Recently, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a panel discussion on Race in America. Listen as Maliek Blade, Mike Lawson, Walter Strickland, Danny Akin, Dwayne Milioni, and Jerome Gay speak on the current state of racial tension in America and how we’re to approach that with the Gospel.
By: Brad Hambrick
In the six paragraphs below I want to introduce you to the kind of questions that are addressed in the six chapters of my upcoming book Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. Through the content represented in the six chapter summaries below, I hope to equip the church to be a place where testimonies like the ones below become increasingly frequent.
- An individual who embraces a gay identity could say, “I have friends who are Christians and disagree with my chosen lifestyle but love me well. I believe they would gladly help me if I had a need.”
- A teenager who is beginning to experience SSA could say, “I have Christian friends who understand what I’m facing and care enough to help me think through this confusing experience.”
- Parents of a child who is experimenting with homosexual behaviors could say, “Our small group cared for us well and helped us think through how to love our son. It was surprising how safe we felt to wrestle with the questions we were facing.”
- An individual who was considering leaving the gay lifestyle could say, “The Christians that I knew while I was openly gay were a big part of the reason I may choose to pursue what I now believe to be God’s design for sexuality.”
If these statements represent the way you think conversations about homosexuality should be had in the church, I believe you’ll find Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk to be a helpful resource.
Chapter One: “Language, Stigma, and Expectations” What is the difference between the experience of same sex attraction, the engagement in homosexual behavior, and the embracing of a gay identity? How do these categories help Christians speak from a conservative sexual ethic without shutting down conversation? What are the terms and forms of logic that immediately designate us “unsafe” for those who experience SSA? What are healthy, realistic expectations in a voluntary conversation when two people have a vested interest in conflicting value systems? How can the church be a safe place for these conversations, so that “coming out” after 10+ years of silence is not the only way to let people know what you’re experiencing?
Chapter Two: “Being Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” Talking about sex is awkward enough. If we inadvertently believe that Romans 1 is the only road to homosexuality (i.e., progressive sexual depravity), then we respond to individuals who experience SSA as if they were the equivalent of sex addicts and pedophiles. Our ignorance of the SSA experience heightens the awkwardness of these conversations and increases the likelihood we will be inadvertently offensive. This chapter examines the common internal obstacles to being a mature, informed participant in conversations with friends or family members who experience SSA.
Chapter Three: “Getting to Know the Experience of SSA” What is it like to realize that your experience of romantic attraction is different from most people? What are the common markers in the journey of individuals who experience SSA and what emotions accompany them? What is it like to “know” that your attractions cannot be talked about “at church” but other people’s can? How would that dynamic influence your experience of Christianity and culture in general? An appreciation for these questions (not necessarily agreement with your friend’s conclusions) is vital to being a good friend.
Chapter Four: “Getting to Know the Person Experiencing SSA” An appreciation for chapter three does not constitute the knowledge of any given individual. Knowledge about a subject without knowledge of a person is debate-prep more than relationship; it aims at winning an argument more than influencing a person. This chapter will provide good questions to ask based upon the content of chapter three and give guidance on how not to reduce an individual to their sense of attraction as the subject comes to the forefront of conversation.
Chapter Five: “Winning an Argument vs. Influencing a Friend” A cliché or gotcha line never transformed anyone’s sexuality. They get applause from those who agree with you and disdain from those who don’t; they polarize. What should be our tone and emphasis when discussing biblical passages on homosexuality? How early in a relationship do I need to bring up these passages in order to be a faithful Christian? Is it profitable to discuss things like research biases in genetic findings related to homosexuality? If so, how, when, and for what purpose? At what point does protecting a friendship for the sake of influence become moral compromise?
Chapter Six: “Navigating Difficult Conversations” Would you go to my wedding? Should my parents allow me and my partner to come over for Christmas? Am I not supposed to be hurt by Christians who say things you deem to be true, but say them in attacking-demeaning ways? If I do not experience any, or very limited, opposite attraction do I have to remain celibate my entire life to be a Christian? These and other subjects are addressed through an annotated dialogue that helps the reader think through what it would be like to have conversations about what they’ve read with someone who experiences same sex attraction.
Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.), is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church, Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Council Member for The Biblical Counseling Coalition. He has published numerous titles in P&R’s Gospel for Real Life series.
This post originally appeared at the CruciformPress website.
As he wrapped up two days of lectures at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ELRC), Russell Moore, charged students to keep their focus on the gospel in an ever-changing culture. “Our future is not at stake as long as Jesus of Nazareth is still alive,” Moore encouraged. “He has promised in the short term a cross on our backs but in the long term a crown of glory.”
Every fall Southeastern holds the Page Lectures where outstanding theologians deliver lectures on a subject of concern to the Christian community. On November 3-4, Russell Moore gave two lectures exhorting students, faculty and guests to respond to present cultural challenges with confidence in Christ—messages from Moore’s newest book “Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.” Moore is the eighth president of the ELRC of the Southern Baptist Convention. He plays a key role in connecting the agenda of Christ’s Kingdom to the culture of local churches for the sake of the gospel in the world.
For his first lecture, Moore spoke from Galatians and discussed what Christians should work to preserve in the 21st century. “We have come to a moment where we must recognize that God has called us uniquely to not only believe the gospel but to be people who are defined by the gospel,” Moore said. Moore proposed that conserving gospel authority, community and ministry must be priorities in the church today. “If we are going to conserve the gospel for future generations, we must be people that know the authority of scripture and must not be embarrassed by the Bible,” Moore said. “What are we conserving?… If we are not conserving [the gospel] then we are not conservatives, just hoarders.” Moore emphasized the need to invest in the next generation and the value of ministering to all types of people. “When we are driven into the sort of fear that tells us we will not engage with lost people…or we will not press the claims of the gospel, we are not doing damage to our immediate witness, we are doing damage to the carrying of the gospel to the generations of people we do not know yet,” said Moore.
Moore’s second lecture focused on 2 Chronicles 7:7-22, specifically the common American ideology of God and country. Moore recalled his own confrontation with this ideal as a child in cub scouts while trying to earn his “God and country” badge. After talking with a pastor during the badge process, Moore realized, “What the God and country badge was about for [the pastor] was not the truth of the scripture but about how religion could make us into good citizens.”Moore then spoke to the reality that many times people allow enough religion into their doctrines or organizations to make people good citizens but not enough to make them strange. “God and country is much easier to teach and preach than Christ and him crucified,” Moore said.
To Moore, 2 Chronicles 7:7-22 is a text that faithful Christians in the 21st century have to confront. It is a text that has been misused to address the problems in American culture and how to solve them. However, Moore proposed that this scripture is not about a country acting better or praying to God more but about the cross of Jesus Christ and how the cross defines the people of God, the presence of God and the promises of God. Covenant with God, Moore said, has nothing to do with nationality. “The fundamental question that we are going to have to ask and answer is…when we think about ourselves, what is the first thing we think about,” Moore proposed. “We see a message not about getting America in step with the church but getting the church out of step with America.” Because this passage and every other passage of the old covenant found fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ, Christians should not be afraid according to Moore.
If the cross defines God’s people, presence and promises, Christians should be free from all fear, even in a culture that sees the cross as strange. “People are so afraid in the culture right now that they just want to capitulate and give up Christian truth,” Moore said. “Some just want to double down and respond to the world with anger.” Christians should, instead, cling to God’s promises and remember what Christ has done. “The worst thing that could happen to you has already happened,” Moore said. “The worst thing that could happen to you is to be crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem under the curse of God.”
Moore encouraged students that as the culture changes and evangelical Christianity gets stranger to outsiders, Christians should not give up. “Get back to the gospel that will enable us to crucify our civil religions and golden calves,” Moore said. “We don’t serve a god of generic American values.” He also reminded students, “The best thing that can happen to you is being raised from the dead, forgiven of sins, given an inheritance and seated at the right hand of God. You are already there because of Jesus.”
The two-day event also included a luncheon with faculty and Ph.D. students where Provost Bruce Ashford led an informal question and answer session with Moore. The library hosted a book talk where Moore answered questions about his new book, “Onward.” In both events, Moore continued to encourage students and faculty to stand up for the gospel and engage lost people in a new way, calling Christians the “prophetic minority,” a term from his book. In explaining this term, Moore said, “I don’t mean Christians in America are a persecuted small group of people or that Christians shouldn’t be involved in informing the majorities on issues.” What the term does mean is that Christians need to stop approaching issues as though they represent most Americans and rather address cultural problems with a “persuasive” voice over a “coercive” one. “It’s a prophetic calling we’ve been given as followers of Christ,” Moore said. “We have a message to speak, and we need to do that persuasively.”
To dive further into these topics and learn how to address controversial issues through a gospel lens, pick up a copy of Moore’s book, “Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.”