Monday, December 11, 2006

Have Both Rules AND Relationships - Glesne

Post #19. Understanding Homosexuality meets Straight Into Gay America. A continuing conversation between author/pastor Dave Glesen and author/pastor Lars Clausen.

Dear Lars,

One of the joys of this conversation is to be in dialogue with someone who I sense is genuine, honest, and transparent. You let others see who you really are and we appreciate you for it! Thank you for your words in “About Church and Not Knowing Much” and for the gift of genuineness.

I will respond here to comments and thoughts in your last post. – and questions of my own.

Questions concerning compassion and love:
In order for me to respond meaningfully, I need first to listen to some clarifications so that I know what you are meaning. You talk about what it means to live out of compassion, to embrace all that seeks the direction of compassion. It would be helpful for me to know your meaning of compassion and so I look forward to your clarification in responding to the following questions: “What is it within compassion itself that gives it direction?” Or maybe it could be stated better: “Within the context of compassionate relationships, is there a right or wrong thing to do? If there is a right thing to do, on what basis is it right?”

A second question is similar. With regard to the two great commandments (i.e. loving God and loving neighbor), you say that “law hangs on love”. If this be the case, what is it within love itself that tells me the loving thing to do with regard to my neighbor? On what basis do you know it’s the loving thing to do?”

While I’m asking questions, let me ask a third so that we know meanings and don’t talk past each other by meaning different things when using the same word. You acknowledge (as we all ought) that you need to face your sin and change. I think I know what I mean when I use the word “sin” but it would be helpful for me to hear what you mean by the word when using it.

Relationships vs. Rules, Subjective vs. Objective, Experience vs. Revelation – the positing of false antithesis?
As I read your last post I kept asking myself, “Why does Lars feel as thought he has to choose between either relationships or rules, either the subjective or objective, either experience or revelation? Is this choosing a free choice or is it a necessity?” We are talking about objective and subjective worldviews and starting points. Speaking for myself, within the objective world view I do not need to choose between relationships or law (better for me than ‘rules’) for I can affirm both equally and simultaneously. Within the objective worldview there is affirmation of both the objective and the subjective being equally important. Within this worldview there also is affirmation of both revelation and experience at the same time with the life-giving benefit of revelation from a loving God interpreting and helping make sense of my experiences. It is a huge tent encompassing all of reality.

Might it be the case that in the subjective world view one ends up living under a low ceiling within a small reality wherein one is shut up to only relationships, the subjective, and experience? If this be the case, within this small world of reality, there are mores perhaps, but are there true morals in relationships? Do not true morals require an absolute that cannot be found under the low ceiling? Within this small world, I am thinking that one cannot gather enough particulars to form an objective universal which in turn can give meaning to the particulars and so one is a slave to the world of the subjective and a crisis of meaning. Within this small world, I am thinking that experience is all one is left with and it is experience that can never be self-defining, self-authenticating, or self-interpreting. It just is. Where am I wrong in my thinking?

My question is: “If one is consistent with one’s subjective world view, is the positing of these antithesis and the choosing of the one over the other inevitable?”

The point of existential crises:
If I understand you correctly, Lars, your best sense is that revelation and rules might hold under normal living conditions but when the crises hits, when one is on the end of the plank, one has to choose between rules or relationships. You see me living on the basis of rules but wonder, for example, if I would choose relationship if told by my child that he or she were gay. This is a good example.

If a child of mine (and I have four) told me he or she was gay, the first and foremost thing I would do is love them as always. I would assure them of my love and that nothing they could do would ever sever my love for them. Within my love for them I would gently show them what Scripture says about homosexual behavior. If it were my son I would also share with him information about gay men having a higher rate of STD’s than married/straight men and some of the other health consequences of same-sex behavior. If it were my daughter I would share information regarding a higher rate of mental illness in lesbian women than in straight women. Why would I share this information with them? Because I love them and want what is best for them. I would also share with them, then, information from science and also philosophical reason.

So when I come to such a point of existential crises, my objective world view allows me to hold to both relationship (love for my child) and law (sharing God’s law regarding homosexual behavior) simultaneously. I do not need to choose one over the other. Indeed, I must not do so for autonomous love simply has no basis in Scripture, in the God of Scripture, or in His Son Jesus Christ. I hold to the relationship and to God’s law at the same time. In loving my child I share God’s law and gospel with him/her so that they might have life!

May I expand just a bit on this because I believe it lies at the heart of our discussion? I understand God gave us His Law not as a way to God. God rescued the Hebrews from their bondage in Egypt through the Red Sea. Jesus rescued us from our bondage to sin through the waters of baptism. Both rescues were purely by grace without works of the law. But then God led the Hebrews to Mt. Sinai and gave them the 10 Commandments. Jesus gives his followers the two great laws of love, “love God and love neighbor”. Why? I think because God wants His children to remain free! He doesn’t want them to return to slavery. In my understanding this is what the Commandments and the two laws of love are for in the Christian’s life, that by living in obedience to that law, we might remain free, have LIFE, and not return to slavery to sin. Disobedience to God’s Law returns us to bondage and slavery, and eventual death. Obedience to His Law brings us freedom! No wonder Paul could say, “I delight in the law of the Lord.” It is the law of freedom! That is why within this community of grace called the church I share with people both the gospel and the law.

Relationship vs. rules? Within the objective world view, one can hold relationship and law together for love and compassion have no internal moral compasses of their own, and because we self-centered sinners repeatedly find ourselves distorting genuine love in the name of ‘love’, love always needs law to guide it. Within the objective world view, one does not need to post a false antithesis and choose between relationship or law, indeed, one must not do so.

Subjective vs. objective; Experience vs. revelation: Within the subjective world view, if consistently followed through from its starting point, maybe I am wrong here but I don’t see how there is even a choice to be made. If one starts with the subjective or experience, one ends with the subjective and experience, for within the small world of subjective reality there is no objective or revelation to choose. The only escape from out under the low ceiling, it seems to me, is an irrational leap of faith into a realm above the ceiling that gives one a sense of meaning and purpose – for one cannot live long without some meaning.

Within the objective world view, on the other hand, the objective and subjective are both realities in which the subjective finds meaning and definition in the objective. God being there objectively and speaking truth into the subjective realm of my life gives me what I need to know about Him, myself, history, and the universe. If God has spoken truth in an understandable way (which Scripture says is the case), then you and I can know that truth, not exhaustively - for He is God and no one will ever be able to plummet to the depths of His Truth - but truly. And so in all humility I bow before Him and receive with utmost gratitude the revelation that He gives.

There is plenty of uncertainty in this life. More than I would like. I experience it as you do. There are many things I don’t understand for now indeed we do not see all things clearly – and perhaps never will in this life. That is why I am so thankful for the truth and understanding that God has communicated to us which He means for us to know and understand. It is not exhaustive, but it is enough. So far I am finding that knowing and understanding what He has communicated is sufficient for me to live in hope in the midst of the uncertainties.

Continuing appreciation for this conversation,



Anonymous said...

...and we are back to "hate the sin, love the sinner".

I think that Dr. Glesne's description of how he would deal with the situation if one of his own children told him they were gay is the most frightening and saddening things I have read on this blog (mental illness in lesbians!?!?!?). I realize that Dr. Glesne doesn't respond to our comments in his blog (it's understandable, there are a lot of them), but I hope that he reads them. I would encourage him to think about what comes next - after his attempts to show his child "The Light", what happens when his child responds to him "Yeah, Dad, I know that is what you believe. I have struggled with these passages in the Bible also. But I also know who I am. I know that I have always been this way." What do you do then, Dr. Glesne? Do you turn your child away, telling them they can return as the prodigal son once they have given up their "pseudo-identity"? Or do you make an attempt to understand your child, to put yourself in their shoes, to embrace them as God made them? If you embrace them or try to understand them, I ask you this - why would it have to happen to your own child before you make that step?

--Becky Penar

Dr Chapman said...

Very interesting post Dave. Thank you.

Couple of comments/questions.
1) When you find out your daughters are straight do you inform them that heterosexual women have much higher rates of STDs, including HIV/AIDS than lesbians? If not, why not?

Do you also warn your homosexual son, should you have one, that denying his homosexuality and entering into a heterosexual marriage leads to high rates of depression, mental illness, adultery, etc? While this can be assumed from the writings of the Family Research Council, etc, I'll also use an example. My best friend has been having serious emotional and mental problems over the last month directly related to him attempting to live as a heterosexual, even though his base emotional, physical and relational needs are homosexual. He is faithful to his wife and the father of 3 children. To quote him from last week, he is "suffering". All this mental anguish and physical trauma he is experiencing, and yet he does not engage in homosexual behavior. He and I went through "reparative therapy" together 12 years ago - it didn't work for either of us. While his behavior is heterosexual, the therapy never once changed his orientation (and unfortunately it has an abyssmal record of doing so. The Robert Spitzer study so many quote actually explicitly states very few can change their desires or orientation - in fact, the number that he says did so in his study were almost identical to the number of participants who never had homosexual desires as teenagers. - this is an observation never mentioned by the ex-gay crowd, nor do they highlight that his study focused solely on people who had at least a slight degree of self-reported change in their desires. Studies that examined how many have a slight change in desires indicate a success rate of only about 3%. Thus, Spitzer's results combined with those numbers demonstrate less than 1% are able to fully change - the identical number of which who in the studies never had homosexual desires as teens. To me, this similarity is indicative of what's going on. People born with the desires cannot change.)

So, would you want your son to live an honest life, or would you want him to live dishonestly with the emotional and physical trauma that comes with that (not to mention the problems it creates for the spouse and children - just ask Ted Haggard)?

Finally, do you also tell your children that your view, that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior, is not agreed upon by all? That Christian tradition has had periods of acceptance of homosexuality? That the primary verses used to condemn homosexuals today were not used as such for the first 1000 years of Christian tradition? And that the passages used to condemn homosexual behavior for the first 1000 years of Christian tradition are not used as such today? I apologize if you cover some of this ground in your book - I am only aware of your arguments posted on these blogs.

Thanks again for the interesting debate.

Anonymous said...

One thing that should be settled before anyone proceeds is whether the two of you are going to use the common definition of the words associated with homosexuality or the conservative definitions. In commmon usage, the word "gay" operates as a word of description--i.e. whether one possesses a homosexual orientation, regardless of whether one "identifies" with that orientation. Consider the assumptions resting behind the following sentence:

"Oh, he's gay; he just hasn't admitted it to himself yet."

Nearly everyone understands intuitively what the word "gay" in that sentence means: he has a homosexual orientation and is sexually attracted to men and not to women. Whether he "acts on" that orientation or "identifies" with it is immaterial to whether he is gay or not.

In conservative usage, by contrast, the word "gay" is a term of identification, not description. One is "gay" if and only if one acts on and identifies with one's homosexual orientation. (Of course, that definition is a bit muddled because many conservatives deny the existence of "homosexual orientations" as such.) Being "gay," according to this definition, is much like being "Republican" or "Democrat." One is "gay" if and only if one adopts that label.

Let me try to illustrate the differences between common and conservative usage for some key words here:

Gay (common): possessing a homosexual orientation
(Conservative counterpart: "same-sex attracted")

Gay (conservative): identifying with one's same-sex attractions and choosing to act on them
(No precise common counterpart; somewhat included in connotations of common definition of "gay")

Ex-gay (common): Once, but no longer, "gay" according to the common definition of gay
(Conservative counterpart: "free of same-sex attractions")

Ex-gay (conservative): Once, but no longer, "gay" according to the conservative definition of the word gay. Denotes only that a person no longer identifies with his or her homosexual orientation, does not necessarily claim any change in sexual orientation. Confusingly, same-sex attracted people who have never been "gay" according to the conservative definition are sometimes labeled, or label themselves, "ex-gay."
(Common counterparts: "gay and celibate" or "gay and married to someone of the opposite sex" if no change in orientation is claimed; "ex-gay" if change in orientation is claimed)

Homosexual (common): possessing a homosexual orientation
(Conservative counterpart: "same-sex attracted")

Homosexual (conservative): usage varies widely

Homosexual orientation (common): a difference at a biological level (however it came to be) that causes a person to be exclusively attracted to members of the same sex.
(Conservative counterparts: same-sex attractions, homosexual orientation)

Homosexual orientation (conservative): existence of homosexual orientations as such is frequently denied; when not denied, the definition is the same as the common definition

I think that before you proceed, both of you need to stop and decide which definitions you're going to be using. Because Rev. Glesne was just asked "what if your child was gay (common definition)?" And he thought the question was "what if your child was gay (conservative definition)?" So, he dutifully replied, essentially, that you would tell your children not to identify as gay (conservative definition). But the question really was, translating to conservative lingo, "what if your child was same-sex attracted?" Which is not the same question.

If the two of you don't sort this out, you're just going to be talking over each other's heads.