Matthew Vines’ entire family deciding to leave their hometown church as well. They didn’t do this in anger or in frustration. They did it because they wanted to express, first and foremost, their solidarity with their son or with their brother. They also did this, I would conjecture, because they were increasingly suspicious, thanks to the insights of their son, that there might be something drastically mistaken in the traditional Bible interpretations and that the “anti-gay gospel” was indeed destructive to the spiritual and psychological well-being of Matthew. By extension, they might have conjectured that if the “anti-gay gospel” is poisonous to their son, it would follow, as the night follows the day, that this “gospel” would be toxic to other youths[i] wrestling with their sexual orientation as well. Here is how Vines masterfully expresses this in his own words:
Could it be true? Could it really be that this holiest of books, which contains some of the most beautiful writings and inspiring stories known to mankind, along with the unparalleled teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, also happens to require the emotional and spiritual destruction of sexual minorities? For any of us who learned to love the Jesus who called the little children to him, whose highest law was that of love, and who was a fierce defender of the downtrodden and the outcast, this simply did not seem possible.[ii]
Thus, the suspicion was that the teachings of Jesus invalidate the “anti-gay gospel” and that, in the case of homosexuality, false teaching has distorted the biblical texts such that “Scripture is used to manipulate. God is used as a weapon.” [iii]
Matthew Vines’ use of Scriptures is quite sophisticated
Matthew Vines’ use of Scriptures is quite sophisticated. Vines is not only casting doubt on the “anti-gay gospel” and the texts used to support it, he is also discovering overlooked texts that construct a solid basis for an eventual acceptance of homosexual unions. Here is an excellent example:
In the first two chapters of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth, plants, animals, man, and everything in the earth. And He declares everything in creation to be either good or very good – except for one thing. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” And yes, the suitable helper or partner that God makes for Adam is Eve, a woman. And a woman is a suitable partner for the vast majority of men – for straight men. But for gay men, that isn’t the case. For them, a woman is not a suitable partner. And in all of the ways that a woman is a suitable partner for straight men—for gay men, it’s another gay man[iv] who is a suitable partner.
And the same is true for lesbian women. For them, it is another lesbian woman who is a suitable partner. But the necessary consequence of the traditional teaching on homosexuality is that, even though gay people have suitable partners, they must reject them, and they must live alone for their whole lives, without a spouse or a family of their own.
We are now declaring good the very first thing in Scripture that God declared not good: for the man to be forced to be alone. And the fruit that this teaching has borne has been deeply wounding and destructive.[v]
Notice how Vines begins by carefully examining the text of Gen 1-3. He isolates God’s declaration, “It is not good for a man to be alone,” as his key concern. But then he shows that the “anti-gay gospel” frustrates God’s declaration in two ways:
- Gay people know very well that God has created for them “suitable partners,” yet the “anti-gay gospel” declares that same-sex partners are everywhere and always unsuitable;
- Likewise, the “anti-gay gospel” declares that gays must embrace life-long celibacy; yet, in so doing, they frustrate God’s declaration that “it is not good for a man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
This double failure on the part of the “anti-gay gospel” is “deeply wounding and destructive.” The unspoken complaint here is that following the gospel of life should lead to peace, joy, and understanding; hence, quite clearly the “anti-gay gospel” is not the gospel of life even though Matthew’s church declares that it is the one and only Gospel.
Vines’ argument could be further expanded by taking note that in Gen. 1, God alone judges the worth of his majestic creation on the six days. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Not so in Gen 2. Here it is the earthling (Adam) who signals to God that he is lonely. The assumption of the narrative is that God is never lonely; hence, not even God could have anticipated the onset of loneliness nor could he have immediately known how to heal this loneliness. Nonetheless, God takes Adam at his word and throws himself into trying to find an appropriate solution:
So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name (Gen. 2:19).
Notice here how, after each new trial, God brings his latest creation to the earthling so that he can name it and, quite possibly, discover whether this new creature will dispel his loneliness. Notice carefully that the text demonstrates that God cannot anticipate the final solution to Adam’s problem. He must experiment and then await Adam’s response. This is because the “loneliness” belongs properly to the earthling and not to God.
What we can learn from this is that God, in the case of gays and lesbians, would not presume to know in advance that gays and lesbians would be prone to loneliness. Even then, God would have to wait and see how gays and lesbians would choose to dispel their loneliness.[vi] If God himself has to be patient and to listen, then it would be incumbent upon pastors in the Christian churches to do the same. When they sidestep this listening process, they easily err because they take the “anti-gay gospel” given to them and force it upon people they do not properly understand.[vii] So, the churches can error easily when they fail to act with the same care and discernment that God himself displays in Gen 2.
Those who want to interact with this blog are invited to “Leave a Reply” below. A solid way to begin doing this is to offer “readback lines.” To do this, quickly glace back over the entire blog and pick out the one or two lines that have made a deep impression upon you. Copy them [CTRL-C] and then paste them [CTRL-V] into an empty comment box below. If you wish, signal the emotion that you feel when reading your readback lines. The primary emotions are anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise. No need to further explain yourself. It is enough to identify the text important to you and to name the emotion(s) that it evokes. All of this normally takes less than a few minutes.
I and others will “thank you” for your contribution. If you are tempted to say more, I urge you to hold back. Your sense of safety and the safety of others is best protected by not getting overly wordy in the beginning. This will come after a few days or weeks.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Endnotes and Leave a Reply~~~~~~~~
[i] For excellent life-stories inspired by the Reformation Project of Matthew Vines, go to https://twitter.com/ReformationP/
[ii] Matthew Vines, “The Bible and Homosexuality: Why I Left College and Spent Two Years Finding Out What the Scriptures Really Say,” The Huffpost Gay Voices, 26 March 2012 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-vines/bible-homosexuality_b_
[iii] Given my own special interest in Jewish-Christian relations, I am especially sensitive to how anti-Jewish sentiments circulating among Catholics were used to interpret a few texts in the Gospels (especially, “his blood be upon us and upon our children” Matt. 27:25) in order to prove (a) that God held all Jews accountable for the killing of Jesus and (b) that God, as a result of this crime, had rejected all Jews in all times and in all places as his chosen people, and, in their place, God embraced Catholics with his love and protection and enduring covenant. In the wake of this “anti-Jewish gospel,” Christians routinely interpreted natural and deliberate disasters (beginning with the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 68-70 CE) as the divine retribution inflicted upon Jews for their crime of killing Jesus, the Son of God.
Not until after the Holocaust did the Christian churches finally come to their senses and begin to sort out what the Scriptures did and did not say about the Jews. As a result, biblical interpretations held for more than sixteen hundred years were uprooted over the course of a few decades (1948-1968). Meanwhile, biblical interpretations that had been ignored or obscured were brought forward, more especially, (a) that God’s election of the Jewish people was permanent and irrevocable and (b) that Jesus himself lived and died as a faithful Jew.
This case of anti-Jewish prejudice poisoning the true meaning of the Scriptures is important for a number of reasons. First, it demonstrates that, once an error inserts itself, it can persist from generation to generation undetected because the false interpretation itself feeds upon the anti-Jewish prejudice that stimulated its origination. Secondly, it demonstrates that, saints and sinners, bishops and scholars all were mutually supportive in maintaining and promoting these false biblical interpretations. Only the massive and unthinkable Holocaust had enough shock value to inspire a critical reassessment of those anti-Jewish interpretations that had become firmly entrenched within the Catholic tradition. For further details, see James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001) & Aaron Milavec, Salvation Is from the Jews: Reflections on Saving Grace within Judaism and on Messianic Hope within Christianity (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007).
[iv] Keep in mind that complementary personalities and complementary skill-sets figure into the mutual choice of a suitable partner in both heterosexual and homosexual unions.
[v] Matthew Vines, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” 08 Mar 2012 (www.matthewvines.com/transcript/).
[vi] This emphasis upon experimentation and flexibility found in the Gen. 2 account also serves to make way for transgendered and bisexual individuals. When one hears the personal stories of such persons, it is not at all intuitive whether there is a single formula for how such persons will choose their soul mates. Hence, as in the case of God, both heterosexuals and homosexual persons will have to wait and see what sort of choices satisfies their yearning hearts.
[vii] Many Christians think, for example, that giving legal recognition to “same-sex marriages” has the effect of devaluing “heterosexual marriages.” In truth, the very opposite is the case. It is because homosexuals esteem the permanent covenant of love that prevails in marriages that they want to participate in this social matrix themselves. They also discern that sex in marriage entails a mutual surrender and provides a pleasure bonding that is re-creative and healing. This too they want to taste for themselves. As for setting up households and deciding upon children, same-sex unions have a wide variety of options to consider here just as do their heterosexual counterparts. No two heterosexual unions are the same. The same rule will prevail among homosexual unions. No two heterosexual unions express love and affection in the same way. The same rule will surely prevail among homosexual unions. What is avoided as vulgar by one couple may be a source of delight for another. No two heterosexual unions make decisions and share household chores in exactly the same way. Same for homosexual unions.