“Preach the Law as if there is no Gospel; preach the Gospel as if there is no Law,” is a Lutheran dictum, and it is here we have failed homosexuals.
The LCMS’s latest foray into our society’s blitzkrieg of accepting sexual deviancy is found in the October 2013 issue of The Lutheran Witness. There is hope yet, but not if we don’t break from our past. True to bureaucratic thinking there is no formal backing away, let alone repenting of, the 1999 “A Plan for the Ministry to Homosexual and Their Families” prepared by The Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families. Yet the Witness only has one reference to once a homosexual always homosexual and the myth that there is such a thing as a Christian homosexual. There can’t be anymore than there is such a thing as a Christian murderer, liar, thief, or adulterer.
The 1999 Plan said both. Homosexual orientation is not a sin, and that you can be a homosexual and still be a Christian. On page 21 we read, “If homosexual orientation and behavior are not differentiated in public preaching and teaching, the person with a homosexual orientation will perceive himself or herself as condemned before God without redemption.” Wait a minute isn’t that what a heterosexual oriented toward his neighbor’s wife, a teen oriented toward his girlfriend, or an adult toward a child ought to perceive? Isn’t that preaching the Law as if there is no Gospel?
Later on it said this, “Sexual orientation does not invalidate Holy Baptism. God’s grace and the inclusion of the baptized into the family of God are fully present in the person of homosexual orientation. God does not love someone less because he or she is homosexual” (28). Insert “Orientation towards violence to others” and “oriented toward violence,” and “a murderer” in the italicized portions above. And if you can’t do that with the Fifth Commandment, you can’t do it with the Sixth.
In reality, the position expressed in the 1999 Plan is the same position the ELCA had in the 90s: you can be gay as long as you are celibate. This is the first step on the path to where the ELCA is today. It begins with distinguishing homosexual feelings from acts (Again try doing that with heterosexual lust and adultery; Jesus says you can’t in Matthew 5:28.). Step two is accepting celibate homosexuality. Step three is to accept homosexual acts. The reasoning that leads to this is as follows. We deny celibacy is a command from God in regard to heterosexuals, so how can say it is in the case of homosexuals? This in turn leads to the necessity of Step Four the acceptance of gay marriage. That’s the only acceptable way for homosexuals not to have to live a life of enforced celibacy.
You can tell that the Plan started from a foggy understanding of the issues by the fact that one of their resources according to footnote 6 was “A communication from a homosexual Christian to the task force” (38). Well computer companies use hackers and home security companies use thieves why shouldn’t we be using homosexuals to understand homosexuality? Hackers and thieves are not used to better understand them but to better defend against them, and companies use them with the understanding between criminal and company that the criminal is wrong. Not so the Plan. Here is how they used their homosexual resource. “’If you want someone who is creative, is hardworking, gets along well with people, and has extra time and an abundance of love to share, then find a homosexual’” (26).
Only one author in the October 2013 Witness takes a similar approach. He too cites words “from a fellow LCMS Lutheran.” “’I am gay but believe the only God approved place for sex is marriage between a man and woman. For this reason, I have chosen celibacy….’Unclear Law is not the problem.’ At age 10, when kids called me ‘fag,’ ‘sissy’ and ‘queer,’ it was not a traditional way of proclaiming Law and it was not done in a Christian manner. But it was still Law.’” The self-identified gay man goes on to recount how in 8th grade a hand was held over his mouth till he turned blue and everyone laughed at him, how in high school a teacher greeted him ‘Hello, princess,’ how adults told fag jokes. Our gay friend is right; all of these are the Law. He says he has had enough Law. He needs hope, not hope “’that I will be straight – that’s never going to happen – but hope that somewhere out there is someone who truly is a friend of sinners. Can you give me that hope’” (10)?
Preaching the Law as if there is no Gospel says there is no hope for anyone who defends any sin. I can’t stand before God and defend my heterosexual lusting anymore than he can stand before God defending his homosexual lusting. But what about orientation? If we accept homosexual orientation we have no grounds for rejecting pedophile or bestial orientation.
Is there hope? Of course there is! Paul trumpets it in I Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” No more than the unrighteous, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, or swindlers can inherit eternal life can homosexuals. But the Gospel is that no one is bound to their sins by genes, by addiction, by fate, by chromosomes. Jesus living the perfect life we can’t, and dying the guilty death we should broke the bonds of not just Death, not just the Devil, but Sin too.
We have to repent of approaching this sin differently than we do all others. One, it is a very ancient sin. St. Augustine in the City of God says, “These effeminates, no later than yesterday, were going through the streets and places of Carthage with anointed hair, whitened faces, relaxed bodies, and feminine gait, exacting from the people the means of maintaining their ignominious lives” (VII, XXVI, I, NPNF, II, 137). Luther knew of this sin asking, “Whence comes this perversity? Undoubtedly from Satan, who, after people have once turned away from the fear of God, so powerfully suppresses nature that he blots out the natural desire and stirs up a desire that is contrary to nature” (LW 3 255). In some ways this is remarkably close to a conclusion reached by Jerry Satinover, M.D. in Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth and Adolf Koberle in The Quest for Holiness. Koberle, the Christian, speaks of how repeated sinning against one’s conscience leads to ever thickening chains to a sin so that one no longer regards it as sinful. Satinover, a psychiatrist, speaks of how a person by repeatedly doing something can change their “hardware,” so they regard deviant behavior as perfectly normal.
As far as the poor gay man or lesbian woman having no choice because they are made that way, the Marquis de Sade also believed that. Writing in the late 1700s he said, “Laws, morals, religions, paradises, hells, gods, and gallows, all will collapse when it is found that perversions are due to differences in blood, nerves, and organs, factors over which man has no determining voice” (Jurjevich, The Contemporary Faces of Satan, 275). Writing in the 80s when most think homosexuality was still in the closet, George Gilder said, “The most powerful tool of the homosexual culture is the myth that homosexuality is a fixed and immutable condition, like the color of one’s skin, is widely taught in sex-education programs, in secondary schools, and in college psychology and social science courses and endlessly repeated in all the media” (Men and Marriage, 73). The view of homosexuality accepted by the world ought not to be accepted let alone parroted by the church.
There are dissenting voices to popular culture’s universal acceptance of homosexuality and pitying of homosexuals. Professor George Reekers, at the time in the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina said that there was no such thing as a homosexual child (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 84). And James Nelsen exposes the concept of homosexual orientation for what it is. “Nowhere does the Bible say anything about homosexuality as a sexual orientation…Our understanding of homosexuality as a psychological orientation is a relatively recent development” (Embodiment, 181-182).
The last mentioned book was published by Augsburg Books in 1978, the ALC publishing house. In thirty years those in the ALC went from dismissing homosexuality as an orientation at all, let alone a legitimate one, to embracing and celebrating gay pastors and homosexuality. The second person down a slippery slope goes all the faster because the path is well worn. The second church goes faster still.
Associate Editors Note: The following was offered by Pastor Harris to clarify some concerns from commenters. I am posting it here since the comments have gone to multiple pages.
“Homosexual orientation is part and parcel of original sin; it’s out of the heart, so it’s in all of our hearts mine and yours included. But there is no such thing as homosexual orientation that is not sin, that can be excused by upbringing, genes, or even abuse. (No more than I can defend the beating of my child by the fact I was beaten by my father.) Same sex attraction has to be treated the same way that other-spouse attraction is treated. Sometimes it comes unbidden from the heart, i.e. the birds flying over our heads, and sometimes it is a sin of volition, i.e. we let them nest there and enjoy it. You willfully undress that spouse. I quoted the Augsburg book that said homosexuality as a psychological orientation is recent and the Bible says nothing about it. Homosexual orientation is the hill that homosexual activists must die on (N.B. I’m not saying our would be apologists is one of them.) because that makes it never a matter of choice which as I say in the article it can be and once it is and is accepted it is reinforced until the person really believes it is normal.
Of course, it’s also true we are all children of wrath by nature, i.e. by orientation. If a person can say that we’re all children of homosexuality by nature and therefore, as such we’re under His wrath, I would agree. But they only began to speak about homosexual orientation in order to distance it from homosexual acts. This in effect took homosexual orientation out from under the Law, and therefore, out from under the forgiveness of the Gospel which is the whole point of my piece. We are failing homosexuals because we are not letting the Law be Law and the Gospel be Gospel. It is St. Paul not me who said such “were some of you but you have been washed, you have been sanctified, etc.” I can say at one and the same time I am oriented toward other people’s spouse and I am not. Our possible apologists doesn’t seem to understand the simultaneous saint and sinner concept. The cure for sin is not changing behavior, but being forgiven. Change in behavior, I turn away from the other man’s spouse and look somewhere else, is a result of being forgiven. But no one wants to be forgiven for what they don’t believe is sin. I want to be forgiven for my orientation to other women other than my wife, of all my lusting heterosexual, homosexual, and asexual. I don’t want to be forgiven for being male, being bald, or being handsome.”