Monday, February 4, 2013

Evangelicals Try New Tack Towards Gays

The following article appeared in the February 3, 2013 issue of the Houston Chronicle. I have been contending for years that Evangelical and Fundamental Christians are, in effect, committing suicide by refusing to understand their short sighted approach to Christianity is driving people away from the church at large rather than drawing them too it.

In this case, I don't really take any pleasure in saying, "I told you so," but it is always encouraging to have one's insights validated by others.

Frankly, I have known for some time that the status of gay people was going to change in the United States. What I initially failed to understand was just how quickly this change was going to take hold. I came to understand it when a Christian friend told me of her experience with her favorite grandson. The two had always been very close. She loved all of her grandchildren, but there was no doubt this child was her favorite. He was smart, handsome and gifted. When he came out to his family as gay, there was shock and dismay. But his grandmother, a devoted Christian, was also smart and capable of critical thinking too. Because of her love for this young man, she quickly came to the rationalization that nothing had changed except that she now knew about his homosexuality which had always been a part of him for as long as she had loved him. She refused to let her knowledge of the truth destroy the love she had for him or the way she treated him.

As the number of gay men and women coming out of the closet reached critical mass, there is no extended family in the United States that his not been affected. Most have ultimately reacted just as my friend did and come to acceptance and support of their young family member.

Our institutions, including our churches have faced the same decisions. Evangelical and Fundamental Churches faced with a growing number of their own young members coming out have had to face the fact that homosexuality has nothing to do with how one is raised or whether or not one is a Christian. Instead it is a much more complex and convoluted thing. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are not noted for their reasoning ability or they wouldn't be Evangelicals and Fundamentalists but even with their limited willingness to reason, when faced with a growing issue from within their own ranks, they have reluctantly begun to realize that the issue must be addressed in new ways. That is what the following article is about.

I hope you read it with a new sense of optimism and hope for the future.


NASHVILLE, TENN. The Rev. Robert Jeffress has changed the way he talks about homosexuality from the pulpit.

The pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Dallas hasn't stopped preaching that homosexual sex is sinful, but he no longer singles it out for special condemnation. Now, Jeffress says he usually talks about homosexuality within "a bigger context of God's plan for sex between one man and one woman in a lifetime relationship called marriage."

"It would be the height of hypocrisy to condemn homosexuality and not adultery or unbiblica1 divorce," he said, explaining that the Bible-allows divorce only in cases of adultery or desertion. He also includes premarital sex on that list.

A new generation
The pressure to change the way homosexuality is addressed in evangelical churches is increasing as mainstream support for gay and lesbian issues increases. This support is especially strong among young adults, and researchers say they don't expect this group to become mote conservative on the issue as they age.

In a 2011 survey by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute, 62 percent of adults between 18 and 29 years old said they supported gay marriage and 71percent supported civil unions. Among adults 65 and older, those numbers were 31 percent in favor of marriage and 51 percent for civil unions.

Asked about the idea that "religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues, 69 percent of the younger group agreed.

Another-recent poll 'by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly 20 percent of adult Americans now describe themselves as unaffiliated with any specific religion, and the problem for evangelical churches is apparent.

"Evangelicals have been sobered by studies that show people are dropping out of church in droves," said Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest University Divinity School; That has affected how they relate to marginalized people, including gays and lesbians,

"I'm amazed at the changes, the softening of the rhetoric to be more compassionate," Leonard said. "There's a realization that the idea of 'love the sinner, hate the sin' comes across as pretty cold."

Demographics isn't the only force driving changes in the evangelical response to gays' and lesbians. As it becomes safer for gays and lesbians to come out of the closet, it becomes increasingly more likely that evangelicals know gays and lesbians personally, researchers say.'

Meeting in the middle
"Over the last five to 10 years, evangelicals have been faced with the issue even more poignantly as their sons and daughters come out of the closet," Leonard said. " ... It has become more difficult to dismiss 'those people.'''

Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network, is one of those Children.

Like most evangelicals, Lee grew up believing the Bible was to be taken at face value but, in wrestling with the realization that he was gay, found a more nuanced way to read Scripture. Now, he works to foster understanding of gays within evangelical institutions.

"I do hear from church leaders and pastors, who say, 'I already know where I stand, but how can I be more loving and gracious to the gay community without compromising my convictions?'" Lee said. "There are a lot of things I say, but chief among them is that the the more you listen to the people and ask about their lives and stories, the more you are able to show grace and love, even if you don’t agree."

Jeffress, who has gay and lesbian members in his church tries to be compassionate. He said he is open to the possibility that sexual orientation has a genetic basis that cannot be cured or prayed away.

"I think we were too quick to dismiss the possibility of a genetic predisposition," Jeffress said.

But that hasn't altered his belief the Bible teaches that acting on homosexual desire is sinful, and he feels it is his responsibility to talk about it with his congregation.


As one Christian to another, I have a suggestion for Jeffress and other Evangelicals about how they can be more understanding of and compassionate to gay people. All they need to do is read their own Bibles and apply fully what they read there.

A good place to start is Romans 8:31-37

31 ...If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son — will he not also freely give us all things? 33 Who will accuse God's chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! 34 Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right-hand side of God, pleading with him for us! 35 Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? 36 As the scripture says, “For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 38 For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, 39 neither the world above nor the world below — there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.


The Bible is not easy to read and harder still to understand, but there are places where the nature of God is imparted in a straight forward and unambiguous way. The verses from Romans above are one of those places. My contention has always been that if one knows and understand nothing about the Bible other than this one set of verses, he knows enough.

The verses are about the amazing power of God's grace and love for us. A love so strong that nothing can defeat it or change it. Unfortunately, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists spend most of their time attaching conditions to God's grace, a sort of "grace, but……." message. Reread the verses above. There are no conditions and no buts. All Mr. Jeffress and others have to do to treat homosexuals and all others who supposedly offend God with compassion and understanding is to treat them as people loved and valued by God.

Jack Scott


  1. While I appreciate the article, it does not move me to in any way involve myself in an organized church again. I have been in the inner circle of such pastors as Dr. Jeffers. I can assure you that it is finances that both drives him to "soften" things (with the hope of lowering the average age of his church membership) while not driving out the current major donors... ALL of whom have been trained by the Southern Baptist Church to condemn same gender attraction.

    For those of us who are gay, to learn now that such churches are wanting to put heavier emphasis on "love the sinner" than on "hate the sin" does NOTHING to make us feel loved as human beings.

    1. I had hoped that the article would elicit a discussion of the issue from both those who consider themselves church supporters and those who do not. So far that has not happened. I hope Bill's comment will help to open the floodgates on such a discussion.

      As it happens, Bill is a close friend of mine who is gay and one half of a civil partnership. He chose to say only that he has "been in the inner circle of such pastors as Dr. Jeffers (sic)," so I won't add to that except to say when he says, "inner circle" one can take him very much at his word.

      Frankly, I understand Bill being less than bowled over by Dr. Jeffress. One does not have to read the article carefully at all to get that Jeffress is NOT saying he or others like him are wrong in their anti-gay dogma. Instead, he is simply saying that he, and others, need to be KINDER about it all.

      Who can blame gay people from being less than enthusiastic about such an ignoble change of heart? Certainly not me! I think gay people will rightly conclude that Jeffress and others like him are only truly concerned about one thing and that is the preservation of their churches, church power over its congregants and maintaining the amount of cash that comes into the church in a time when a record number of people are finding the church irrelevant in their lives.

      As for me, I have said many times, I consider myself a realist. The reality is that the church universal has always been in a close race with itself as both a powerful force for good in the world AND a powerful force for evil in the world. It still is. That is true simply because the church is not now and never has been an exalted spiritual institution. It is instead (and this is not generally understood either by church members or non-members) simply a group of people who come together to believe, to search or to try to come to believe. In other words, it is simply a group of imperfect human beings with all the baggage that human beings carry around with them throughout their lives.

      As a realist, I don't care what Jeffress' motives are. In the long term, if he preserves the church, he and other leaders that can not or will not admit they were wrong about how God sees human sexuality will eventually die off and be replaced by younger leaders who have never seen homosexuality as anything other than one of several valid expressions of human sexuality and thus God given.

      Jack Scott

  2. I recently received the following letter in my personal email:

    Gigi Ying
    3:58 PM (17 minutes ago)

    Dear Jack

    I am not completely sure why I am writing this. I mainly want to say thanks for your work on your blog, but I also have some thoughts I need to fashion into a more concrete understanding and I thought you might be open to hearing them and in some way helping me to do this....?

    I'm female, single and in my late thirties - on the face of it, perhaps not the typical reader of your blog,

    I had a long-term relationshiip with a man who some of my friends speculated was gay or bisexual. He never confirmed this, but I suspected it during and after the relationship, After we broke up (several years ago now and for reasons not directly related to his sexual orientation), I was resoutely and happily single. Then I started to have experiences with younger men working through their sexuality. I gather this is because I am somewhat against the stereotype of "straight" women my age. I am a professional, happily childfree and not looking to "settle down" with anyone. I am quite open about my views on relationships and monogamy especially (essentially, it might work fine for others, but not for me).

    I try very hard to practise genuine, honest and loving communication in all my relationships, but I try particularly hard to do this in my sexual ones, because it's so difficult to cut through all the baggage and bulls**t that comes with intimacy.

    Perhaps as a result, I seem to find certain young men who initiate relationships with me. When I lived in London, I had a casual and affectionate relationship with a man in his early thirties who was open with me about his bisexual orientation because he knew I would be discreet. He would visit Soho gay bars whenever he could. He swore he would "get it out of his system" and eventually he got married to a lovely lady to whom he said he would never confide about his bisexuality. He wanted children and the traditional and happy family life. I know he will make a wonderful father but I felt a twinge when he said he never wanted to be "the sad old man trawling Hampstead Heath".

    Continued in next comment -

    1. Continued from above:

      I recently have had a relationship with another young man (only 23) who is proudly bisexual professionally as well as socially but hides his real self from his mother. He wants to come out to her but doesn't know how. She is deeply religious.

      And most recently, I have come to know another young man.. he is 26 years old...a familiar story...he wants to raise a family but hasn't found the right girl yet. "Everyone" thinks he is gay, because of the way he dresses, acts, etc. He has travelled a long way from his hometown in Australia and seems to be on the move, looking for something. He doesn't admit his sexuality, but, as his lover, well, it seems obvious to me that he is not entirely attracted to women. He talks constantly about sexuality and sexual orientation, but never about his own.

      Towards these men, I feel a very strong sense of love and concern. As the older partner in the relationship, I suppose I feel a sense of responsibility. Yet I am pretty ill-equipped to help. I just listen and try to be a loving and understanding friend. I'll keep reading your blog and, should the opportunity arise, direct people to it.

      I won't delve into my own complex history, orientation, psychology etc., although I am sure there must be something there that causes these connections to arise.

      Anyway, thank you for your blog. If you have got through my entire email, thank you for reading it. I don't know if there is anything in my rambling about my history and relationships that may be of interest or help to you at all, but I hope there is.

      By the way, I myself used to blog once upon a time so if there is anything here that you might wish to use in future blog posts of yours, do feel free, but please don't use anything that might identify me other than what I have written in this email.

      Thanks again and all the very best

      Gigi - from a city somewhere in Asia

    2. Gigi, I find your letter most interesting and relevant. In fact, I will use it for a full blog piece soon rather than make comment here.

      Thanks for writing.

      Jack Acott

  3. JS, You may be right and a new generation of evangelical leaders will be gay-friendly. But that will be a long time. In the mean time, as a born and raised fundamentalist, I am attending the Episcopal church.


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott