Don’t underestimate the importance of the issue of homosexuality.
For the upcoming generation of Christians, this is going to be a very disturbing issue. The younger evangelicals are looking at faith with fresh eyes and listening to ideas with fresh ears. They are also growing up in both a post-Christian culture and a postmodern culture.
The post-Christian culture is less familiar with the Christian worldview. The postmodern culture is skeptical of anything that can be called an over-arching worldview. This coming generation has to deal the difficult issue of homosexuality as they also deal with post-Christendom and postmodernity. This is the world in which our young Christians are living. Most of them know someone who claims to be both gay and also a Christian. To simply state that the Bible says that homosexuality is sin will not do.
When California voted for Proposition 8 that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, many were shocked. They could understand states like Ohio doing so (as we did in 2004), but liberal California? What was truly shocking was that a majority of African Americans voted for the bill. The conventional thinking in our culture is that “Gay Rights” is just the latest in the progression of “Civil Rights.” So, how in the world could those who had suffered and had been liberated by way of one of the greatest civil rights movements in history be against gay civil rights? The San Fransisco Chronicle's John Wildermuth wrote, "Californians voted their religion, not their political party, when they pushed Proposition 8 to victory and banned same-sex marriage in the state, campaign officials and political experts said."
Open, honest dialogue must take place. The biblical texts dealing with homosexuality need to be carefully examined. Hard questions will need to be asked and answered.
Because we evangelicals have been wrong before: Look at how we used to defend slavery based on Scripture, or outlawed inter-racial marriage based on Scripture, or created theocracies that killed dissenters based on Scripture (as was the case in Calvin’s Geneva), or subordinated women based on Scripture.
We might be wrong again. We had better be sure, and give a very convincing argument for what we’re sure of, for young evangelicals who are skeptical of the status quo to buy in.
How should we go about talking about it?
Maybe we need to sit down and talk with people with differing views than us. We need not fear this; when our views are challenged, it can either result in sharpening why we hold our position or it can moderate our position as we seek the Lord on what is his truth.
Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier and former national coordinator for Emergent Village, has taken a great risk and began a conversation with conservative blogger Rod Dreher on the issue. It was risky because Tony admits, "I now believe that GLBTs can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state." Dreher disagrees, and they have started a generous debate about it (they even have a video of the two of them talking about it).
I strongly disagree with Tony Jones on this issue, but I need to do so in a respectful way. And I need to listen and interact. Much in the same way that Rod is modeling. Recently, I commented at Bob Hyatt's facebook page inappropriately criticizing Tony for his views. Tony called me out on it, which I appreciated. I apologized for how I went about it, and he has forgiven me. It taught me a lesson: When addressing other brothers and sisters in Christ that we have strong differences with, we need to do so with grace and kindness.
For the next generation, homosexuality will be a major issue, and the heat that will rise from the frictional debate will inevitably cause some of us to say things we will later regret. Let's do what we can at the outset to enter the debates with humility and grace.