Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Concluding Words from Dave Glesne

Post from Dave Glesne:
Author of "Understanding Homosexuality."

Dear Lars,
I can only imagine how time-consuming and energy draining the last weeks have been as you embraced the cause there in your own community. I’m glad for your sake that there finally appears to be some breathing room for you.

As you mentioned in your recent post, I suggested that we are perhaps at a natural ending point in our conversation. As we were going back and forth over those many weeks, I asked myself what would be indications as to when we would reach that point. My thought was that when we (and maybe even more so our readers) began repeating ourselves it may be an indication that this particular aspect of the conversation has run its course. I was sensing that we were beginning to go over the same ground. I say that fully believing that such conversations should never really end.

I too want to thank you for the respectful conversation we have had. I choose the word “respectful” very carefully and with gratitude. I hope we have modeled for others the kind of dialogue that is needed in discussions such as these. In such a conversation iron sharpens iron and I am grateful for that process we have been through together.

I agree with you that at the end of the day the conversation comes down to one of worldviews, presuppositions, and following through logically and consistently from those starting points. You summarized in your post where you are at currently. Permit me to do the same by way of summary.

The presupposition that I start with is that God exists. I believe that this God is a Personal God who has a moral character and that he has communicated to human beings made in his image, truth about himself and his character and about us human beings. I believe this God is love and holy at the same time, and that is why love and Law can never finally be separated from one another. I understand God’s 10 commandments (moral law) to flow out of his moral character not only to show us we are sinners (negative use) so that we can turn to Christ for forgiveness, but also to reveal his will for our lives (positive use) in what makes for the fullness of life. They are the way of freedom which God deeply desires for all his children. I believe God sets me free in Christ from the curse of the law to love Christ above all else. Then in any given situation I walk into, I can ask, “What do I do with regard to my neighbor to demonstrate my love for Christ?” I believe my love for Christ is demonstrated by being obedient to his commandments. I believe that is what Jesus meant when he said, “If you love me you will obey my commandments”. God’s law then becomes the law of liberty. No wonder the Apostle Paul could say, “I delight in the law of the Lord.”

With regard to the sexual behavior of my same-sex neighbor, (as with the pre-marital and extra marital sexual behavior of my heterosexual neighbor), love for my same-sex neighbor - both inside and outside the church - does not allow me to say “yes” to what God has said “no”. For both my homosexual and heterosexual neighbor the call is rather to deny self, take up one’s cross, and follow Christ. The cross, death to self and things, is not the easy road, but it is the road to life.

I would take issue with “Theologians such as Spong, Wink, and many others have made the biblical case for full equality.” I would argue that the revisionist scholars have not made the case biblically. The claim that the Bible is opposed only to particularly exploitative forms of homosexual practice – such as pederasty, coercive sex with slaves, or solicitation of prostitutes – is generally made in ignorance of the arguments that suggest Scripture’s opposition - without exception - to homosexual practice. Even Walter Wink who is supportive of homosexual unions, acknowledges, for example, that Paul’s indictment is not limited to particularly exploitative instances of same-sex intercourse. He says the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and “there is no getting around it.” He simply believes the Bible is wrong on this issue.

Our conversation for good or ill has revolved primarily around 4 pages (in chapter 3) of my 185 page book, Understanding Homosexuality. The great majority of the book deals with the biblical argument and then a call for pastoral care of the church with same-sex persons. For those within the church who hold to at least some semblance of the authority of Scripture, the bulk of the discussion will center on the arguments from Scripture. The moral question can only be answered from God’s Word – not science. However, when communicating with those outside the church who do not believe the Scriptures, the discussion will be in the arena of creation and science. In these differing communications, we are simply following Paul’s example in the Book of Acts where when speaking to the Jews, he always argued out of the Scriptures because it was a common authority, but when he spoke to the Gentiles he never argued from out of the Scriptures, but always started rather with creation – something common to both. It does no good to argue out of the Scriptures with one who does not believe the Scriptures. But the things of creation and science, the structures of the human body, diseases, etc. is a common experience for all human beings – believer as well as unbeliever.

Thank you, Lars, for providing the forum to exchange ideas and inviting me into this discussion. My respect for you as a person has grown throughout the conversation while at the same time I have found myself not agreeing with certain views and ideas. That is a positive for which I am thankful.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is This It?

Dear Dave,

I hope this finds you well. Sorry for the long delay in writing. Spending time trying to keep the world’s most powerful corporation from becoming the dominant player in our community has taken a lot of energy. But now a public amendment process is underway in our city and Wal-Mart has permission to remain open in the meantime, so I can return to other interests.

During this past month you wrote and suggested we may have reached a natural ending point for our conversation. Perhaps you are right. Although I could easily be enticed back into this conversation, it may be a better use of time to compile our blogs and reader comments and create an e-book or maybe even a few printed books of our conversation. Maybe after I compile all the words we’d find that we each have some more to say in concluding remarks.

One of the pieces I’ve grown to appreciate about our conversation is that we’ve actually had a conversation. During this past Wal-Mart month our community went on the kind of high-energy emotional rampage that reminded me too much of the diatribes that fly around in the debate over whether men can love men and women can love women. I have a better appreciation now for those who stand up for causes. I ended up being called a development terrorist, and despite our winning the case in court, our city officials asserted that we’d “fabricated” our case. And then, to bring everything full circle, one of the Wal-Mart advocates read our blog conversation and has been trying to save my soul from damnation ever since. He keeps asking me, “Who is Jesus?” My answers do not satisfy him.

Funny to have been the brunt of so much emotion this past month, especially when I’m generally an advocate of emotion. Funny to have taken recourse in the law against Wal-Mart when I’m generally an advocate of experience first, then law.

I do think our conversation has come down to which tent we choose to live in (experience first or law first) or which side of the river we choose to live upon, and whatever other metaphors we’ve tried to share our stories to each other with. I used to be more frustrated that I couldn’t figure out ways to entice people from one side of the river to the other. In more recent years I’ve come to appreciate that our world probably benefits from a spectrum of worldviews. I even imagine that the evolution of our species has benefited from this spectrum. After all, what is a center without an edge, or an edge without a center?

I continue to lament, though, the damage that is caused by the center’s slow adaptation to new realities. Despite your statements separating LGBT questions from women’s rights and civil rights, I continue to believe that the march toward LGBT equality is in line with the march of women, of civil rights, and the other movement in the long historical tide of justice for all. I continue to believe that Christianity and society are best served by full inclusion rather than by labeling sexually active same sex relationships as sinful.

I do not know the length of the journey toward full justice, but many strides have been made. States such as Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have led the way. Churches such as the UCC and the Episcopal church have stepped up to full equality. Theologians such as Spong, Wink, and many others have made the biblical case for full equality. Leaders such as Nobel Prize Winning Bishop Desmond Tutu are outspoken advocates for full equality. Even our slow and deliberative Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made strides last week when the trial of gay pastor Bradley Schmeling resulted in a call for the church to change its rules and allow him to serve as a pastor and to continue in his committed relationship with his partner.

I’m encouraged by all these things, and I’m encouraged by our conversation. I noted in the beginning of our dialogue that the words of your book concerned me greatly, that a book titled Understanding Homosexuality, and subtitled Perspectives for the Local Church came across to me more as a caricature of gay people than an accurate description of the many church-going and secular gay people I have come to know. I appreciate you writing that such labeling was not your intent. I remain concerned that many people who read your book will perceive it in the same stereotyping way that I and others have. I believe that the way forward is for all of us to keep talking. After our Wal-Mart month I realize anew how much energy it takes to keep adding words to a conversation, and trusting the mysterious process of living in the communities we are part of. To all who keep speaking into our communities, year after year after year, my respect continues to grow.

David, thank you. I know you have been busy during these writings, yet you’ve found time for sharing much with us. I’ll put this up as a post. We’ll see if any are still checking in to read and offer remarks. Maybe you’ll have a response to this. Maybe we’ll have a few more back and forths. I’ll try and compile our blog posts and see what evolves from that process.

Blessings to you and to all,