Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can You Love God and Preach Bigotry?

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."  - Matthew 7:21

And what is the will of Christ's Father in heaven?

To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  Right?

To love our neighbors as ourselves.  To love our enemies, and do good to those who hate us.  To speak the truth in love.

But what is the easier way?  All to often, the easier way involves lambasting a group of people possessing different viewpoints from our own.  We Christians have a bad habit of cloaking our disdain and lack of love in a righteous posture of free speech.  We pervert our First Amendment privileges by heaping scorn and derision on fellow human beings whose political perspectives we don't like, whose lifestyles we love to hate, and who exist just far enough outside our personal spheres of influence where we don't incur any personal responsibility for our invective and pious rhetoric.

We don't often see the faces of those we mock.  We rarely intermingle with them socially.  We get together with others of a similarly calloused mindset and assume democracy rules in our favor as we slander - through jokes and gossip - those who don't share our values.

And we think God is pleased with us for doing so?

Trash-Talking Preachers

Just a few days ago, a video of Charles Worley, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, went viral on the Internet.  Apparently he's come up with the solution to homosexuality.  Worley wants to build two huge pens and confine lesbians in one of them, and gay men in the other.  He thinks that doing so would cause homosexuality to eventually die out.

Worley says he's responding to President Barak Obama's recent endorsement of homosexual marriage.  However, he's probably simply playing catch-up to other North Carolina preachers after their state's recent vote to affirm heterosexual marriage.  For example, Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recently told his congregation that homosexuals should be prosecuted based on their sexual orientation.

Not to be outdone, Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, exhorted fathers to physically assault their "limp-wristed" sons.

This kind of talk is abominable.  How can preachers claim to love God and preach such bigotry?  Have gays ever been more vilified, and so publicly?  Wild accusations have been hurled by people invoking God's authority without any proof to substantiate them, which only undermines the true message of sexual sin.  For a while now, so-called Christian activists like Bryan Fischer and Scott Lively have been claiming that homosexuals were responsible for starting Germany's Nazi party.  Yet how can spouting such uneducated hyperbole lend credibility to Christianity?  Pro-gay organizations are watching all of these pulpit pontificators and keeping score on websites like Huffington Post and Right Wing Watch, where some of the videos they've posted of mostly southern, mostly redneck preachers railing against homosexuality are even offensive to me.

Indeed, I'm compelled to apologize to the homosexual community, on behalf of we who believe in the full Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the ridiculous vitriol that some people claiming the name of Christ are spewing.  Frankly, I never used to believe it when gay activists claimed Christianity was out for their blood, but now I see what they're saying.

Let's Review What Sin Is

Not that I endorse homosexuality.  Even though many gays claim otherwise, and consider this hate talk too, the Bible does clearly teach that homosexuality is a sin.  But the Bible also teaches that it's no more heinous a sin in God's eyes than any other sexual perversion, like adultery.  And adultery is no worse than lying, gossiping, stealing, idolatry, speeding, overeating, bigotry, and more.  Contrary to popular Christian opinion, homosexuality is not an unpardonable sin.  For that matter, abortion isn't, either.  The only unpardonable sin is denying what the Holy Spirit teaches about Christ's divinity.

I couldn't help but noticing that Worley, who advocates penning-in homosexuals, has a huge gut.  Doesn't he realize that gluttony is as perverse a sin in God's eyes as homosexuality?  Harris, who gave fathers in his congregation a special "dispensation" so they could punch their non-masculine boys, claimed later to the media that he was simply joking, but even if he was, coarse jesting is as bad a sin as homosexuality.

Perhaps even more disturbingly, however, is that each of these supposedly Godly people displays a blatant disregard of the very Gospel they claim to champion.  Sin is evil.  God abhors sin.  Grace is only available through faith in His Son.  The very homosexuality that may exist in somebody else's life carries the same penalty as the sin in your life for which Christ died.  That's why, when we're forgiven of our own debt, we're not to turn around and unlovingly berate somebody else for their debt.

We can point out sinful behavior, because we're supposed to be discerning.  We should confess our sins and encourage others to do the same.  We have the opportunity as Americans to be vigilant in safeguarding the integrity of public policy and legislation in our country.  We have the right to proclaim the truth as it has been revealed to us through God's Word and His Holy Spirit.

God has commanded us to abstain from sin.  We are compelled to seek Christ's freedom from sinful behaviors.  But not only does that mean we are to seek freedom from the sin of homosexuality, we are to seek freedom from the urge to demean others whose sin patterns we've arbitrarily decided are worse than our own.

But don't take my word for it:

Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry."  We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did--and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.  We should not test the Lord, as some of them did--and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did--and were killed by the destroying angel.  These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! - 1 Corinthians 10:7-12

See?  Idolatry, sexual immorality - including lust, testing the Lord, and grumbling were all punished with death.  Not just sexual immorality, and not just homosexuality.  Sin is punishable by death.  Any and all sin.

Take Heed Lest Ye Fall

Woe to those of us who forget that simple fact!  We should never view our salvation from sin as a license to commit further sins, and ignore Christ's expectation that we preach His truth in love.  Sure, some people in the homosexual community revile believers in Christ, but we're still supposed to love them.  And how much of their disdain for us has been instigated and perpetuated by our hateful rhetoric against them?

Even if no gay person comes to Christ after we model His love and compassion to them, is salvation our goal anyway?  How can it be, since the Holy Spirit is the One Who convicts of sin, and Christ's death is what has paid the penalty for that sin?  Instead, shouldn't our goal be to honor our holy God by following the methods He's given us for interacting with others in this fallen world?

Indeed, how many of us call Christ our "Lord," but refuse His lordship over our lives?  We know homosexuality is a sin, but we've been conditioned by eons of bigotry based on sexual orientation because it's an easy sin to revile.  Can you imagine anybody preaching a sermon about penning up all of the obese people in America?  Or punching all the gossips?

Someday we'll find out how many of us who've preached hate in this life will be spending eternity living it out apart from the One in Whose Name that hate was preached.
_____

2 comments:

  1. The same holds true regarding our attitude towards Muslims.

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  2. Yes, I agree with you, Dave!

    I struggle with distinguishing between loving Muslims and refuting the fallacies of their Islamist agenda. I don't think I've ever been bigoted to Muslims, but I haven't exactly lavished the love of Christ on them, either.

    And no, claiming Muslims and Christians worship different gods is not being bigoted! ;-)

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