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This conservative author argues that Christian conservatives should take a kinder, even welcoming, approach towards homosexuals.
Once again, Maine's religious right has the chance to extend gospel witness to the homosexual community as it has never been offered before. But it is feared that my fellow evangelicals will not lift up the gospel grace as God would have us lift it up.
Will we ever have another significant chance to do so if we continue on the worn war-path of yesteryear? Then can we anticipate any respect from anyone but ourselves if we do not reverse this hostility we have projected in the name of Jesus?
There are two major divisions within Christendom: theological liberals and theological conservatives. Regarding the homosexual issue, theological liberals have baptized the homosexual lifestyle as legitimate. They have welcomed practicing homosexuals into their congregations, their pulpits, their theological professorships and their bureaucratic office-holdings.
On the other hand, theological conservatives in the main have not extended a sincere worship welcome to practicing homosexuals. They have not aggressively gone out of their way to establish cordial bridges of converse. Instead, by and large they have positioned their evangelical stance in bitter array against anyone claiming to be homosexual.
God help the theologically conservative community!
What then can the religious right do that is religiously right regarding this issue?
First, they can stop regarding homosexuality as an issue and seize it as an opportunity to look upon homosexuals as fellow human beings with a genuine concern.
Second, they can broadcast on-goingly through the media that all homosexuals are more than welcome to their sanctuaries for worship and fellowship.
Third, they can set forth logically and compassionately their biblical understanding of the homosexual situation; that is, they can establish caring dialog in studies of Scripture, the theological conservative's criteria for deciding Christian doctrine and lifestyle.
Fourth, they can foster the democratic forum in being loving toward those with whom they disagree. It is shameful that too frequently the religious right has proceeded in a dictatorial, adversarial mode rather than a respectful, courteous manner.
Fifth, they can be willing to lose in the political forum in order to win in the neighborhoods. What if the religious right should win at the polls? If so, what will the gospel have lost in the fracas? And what harm to grace will be the residue?
Sixth, they can sidestep the political forum altogether so as to channel their energies toward sincerely extending their spiritual tidings of redemption, divine mercy and Christian love.
If anything, the theological conservative champions Jesus as his model for action. Then I would challenge the evangelical to act as Jesus acted.
For example, Jesus never evangelized through Caesar's means. He instead went into the neighborhoods where the people mingled--blessing the children, healing the sick, consoling the broken-hearted and directing confused souls toward the Father.
Jesus never badgered anyone into the eternal kingdom. Instead, He politely knocked at each heart's door, waiting patiently for response--or no response.
Jesus never stormed town halls, courts nor citadels of power. Instead, Jesus set forth truth, then permitted His hearers to do with it as they willed.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, inquiring how to gain eternal life, Jesus set forth the conditions. That promising young fellow disagreed with Jesus, turned away from Him, then chose for himself his own alternative lifestyle. Jesus permitted that--courteously.
So it must be with the religious right if we are going to model Jesus. We can pronounce our understanding of homosexuality in the light of Scripture, then let the chips fall where they may. In so doing, we can reach out to those with whom we disagree, doing so gently.
Truthfully, when in God's name is the evangelical community going to tear away its scowl face and put in its place the gospel face of Jesus? Are we afraid to give it a go? Is it because we really lack the faith in the gospel's power to speak to heads and hearts? And, what is more frightening, are we instead enjoying a certain power thrust in playing deity's role with this issue?
Could we not better the gospel cause if we were a bit more laid back in compassion and patience, allowing the divine the chance to open vistas that we have never dreamt of coming upon?
In Maine, this next go-round on the homosexual matter could be our last real opportunity to be thoroughly Christian. If we muff it, we will answer at the judgment.
Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor, New Hope Church,