We received the following comment in the comments’ section of Becky’s story a couple of days ago. At that point, we hadn’t articulated any specific guidelines on commenting on this site, but for both of us, it didn’t feel right to publish this as a comment (side note: we have now, and they’re found here). We thought that the tone of the comment was manipulative and deceptive (especially given our international readership, with English frequently not a first language, and many cultures represented in which sarcasm is not a common form of expression, thus increasing the potential for misunderstanding), that the writer didn’t demonstrate any respect for people not sharing their opinion, that they didn’t articulate their disagreement with Becky’s story in a way that facilitated two-way dialogue, and that their sarcasm made a mockery of people with any kind of story to share about how God has worked in their life.
So why are we publishing this comment in the form of an article? Well, first, as previously mentioned we hadn’t set guidelines for comments and so the writer didn’t have the opportunity to read and follow those. Secondly, we are all on a journey, and we wanted to know what others thought of this comment, whether they felt similarly to us about it, and whether they agreed that we shouldn’t publish comments of this nature. The last thing we want to do is to censor anybody. However, we want to create a culture of respect on this site, and part of that is a mutual understanding of appropriate and inappropriate ways to communicate with each other. So we’re going to paste the comment below, and then respond to it on three levels – 1. Addressing the specific link between stealing and homosexuality, 2. Addressing the underlying issue of scripture twisting that the comment implicitly criticises us for, and 3. Addressing more appropriate ways for expressing these sentiments in this forum.
Hi Becky, I was inspired by your story to share with you my own story.
Like you, I was raised in an evangelical church and in a Christian home.
When I reached my teens, I found I started to have some strange urges that I knew in my heart were wrong, but found it difficult to resist. I think it began when I was very young and used to occasionally steal money from my mum’s purse. Once I got older though, I fell victim to peer pressure and on a few occasions was involved in shoplifting. I justified it to myself as it was only small items and I felt the Lord would forgive me.
Fortunately I was never caught, but as I got older and into my late teens, I became friends with a guy who I knew was a bad influence on me. It was through this that I burgled my first house at the age of 17. Pretty soon, it became an addiction. I would still go to Church occasionally, but found it difficult as I knew my lifestyle didn’t fit in with what the church would approve of.
I was soon burgling houses several times a week, and even though I felt it was wrong, and still believed in God, I couldn’t stop myself, as I was used to the financial situation afforded by my lifestyle.
Inevitably things spiraled from there, and eventually my friend who I mentioned earlier asked me to join him on a bank robbery. I wrestled with my conscience but the promise of riches was too much.
Sadly, I was caught and convicted to five years in prison. It was whilst I was there that I really started to evaluate my lifestyle, and was on the verge of abandoning that way of life and wanting to come clean once I was released.
However, one night I was praying and I felt prompted to look again at the Bible to see what it said about stealing. I suddenly started to notice things that I’d never seen before. I read how Jesus said that he will come like “a thief in the night”, which some people assume refers to his second coming, but I understood that he was identifying and even empathising with those who were born as thieves, and saying that actually it was OK.
I read also how he said to the thief on the cross that he would be with him in paradise that day, which clearly means that thieves will not go to hell. I felt a burden lifted from me, as I realised that I had misinterpreted the Bible all along.
I’ve now been out of prison for three years, and have started up my own business, which is basically online bank fraud. Many so called Christians have tried to convince me that Satan has blinded me to the truth and that I should repent, but the Bible seems clear to me on this matter. When stealing is condemned, it has been misinterpreted by the church, and as I have shown God is actually OK with it as long as it is within the context of a loving thief-to-victim relationship.
I have to say I’m so happy now, and have found a church which will accept my life choice.
It was a struggle for me to share this, and I hope our similar experiences will help one another.
Addressing the similarities and differences between stealing and homosexuality
The overall point made by this comment was that our view that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality is similar to a thief arguing that it doesn’t condemn stealing – or, as people have been heard to say, “Gay Christians? You might as well start up a club called ‘Thieving for Jesus’!” We’ll address the issue of scripture interpretation below. Right now I want to point out several issues with the appropriateness of the comparison, legally, medically and theologically:-
- Stealing is illegal and, as the comment points out, a crime punishable by jail time. Homosexuality is legal in the majority of countries in the world, and specifically in our country. Our relationship has the same UK-based legal rights as heterosexual marriages (aside from the name).
- Kleptomania, that is, a recurrent failure to resist stealing, is characterised in the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders) as an impulse control disorder, i.e. a mental disorder, and is treated and controlled by drugs and therapies. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder (although it was originally misclassified as such, but was removed from the DSM due to no evidence associating homosexual desires with any form of pathology). It cannot be “treated” or “cured” by drugs or therapy.
- Even if there were no specific condemnation of theft in the Bible, it still doesn’t fit in with the principle of love which Jesus called the command that supersedes all others. It is very obvious that theft is an abuse of power of one person over the other, in which one person takes something from another person without permission. Homosexuality does fit in with Jesus’s greatest commandment of love, when expressed in the form of a committed relationship, such as ours.
So in summary, the analogy between stealing and homosexuality is inappropriate because the two things are very different – in legal standing, medical standing and theological standing.
Addressing the issue of scripture-twisting
Often people accuse gay Christians of scripture-twisting, i.e. changing the meaning of a verse or passage to fit your own ends. The story told above is a classic example of scripture-twisting. It takes two verses out of context and interprets them in a way that supports the protagonist’s lifestyle. However, we think that what the protagonist does in this story is extremely different from how we have come to our conclusions about what the Bible says about homosexuality:-
- It is not a holistic portrayal of what the Bible says about stealing – it mentions two verses when there are many more throughout the Bible (e.g. the ten commandments). What we believe about homosexuality is based on a thorough interpretation of all Bible verses potentially relating to the issue, plus additional overarching biblical principles such as that of marriage, love, etc. We try to address this on this site with Alison’s Story, and other articles. Our resources page also points readers to resources outside this site that deal with the topic similarly comprehensively.
- It does not consider either of the verses in the context in which they were written – i.e. considering issues such as cultural practices, original audience, or the original Greek and Hebrew words used. We have taken all these issues into account in our opinions, and this can be most obviously seen in our articles considering the Romans text and the arsenkoites translation, and we have seen similar thorough practice in writings from other gay Christians.
- It doesn’t consider any other theological or historical opinions on the topic (including the opinions of those who disagree). While no one person’s views are infallible, each brings their expertise and knowledge to complex issues, and their views are worth investigating. We have tried to read as widely as possible, including the views of theologians and historians with whom we disagree, and represent the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments as faithfully as we can on this site.
So you can decide for yourself whether we are cherry-picking and twisting Scripture to fit our own ends. We try to be as open and honest about our beliefs, and our journey towards and through those beliefs, and our sources, as possible. We have also tried to explore this complex issue with a lot of prayer, and with God’s guidance, and an openness to change if we feel God telling us that we are on the wrong path.
Addressing the issue of appropriate and inappropriate ways to dialogue on this site
So finally, we come to this thorny area of “censorship” and what is appropriate to publish or not. How could this person have phrased their comment more appropriately? Well, first, I should say that we have absolutely no problem with people disagreeing with us. We have many friends who have expressed concerns with various beliefs we have, or asked how our beliefs could correspond with certain Bible passages or theologies. They have asked this in a way that gives us room to respond, to share our views, and to create what we hope is a useful dialogue for both parties.
We have an example of such a comment here, which is from a personal correspondence with a former colleague: I had a look through some of the website material I believe you had forwarded. I’ve taken some time to think carefully through Justin’s argument, which is much more neatly expressed than Ron’s. However, I’m not convinced. Certainly there are complex Scriptural and cultural factors, but the whole Romans 1 context gives little room for manoeuver, especially when words like “unnatural”, “lust” and “perversion” are linked. Justin’s argument seems to be tenuous at best. Is this an example of what James Sire calls “Scripture Twisting”? As is probably clear, this colleague absolutely doesn’t agree with Becky and I being in a relationship. However, they have taken time to research the theology behind our opinions, they have engaged with those articles, they have expressed their opinion in a way that demonstrates respect and grace, and they have facilitated dialogue between us.
The real thing that stood out to us about the comment posted to Becky’s story were the opening and the closing paragraphs, where the commenter pretended to find Becky’s story inspiring and claimed to be sharing their story for mutual edification and benefit. This deceptive and manipulative tone really demonstrated to us their lack of respect for our story or our opinions. If the commenter had rephrased their concerns in a way that openly and honestly asked us whether we had misinterpreted verses to fit our own desires, then we would have had no hesitation in publishing their comment.
Anyway, those are some fairly lengthy thoughts on the topic – what do you readers think? Are we making a mountain out of a molehill – should we just have published the comment as is? How can we facilitate effective and respectful dialogue between people of different opinions? Or perhaps you want to comment on the “scripture-twisting” aspect of the article?