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Bolt the Closet Door Shut

January 25, 2009

Andrew Sullivan on the further revelations of Ted Haggard’s secret life:

“At some point, surely evangelical Christians will have to ask themselves: are we going to continue to demonize homosexuality to such an extent that even our ablest preachers and leaders are led into destructive, secret and often abusive relationships because we cannot allow them to pursue open and honest and loving ones?”

The whole thing that I find increasingly troublesome is that the way in which too many churches deal with homosexuality in their leadership ends up making things worse – paying hush money in this case looks a lot like bribery. In spite of everything that might get written or preached on the matter, in spite of every group trying to “cure” homosexuality, a small part of the population stubbornly remains gay. What options does the church offer? Pretend to be straight? Pretend to be asexual?

What if you were a pastor and a committed gay couple came to your church? Are you supposed to tell them to break up and each try really hard to find a straight relationship that works just as well?

Here’s another idea: what if evangelical churches treated gossip like they treated homosexuality? Don’t bother showing up until you have that fixed. The pews would be empty – I know I couldn’t attend. It’s easy to demonize something you know only affects 3-10% of the population.

There has to be a better way.

41 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2009 7:23 am

    Well, gossip is perhaps not the best example. It is a difficult to determine when it has been committed, and it perhaps not as heinous as other crimes. Three (RSV) or four times (NIV) gossip is condemned in the NT, while not really defining it; in certain cases it seems related to or the equivalent of slander (3 John 10 [NIV]; Rom 1.29; 2 Cor 12.20). Gordon Fee relates the women gossips in 1 Tim 5.13 to the more serious ad hoc situation of spreading false teaching in the church. If gossip is merely small town stuff of passing information to people who are not in a “need to know”, it is perhaps harmless enough. If it is a confidence betrayal (Proverbs 20.19 puts the burden on the one giving the confidence not to speak to a gossip), that’s more serious. But if it is a malicious attempt to destroy a person’s reputation, then it is serious, and probably closer to other serious sins, like murder, and I would agree with you. But I do not find this kind of malicious, slanderous gossip rampant and tolerated in the church, even though I have been a victim of it; in any case, one of the brothers who committed it against me is now restored to me.

    We should probably take seriously Romans 1 which refers to homosexuality as a sign of progressive alienation from God. Your argument would perhaps be more valid if you said the sins of stealing or adultery would not be tolerated in the church. Or even slander. Slander has the potential to destroy a person’s reputation and create great division. Paul tells liars and thieves to desist (Eph. 4.25f.).

    I remember Dr. Douglas Farrow paper at the Essentials conference in Ottawa a few years back. His anger was directed not at the expectation of tolerance of active homosexuals in the church but at the expectation that the church must bless what the Bible names as sin. So I ask, Do adulterers come into the church and say, “Bless our adultery” ? (I guess it depends on your stance on divorce). Or do murders say in the church, “I am a murder. It’s just part of who I am. You must bless it and call it holy” ? Or what about the kleptomaniac? But homosexuals and their lobby have made serious efforts to enforce not merely tolerance but approval of their lifestyle.

    I agree that the doors of the church should be open to homosexuals like other sinners are welcome. I don’t think that the answer is that they must start straight relationships–but that they must embrace the teachings of the church at baptism, yes.

  2. poserorprophet permalink
    January 27, 2009 11:25 am


    I seem to remember offering a better way at one point on this blog…

  3. January 27, 2009 3:05 pm


    I understand the concerns raised in Romans 1 but the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I see as legitimate the objection there was nothing in first century Rome that resembled a committed, monogamous gay relationship.

    Partly this is a response to seeing happy, healthy gay couples around me all the time. I can point to a thief and say how this person is causing hurt, I can point to an adulterer and say how this person is causing hurt, I can study first century pederasty and understand how it caused hurt and why Paul would write against it. I cannot say the same about a loving same-sex couple.

    This is the basis for my belief that the state should allow for civil marriage to be extended gay and lesbian couples. Having more of an understanding of history and politics than of theology I’ve sort of let the question be when it comes to the role of the church in all this. It’s a question that has to be answered though, we can’t pull an Ahmadinejad and pretend that there are no gays around us. Too many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are driven away from the church.

  4. January 27, 2009 9:36 pm


    Any way forward is going to be extremely difficult. This issue is probably the most divisive one in the church since Luther nailed up his 95 theses. I believe that there is good will and sincerity on all sides – and sadly there is suspicion and recrimination all sides. What we choose to respond to in ourselves and in others is going to be vital for the church(es) to survive intact.

  5. January 28, 2009 9:08 pm

    If this is the issue that is the most divisive one since Luther’s theses, and if it is our response to this issue that is vital for the Church’s survival, then the Church is already dead and hopeless. Regardless of what side you take on this issue, only a Church that has lost her way would allow this issue to become so vital and central. So, when that is the case, no matter how the matter gets resolved, the Church is still a write-off.

    That’s my suspicion.

  6. January 29, 2009 12:12 am

    I know, I sort of thought about that line before I wrote it, and yet empirically I see many mainline churches (that have accommodated broad differences in theology) dividing on the matter. By any credible definition this is a schism.

    It’s sort of weird that this is a topic that is not central to Christianity like, say, a doctrine about the trinity or the Eucharist or something. I’ve wondered about this before:

  7. January 29, 2009 9:19 am

    Well obviously I’m going to disagree here.

    First off the mention of Luther’s 95 theses is ironic because the first one is that the whole of a Christian’s life is to be one of repentance from sin. To not practice repentance is to deny an aspect of the gospel. And this is why this issue ought to be important – to approve of homosexuality is to deny that it is something that needs to be repented of. Paul warns the Corinthians that those who unrepentantly practice homosexuality will go to hell (1 Cor. 6:9-11). I’d say that’s something worth fighting about, no?

    If the gospel is central to Christianity (which it is), then encouraging activities which amount to a denial of the gospel is a topic that is, albeit indirectly, central to Christianity.

  8. January 29, 2009 11:40 am

    I just reread the last comment and it had a snippy tone to it – didn’t intend on it.

    And before somebody says something, I know Paul talks about other sins in 1 Cor. 6. Obviously those need to be dealt with as well … including gossip.

  9. January 29, 2009 12:27 pm

    Dan wrote: “I can study first century pederasty and understand how it caused hurt.”
    Dan wrote: “I understand the concerns raised in Romans 1 but the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I see as legitimate the objection there was nothing in first century Rome that resembled a committed, monogamous gay relationship.”

    It is interesting that Brooks should bring up 1 Cor 6.9-11; it is worthy of note in light of this conversation that the terms malakoi and arsenokoitai refer to the passive and active roles in the homosexual relationship respectively. That means that Paul condoned neither the person giving (an adult, usually a slave owner) nor person receiving (a male prostitute, a boy and/or slave). Thus, he doesn’t allow for exceptions either in the case of slaves nor of children, who would have been coerced to one degree or another into the relationship. If he provides no excuse for a victim (a malakos) of 1st century homosexuality, how much less would he condone a happy and healthy monogamous couple? Moreover, it is not legitimate to interpret Romans 1 in a way which would condone today’s wholesome couples, as though such couples didn’t exist in Paul’s day. Where is the proof of that? There were such couples in antiquity–at least quasi-monogamous, happy, healthy couples in antiquity and in Paul’s day.

  10. poserorprophet permalink
    January 29, 2009 3:18 pm


    Yes, I’m not denying that this issue has the potential to produce a schism and all that… I’m just saying that the very fact that it can produce a schism points to how lost our Church already is.


    I highly doubt that you actually accept your own argument. All of us have sins in our lives that we practice unrepentantly, so even if one accepts what you say about homosexuality (which, of course, I don’t), we would be stuck fighting everybody else to the death on a whole shitload of issues (because it’s easier to identify another person’s impenitence than it is to admit to our own blind spots). The fact that this is not the case — that we will go balls out on homosexuality, but live unrepentantly self-absorbed lives of privilege, and so on — simply reinforces my point regarding the deadness of much of the contemporary Western Church.

    P. W. Dunn,

    Knowing a couple of Greek words doesn’t make your position any less ignorant than it appears to be. Sad but true. Take some time to explore Dan’s point in a little more detail. You might be surprised at what you learn.

  11. January 29, 2009 4:35 pm

    Dan (i.e., poserorprophet Dan):
    I would be happy to examine anything presented as evidence. But I am not the one basing statements on ignorance at this point. Dan apparently believes that Paul would not have condemned the wholesome homosexuals of our day based upon the lack of a that kind of relationship in antiquity. I presented an “a fortiori” exegetical argument to show that there’s no basis for that kind of leniency in Paul’s letters. It is not good to resort to an ad hominem argument. From Wikipedia, s.v., “ad hominem”: “Ad hominem argument … consists of criticizing or attacking the person who proposed the argument (personal attack) in an attempt to discredit the argument. It is also used when an opponent is unable to find fault with an argument, yet for various reasons, the opponent disagrees with it.” You should try to raise the level of your rhetoric, if only because it would help you to be more persuasive. I suggest rather than calling me ignorant, present evidence or arguments to counter my point.
    You used another ad hominem argument against Brooks’ point–again from Wikipedia: “Ad hominem tu quoque (lit: Also to you!) refers to a claim that the source making the argument has spoken or acted in a way inconsistent with the argument. In particular, if Source A criticizes the actions of Source B, a tu quoque response is that Source A has acted in the same way.” Thus, you wrote, “I highly doubt that you actually accept your own argument. All of us have sins in our lives that we practice unrepentantly.” We do have sin in our lives, to be sure, but we come to church weekly and we confess those sins, and we ask God to reveal the ones that we don’t know about. As I said above, the schism over homosexuality is that the church is being asked to bless what the Bible calls sin. The rest of us are not coming to church and saying “bless my sins”. But the homosexual lobby insists that their behavior is not sinful, and further they want priests to bless them, and then they want to marginalize everyone who will not accept their agenda.

  12. January 29, 2009 7:14 pm


    Apropos the repentance from sin: My original post was about how the current approach to homosexuality in the church causes a great deal of sin. Lies, cover-ups, bribes, adultery, prostitution – these things seem to go hand-in-hand with the closet.

    To suggest that the choice is between a path that is sinful and one that is not is false.


    I have no idea what Paul would have said about things today. All I’m saying is that what constituted the majority same-sex relationships in his time does not resemble what I see in the gay and lesbian couples I encounter in my life.

  13. January 29, 2009 7:36 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. I still wonder why it should make any difference to Christians who view the Bible as authoritative? If Paul condemned only the exploiter, then perhaps we could say that consensual relations are not condemned, since it would be the sexual exploitation which is the sin. But he disapproves of both the exploiters (arsenokoitai) and the exploited (malakoi). Thus, this seems to leave no room to say that the activity itself is neutral.

  14. January 30, 2009 12:27 am


    Well, if you are honestly looking for further evidence, I strongly recommend that you begin by reading Foucault’s “History of Sexuality”. With him in mind, it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more going in in the texts than the question of exploitation — which is a good point to explore but one that doesn’t cut to the heart of the difference between homosexuality as it was practised in the first century and homosexuality as it is practised by some Christians today. This is so because, as Foucault shows us, constructing sexual identites is one of the functions of political and economic forces. Sexuality is something socially construed — an artificial overcoding, if you will — and so it becomes apparent that whatever ‘homosexuality’ did or did not exist in Paul’s day, cannot possibly be the same as the homosexuality that exists in our day.

    Also, I would encourage you to read a little more carefully… I never called you ignorant; rather, I suggested that your position on this issue was one of ignorance (although I might also add that citing Wikipedia isn’t helping your case any… or raising the level of pretty much anything!). Of course, I realise that the important distinction I’ve just drawn doesn’t make you any more likely to convert to my (biblical!) position on this issue. But that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to persuade you to study this issue more, and I’m not trying to persuade you to agree with me — I’ll leave that sort of persuasion up to the Spirit. Lord knows, it pretty much takes a road to Damascus experience to convince a Conservative of these things… and that’s certainly more than I can offer in a blog comment.

    Finally, as a further proof of the need to read more carefully, let me point out the you’ve misunderstood what I was saying to Keith. I was saying that all of us have sins in our lives that, far from confessing, we want others to bless. So, yes, the rest of us are coming to Church and saying “bless my sins!” everytime that we ask the Church to allow us to be both Christian and respectably middle-class, everytime we come to Church in an extra pair of shoes (which the Church Fathers remind us belong to the poor), everytime we look at porno and don’t confess that to our spouse or our community of faith, everytime we come to Church and require our pastors not to speak out about the evils of all wars, and so on and so forth.

  15. January 30, 2009 9:47 pm

    This rebuttal is hardly less condescending. You continue with unveiled pretentiousness by disparaging my ignorance because I cite Wikipedia. This too is ad hominem, for you critique me again, not because of my argument or my evidence, but because of a source I used to help explain your failed rhetoric.

    Your attempt at parsing words, “I never called you ignorant; rather, I suggested that your position on this issue was one of ignorance” is a clever but unpersuasive evasion of your ad hominem attack which you began by belittling my limited knowledge of Greek: “Knowing a couple of Greek words doesn’t make your position any less ignorant than it appears to be.” I did in fact carefully read what you wrote.

    When dealing with primary texts (Pauline letters), a secondary source (Foucault) does not constitute evidence. “With him in mind, it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more going in the texts than the question of exploitation.” I suppose these “texts” are primary texts. Can you tell me what these primary texts are and explain why they should change my mind? Or are you referring only to the Pauline epistles? Now, from your summary, I would venture that Foucault’s studies on sexuality would serve to confuse rather than to clarify the meaning of Paul’s letters for the church today. Not that I object to reading him sometime in the future when I have an opportunity. It would however be my tendency to read Foucault with a Pauline lens, rather than Paul with a Foucauldian lens.

    Since when was being part of the respectable middle class a sin? That particular sin does not apply to me, at least not by Barack Obama’s definition of the middle class. Yet for now, none of my things, not even my extra pairs of shoes, belong to the poor. You cite the Church Fathers; that is too general. Which Fathers say that and where do they say it? And why would their statements about what is a sin be relevant if what Paul says about sin is irrelevant?

  16. January 31, 2009 3:17 am


    Sorry. My comment was directed towards your comments, not the original post.

    Poser or Prophet,

    Steve Wiebe says to say hi and to give him a call.


  17. poserorprophet permalink
    January 31, 2009 9:50 am


    I wasn’t parsing words, I was explaining to you that I actually did mean exactly what I wrote. However, seeing as you remain unconvinced and wish to read another meaning into my words (which seems inconsistent with your apparent preference for plain readings of Paul), let me say that I’m sure that you are not an ignorant person — in fact, I’ve been assuming that you are intelligent and well-intentioned… albeit ignorant (and therefore harmful) in this particular area. But, then again, that’s a flaw common to most intellectuals, isn’t it? We tend to think our ability to argue well, and think more rapidly than others, means that we actually know a lot more about a lot of things that we know nothing about. It’s okay, I’ve done it before, too. We all have.

    Now then, I do find it amusing that you ask for further evidence and then downplay Foucault because he is a secondary source. Do I really need to point out that anything I recommend would be a secondary source, given that I don’t have access to some secret primary Pauline sources?

    However, suggesting that Foucault would only confuse this issue, makes me suspect that you are entrenching yourself within an ignorant position, rather than genuinely exploring the issue of sexuality. I mean, granted, read Foucault through the lens of Paul (although I should quickly point out that no one of us has access to pure Pauline lenses; rather, all of us operate with particular readings of Paul, which results in many different Pauls, and many different Pauline lenses), but read Foucault nonetheless! It’s not as if Paul has the last word on every subject under the sun. I mean, that I know what Paul says about material goods and possessions doesn’t make me think that there is no point in reading contemporary political economists. Or, again, because I know what Paul wrote about his interaction with the society of his day, doesn’t mean that I avoid reading any contemporary social theorists.

    Indeed, on matters of sexuality, and same-sex sexual relations, it seems particularly important to read other voices than Paul’s if we are to begin to get our minds around what is and is not at stake here. Paul, after all, fairly acritically adopts the majority view of his day when he assumes that same-sex sexual relations are unnatural… just like he assumes that men having long hair is unnatural (which should maybe make us stop and go, ‘hmmmm… wait a second here….’). Of course, as Foucault would remind us, such assumptions fit well with the ways in which sexual identities were socially constructed in Paul’s day, but it doesn’t mean that we need to continue to make those assumptions today… especially given that (as others have pointed out) changes in society have also resulted in radical changes in what constitutes sexuality.

    Finally, regarding the Church Fathers (who, IMO, should never be mentioned in the same paragraph as Barack Obama… well, except for Augustine maybe, since he was also kind of a douche), quotations like the one I mentioned are so numerous that it would be too tedious for me to type them all out here. Again, if you are genuinely interested in pursuing that issue, I strongly recommend Faith & Wealth by Justo Gonzalez. I’m sure he can satisfy you on this point.

    Oh, and to be clear, I do think that what Paul says about sin is quite relevant, so don’t make me run off to Wikipedia in order to explain to you what a “straw man” argument is!

    I remain, condescendingly yours,


    Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t belittling your knowledge of Greek in my prior remark — I was actually assuming you know Greek quite well. Thus, in my comment I was suggesting that knowing Greek does not a priori mean one has a firm grasp of the topic under discussion.

  18. January 31, 2009 10:57 am

    Thanks for the clarifications.

    I am not an intellectual and I think slowly.

    It is offensive that you can sum up one of the most esteemed theologians of all time as a “kind of a douche”. I am no a fan of Barak Obama, but I would also avoid call him a “kind of a douche” in public forum.

    You seem reluctant to cite or to discuss primary sources. If you can’t cite them all, please cite a few which would be illustrative of your points. I would like to give you another opportunity to cite for me at least one Church Father who said that a second pair shoes belongs to the poor.

    You wrote: “Now then, I do find it amusing that you ask for further evidence and then downplay Foucault because he is a secondary source. Do I really need to point out that anything I recommend would be a secondary source, given that I don’t have access to some secret primary Pauline sources?” Who is talking about secret sources? I am using primary sources to refer to Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies (see Craig Evans’ primer). These can be summed up as (not meant to be an exhaustive list) Roman-Greco literature (i.e., the classics), non-literary papyri, Philo and Josephus, the Rabbinical literature, Dead Sea Scrolls, the Church Fathers, the Old Testament pseudepigrapha and apocrypha, Christian apocryphal literature, the Nag Hamm1adi Library (and other gnostic sources), inscriptions and other archeological sources, and last but not least the Old Testament.

    I am glad to hear that you believe that a discussion of Paul’s view of sin is germane to the discussion at hand. Yet from what I can glean in your view Paul was really only just a product of his time, and therefore, without Foucault’s help, we can’t see that he was wrong to think that homosexuality was unnatural. I however not only disagree with Foucault as you have summarized his views, but I would insist that he represents only a man’s opinion, and that we are trying to interpret Scripture, whose meaning takes priority over any merely human texts. So if you are unable to discuss Paul for his own sake, or from primary sources which would illustrate the meaning of Paul’s texts, then I reject your interpretation. I am constrained to do so. Because we try to follow the Rule of Faith which was taught by Jesus and the apostles, which has been passed on from generation to generation in the church. And for that we are in no need of human philosophers.

    Ignorantly yours,

  19. poserorprophet permalink
    January 31, 2009 8:44 pm


    To be clear (again… my apologies for having to continually explain myself), I use the term ‘intellectual’ as a term related to a person’s class status, not as a comment on how smart a person is or is not. Thus, if I’ve followed the blog links correctly, I understand that you’ve earned a PhD (at Cambridge?) in a fairly esoteric area of the NT apocrypha, and are now a professor. This, I believe, qualifies you as an intellectual in the class-related sense. For, as Chomsky once said:

    People are called intellectuals because they’re privileged. It’s not because they’re smart or they know a lot. There are plenty of people who know more and are smarter but aren’t intellectuals because they don’t have privilege.

    It is in this sense that I refer to people like you and I as intellectuals.

    Regarding primary sources and secondary sources, I think we’re talking passed each other. I understand the primary Pauline sources to be the actual letters of Paul. Secondary sources would be anything else that sheds light on Paul — The Deutero-Pauline Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, the NT acocryphal writings that you know so well, and the other secondary sources you mention. Granted, the closer a source is to Paul, the greater privilege it receives… at least when it comes to understanding Paul himself (thus, for example, the Acts of the Apostles sheds more light onto Paul than, say, Foucault does), but this is not necessarily the cause when it comes to understanding the topics Paul addresses. Thus, for example, simply because I understand what Paul said about Church/State issues, does not mean I am adequately equipped to negotiate Church/State issues today. In order to do that, I must exegete my own context and situation with just as much precision and care as I exegete Paul’s epistles (alas, this crucial aspect of hermeneutics is altogether too neglected in contemporary biblical studies). Thus, it takes incredible naivete or blatant indifference to suggest that all we need for proper understanding and praxis is ‘The Rule of Faith’ taught by Jesus, the apostles, and the past generations of the Church. This is so for two reasons: (1) it is hard to find such a monolithic Rule based upon our exegesis of the NT and upon study of the history of Christianity; and (2) we need to listen to other (philosophical, economic, political, etc.) voices so that we understand the times we are in, and how the times have developed since the days of Jesus and the apostles.

    This, of course, leads us back to the value of a study like Foucault’s on sexuality. In this regard, I am not surprised to hear that you disagree with Foucault, but this is because I have presented you with one of his conclusions, but not with the arguments that lead to this conclusion. Any of us are inclined to disagree with matters that are presented in this way so, once again, I say read Foucault!

    Turning then to Paul’s view of sin, it is altogether too easy to say either that “Paul was really just a product of his time” (which is not my position) or “Paul was not at all a product of his time” (which is what your position risks becoming). The truth is the Paul, like everyone else who has ever lived, is a product of his time, but that he is not only a product of his time. The trick for the contemporary exegete is how we negotiate this reality.

    Finally, here are a few quotations from the Fathers. From Basil the Great’s Hom. in divites:

    Who is a miser? One who is not content with what is needful. Who is a thief? One who takes what belongs to others. Why do you not consider yourself a miser and a thief when you claim as your own what you received in trust? If one wo takes the clothing off another is called a thief, why give any other name to one who can clothe the naked and refuses to do so? The bread that you withhold belongs to the poor; the cape that you hide in your chest belongs to the naked; the shoes rotting in your house belong to those who must go unshod.

    Basil isn’t saying anything extraordinary in this regard — what he says is consistent with the attitude taken by the earlier Fathers regarding the twin issues of private property and the poverty of others.

    Thus, continuing this tradition, here is a quotation from Ambrose of Milan’s De Nabuthe Jez.:

    When you give to the poor, you give not of your own, but simply return what is his, for you have usurped that which is common and has been given for the common use of all.

    Again, from John Chrysostom’s De Lazaro:

    not to give part of what one has is in itself an act of theft… The rich have that which belongs to the poor.

    And from his Hom. in Rom.:

    ‘But,’ saith one, ‘I have given.’ But thou oughtest not to leave off so doing. For then only wilt thou have an excuse, when thou hast not what [to give], when thou possessest nothing; but so long as thou hast, (although thou have given to ten thousand) and there be others hungering, there is no excuse for thee.

    I remain, kind of a douche,


  20. January 31, 2009 11:28 pm

    My wife says I am not an intellectual and that settles the issue for me.

    Thanks for that collection of citations from the Church Fathers. Remember in the future to include reference numbers.

    There are actually very few people in the world anymore who do not have clothing, thanks to advance technology in the making of clothes. I have never met anyone in the US, Canada, or Europe who had no clothes. I have seen people in Africa with few clothes and no shoes. Most of the unclothed in Africa are insane, and that is the way that the insane person is in Africa–he walks around with next to no clothes. I have been with the pygmies, the last people on earth to receive clothing, who gave me a gift: cloth. It would have been an insult refuse their generosity. I have taken several suitcases of my clothes to Africa and given them away, so that some of my friends there can come under the disapprobation of Basil the Great, because they now have extra shoes that they don’t need. The Chinese are also selling cheap clothing in the market places in some of the poorest nations on earth, and thus sowing Patristic condemnation to the masses.

    All this to say that the context is materially different today than in the ancient world, when clothes were more difficult to procure because they were not mass produced.

    But human sexuality has not changed. We still procreate children through heterosexual unions, and these children are most suitably brought up in the context of a family. The Genesis story is still profoundly insightful. And homosexuality is still problematic.

  21. poserorprophet permalink
    February 1, 2009 1:41 am

    Voila! I offer Peter’s last remark regarding possessions and poverty as conclusive proof that the rest of us, despite our best intentions, continue to go to Church saying, “Bless my sins!”

    And again with the entrenchment of ignorance… unless you study the history of sexuality, how can you know whether or not it is changed? Facile observations about the production of children aren’t helpful (as they simply refer to the consequence of a certain sexual act, and don’t help us with understanding sexual identities — although I agree that families, at least good families, are very beneficial to children… which is why I’m all for having gay couples adopt… but I digress). Superficial readings of Genesis are also unhelpful — as I have tried to demonstrate here:

    Discussed further, here:

    And I’ve added some remarks about why what Paul says in Ro 1 is problematical, here:

    For earlier reflections on this topic, when I first came out of the closet on this issue, see here:

    And now, methinks that is enough.

    I remain, amused and unconvinced of the need to provide full citations on blog threads that are not being prepared for publication,


    • May 8, 2009 11:56 am

      Voila! I offer Peter’s last remark regarding possessions and poverty as conclusive proof that the rest of us, despite our best intentions, continue to go to Church saying, “Bless my sins!”

      My friend Bennet, to whom I gave a pair of shoes (New Balance runners that were not right for me) in 2006, says to me today:

      Bennet says: I am still wearing that. As I am writing to you, I have it on my feet right now.
      P. W. Dunn says: Wow. Do you have another pair of shoes?
      Bennet says: Not at all. With our financial difficulties, I can’t afford one. I fix old ones and just use them like that. I have one that I bought when I was a student at FATEB with the scholarship. That is the one I use on Sundays and if it wants to tire I make it fixed. That sport shoe I use only sometimes that is why it is still but it has started to go as well.

  22. February 1, 2009 5:26 pm

    “Voila! I offer Peter’s last remark regarding possessions and poverty as conclusive proof that the rest of us, despite our best intentions, continue to go to Church saying, “Bless my sins!””

    I don’t see how my remarks would prove that point. Perhaps you can explain.

    I looked at some of your other posts on other blogs–pretty unconvincing if you ask me; I think it is an uphill climb to try to convince Christians that Paul’s letters, among other passages of Scripture, don’t teach us to abstain from homosexuality. Why not just admit that you don’t consider Paul letters relevant or authoritative for the Christian life. That would be easier to do than trying to say that Paul’s texts means the opposite of what they say.

  23. poserorprophet permalink
    February 1, 2009 6:50 pm

    Yes, yes… it was also an uphill climb to convince Christians that the bible doesn’t support the abuse of women, and an uphill climb to convince Christians that slavery was not condoned by the Bible, and an uphill climb to convince Christians to prioritise the experiences of the poor and the oppressed. So it goes. We climb on.

    Granted there are many easier ways offered to us, but who said following Jesus was easy? Jesus certainly didn’t say that (in fact, I believe that he said the opposite). Speaking of Jesus, didn’t he face an uphill climb when dealing with the people of God in his day? Oh, and didn’t the prophets as well? And the apostles? Yes, yes, and yes. Uphill climbs shouldn’t surprise us.

    And again with the straw man. Perhaps you will be less confused by my position if you read my latest post on how I understand the bible (cf. — to the editors of this blog, my apologies for posting so many links in the comments, I normally try to avoid doing this). Hopefully that post makes it clear to you that I consider Paul to be both relevant and authoritative (albeit not superhuman or infallible… that is to say, I consider Paul to be both inspired but human).

    And now, I’m really done. Grace and peace to you and yours,


  24. February 1, 2009 10:20 pm

    my apologies for posting so many links in the comments, I normally try to avoid doing this

    No worries, Dan. Whatever it takes to have a good discussion is cool with me 🙂

  25. February 2, 2009 9:39 am

    Straw man: You have set aside Paul’s teaching on homosexuality as not applicable to our context because he did not understand the contemporary practice. Your own moralistic teachings take precedence over Paul as you exegete your context in the light of Foucault. I am not guilty of a straw man argument, but rather of reductio ad absurdum. You have fallen into an inherently self-contradictory position in which the Bible is both relevant and irrelevant, authoritative and not authoritative; in which selective teachings of the Church Fathers take on more weight than Paul’s teaching on sexuality (but we won’t cite their views on sexuality, will we?); in which your own self-important and sophistic explanations of Scripture set aside millennia of Christian teaching (sound didascalia–cf. 1 Tim 1.10), not to mention the weight of opinion in the international church of our own time; and in which all who disagree with you are entrenched in their ignorance.

    It is not an uphill climb because you are fighting for a just cause but because your position so clearly contradicts Scripture. I would think that the vast majority of Christians understand that the Scriptural and historical tradition carries more weight than a self-proclaimed intellectual.

  26. February 2, 2009 11:06 am

    By the way, I meant “Strawman” to be a subject heading; it is not a reference to Dan, poserorprophet.

  27. poserorprophet permalink
    February 3, 2009 4:24 pm


    While I had told myself I would no longer be dragged into this conversation, you’ve engaged in such a blatant misreading of me, that I find myself jumping back in once again.

    Let’s pick up on what you say about me as a ‘self-proclaimed intellectual’. Yes, I did use that term to describe the two of us, but I used it as a marker related to a person’s socio-economic class status. To be called an ‘intellectual’ is to signal a certain degree of wealth, official education, and privilege. Thus, despite what your wife says, by this definition, you and I both fall within this category.

    But, here’s the thing: given that I think that Christianity calls us into a mutually liberating solidarity with the poor and the marginalised, the title ‘intellectual’ (understood in the sense that I have now described for the second time) is not a great one to have. Thus, I use it for myself as an act of public confession. To be marked as an intellectual, is a mark of shame, not honour.

    I don’t know why you persist in making me say things I didn’t actually say, or why you persist in misreading me. It kind of scares me to think that you might actually respond to your students in this way as well. (However, it does help to clarify for me why you have trouble reading the bible outside of your pre-established paradigm!)

    And now, I promise I’m out. You can take and twist my words anyway you want… I’m not going to bother responding. I’ll trust that the reader will be able to discern when you are doing this.

    I remain, perhaps in mutual amazement, your brother,


  28. February 3, 2009 5:13 pm

    I am beginning to see the light: your self-designation as an intellectual is a mark of your humility. Then I suppose my refusal of this badge of dishonour is haughtiness.

  29. February 22, 2009 7:52 pm

    Given that 3-5% of population is gay, I’d still be more worried about global warming and/or nuclear war.


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