The following is an open letter, correcting Mike Freeman (a journalist for Bleacher Report), for his erroneous claims about Christianity and the moral law. Please feel free to read the original titled Michael Sam’s Kiss Brings Out the Bigots and the Hypocrites.
I don’t know you; you don’t know me. Though I’m fairly familiar with Bleacher Report, and have read their material from time to time, I scarcely pay attention to the names of their contributors. I just happened to see your tweet with the link to the blog “Micheal Sam’s Kiss Brings Out Bigots and Hypocrites” and thought it was worth my time to interact with (particularly in regards to your comments concerning the Bible). Since I happen to be one of those who “object to Sam because I claim the Bible tells me so,” I thought myself qualified to respond. Since a charitable, thoughtful, and reasoned conversation concerning homosexuality and the Bible is nearly impossible on Twitter, I thought it best to respond to you publicly, here, on Gospel Spam.
Now, as I stated above, I’m unfamiliar with you personally. I literally have no idea what your motivations were for writing what you did. So I want to be very careful to offer you the benefit of the doubt whenever I can, rather than judge your intentions and character without giving you the proper opportunity to amend your statements. Since love assumes the best (1 Cor 13:7), to assume the best of your intentions, regardless of the societal norm, would be the most loving thing I could do in this situation–that is, until you have the appropriate time to correct your mischaracterizations of what the Bible actually teaches and what Christians actually believe and have historically taught.
Before I continue, let me first say that I will be referring to people as “Christians” who “object to Sam (his behavior that is) because” they “claim the Bible tells” them to. Now, I know that there are plenty of folks, especially in the West, that consider themselves Christians who reject biblical authority and are rather blown about by every wind and wave of secular doctrine. However, since your comments were aimed at people who actually believe the Bible, that is, people who actually have an objective standard and definition of what actually is authentically Christian, then it shouldn’t be that hard for either of us to understand that by using the word “Christian” I’m not referring to those who deny the Bible’s veracity and authority.
First, as an act of charity, let me begin by pointing out some things about which you may be surprised that we are in agreement.
First: I too am disgusted with much of the rhetoric flying around in the wake of the Michael Sam media firestorm. Regardless of which side of this issue folks may find themselves, there’s something about discussing sexuality that brings out the eight-year-old in the most immature of our society. Many of the people objecting to Sam and how his story has been covered are not doing so appropriately or for the appropriate reasons. Personal preference is not a legitimate or objective reason to denounce something. Neither is making crude jokes and name calling the appropriate way to articulate your position. I won’t pretend that some of the people objecting to Sam’s homosexuality, that have done so inappropriately, would cite their faith as the reason for the tone and inflammatory nature of their rhetoric. There are people who behave poorly that come from every walk of life and ascribe to all sorts of belief systems. What is important to remember however is that a position, a belief, a philosophy, or a religion is not invalid because of a particular person who may hold to it. The argument must stand or fall on it’s own merit or we risk being illogical.
Second: I think you are spot on in pointing out the hypocrisy of turning a blind eye to what amounts to the equivalent of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend to what children are exposed to in other forms of media, while simultaneously stumping against what Sam did on national television. There are plenty of folks who would speak out against Sam while simultaneously laugh at actors who portray homosexuals on TV. I in no way condone Sam’s kiss, however I am in agreement that not every one that was repulsed by it is behaving in a consistent manner, and for that they should repent.
Third: and perhaps most important, you are absolutely right about one thing you name in your list of things the Bible forbids. The Bible forbids unlawful divorce, and such is tolerated in evangelical churches in America at an alarming rate. Your critique on this issue didn’t go far enough however. The problem, as Kirk Cameron has recently pointed out, is that many in church leadership are not consistently holding to and promoting a biblical sexual ethic. That is, they aren’t just tolerating unlawful divorces in their membership but rather unrepentant adulterers and fornicators as well. Any such leader, or Christian, that then turns around and condemns homosexuality is not being consistent and doing a great disservice to both the church and homosexuals of whom the church should be reaching. These Johnny-come-lately church leaders are not defending the biblical institution of marriage but rather undermining that institution by tolerating that which is already in their church and that which God says he hates. You are absolutely right to point out their hypocrisy. Unfortunately such men fear man more than God, and are only as principled as their congregation will allow them to be without being reprimanded, which means that whenever their congregations come around on homosexuality, they will to.
All of that being said, the issue about which I am writing you is your gross and rather tiresome mischaracterization of what the Bible actually teaches and what the church has historically held to. I’m sure you didn’t mean to hold millions of people over thousands of years in contempt for holding to a consistent biblical sexual ethic (this is one of those times I’m going to assume the best)!
I take it you consider yourself to be taking a principled stand by writing the article. You must then consider yourself to be a principled man, fully entrenched in the moral high ground when condemning folks (again, hopefully not Christians) as bigots and hypocrites. Since you do value principles so much, I’m sure you would be concerned were you to learn you have misrepresented such a large group of people that have existed through the ages. I’m sure a principled man like yourself would want to make things right and accurately represent the biblical position, even if you still disagree with it. After all, a principled man would be much more concerned with the truth than any personal, political, or societal agenda. I’m going to assume that’s just the kind of man you are! You wouldn’t want to be known for willingly misleading people in such a large sector of society, in an effort to manipulate their opinions.
Now, I must admit, I have heard the shellfish narrative. In fact, I’ve heard it a lot. I’ve also heard it responded to a lot, and I’ve seen that response ignored and the “pick and choose shellfish narrative” pushed by the same sources all the more. I want to give a man who values principles so highly as you do the benefit of the doubt though. My hope is, that unlike the vast majority of folks who like to label all opposition to the homosexual agenda as “bigotry” while simultaneously regurgitating every unfounded attack the Huffington Post levies against the Bible and those who believe it, that you’ll dare to be different–that you’ll courageously rise above the status quo and challenge folks to think reasonably about the issue. After all, you wouldn’t want the “new tolerance” to look more like the “old facism,” would you?
Concerning the Bible forbidding shellfish, perhaps you missed the context of the dietary commandments. That is, in your reading of scripture (since I’m going to assume you did read scripture instead of a Huffington Post article), perhaps you missed to who the commandment was given? You see; God made a covenant with the physical seed of Abraham on Mount Sinai. He gave them the moral law, which was coded in the Ten Commandments. However, he also gave them various ceremonial and dietary laws that were specific to the people under that covenant. Covenants are like that, you know; they don’t include people that are outside of the covenant. For example: just because I covenanted with my wife doesn’t mean another man has covenanted with her. Another man is free to pursue his own wife, and is not bound by the covenant that is strictly between my wife and I. In fact, if in your reading and study of scripture, perhaps you missed this little snippet, don’t be too hard on yourself, Lots of people miss it, which is why we keep hearing this silly little shellfish narrative… Check this out…
You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.” -Deut 14:21a
Well now; there you have the Bible (in a Scripture where God is doing the speaking) saying that the sojourner and foreigner, that is “someone outside the covenant community” can eat of what is unclean. So why then was it such a big deal for Jews not to be able to eat what was unclean? The grammar of the passage tells us. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.” The dietary laws were symbolic for the covenant community. What’s interesting is that even though Christians are not bound by the letter of the dietary laws–that is, we don’t have dietary restrictions under the New Covenant–we do seek to keep the essence of those laws when we come out from what is unclean. This happens when we turn in repentance from sin to Jesus Christ!
In the New Testament, the ceremonial and dietary laws are brought up multiple times. In fact, the first church council in Jerusalem, chronicled in the chapter 15 of the Book of Acts, dealt with the controversy of what should be expected of new gentile believers that are now a part of God’s covenant community in Christ. The controversy was that there was a particular party of Jewish Christians that were teaching that gentile Christians needed to be circumcised, which was the sign of entrance into the old covenant. It was their intent to lay upon these gentile Christians the necessity to keep the entire law of Moses (Acts 15:5). Essentially their position was that one needed to become a Jew first in order to become a Christian, thus earning themselves the name “Judaizers.” Paul argued passionately against such a position in the book of Galatians. He argued that to require Gentile believers to be circumcised as a work necessary to receive salvation was to “fall from grace” and called it “another gospel.”
In referring to this Old Covenant, the author of the book of Hebrews warns Jewish Christians facing intense persecution not to turn back to that which is old, obsolete, and “ready to vanish away” (Heb 8:13).
In Acts 10, Peter has a dream where he sees all sorts of animals, and the Lord tells him to “rise, kill, and eat.” When Peter awakes he’s perplexed at the meaning and he’s immediately greeted by servants of a Roman centurion name Cornelius. Peter is ushered to Cornelius’ house. To enter the house of a gentile was scandalous in Jewish culture. This dream where Peter is told to kill and eat unclean animals is tied directly to the inclusion of Cornelious, a gentile, into the believing covenant community.
Additionally, Scripture itself attests that Jesus declared all foods clean in Mark 7:19.
Again, don’t be too hard on yourself. Most folks miss this sort of thing, or haven’t put forth the effort into hearing out Bible-believing Christians. But, just in case you were wondering if the Church has always taught this, here are some quotes from some old confessions of faith that should ease your mind.
I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.
II. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.
III. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament. -Westminster Confession of Faith
and then again here…
1. God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.
( Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:10, 12 )
2. The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.
( Romans 2:14, 15; Deuteronomy 10:4 )
3. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties, all which ceremonial laws being appointed only to the time of reformation, are, by Jesus Christ the true Messiah and only law-giver, who was furnished with power from the Father for that end abrogated and taken away.
( Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:17; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 2:14, 16, 17; Ephesians 2:14, 16 )
-1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “they all seem to say the same thing.” And so they do! In fact, it was important for the framers of the London Baptist Confession of Faith that they keep a lot of the original language used by the Presbyterians in the Westminster Confession of Faith in order to show the solidarity of the two.
You see; the moral law is based on God’s character and nature. For instance, God cannot lie (Heb 6:18). He cannot lie for the same reason I cannot fly; it is against his nature to do so. Therefore, moral absolutes communicated in God’s law cannot change anymore than God can change. If God can change, then he isn’t eternal, time rules over him, and thus there was a time when he was A and now a time where he is B. If God can change, he isn’t God. Do you see the inconsistency we run up against when we try to hold to relative morality and biblical truth, at the same time? They just don’t compute. They are opposing worldviews. So sexual ethics don’t change. The Bible condemns homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. There has never been a time in the history of the world, nor will there ever be a time where homosexual acts are not despised by this Holy God.
So, now you see both from the Bible and church history that biblical sexual ethics has never changed, nor will it change.
Concerning tattoos, the position similarly flows to that of the dietary restrictions under the Old Covenant. For the sake of brevity, I’ll direct you and your readers to this helpful article from the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. I’m sure you’ll read it, since you want to be sure to be knowledgeable about any position you would condemn as hypocritical, so as not to be ill-informed.
Well I’m glad we covered that. Now you can happily set the record strait so as to avoid slandering and misrepresenting so many people who have believed and taught the same biblical, sexual ethic for thousands of years. I’m sure, on the basis of principle, you’d like to avoid such a travesty.
One more thing should be addressed however, and that’s your mention of black Americans and their being “hateful” toward gays. Listen, I get the passion. After all, I like to consider myself a principled man as well. In fact, if I believed for a second that this was the equivalent of a civil rights issue I’d be just as outraged as yourself. But there’s the rub, I reject the premise. It is illogical to equate a behavior (homosexual sex) with an ethnicity. It’s a category fallacy. You see; you may disagree with me but, like it or not, that opens the door for all behavior to be equated with ethnicity. There is no argument for homosexual acceptance that cannot be extended to any and all sexual behavior. Should the behavior be accepted because it feels right? If something feels right does that mean it is right? Well, what if adultery feels right? Is it then right? Can a homosexual not help the way he feels? Well, how then can a pedophile help the way he feels? Shouldn’t a homosexual act on his feelings? Well, why not the pedophile? The problem with reducing a person to a particular behavior and then claiming “equal rights” for that person based off of that behavior is that it is entirely subjective and opens the door for all behavior to be considered a civil rights issue instead of what it is–a behavior. Can you imagine the absurdity of “pedophile pride parades?” Or how about “adulterers day at the local theme park?” Perhaps a “thief history month” is in order. What logical response could you offer to such absurdities?
Tony Miano, also wrote a great response to this race issue several months ago with an article on Gospel Spam titled: “Michael Sam is no Jackie Robinson.”
Now, often when I encounter opposition to this point I’m met with red-faced kicking and screaming, name-calling, and other ad-hominem attacks. Apparently folks think that if they behave in this manner that sound logic will just go away, and won’t be needed anymore. Of course, someone as principled and as reasonable as yourself wouldn’t resort to such behavior. You would certainly be more concerned with accurately representing black Americans just like you would Christian Americans. You certainly wouldn’t want to slander both communities in one article. Not a guy like you!
However, just in case your position has not changed. Perhaps you would like to make such rash assertions about those who oppose homosexuality because the Koran told them so. I’m sure if you did, the kind, reasonable, and tolerant folks at Bleacher Report would happily welcome you back to work the following day. I mean part of being a principled guy is standing up for what you believe in regardless of what it may cost you. Christians through the years have understood that concept; you know, when they’ve been beheaded, stoned, crucified, impaled, burned at the stake, fed to lions, assaulted, defamed, fired, unjustly condemned, and forced to close up shop for refusing to bake a cake or take a photo. Yes, principled people are principled no matter which way the wind is blowing. And I’m sure that’s you, Mike!
This is why I won’t drum up support to have Bleacher Report fire you.That’s just not how Christians roll. I want to assume the best of you, Mike! I must admit, initially I believed that your willingness to condemn Christians without a proper understanding of biblical, Christian teaching was just exposing your anti-Christian prejudice. Words like “bigot” and “hypocrite” came to my mind Mike, but I was graciously reminded that love assumes the best. So, I believe you deserve the opportunity to set the record straight, correct your public errors, and apologize for misrepresenting and slandering a huge sector of the American public, many of whom may frequent Bleacher Report. I’m sure your bosses there are just as considerate as I am willing to be. Probably more! They know you better than I do, and could probably give testimony to what a stand-up guy you are–how you would never use your platform to defame or slander folks, would never mislead people by spreading untruths, and that when you are wrong, you bend over backwards to make things right. That’s what principled guys do, after all!
Oh, and just in case you might know someone who formulates their ideas of what the Bible actually teaches from Huffington Post articles and Hollywood celebrity musicals, perhaps you might want to let them know that such sources aren’t really interested in understanding or accurately portraying the true biblical, historical, and Christian teaching on any matter. You know, just in case you know someone…