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Drawing Circles in the Sand

Boy Scouts

This week the Boy Scouts of America voted to no longer exclude Scouts from their ranks “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

In the circles of Christianity that I often frequent, the defining mantra for interaction with the LGBT community is “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

We talk of how sex outside of marriage violates God’s will as revealed in the Bible, and how God intends marriage to be “one man, one woman, for life.” We are quick to emphasize that we are sinners too, no different from gay people. We often remind each other that while homosexual activity is sinful according to Scripture, so is fornication, divorce and remarriage, pride, anger, greed, and gluttony.

Those on the other side of the issue often accuse the many of our churches of hating both the sin and the sinner. They suggest that our attempts to “hate the sin” are inseparable from our attitude toward “the sinner”. Many within the church maintain that opposition to “the gay agenda” is not personal, but rather is based only on a commitment to Biblical standards of morality and a Biblical definition of marriage.

I sit here with friends that I deeply love and respect on both sides of the issue. As much as I can, I try to really understand the beliefs and experiences that inform our interactions. I know that most of my gay friends do not hate God, and I know that most of my Evangelical friends do not hate gay people.

But hard as I try, I simply cannot wrap my head around the way that many Christians are responding to the inclusion of gay Boy Scouts. It seems to reinforce all the hypocrisy and discrimination that we so strongly deny.

The Huffington Post reports:

“Assemblies of God and many other churches can no longer support groups that are part of an organization allowing members who are openly homosexual.”

“Our family are evangelical Christians,” said Mari LaCom, who attends a congregation of the Evangelical Free Church near Chatsworth, Calif., and expects her son will no longer pursue the rank of Eagle Scout. “This is the reason our church will no longer be chartering our troop or have Scout Sundays.”

According to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:

“Frankly, I can’t imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules. I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts.”

The American Family Association, whose mission statement includes “encouraging Christians to bear witness to the love of Jesus”, responded this way:

AFA Response to BSA[source]

I simply cannot understand how anyone who attempts to live by the teachings of Jesus could think this is an appropriate response to the Boy Scouts’ inclusion of gay members.

Many churches who support the Boy Scouts seem to imagine a moral conundrum, wherein their continued support of the Scouts somehow conflicts with their Biblical belief that homosexuality is a sin. As if the support of an organization that refuses to exclude sinners is somehow an endorsement of sin. But this is an artificial conundrum. The Boy Scouts of America are not promoting, condoning, or endorsing homosexuality. They’ve made this abundantly clear, stating:

“We’re absolutely not telling them you have to endorse homosexuality. You may not deny that membership based on that one characteristic.”

If we disagree with this decision and want to continue to exclude sinners, we must be consistent. We must demand that the Boy Scouts turn away every teenage boy who looks at pornography or sleeps with his girlfriend too. No, this goes far beyond a Biblical standard of sin. This is saying “If you’re gay, I don’t want to be around you. You are not welcome in our church, and we will actively disassociate from those who welcome you.”

My gay friends say that the Evangelical church often doesn’t really differentiate the person from their behavior. They feel judged and condemned based on their orientation, regardless of whether or not they act upon their sexual attractions. They often feel that the church hates who they are.

My church friends say that they really do love the sinner; they just need to hold people to the Biblical standard regardless of orientation. They say that same-sex attraction is not sinful, only acting upon it is. If this is true, then churches should have no problem with continued support of the Boy Scouts. In their statement announcing the inclusion of gay scouts the BSA explicitly clarified this:

“The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

This is where our words meet reality.

The Boy Scouts’ decision isn’t about endorsing sin or about defending Biblical marriage. It’s about whether or not we’re going to draw circles in the sand with “us” on the inside and “them” on the outside. I want out. I can’t keep talking about “loving the sinner” as if I’m not a sinner too, desperately in need of God’s love every day.

So if we’re drawing circles in the sand, you’ll find me on the other side. Maybe that’s where we’ll find Jesus too.

[ image: HuffingtonPost ]

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  • Christine Farina

    Thank you for writing this, and for continuing to blog in general. Your posts make me realize that I’m not a failure at being a Christian just because I don’t agree with everything that conservatives think. Trying to follow Jesus is so difficult and confusing, and your thoughts help

    • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

      For the record Jesus didn’t agree with everything the conservatives think either. Keep following!

      • Christine Farina

        Been following ever since a friend told me to read your post about “Beware of thinking biblically.” :)

        • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

          I meant following Jesus, but thanks for following my blog too! That post, about “Thinking Biblically”, is my personal favorite, btw.

          • Christine Farina

            Oh my bad, haha

  • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Registered Runaway

    Thanks for tackling this complex issue as best as you can. Wrestling is key and I can see you’re doing that here. I wrote a post on the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” crap, and fleshed out what it means to love. Really LOVE.

    http://www.registeredrunaway.com/2013/02/20/love-is-an-ability/

    • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

      Thanks so much for commenting, RR. Also, thanks for sharing how you feel about “love the sinner, hate the sin”. I think it’s so important to understand what our words communicate. I’m going to add your link to this article.

  • Brian Hawkins

    I think it is important to note that the CNN article you linked to at the beginning specifically says, “The BSA, however, will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders.”

    That is pretty important. Because, like you say, we can’t ban ALL sinners, so why highlight the one sin? But we do know from several passages in the Bible that people in leadership are held to a higher standard because they have greater influence. I never even knew that gay youth WERE denied membership, but I think the decision is the right one, both in allowing gay youth to join, and in continuing to ban them from leadership.

    Love the sinner, but maintain our own standards. If we fall too far to either direction, we miss Jesus completely. Even he, though he refused to condemn the woman, also told her, “Go and sin no more.” He knew she was guilty, and he told her plainly that it was sin, but he didn’t condemn her. He chose mercy. In America, some seem to think that saying, “Sin no more,” is judgmental and bigoted, and others seem to think that saying, “Neither do I condemn you,” is backsliding and compromising with the world. Apparently, Jesus’ love goes far beyond our infatuation with “tolerance” or our other infatuation with… whatever it is. Exclusion.

    • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

      I think one thing that’s important to note about the “go and sin so more” story is that in that scenario Jesus had just saved the woman’s life. He had show her that He was a safe place where she would not be condemned. I think that often the Church wants to jump right to “go and sin no more” while our words and actions are failing to communicate “neither do I condemn thee.”

      • Paul Keith

        By way of historical context, it’s also worth pointing out that at that time, women who had been divorced, or who had never been married and/or didn’t have strong family support systems, sometimes had no choice but to survive by prostitution. Some Jews held the position that a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever. Jesus hated the hypocrisy of allowing the husband to dispense with his wife and not be considered an adulterer himself. And because women were kept uneducated and illiterate, and couldn’t run down to the local business college to learn bookkeeping for the corner carpenter, Jesus likely knew very well that she would have to go and sin more, if she were to eat again. Perhaps his parting statement was more of an exhortation than a commandment? In any case, we can be confident that Jesus’s rage would have been directed, as usual, at the Pharisees.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Registered Runaway

      Also Brian, it’s important to note that not all Christians agree that homosexuality is a sin. We don’t have a universal theology on this. So the “go and sin no more” may be irrelevant. Steve Chalke penned a pretty incredible piece on this- http://www.oasisuk.org/inclusionresources/Articles/MOIabridged

      • Brian Hawkins

        An excellent point. The topic definitely deserves careful consideration and much prayer. I believe we will one day see a unified Church, but until that day comes, I will be happy simply to see a loving Church, capable of rational debate.

      • http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com Glenn Chatfield

        If a Christians does not agree that homosexual behavior is a sin, then they are disagreeing with God. It’s that simple.

  • Benjamin Burton

    I haven’t written anything on this yet but you’ve put to print all the thoughts I’ve had the last few days.

    I’m concerned, as you are, about how we exemplify this issue. Never mind anything those normal hetero’s are doing because it’s “normal” sexual activity, condemned by God or not. I really hate how my gay friends are put on parade.

    I’m also concerned about the idea that gay boys/men are incredibly predatory. This needs to be addressed desperately.

    • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

      Yeah, I agree. That view of gay people as predatory is disgusting. Especially since (as far as I can tell), most predators/molesters are not part of the gay community.

  • Evidence2Hope

    What always fascinates me is that many Christians are complaining about being persecuted yet are quite happy persecuting others.

    I love your last paragraph. I don’t know if Jesus would be for same sex marriage but I do know he wouldn’t be for marginalizing a section of society, he’d be standing with them

    • http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com Glenn Chatfield

      Jesus would say, “Go and sin no more.” He certainly would not sanction their sin.

      • Evidence2Hope

        Except that being gay, as in a homosexual orientation, is not a sin.

        • http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com Glenn Chatfield

          If one is looking at another with sexual desire, it is a sin. And you said you “don’t know if Jesus would be for same sex marriage,” which means you haven’t really read the Bible. It is very obvious that Jesus would be fully against such fake marriage.

          • Evidence2Hope

            Well being gay isn’t about looking at another person with sexual desire anymore than being straight is.

            Why do you have to jump straight to the “you haven’t read the bible properly” retort? So sad.

          • http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com Glenn Chatfield

            Here’s the thing – if one isn’t active in homosexuality, then why identify themselves as homosexual? Why identify oneself by sexual desires/orientation? NO ONE is a homosexual. They are just people.

            Why did i “jump straight” to saying you haven’t read the Bible? Well I didn’t “jump straight” to it – I was responding to your statement about not knowing Jesus’ attitude about same-sex fake marriage. If you read the Bible, you find it plainly stated that God considers homosexual behavior to be an abomination. Jesus is God. Jesus also pointed to Genesis and Adam and Eve when he was discussing marriage. Every time homosexual behavior is mentioned in the Bible it is mentioned as 100% wrong, and yet you don’t know if Jesus would be “for” same sex fake marriage?!?

          • Evidence2Hope

            In that case no one is heterosexual either

            You could have asked me why I think what I do, surely finding out first is a better way to approach a discussion?

  • Christian Piatt

    Very thoughtful treatment on a complex subject.

  • Jacob

    If we are drawing the line of supporting an organization is supporting a sin that they are a part of; then we cannot support anything because all humans are sinners. I feel so much is done out fear of what others will think if they do not openly stand against it. So much of what many within churches want to do things for PR within the congregations or to get the media to say look at these guys and how they are standing up for their beliefs. When we do this, we are sacrificing love and humanity for the picture of standing up for something and giving others the idea that we are hateful people. I will stand with you in hopes of finding Jesus as wel.

    • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

      Well said!

  • http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com Glenn Chatfield

    What about the oath the Scout takes to be moral? Does that not mean anything anymore? Why not let adulterer adults be scout leaders while they’re at it! And if the young scout is known for molesting his sister, why shouldn’t that be okay also? It isn’t a matter of sin, because the Scouts aren’t a Christian organization. The point is what the oath means. If we scuttle part of the oath, then why not scuttle the rest?

  • sportschap

    An awesome FB lady friend who was attracted to women wrote the following inspiring testimony in a thread debating the sin of homosexuality and our ability to choose how we will behave sexually. The enemy of righteousness has many deceived that choice isn’t possible:

    “We are all free to make our own choices. We are free to act upon our urges. But we are also free to say, “God, I need your help. I realize I am living in sin. I realize my choices have gone against the very word you speak. I ask that you help me in those choices. I ask that you give me the strength to not act upon those urges. I ask that you forgive me for the things I have done. I turn it all over to you. That you may help me in my walk with you. That you may help me see past the sinful thoughts. Help me realize that it is sin.” We are free to make our choice. It is up to each of us to choose. I chose to ask God to help me. I chose to no longer act upon my urges. As a matter of fact, I have never been happier. When I look back now at the relationships I had with women, I wasn’t happy. I was miserable. No matter how strong my attraction was, I was miserable. I allowed the devil to blind me from the truth. I allowed him to come into my life and show me his ways rather than continue my walk with God. I won’t say it hasn’t been rough. I won’t see it has been easy. It has been far from easy. But I couldn’t be more grateful. Because it is when things are the hardest, when we think things couldn’t get any worse, that we are going to fall on our face, that’s when God carries us.”