It’s not everyday that a mega-church talks about gay issues. Below the fold is my liveblog (well, offline-liveblog) that I wrote while watching Adam Hamilton preach on Homosexuality as part of his church’s When Christians Get It Wrong series.
The series deals with a why young adults do not identify with Christianity, and to self-reflect and see if there are places where Christians get it wrong. 92% of young people surveyed said their #1 image of Christians is “anti-gay” according to George Barna, author of “UnChristian.” While Adam repeatedly says this sermon isn’t about letting childish ways dictate the church, but rather to let them hold us accountable to when we lose touch and possibly lose our way. Indeed, if the stats are true and 5% of the population is gay, then 5% of his 16,000 member church is 800 people. That’s a huge number of people to care for!
Hence the sermon. It’s awesome, watch it. Then check out the liveblog below the fold.
NOTE: The following is not an accurate rendition of Adam Hamilton’s sermon as an artistic whole: the following are summaries, and possibly bad summaries. Any critique or challenge that follows are not the judgment of one Methodist minister on another or attempts to interfere with another’s ministry. They are just reflections.
Why is Adam talking about this topic? The world has changed.
- When Adam was younger he said that people who said they were gay would be seen as having a mental disorder. Thought it was a non-issue and he “didn’t know any of them.” He just accepted it and didn’t have to wrestle with it.
- But today, youth know gay friends and know them. They are protective of their friends and have bad feelings when churches bash their friends.
My Response: Familiarity breeds affection. By an ever-more-inclusive culture coming forth, Christians have to discern which are society’s permissiveness, and which are ways how God is calling us to grow in our outreach and inclusiveness.
The Debate about homosexuality is about how we read and interpret scripture.
“This book is not a simple book. To read the book oversimplistically is to do it a great injustice.”
All Christians pick and choose which scriptures to follow.
- Can’t eat pork because it is unclean
- Capital punishment for working on the Sabbath.
- 401ks and retirement plans are storing up treasures on earth.
- Women are to keep silent in the church.
- Women’s dress is to be plain.
Best line: Jesus says if your eyes or hands sin, cut them out.
“if you are a biblical literalist, please hold up your stubs for us.”
Adam found many images of God which are difficult to reconcile.
- In OT, God says to burn priests’ daughters who are prostitutes…but Jesus sat with prostitutes.
- 1 Samuel, God says to wipe out all the people: women and children too. Did God really tell Saul that even the babies needed to die because of something their ancestors did? But Jesus was forgiving on the cross.
My Response: This is an effective summary of the ways how we all interpret scripture and we don’t follow the practices that are “clearly” contextual. Thus a literalistic reading of Scripture is not only folly, it is not practiced.
Did God change or did human understandings of God change?
- “Word of God” in the bible rarely means written word, but is used in reference to speech or the Holy Spirit or Jesus teaching.
- Methodists believe the authors were not scribes who transcribed, but wrote through human beings who brought with them their own presuppositions and historical contexts.
- Adam sees Jesus as the word is the clearest Word of God we can receive.
- Read everything through the lens of Jesus
- “Don’t simplify the bible into a weapon which hurts people, but to recognize its complexity.”
- Saul would have understood Warrior Gods that Jesus would probably not have recognized.
My Response: I would further push that the words of Jesus were also recorded by men and may also have been contextualized. However, given that words or statements stick out like splinters in my mind, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.*
Additionally, Adam augments Wesley’s lens and actually narrows it. Wesley considered problematic passages against what he considered to be “The Character of God” which is more holistic than “The Lens of Jesus.” There’s certainly theological girth to being a “red-letter Christian” and let Jesus’ words trump the Scripture, but God seems bigger than that to me.
Primary Scripture is Peter in Joppa (Acts 10) with the sheet with animals that are unclean.
- That law is no longer enforced for Peter.
- Paul figured out the entire law was a guide but not BOUND by the law.
- Everything changed! You are here today on a Sunday, not a Saturday, uncircumcized, eating bacon for breakfast because everything changed!
- What do you think the Sadducees thought of Peter when he came back?
- Peter knew that God was doing something new.
My Response: Adam makes a great distinction between the law as BINDING and the law as GUIDING. Since the law was no longer enforcable on Peter, he could eat unclean things and preach to the uncircumcized. However, Peter could not throw it out, because it continued to guide him.
What Questions are best asked of the anti-gay passages? Adam asks regarding these passages:
- Leviticus 18&20, “does that accurately capture the heart and will of God for all times, or does that capture how people thought 3200 years ago.”
- Romans 1:26-27, “was Paul talking about Jewish understanding of natural and homosexual prostitution, or was he telling us that our children and grandchildren are considered shameful in the eyes of God?”
- “Did Moses accurately capture the heart of God towards your gay children?” and in 4-5 other passages……or does God see our children differently than that?
RESPONSE: Adam is walking the tricky line between which scriptures do we contextualize and which scriptures do we universalize? Are we contextualizing out of convenience? Or are we truly listening to God offer us new instruction coming down on sheets with pigs on them*
Why is this Pastor talking about this? Why should straight Christians care?
- Adam admits that complementary male-female IS the biblical norm. But 5% of human beings don’t fit the pattern. What are we to do with them?
- Adam talks about how own experiences with queer people. Names multiple young people who are remarkable and are gay.
“The ones I really got to know were LITERALLY your children. I baptized them, anointed them as children…This is one of your kids.”
- Adam asks “What are you gonna do with 5% of the church…I don’t fully understand everything…But these are real people.
RESPONSE: Truly it is experience which changes our minds!
Closing: Jesus put people before rules. (Jesus and the Syrophenician woman)
- Isaac, Jacob, Moses met their spouses at wells: all virgins and perfect, probably.
- But Jesus asks a multiple-married and co-habitating woman who is considered unclean for a drink. And that is appalling. They talk and she goes back to her town to tell them about Jesus.
- So where in John 4 does Jesus talk about the rules about marriage FIRST before offering her living water? Nowhere.
- And this broken, sinning “unclean” woman becomes the first evangelist to her people.
- Adam invite us to be those kind of Christians that love people first.
And apparently, not a lot left!
Thoughts? Rev. J has a few comments here to peruse as well.