! He was probably referrring to Muslims and Christians; both these groups teach that homosexuality is a sin. What an irony! A secular politician using religious terminology to put forward his government's case.

No Such Thing As "Sexual Orientation"

Matt Green, Editor
Ministries Today

Homosexuality poses the greatest challenge to discernment, discipline and restoration that the church has faced in the past 100 years. Why? If we don't learn how to discuss it with winsome conviction, we'll probably lose our voice on the issue altogether. Thankfully, when God brings a sin into the open, as he did with the exposure of Ted Haggard, it means He's giving the church an opportunity to deal with it.

However, before this happens, we must change our language and stop allowing popular culture to define our terminology. What do I mean? Here's just one example: In a recent CNN interview with Kyra Phillips, instead of providing incisive clarity from a biblical perspective, evangelical sociologist Tony Campolo muddied the waters. I'm not suggesting that Christians must be ready with pat, religious mumbo-jumbo for every tough question posed by the media, and I confess that I sometimes agree with Campolo's controversial views on social justice, poverty and war. But he needs to put his perspective on homosexuality back under the microscope of Scripture.

In discussing Haggard's restoration, Campolo states:
"Will he just say, 'I have a little problem on the side'? Or will he begin to face the fact that maybe I have a sexual orientation that does not offer an easy fix? And if he does turn out to be homosexual in his orientation, he's going to have to live with that orientation and figure out what this means for the rest of his life, because there's not an easy fix for that."

First, Scripture does not recognize homosexuality as an orientation, any more than it recognizes adultery, fornication, anger, drunkenness or lying as individual orientations. Instead, it prohibits specific behaviors--all of which have their root in an "orientation" that every human being was born with: sin. This orientation (or "sin nature," as theologians would put it) leads us to reach for a bottle, a gun, a syringe or someone else's spouse in our relentless defiance of God's law. Whether by nature, nurture, genetics or life choices, some of us are more inclined to certain sins, but we remain, as Paul so eloquently contends, "without excuse".

The language of "orientation" has allowed us to relinquish our responsibility for specific behaviors, to psychologize our conduct and to label each other as drunkards, abusers, adulterers, liars, homosexuals and so on, based on the sins we are most likely to commit. This system is convenient both for those who do not struggle with any of the sins that happen to be "socially-unacceptable" at the moment and for those looking for an external excuse for their sinful behavior.

Campolo is partially right: Our orientation toward sin is something we're born with and will have to deal with all our earthly lives. But the orientation and the sin itself should not be confused, lest we embrace some fatalistic version of Christian living. Campolo sounds a lot like Paul, who wrestles with this when he states, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15). But if we keep reading, we see that Paul was convinced that it is possible, through the power of the Spirit, to win daily battles with the the "sin orientation" that lingers in our fallen souls. As church father Augustine summed it up, before conversion we were "unable not to sin," but when we are in Christ, He enables us not to sin--a testament to the power of the Spirit to circumvent our wiley sin nature.

Whether speaking to our congregations or the press, imagine the clarity church leaders could bring to the nebulous discussion of "sexual orientation" by letting our language reflect biblical reality and altogether avoiding the cultural labels of "gay", "lesbian", "bisexual", "transgender" and so on. The results?

It helps church leaders avoid fixating on discussion of certain sins at the expense of others and alienating people who struggle with specific sins, while leaving others off the hook.

It levels the ground at the foot of the cross, where all sinners must meet--regardless of which sin they are most vulnerable to.
It naturally redirects manipulative questions such as "Will gays go to hell?" to more substantive ones, such as "Will sinners go to hell?"

It redirects the focus of those wishing to justify their orientation for one reason or another to examining their specific behavior as offensive to God.

The increasing prevalence of homosexual behavior in our society provides an open door of opportunity for Christian leaders to reclaim the language of sin and, in so doing, bring hope to sinners and clarity to believers seeking to understand the depths of their own depravity and ongoing need for grace.

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