One of the best discussions I’ve had in a long time happened on facebook over the weekend. It was a discussion about the ‘dreaded’ issue of Christianity, the church and LGBTQ sexual relations. The discussion started with my statement which was something like:
To the question “what is your position on LGBTQ?” I think the best answer (in these times) is “we have no position” The question itself misses the point of any other answer? Agree?
To which I got good fruitful pushback from all sides. I was “abnegating!” I was doing the equivalent of “standing aside and being silent during the civil rights movement.” “There is no neutral on this!” some said. (If you want to join me on FB you can do that here). From this discussion, I came away with 4 points that need clarifying as to how/why someone would say “we have no position.” To me these four points push us as Christians (no matter what sexual issues we are involved in at this time) towards a new posture towards alternative sexualities that opens doors for mission and God’s Kingdom to break in. Read and then tell me what you think?
1.) TO DECLARE A “POSITION” (PUBLICLY) FORECLOSES THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION. By taking a non-position in this question, we are not merely feigning neutrality. We are refusing to either single out a particular person’s sexual brokenness as an issue above others, or act like there is no sexual brokenness at all in any of us. In effect, we are rejecting what “taking a position” does. Instead, our position is that we ALL are in some way or another sexually broken and moving toward maturity in Christ and this means that we all submit our brokenness to the healing and reconciling work of Christ in the context of Christian community?” When we take “positions,” we buy into anti-relational conceptualizing distancing dynamics which thwart God’s Kingdom. By refusing to make an aprior judgment against anyone, we are in essence saying the only prejudgment is that we are all sexually broken and we come seeking redemption. And if you are sexually whole and have no need for redemption, you are blessed. But we, who are broken, come relationally as real people in real situations to submit together to what God is doing in and among us. This to me is the opening of space for God’s Kingdom to break in on any issue.
2.) TO DECLARE A POSITION (PUBLICALY) REINFORCES SEXUALITY AS AN IDENTITY MARKER. Taking a position on the LGBTQ issue, cements it as an identity marker, before anyone has even had a chance to discern that. It feeds the political ideological conditions that make possible making sexual orientation an identity. So, evangelicals who make public statements, about their position of not affirming LGBTQ relations, are in effect reinforcing what they deny. They lift LGBTQ as above other sexual issues, and make it the one issue. (I call this turning it into a Master Signifier). Likewise, the progressive Christians do the same when they lift up LGBTQ relations as a banner issue, ignoring all the other sexual issues of our time. They in essence do what evangelicals do. This works against God in Christ doing anything different among us and our sexual lives. In essence, by playing into the elevation of LGBTQ as a “position,” we cement the status quo firmly in place with all its antagonisms. The state of our sexual lives, including any and all sexual pathologies that may exist among us, is now static, unmoveable and firmly in place. We get no where. There is no open space for sexual redemption. On the other hand, to not take a position, in effect creates space for a whole new conversation, a space for a new dynamic (what I would seek as the Kingdom of God). Sadly, my guess is, neither side wants this.
3.) TAKING A “POSITION” CAN ONLY INFLAME THEREBY SEPARATING US FROM MISSION Posting one’s “position” (any position) as Christians to outsiders in a culture which does not understand who we are or why we do what we do is ‘communication-suicide.’ It can only be misunderstood as judgment and hate. Instead, we must have a compelling way of life, a richness to our sexual purposes, as displayed in a way of life (the way we marry and have children, and the way we incorporate singles into families) from which to speak to others about God’s redemptive work in sexuality. People in these post Christendom days in the West need to be on the inside to make sense of our thick descriptions of God’s sexual order. This means the church in the West must first cultivate our own sexual faithfulness as a way of life. For instance, Christians do not believe sex is for self-satisfaction or personal-fulfillment. It is for mutual self-giving and ultimate pro-creation. The fact that this does not make sense to the outsider (even in our own churches) means that the church must first live this, and then from this embodied witness, communicate it to people we come into contact with us who ask “what manner of life is this?” Again, we should focus on witness and refuse to take “positions.”
4.) IN MISSION, I ONLY USE THE WORD ‘PATHOLOGY” TO DESCRIBE MY OWN SEXUAL STUFF. When I am living and intersecting with real people, or discussing sexual issues, I do not discern sin in other people’s lives when I do not know these people, when I am not in relationship with them and I have not lived “with” them. I should refuse to take such “positions” mainly because a.) I do not even know these people, and b.) they do not even know what I might mean by the word “sin” even if I did know them. Instead, I will only name sexual pathologies of my own life. I will testify of my own story of redemption. This is “witness.” I also will commit to sitting with people in my own Christian community whom I know and love, who share somewhat in the language and story of Christ, and can participate with me in the naming of sexual “pathologies” when we gather to mutually submit to the Spirit in prayer. This is good and important work, the inbreaking of the Kingdom as well. But here we have the language and posture to receive the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in His Kingdom. Other than these situations, I refuse to name other people’s sin. This kind of work comes only after being “with” people.
For all these reasons, when I am asked “What is your position on LGBTQ sexual relations?” I respond by saying “I don’t have one.” What say you?
P.S. This is the kind of contextual theological work we’re going to be doing a lot of at Missio Alliance. Join us in April?