The following is a manuscript of my April 22, 2013 remarks to the City of Springfield Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
First of all, I want to thank the members of this Task Force for your service to the community. I think it is safe to say that we all desire the City of Springfield to prosper. My understanding is that I have been asked to address the Task Force both as the Lead Pastor of one of the larger congregations in the area, and to give voice from a theologically conservative viewpoint on the issue of the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance.
At the outset, let me make it clear that as followers of Christ we do not hate anyone. According to our faith and the teaching of the Bible, we would regard everyone in this room (myself included) as sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Furthermore, Christians should never persecute practicing homosexuals and Christians should support the prosecution of crimes against homosexuals. That being said, I think it is important to make the clear distinction when discussing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity that disagreement is NOT discrimination.
To address the issue of homosexuality from a biblical standpoint, we have to begin with God’s original design for human sexuality and relationship. This design is found in the book of Genesis where we have recorded for us the very creation of humanity. Reading from Genesis, “The Lord God said, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’ . . . the Lord God made a woman . . . and brought her to the man . . . For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:18,22,24-25, NIV).
That makes clear four foundational truths: 1st God created sexual identity; 2nd In creating sexual identity, God made human beings male and female. After Adam, a man was created, a suitable and appropriate mate was made for him and that mate was the woman Eve; 3rd There was sexual intimacy between the man and woman and; 4th God intended the expression of sexual intimacy to take place between a man and a woman within the context of marriage.
Masculinity and femininity are at the heart of God’s design and they form the basis for marriage. Both genders reflect God’s image, and in joining them together in marriage they complete one another in every conceivable way – emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Homosexual behavior, on the other hand, has typically departed from God’s blueprint in two foundational ways: instead of embracing the male-female design, homosexuality embraces a same sex preference as the basis for sexual intimacy. And, until recently, homosexuality departed from God’s intent for sexual intimacy by taking place outside the confines of marriage. (1)
Since the subject at hand is not gay marriage (though in the near future it may be coming to a Task Force near you), let me address what the Bible has to say about same sex – sexual intimacy.
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, the Bible says, “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin” (Leviticus 18:22, NLT). Then one chapter later, it adds: “If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent” (Leviticus 20:13, MSG).
The same principle is upheld in the New Testament book of Romans where the Bible says, “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies . . . Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men . . . .” (Romans 1:25-27, NLT).
There are other verses that speak directly to the issue of homosexuality, and while it is not my purpose to give an exhaustive listing of Bible verses that speak of homosexuality, it is important to note that the Bible clearly addresses the issue of homosexuality. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 writes, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were (NIV). Two of the four Gospel writers quote Jesus Christ affirming the male/female relational pattern established by God. In Matthew 19:4-5 we read, He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’?” (ESV).
If you want a thorough treatment of the topic, you would do well to read Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Professor, Dr. Robert Gagnon’s, 500 page text The Bible and Homosexual Practice. It is considered by people on both sides of the debate as the most thorough treatment of the subject. Once you have read his text, the conclusion remains: 1. God created human beings as male and female; 2. He meant for sexual intimacy to occur within the framework of a one male – one female marriage; 3. The Bible sees any departure from that design as outside of God’s will for our lives.
Whether a person accepts the Bible’s authority on the subject is another matter, but the Bible itself is quite clear. (2)
There are those who have embraced homosexuality who will say, “But this is who I am! It’s how I was made!” The train of thought goes something like this: “Why should I be condemned for following who I am?” or “God made me this way.”
To be sure, there are those who have same sex attraction but from a biblical perspective, homosexual orientation is no different than any other orientation a person might have toward a lifestyle that may be outside of God’s will. A person could have an orientation toward anger, chemical addiction, gambling, slander, stealing, pride, lying, etc. (3)
As Evangelicals, we believe that in Christ there is available a transformation that fundamentally changes a person and enables them to live a life that honors God by equipping them with power to overcome those desires that would lead to behavior that dishonors God, or by eradicating a particular desire altogether, which does not always happen, but in my 30 years of ministry has happened.
Finally, let me add that our passion as followers of Christ is reflective of the Father’s passion that people individually would flourish and that as a result the entire community might flourish.
There are present in the universe physical laws which if observed can benefit us individually and as a community. In the same way, God has designed the universe with moral laws which if observed can benefit an individual and the community. For example, we could say “being greedy and spending all of your money on yourself is not only bad for that person but for the community.” On the other hand, being generous is beneficial to an individual and the community in which they live. In the same way, homosexuality is not God’s original design for sexuality. Therefore, it’s not good for human flourishing and as followers of Christ we want to promote things that result in a flourishing city. (4)
In addition to what I have just stated, I have additional concerns with any ordinance that extends protection in employment to individuals based on sexual orientation/gender identity.
1st: It is an assault on the 1st Amendment rights of free exercise of religion and free speech.
Gay advocates will argue that: 1. Forcing businesses to hire homosexual and transgender employees; 2. Forcing religious groups to facilitate gay adoptions and; 3. Forcing parents to subject their kids to a homosexual curriculum does not burden the free exercise of religion because religion is merely a matter of what a person believes on the inside, that religion is a private matter and has nothing to do with outward practice.
But such an understanding of religion would be completely foreign to New Testament thought and theology. In his epistle, James writes that if a person has faith but no works, their faith is dead. The proof of a living internal faith is behavior that has put faith in action. To quote a children’s song from Sunday School, “If you’re saved and you know it then your life should surely show it.”
Christians may choose to hire homosexuals and transgender employees, but forcing them to do so puts them in a situation, in some instances, of tacitly endorsing behavior the Bible clearly denotes as sinful behavior or be charged with criminal wrongdoing.
For example, in Canada, a man was fined $3,400 for refusing to print stationary for a homosexual activist organization.(5) Last week, the ACLU and the State of Washington filed suit against a floral shop in Richland, WA for failing to provide floral arrangements for a gay wedding. (6)
2nd: This is part of an incremental strategy by the gay/lesbian lobby to indoctrinate society and promote the radical agenda of PROMO and their associates.
Emboldened by this Task Force’s acquiescence to PROMO and their associates on this issue, it won’t be long and the debate will turn to: forcing Christian children and their parents to endure a gay school curriculum, restricting what pastors can or cannot say in teaching the Bible (which has already happened in Canada) forcing religious organizations to assist in Gay adoptions, and cutting funding for Christian Higher Education.
Some may argue that no draft of the ordinance contemplated all of these points and while that may be true, it would be misleading to overlook the fact that the 2010 Strategic Plan of the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights does contemplate several of these points – along with: private informants (p.17), mandatory gay orientation classes for business owners (p.17), rainbow stickers (p.17-19), and criminal penalties for those who dissent on religious grounds. (7)
3rd: The sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance or one similar is not reflective of what the majority of Springfieldians want.
This Task Force was established because the Springfield City Council saw significant community reaction to the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance last August. While dialogue has been meaningful – I would urge you not to recommend an ordinance that is in any way similar to what has been presented; it is my opinion that such an ordinance does not reflect the values of the majority of voters in the City of Springfield.
Thank you for your time.
(1) Dr. James Emery White, Church and Culture Blog, Volume 7 Number(s) 58-64, July 2011.
(4) Timothy Keller, Veritas Forum at Columbia University, “What do Christians have against Homosexuality?” [8 of 11]
(5) Dr. James Dobson, Eleven Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage, Part 1 of 5.
(6) David Knowles, Washington state and the ACLU sue florist for refusing to sell flowers for gay wedding because of Christian beliefs, NYDailyNews.com.
(7) 2010 Strategic Plan of the Mayor’ s Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations, March 17, 2010.