Christians, We Should Adapt To Culture (Wait, What?!)
Recently, I was informed that an individual I grew up with came out to her family, which I was a bit surprised to hear. Like many parents who have been confronted with the conflict between their child’s homosexual lifestyle and its compatibility with Christianity, their focus turned towards literature that could hopefully reconcile this seeming contradiction. Eventually, her mother came to the conclusion that the Bible has been taken out of context and misunderstood, and, ultimately, she now believes her daughter’s lifestyle is acceptable within the parameters of Christianity.
I’ll be honest. After hearing this, I was frustrated. Not because my childhood friend had come out, or that her family was desperately searching for answers. I was frustrated by this reoccurring trend of letting an experience, external from Christianity, compromise traditionally accepted theology. Just this last week, Rev. Frank Schaefer, a Methodist minister in Pennsylvania, was convicted in a Methodist church trial for defying Methodist doctrine by officiating his son’s homosexual wedding a few years back. Schaefer’s reasoning was that his son, despite his devotion to the church, was in emotional pain because the church wouldn’t fully accept his lifestyle, and Schaefer felt he needed to support his son, regardless of theology. One individual currently championing this slightly frustrating position is Rob Bell. Back in May of this year, Andrew Wilson—a British minister and blogger at thinktheology.co.uk—and Bell discussed one of Bell’s recent admissions on the British radio show Unbelievable. Here is the 20-minute exchange between the two:
In case you didn’t watch, Bell, the author of Love Wins, has recently endorsed same-sex marriage. And like Love Wins, this has become an equally controversial conversation piece amongst Christians. In the interview, the radio host begins asking him if homosexuality is a God thing that He affirms. Rob Bell prefaces the rest of the interview and responds, “I think it’s time for the church to acknowledge that we have brothers and sisters who are gay and want to share their life with someone. This is a part of life in the modern world and that’s how it is. And that cultural consciousness has shifted, and this is how the world is and that what’s happening for a lot of people, is that they want nothing to do with God and Jesus because they can’t see beyond that particular issue.” Bell is obviously affected by the negative criticisms against the Church and believes that the Church must give up its “intolerance” to homosexuality and open the doors of exclusivity to accept gays in order to restore some credibility, likeability, and relevance.
Now, I want to briefly interrupt myself. I recognize this topic has been heavily debated over the past few decades because of the progressive tolerance of homosexuality in our Western culture. And at this point, you may be thinking, “Not another article about the exegesis of this topic. LET’S GET ON WITH IT!” Or maybe you’re still hung up on something else, like, “Look at that name! He’s gotta be Greek.” Which… I am… nose and all. And, if you weren’t thinking that, hopefully you stopped reading this and got acquainted with its 12-letter excellence.
Whatever it is, understand that my intention is not to exegete or argue for what history and tradition have affirmed over the last two millenniums. And, while I do believe Christians and the Church should never abandon another, as well as continuing to love and comfort them unconditionally, despite the circumstances, flexing Scriptures to reconcile a struggle in our belief system highlights an issue that sincerely worries me. These individuals affected by some modern cultural phenomenon are challenging history and traditional theology by essentially amending the Bible according to the consensus of the current generation. At the same time, I am not writing this with the intention to specifically condemn homosexuality or to limit the scope of discussion to this one issue. My objective is to point out a fundamental flaw within the seemingly progressive and perhaps malignant version of interpretation that stretches across multitudes of issues. Quite frankly, the Bible was not written specifically through the modern, contemporary lens of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries.
Bell, Schaefer, my friend’s mother, and everyone else trapped in this inconsistent system are letting the modern, secular worldview dominate their theology and religious worldview. According to Bell, because of the cultural climate change concerning gays, the Church should be progressive enough to allow homosexuals to engage in homosexual activities/relationships. If culture says so, it must be Biblically acceptable? Cultural and societal norms tend to be fluid, and regardless of their acceptance in the modern world, those do not dictate Biblical interpretation. Essentially, subjecting theology to a personal worldview constructed from secular, modern developments creates subjectivity within the Scriptures. When the Scriptures become just as fluid as society, all objectivity is lost, and so is our faith; anything and everything becomes “right” as long as we are accepting and loving. Just because I “feel” like this is right, does not make it so.
But more importantly, if our culture and society somehow arrive at the consensus that Christianity should not be tolerated in any form, then do we accept this new norm? I realize this is a bit of an extreme position to take, but the question is valid in determining where to distinguish the line of subjectivity. The more culture and society seemingly dictates what is acceptable, the more traditionally established doctrines are pushed into an endless abyss of cultural and societal correctness. And while I do not believe that Christianity will be lost, I do fear that the fundamentals of our belief may be often thrown into oblivion if they somehow in some way eventually violate the existing and evolving cultural and societal stigma. Discussions of inerrancy and infallibility may cease to exist and transform the Bible into just epic literature with hints of moral influence.
It is important for us to remember that our religious worldview is not dependent on how the secular world views Christian theology. We should not force theology because it simply justifies and rationalizes our feelings. J. Kenneth Grider said it best when he said, “Stress on experience must not lead us to deprecate Scripture and Christian tradition…” And, while I emphatically agree with keeping these two things close by when discussing the acceptance of homosexuality in the Church, or anything that distorts and discards the essentials of our theology, we must also keep in mind the one thing that takes priority and is inextricably woven into the fabric of our faith: the Gospel. The Gospel does not simply allow or conform to the world’s nature based on cultural whims; rather, Jesus provides us the means to break from the depravity and slippery-slope of our world so that we could be transformed and renewed (Romans 12:2). We often forget this. We often get too concerned with building and protecting the framework of our faith, that we ultimately forget the foundation. And, in the end, do not let the Word be contingent on us, but rather us be contingent on the Word.
 Parvini, Sarah. “Father, Son, a Holy Choice: Pastor Faces Defrocking Over Son’s Gay Wedding”. http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/11/26/pastor-threatened-defrocking-officiating-gay-sons-wedding
 Grider, J. Kenneth. A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology, 30.