I had a lot of great discussions with Katie (and other YAR’s) this week at San Jose. Katie asked that I write a post about how I, as someone who did not grow up in the church, understand what the church teaches about queer sexuality.
First of all, I will say that, generally, Christian thought about same-sex sexuality appears backwards to me. It seems to neglect our Lord’s commandment to love and instead go around being Satan (which, I learned, is translated as “prosecutor”). And the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing isn’t the commandment – love is unconditional, and what you are saying when you say “love the sinner, hate the sin” is “I love you but…”, which is conditional. There are serious pitfalls in this thinking (and, I will admit, even in my own on the subject).
Another problem I find in the teaching of sexuality is what I call Floodgate theory
but which can be identified as the “slippery slope fallacy”. What is Floodgate Theory? Floodgate Theory is the idea that if we allow this one particular demographic or practice, this one particular idea, this one particular interpretation to become accepted, then what will we accept next? If we accept queer sexuality, then what about bestiality, adultery, pedophilia, or incest? The fear is that if we let this tradition go, all other traditions will fall apart too and then the whole church will be lost and Jesus will come and judge us all to be condemned to hell.
I won’t address the fear that underlies the theory, but I will address the theory. First of all, I don’t like the theory as it is used in argument/debate. It doesn’t address the particular question at hand, only future consequences that are not directly related to the question – “is it right to accept people with a homosexual orientation?” is a much different question than “what happens if we accept them?” Second, what if I (someone who does not think condemning queer folks is treating them decently) used the logic against those who are trying to condemn: “well, what happens if we condemn queer folks? Do we start condemning people of color? Do we start condemning non-Mennonites? Non-Catholics? Gentiles? Jews?”
The problem with it is this: it could be exactly right. Once you let one idea become accepted, it allows many other ideas to be accepted that follow along its logic. And once you condemn one particular idea or demographic, it lets others be condemned also.
Given that, I wonder how many of our Anabaptist radical ancestors heard the same theory. “No more infant baptism?!? That’s nonsense! What next, the pope is not divine? The Eucharist isn’t scriptural?” Yep, exactly.
Our Anabaptist forebearers had to challenge church tradition, based on doctrine which was based on interpretation which was, in turn, based on scripture. Now some of us YAR’s are trying to challenge the same kind of doctrine, except that this doctrine doesn’t have to go through hoops to get to scripture: it’s right there in Paul (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6). Though, I would argue against Paul; I don’t trust him on this issue. And again, floodgate theory can apply there: “What, you don’t think Paul is right? What next, we throw out all the epistles? Maybe the Gospel of Luke too?” Maybe.
I’d like to see what happens if the church did accept queer sexuality. Perhaps the floodgates would open. But is it our job (humans, that is) to hold on to history and determine what is godly or ungodly, or is it God’s job?