Happy Birthday Matthew
I saw on Facebook that it was Matthew Vines' birthday just the other day. It reminded me of his famous address to members of his home church in Wichita, Kansas in which he gave what hundreds of thousands have come to believe is the best and most careful rejection of the traditional anti-gay interpretation of the 6 most often-used verses to contend that homosexuality is unbiblical.
If you are interested, here is a link to that famous talk by young Matthew Vines last year:
THE GAY DEBATE: THE BIBLE AND HOMOSEXUALITY
Nearly 700,000 people have watched his hour and seven minute address. I watched it rather awestruck at his fluent presentation and his precise reasoning. If this doesn't undermine the group he calls "traditionalists" nothing will.
Of course, nothing will.
I notice he was speaking to the Methodist folks as if he were home. Well, that's where to begin. We know, however, that argumentation and debate are all but irrelevant. It is the fact that the traditionalists (religious and political) are losing their oncoming generation that ought to be getting their attention.
Now, as to Matthew's content. He was persuasive. He had targeted his audience and he never deviated. No faults there.
But he would have missed a Lutheran audience, at least if they were theologically alert and informed, as Matthew assumed his Methodist audience to be. His central argument was that all 6 of the anti-gay passages should not be interpreted in the traditional way, and in fact need to be re-interpreted to bring them and those fascinated with those verses back to the central Gospel issue of love. For a Lutheran, however, the demonstration of God's love is not Jesus' teaching but Christ's action. It is salvation that is central. It is what Christ did that eradicates the old law and replaces it with the principle of grace and response to grace. That is the main theme in Romans, which is the key passage of all of them dealing with anything resembling gay relationships and orientation. Matthew alluded to that as the reason for disregarding the Leviticus passages as Christians, but then he did not apply that same reason to the Romans passage. A Lutheran would have noticed.
More serious, I believe, is the maintenance of the Christian cultural assumption about marriage. The thing that Matthew was most passionate about is how the traditional Christian prescription for gay people is loneliness and celibacy, whereas there is warrant to say that God's will is that everyone be in a committed, loving relationship as heterosexual people can be.
I have had this debate with gay Christian theologically alert brothers before. Their entire goal, as Matthew's seems to be, is to secure the rights to the ideal Christian form of marriage for gay couples. They tell me to "shut up" (in just so many words) when I attempt to contend that it is the whole concept of marriage that is flawed.
Essentially, embedded within the Christian marriage ideal is the European imperialist right to define marriage "our way". The traditionalists will define marriage as between one man and one woman (or one man and one woman at a time). The neo-traditionalists will still insist that marriage is between one person and another person. Monogamy reigns.
Maybe it is ruinous to political progress to try to push too far too fast. But the bottom line is that monogamy is not an essential biblical concept. Polygamy (in various forms) is no more an outdated primitive or savage idea than gay sex is. They have been suppressed without biblical warrant. They are cultural issues. It took European imperialism to push monogamy into almost all non-European areas of the world. The world was vastly more diverse than the European Christians could tolerate with their project to civilize the world in their own image.
This line of reasoning is not as bizarre as it might seem to be, and it is not primarily about Christian imperialism, much less a defense of polygamy.
I contend that Christianity will continue to be abandoned by the coming generation in the West and not long after by subsequent generations in other parts of the world until the Church relinquishes the role of being the world's social magistrate. Postmodernism is not just a name for a philosophical and artistic era, it is a description of independent thinking in areas of social and cultural values and expression. Howsoever the Church continues to claim the right to define society and culture, in those ways the Church will be increasingly ignored. The Church has lost the authority to define marriage, but refuses to admit it. Marriage in America is now defined by individual couples, and not by the Church. In that and in many other issues, the Church is losing its oncoming generation and losing its ability to expound, influence and inspire.
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.