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Homosexuality has become something of a growth industry in the past twenty years. It’s moved out of the closet into mainstream culture despite the protestations of conservatives and Christians alike.

If the experience of other Western nations is a clue one would have to predict that openly practiced homosexuality is here to stay.

If this is true than it begs the question what do we do now? How should Christians respond or relate not just to the moral abstract of homosexuality but to the real and everyday presence of neighbors who are lesbians or gays—or bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals?

Our Christian worldview suggests several answers:

-There is no biblical justification for bigotry, hatred, or violence toward LGBT individuals. None. Such acts are expressions of fear not love and not faith.

-There is no logical justification for bigotry, hatred, or violence toward LGBT individuals in the sense that homosexual sins are no different from heterosexual sins. In other words, immorality is immorality, so a person engaged in LGBT behavior cannot, morally speaking, be distinguished from a person committing adultery.

-LGBT citizens are entitled to their civil liberties under the Constitution and under the law just as any other citizen. They are also entitled to their civil rights as established by law, not in my estimation special rights but certainly the same civil rights other citizens enjoy.

-Honoring LGBT citizens’ civil liberties and civil rights does not mean Christians must condone, embrace, promote, or otherwise morally approve of homosexual practice. Perhaps you don’t morally approve of cursing, yet you recognize another person’s freedom in using such language. Perhaps like me you don’t morally approve of abortion, yet for now at least, pro-choice is the law of the land, so a person may legally opt for an abortion without legal punishment. I don’t morally agree, but I must, if I respect our pluralistic democracy, grant people the freedom to be morally other within the law.

-LGBT persons are not defined by their sexual orientation or behavior. It is something they choose to do. Since I do not believe homosexuality is a given at birth I’d say it’s also something they can choose not to do. Consequently, rather than call someone Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender I’d rather say a person has chosen at this time to express their sexuality in these ways. You see, I simply do not believe that “once a thief, always a thief,” “once a liar, always a liar,” “once a gay person, always a gay person.” The Spirit of God always offers and can enable another Way.

-Christians should speak up, speak more, and speak loudly against acts of bigotry, hatred, or violence—including bullying in schoolyards—against individuals who’ve come out of the closet.

-Christians should never be the ones creating environments in which people want to or must hide in closets.

Christians need to learn to express love, acceptance, and support for people even while disagreeing with the person’s moral choices. We must learn to do a better job of emulating Jesus talking to the Woman at the Well. This we must do if we ever hope to win the other’s trust and listening ear.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow Dr. Rogers at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Soulforce pulled a fast one on us today. All 26 of the riders came back to CU and entered our College Chapel this morning.

As far as we know, never before has Soulforce returned to a school once it had moved on and never before has Soulforce gone en masse into a chapel uninvited. I was on the program and we were going to debrief students on yesterday's experience, but Soulforce's actions thwarted us.

Vice President for Student Development Tom Emigh spoke to the chapel audience at about 9:10 am, telling them what was happening and why Soulforce was not permitted to be in chapel. At 9:25 am we cancelled chapel because of Soulforce’s disruption. At about the same time, the Soulforce riders began filing out of their own accord, knowing that they had probably pushed the limit of time available before the Grand Rapids Police Department arrived and possibly arrested all of them. It was a $100 fine yesterday and would have been, I was told, a $500 fine today.

A Soulforce leader said they “just came to worship,” but their actions belie their words:

-- They could have come in street clothes and attempted to blend with our students. Instead most riders arrived in gray Soulforce logo jackets.
-- They sat together for a more visible impact.
-- They had a video camera person staged inside Mol Arena and two still cameras outside.

After exiting the Hansen Athletic Center, all but two Soulforce riders walked off campus to the Leonard Avenue sidewalk. Two riders walked with two or three of our students to the campus bookstore and were stopped by police officers on their way back. Their names were taken and, since they were with our students—making the legal lines hazier—and since they agreed to leave, the police did not arrest them.

I was asked by the press, “Some might say you made your point yesterday when two people were arrested. Why not just let them alone today?”

I answered, “I understand the compassion or the desire to be hospitable that lies behind that view, but there’s another principle at stake here. If any organization can at anytime come to our campus and involve itself uninvited in any program or event, than we don’t have control over our own programs or property.  Our liberty is being violated. That’s true for you as a homeowner and its true for every corporation and organization in this town. Soulforce’s actions are ethically and legally questionable.”

I don’t know if they will come back to CU again, but we're about "Soulforced out."  It's time to move on.

Yesterday's coverage and off campus response to what we are doing was and is very favorable.  We are grateful for people's letters, calls, and notes of support and for their sustaining prayers.

Sadly, the texts I had chosen to reference today in chapel were Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-42.  This is the parable warning us not to get carried away judging the "speck" in someone else's eye while we ignore a "plank" in our own eye.  My point was going to be that, "Yes, Soulforce riders have embraced the 'speck' of alternative sexuality and this is immoral, and we should continue to pray for them.  Meanwhile, we must not forget the "plank of sins (other kinds, perhaps, but still sin) in our own eyes." 
We cannot speak for or control others' choices, but we can commit our own to the Lord.

I think this biblical teaching reminds us to beware self-righeousness even as it points us back to fixing our eyes on Jesus.  I wish I could have shared this truth.

Thank you to so many who have prayed and are praying for CU.  We want to glorify him.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Soulforce made its uninvited visit to the edge of the Cornerstone University campus today. The organization had been repeatedly and kindly informed that its tour bus stop was not welcome and that riders would not be permitted on the campus.

When enough media were present Soulforce sent two of its members onto campus, knowing that Grand Rapids Police officers stood ready to arrest them. They got their photo op, handcuffs and all, which is standard operating procedure for the local police.

Soulforce is an advocacy group that promotes alternative lifestyles (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) in the name of Christianity. The group is supporting two spring bus tours, similar to the one it developed in spring 2006, to targeted Christian colleges and universities—19 last year and 32 this year. The group informs colleges or universities of its desire to come and schools have either responded with a “Yes,” allowing some engagement on campus, or a “No thank you,” allowing no access or on campus engagement. Cornerstone University said “No” for a variety of reasons we’ve listed on our website.

Meanwhile, CU did preclude or even discourage its personnel or students from interacting with Soulforce riders in off campus venues. A few of our people chose to interact with riders; most did not, primarily, I suspect, because it was business as usual at CU with all classes and other typical activities in full swing. I am proud of our students and personnel who in no way displayed anything but respect for the riders. For this I thank them.

As a Christian university, Cornerstone cares about people and their spiritual needs. We attempt to apply a biblical worldview to the entire scope of issues that present themselves in contemporary culture, including sexuality and sexual politics. But we also believe that whatever God calls sin we should call sin. And we believe it’s important to function in a manner that avoids extending legitimacy to a group like Soulforce that, ironically, stands for sin in the name of Jesus.

We do not believe that alternative lifestyles are the “worst” sin or the “unpardonable” sin. In fact, we believe sin is sin and while we are rightly concerned about the “speck” of sin in the form of sexual immorality in one person’s eye, we are also concerned about the “plank” of other kinds of sin in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42). Consequently, we do not hate nor even dislike the Soulforce riders. We believe they are spiritually lost sheep who are being used by an organization with an agenda—we say “used” because it’s the riders who raise money for this tour, take their time to participate, get themselves arrested and develop a record, while other sophisticated leaders and wealthy supporters of Soulforce watch from afar.

We will continue to pray for the riders. While we believe Soulforce has a right to exist in this wonderfully free country in which we live, we respectfully disagree with their values and actions. So while we affirm their right to speak in public venues, we also affirm our right to speak in our private venue. In the end, we want our actions, even and especially saying “No,” to be a form of the Scripture’s command to “speak the truth in love,” for we believe that love without truth is ultimately no love at all.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

I’ve written before about the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas and Pastor Fred Phelps. But I must write again. Why? Because I do not want to be associated in any way with Pastor Fred Phelps’s followers’ demonstrations outside the funerals of American soldiers who have died in their country’s service. I’m concerned that some people will think everyone who claims to be a Christian, everyone who believes the Bible, or everyone who happens to be a Baptist is in some way in agreement with Pastor Phelps’s warped theology and hate-mongering proclamations. Not so.

Phelps believes that each soldier’s death is a result of God’s judgment upon America for the fact that some Americans choose homosexuality. His followers travel the country to hold up protest signs with messages like “God Is Your Enemy,” “God Hates the U.S.A.,” “God Hates Fags,” “God Hates Fag Enablers,” “God Hates Your Tears,” or “Thank God for IEDs.” Needless to say, a lot of people consider this behavior a “10” on an Offensiveness Scale of 1 to 10. Some 31state legislatures have considered bills banning such protests and the United States Congress recently passed a bill restricting such demonstrations at national cemeteries. President Bush signed this bill into law on Memorial Day, 2006. Now the father of a Maryland Marine, Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder who died in Iraq, has filed an invasion of privacy suit against the church demonstrators.

Homosexuality is addressed in several passages of the Bible, and God does make it clear that he does not condone this form of human sexual expression. God also makes it clear that he is a loving, forgiving God of grace and that his ways are not our ways. So even if we believed God is not in the forgiveness business, we are still not able to look about us and say, “Lo, the Lord is doing this,” or “Lo, the Lord is doing that.” We don’t know the omniscient mind of God.

I do not know Pastor Phelps’s heart, but I assume he does indeed trust Christ for the forgiveness of his own sin. Assuming this is true, I will be in heaven with him some day. This thought does not repel me, because God has forgiven me of sins too. Nowhere in Scripture can you find a passage that allows us to say another person’s sin is worse than our own and that they therefore deserve some special condemnation. Certainly you cannot find Scripture that preaches hate.

Beyond this, even if you set aside questions about the pastor’s theology, your sensibilities and proprieties will still likely be shocked at the lack of respect Pastor Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church evidence toward the grieving family and friends of fallen soldiers. There are many other places Phelps’s deluded followers could demonstrate their views. The fact that they choose soldiers’ funerals smacks more of media savvy and sensationalism than any real sense that American military efforts are somehow responsible for the state of sexual morality in the United States.

I am a Christian. I believe the Bible. For most of my life until only the past few years I have worshipped in Baptist churches. I believe homosexuality is a sin. But I do not believe God is a God of hate. I do not think American soldiers or for that matter the War on Terrorism or the War in Iraq are direct judgments of God upon America because homosexuality exists in this country. I don’t want to be associated with unbiblical hate or demagoguery, and that is what Pastor Phelps’s work represents. He is another form of David Koresh or Jim Jones, blindly leading his people into religious extremism, all in the name of God. I am sorry for this, and I am sorry for his people. I pray God’s Spirit will work within him to lead him to a new understanding of the truth of his Word.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Virtually every time an incident occurs in a local college or university related to homosexuality, a media personality visits our campus and asks me, “Do you kick out gay students?” If I say, “Yes,” than the university may be portrayed, at a minimum, as old-fashioned or intolerant, or at worst, as gay-bashers or homophobes. If I say, “No,” than perhaps the public will think that the university winks at such matters or maybe even endorses homosexuality in some way.

So I say this: Cornerstone University affirms biblical views of human sexuality and, therefore, we teach and promote abstinence from any and all sexual activity or expression outside the boundaries and the bonds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Consequently, all forms of sexual expression outside the marital relationship are immoral.”

For those who want more than a sound-bite and are willing to read the university’s “Statement on Human Sexuality,” we observe that “in a biblical view, God defines one’s gender at conception prior to birth. One is either a male or a female. Sexuality, however, while a gift of God, is often perverted to sinful ends by both men and women. Sexual expression is a moral choice. According to the Bible, God defines all forms of sexual immorality as sin, and God condemns any and all alternatives to monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

Christian colleges and universities around the country are struggling with what has become “the homosexuality issue.” Why?

1) Homosexuality has become a key, unavoidable moral debate of our times.

2) In some states, gay individuals have targeted Christian institutions of higher learning as a battleground.

3) Some colleges and universities that still wish to foster some form of Christian commitment no longer employ a confession of faith or other policy statements requiring personnel to affirm the institution’s understanding of Christian values and practice.

4) Some Christian colleges and universities have been challenged by personnel who have in one manner or another publicly endorsed homosexual expression in same-sex marriages, etc.

5) Media sources periodically probe Christian college and university attitudes and practices regarding homosexuality whenever gay issues develop in area educational institutions.

6) For many people, homosexuality has become a political not a moral issue, so Christian colleges and universities wishing to maintain biblical injunctions regarding homosexual expression are increasingly portrayed as biased, discriminatory, “intolerant,” or hateful.

7) With the continuing collapse of cultural barriers, homosexual practice is increasing, so more Christian students are struggling with homosexuality.

Homosexuality, or gay and lesbianism, is as old as humanity but it is a particularly bold and central issue of the new millennium. Christian colleges and universities, therefore, cannot and should not ignore the issue. Christian schools must and should engage the issue. “Engage” in my book does not mean embrace or endorse. “Engage” means to know applicable biblical principles, to be informed about social developments, to participate in public debate, and to seek to influence public morality based upon biblical morality.

I believe Christian colleges and universities must continue to affirm biblical truth regarding homosexuality and then exercise moral leadership on behalf of the Christian Church. Homosexuality is a question for which God is the answer, and Christian campuses are in the business of providing answers. No other response qualifies as faithfulness to God and his Word.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Great Britain is joining other European nations in another step toward the normalization of same-sex relationships. Dating to a law passed last November, beginning today, December 5, 2005, same-sex British couples older than 16 can declare their intent to form a legal partnership, commonly called a civil union. Ceremonies formalizing this union can be held after a fifteen day waiting period following the legal declaration. Among the couples planning a wedding as soon as possible are Elton John and his partner David Furnish.

France, Germany, the Netherlands, and now Great Britain legally recognize same-sex partnerships as domestic unions. Belgium, Spain, and add Canada, all legally recognize gay marriage. Either way, the legal benefits are virtually the same as those historically assigned to married heterosexual couples, including inheritance and pension rights, bereavement benefits, and next-of-kin standing. However in Britain there are some differences: pre-nuptials will be called pre-registration agreements, divorce will be called dissolution, and adultery cannot be asserted as justification for a break-up.

Meanwhile, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act allows states in the United States to refuse recognition of the gay marriages or civil unions approved by other states or countries. To date, some 13 states, including Michigan, many of them in the 2004 election, have passed some version of a “no gay marriage or civil unions” law. Only Vermont and Massachusetts have so far joined the gay marriage band wagon.

The legal standing and “rights” of same-sex couples, along with abortion, occupy the front lines of the culture wars between a vigorously secularist humanism and a religious or specifically Christian worldview. Both issues, particularly same-sex marriage, strike at the very heart of Christian truth about the fundamental defining unit of society—the union of a man and a woman in the intended lifelong commitment of marriage. Proponents of the gay agenda know that if they can win the legal right to marriage they have won the battle for full normalization of homosexual and lesbian behavior.

Yet the legalization of gay marriage, domestic or same-sex partnerships, civil unions, or whatever they may be called does not a marriage make in the eyes of God. No one who assigns any validity to the Bible’s truth claims can read the Scripture plainly and miss the multiple references to homosexual behavior as a perversion of God’s mandate for human sexuality. If you accept the Bible as God’s Word and as a trustworthy source of truth in guiding your life of faith, you cannot at the same time assume the position that homosexuality should be regarded as a morally acceptable “orientation”—opening the door to legal affirmation. Consequently, promotion of same-sex marriage is an attack on the Bible itself.

Gay marriage loudly screams, “I want to do what I want to do with whomever I want to do it.” Proponents of gay marriage do not care what history, virtually every recognized culture, the evidence of biology, nature, logic, the great world religions, and in particular biblical Christianity, say about it. So they are strenuously lobbying the rest of us, not just for acceptance but for special recognition with all the rights and privileges thereto.

In an earlier “Making a Difference” column, I made these comments: “Standing morally against gay marriage does not deny gay people their civil liberties or many civil rights as Americans. Gay people may hold jobs, pursue careers, and own businesses. Gay people may vote, be considered innocent until found guilty in the eyes of the law, enjoy religious freedom, or earn a higher education. Gay people may own property, live freely in neighborhoods, care for their own children, and now may even adopt children.”

Opposition to gay marriage or civil unions does not equate with opposition to gay people, their personhood, their civil liberties as Americans, or any of their civil rights short of creating a new one guaranteeing their right to marry. Being against same-sex marriage is not the same as being against gays or lesbians as individuals. Being against same-sex marriage is about taking a stand for what one believes God says is right or wrong.

God’s definition of marriage is a unique covenant between a man and a woman that symbolizes the relationship of Jesus Christ with his Church. This sovereign gift cannot be replicated in same-sex relationships. So God does not limit our sexual expression because he wants to deny us love or pleasure. He declares homosexuality morally wrong because it does not fit reality as he created it. Homosexual practice twists the natural order in a way that will inevitably cause rejection, loss, and pain.

This theologically based moral perspective does not justify any disrespect of human beings who practice homosexual behavior. It does not affirm and should not tolerate any kind of threatening words or actions toward gays or lesbians, nor does it in any way celebrate what has been called “homophobia.” We are all sinners in need of grace, including those of us who do not practice or condone homosexual behaviors. We should respond to gays and lesbians with compassion, not anger or rejection.

Great Britain’s surrender doesn’t make the fight for moral truth in the culture wars any easier, but it doesn’t mean the war is over. Millions of Americans, and for that matter people in Canada and the European nations referenced earlier, still believe in something called “holy matrimony” for a man and a woman. Our task is to maintain fidelity to truth, to historic orthodox Christianity, even if our position attracts the ridicule or ire of some. And we must do this as winsomely yet clearly, as compassionately yet firmly, as Christ would do it if he walked among us. We are his ambassadors.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.