December 18, 2014

Does Survivor's Gay Christian Couple Represent Christianity Well?

So, if you watched the twenty-ninth season finale of Survivor, you are no doubt well aware that a lot of conflicting feelings and opinions have been set off by two of the contestants featured in the show: the professedly Christian, openly gay couple, Josh and Reed.

Now, my purpose here is not to debate the issue of homosexuality itself. There are a library's worth of videos and blog posts and articles and books that have already been written from every angle of that subject, and I can pretty well guarantee I have nothing original to contribute in that arena. What I am far more interested in discussing are the statements made by a young lady apparently picked at random out of the live audience at the filming of the finale.
Referring to Josh's and Reed's conduct during the filming of the show, and the encouragement and inspiration that they seem to be providing for others of similar persuasion, this young lady in the audience said she believed that these men "represented our faith really well". (Referring, of course, to Christianity.)
The question that I would like to explore is simply: Do Josh and Reed actually represent the Christian faith well?
The simple answer depends on what we take this young lady's statement to mean.
If she means that Josh and Reed are accurate representatives of the condition and mindset of most professing Christians and Christian churches in our modern world, then I believe she is completely correct. I'll explain why in just a minute.
On the other hand, if we take her statement to mean that Josh and Reed accurately embody the essence of what Christianity is supposed to be (and, based on her later statement that "love is love at the end of the day," I do believe that this interpretation is what she intended), then the answer to my question is a resounding "No," and this is the side of the question that I'm going to discuss first.
From Reed's statement, spoken during the finale, that a person "can follow Jesus and still be gay," we can with some measure of confidence deduce that he's not just using the term "Christianity" in the vague generic sense that people sometimes use simply as a way of saying "I'm not a Jew, a Muslim, or a Buddhist." I feel confident in saying that he is referring to actual, Christ-based Christianity, and this is an important fact to establish, as it provides us with a solid foundation from which to critique Reed's professions (words) versus his lifestyle (actions). (And by the way, the reason I seem to be focusing more on Reed is simply that he is the one who made the specific statement that I am critiquing at the moment.)
So let's begin our critique with a quick series of logical deductions:
Reed professes to be a follower of Jesus.
If he lives his life as a follower of Jesus, he obviously must believe and agree with the things that Jesus said.
Jesus claimed to be God (John 10:30, John 14:9-11), therefore if Reed is consistent he believes that Jesus is God.
If Jesus is God, the entire Bible is His word--not just the part printed in red ink. (2 Timothy 3:16)
If Jesus is God and the entire Bible is His word, then the statements made in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, wherein homosexuality is labeled "an abomination", are Jesus' own statements (defeating the common argument that "Jesus didn't actually didn't say anything about homosexuality").
The conclusion we must draw from this is that Jesus opposes homosexuality and intends for sexual intimacy to be confined to one man and one woman within marriage (Matthew 19:4-5).
Therefore, while Josh and Reed may have represented Christianity well in some areas such as their honesty, attitudes, and kindness throughout this season of Survivor, the simple fact is that their lifestyle does not represent what Jesus desires and expects the lives of His followers to look like in the area of sexual behavior.
Does this mean they're horrible people? No. Does it mean they're not truly Christians in the sense of being genuinely born again? Not necessarily, although that is certainly on the table as a worst-case scenario and personally I would be very concerned by such an extreme discrepancy between their professed beliefs and their lifestyle. However, at the other end of the table we have a best-case scenario, which is that they are both true born-again Christians who have merely slipped into a grievous inconsistency and need to turn away from it into a lifestyle and sexuality that are in line with the teachings of Christ.
Now: you can scream, rant, argue, yell at me, call me close-minded, whatever you want. The simple fact is that, like it or not, that is what the Bible says. And as I said, my point isn't to debate the issue of homosexuality itself. I am more interested in discussing the implications of the suggestion that Josh and Reed represent Christianity well, and this brings us back to the question: "Do Josh and Reed accurately represent the state of affairs as a whole in Christianity today?" and my answer to that was "Yes."
Here's why: Granting Josh and Reed the benefit of any and all doubts and assuming that they truly are Christians, they are nevertheless living in a way that is wildly inconsistent with what Christianity actually teaches. And this is a characteristic that has become all too common. If I had to choose two words to describe Christianity in twenty-first century America, the first would be "lukewarm," and the second would be "inconsistent". (I include both and put them in that order because I believe that the first one is what allows the second one, but that is a separate discussion for another time.)
And I'm not just talking about inconsistency as it pertains to homosexuality, although I do see a lot of that as well. Even many heterosexuals are becoming passive about the issue, brushing it off as "not that big of a deal".
But the problem is far more widespread than that. American Christianity is riddled with inconsistencies in many forms.
Gap theory, Day Age theory, Framework Hypothesis, Theistic Evolution, and any other attempt to "merge" or "blend" the Genesis account of creation with the secular concept of evolution is an inconsistency.
Professing the desire to "train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6) and then sending him off to be educated instead by the public school system, an institution built on the tenets of secular humanism, is an inconsistency.
Compromising on the Bible's clearly laid-out principles in order to avoid seeming "close-minded" to the world is an inconsistency.
Claiming to be a Christian while abusing drugs or alcohol, cheating on taxes, telling a "little white lie", taking advantage of others for personal gain...all of these are inconsistencies.
In light of this image, Survivor's gay Christian couple, Josh and Reed, seem fitting poster children, and in this sense that young lady from the audience was exactly right: they do represent our faith well in the sense of encapsulating what Christianity looks like in America today.
But they do not represent what Christianity should be, what Jesus desires and expects it to be. Those two images are still very far apart. And the way to close that gap is not by meeting in the middle--after all, Jesus did not believe in neutral ground (Matthew 12:30).
The way to close the gap is to realize the inconsistencies that we have allowed into our lives, acknowledge them for what they are, seek God's forgiveness, commit before God and our Christian family to annihilate them, and with the help of God set out to bring every single aspect of our lives, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant or mundane, into submission and alignment with what Jesus intends and desires from His followers. Remember, He said "If you love me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15)

December 5, 2014

Interview at The Dreaming Hobbit

Hey, all! Just thought I'd let you know that my dear friend and fellow spec-fic writer Emily Tjaden has been gracious enough to interview me about my writing in general and Song of the Wren-Falcon in particular.
Click Here to visit her blog, The Dreaming Hobbit, and read the interview!