Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
The Layman Online > Carmen's Writings > Has anything really changed since 2008?

Has anything really changed since 2008?

Recently, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned (after 11 days on the job) after an uproar ensued over his 2008 contribution of $1,000 in support of California Proposition 8 — the proposition defining marriage in traditional terms of monogamous heterosexuality.

Though one of the original figures at Mozilla, Eich was not able to survive the fact that he gave a private, political contribution which is now deemed to be bigoted and hateful against homosexuals.

After his resignation, the Mozilla chairwoman wrote these incredibly ironic words:

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

Apparently, whatever this means — “Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public” — it doesn’t mean that an employee can support traditional marriage and become the CEO.

Even if you have been a close observer of our culture’s evolution on the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, it still comes as a shock to realize how far we have moved in just the last six years. Whereas the “traditional view” was at that time seen as one side of a spirited debate — political, cultural, theological — now anyone who exclusively supports a “one man and one woman” position of marriage is labeled homophobic and depicted as a contemporary version of a KKK member from the 1960s. Russell Moore elaborates on this reality in a recent article: “Same Sex Marriage and the Future.”

He says:

If our people assume that everything goes back to normal with the right President and a quick constitutional amendment, they are not being equipped for a world that views evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews and others as bigots or freaks.

Jesus told us we would have hard times. He never promised us a prosperity gospel. He said we would face opposition, but he said he would be with us. If we are going to be faithful to his gospel, we must preach repentance—even when that repentance is culturally unwelcome. And we must preach that any sinner can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. That means courage and that means kindness. Sexual revolutionaries will hate the repentance. Buffoonish heretics, who want only to vent paranoia and rally their troops, will hate the kindness. So be it.

Our churches must be ready to call out the revisionists who wish to do away with a Christian sexual ethic. And we must be ready to call out those who tell us that acknowledging the signs of the times is forbidden, and we should just keep doing what we’ve been doing. An issue this culturally powerful cannot be addressed by a halfway-gospel or by talk-radio sloganeering.

The marriage revolution around us means we must do a better job articulating a theology of marriage to our people, as well as a theology of suffering and marginalization.

Why is that? Because nothing has changed for the Christian. The Word of God has not changed. God’s calling to lead lives worthy of the calling of Christ has not changed. God’s power to transform human life has not changed. God’s holy standards have not changed. God’s solution for sin has not changed. God’s offer of redemption has not changed. For the Christian, nothing has changed since 2008. The authority of the “one man and one woman” definition never rested on cultural acceptance.

Now, if in 2008, an advocate of traditional marriage did so strictly on sociological, pragmatic, political, or sexual-aesthetic grounds, then of course that ground could shift. New sociological data, political polls, or aesthetic presentation of the homosexual life could very well change one’s belief in the normative nature of heterosexual marriage.

But if someone in 2008 said that it was their Christian faith which led them to hold to a definition of marriage as “a man and a woman,” but now in 2014 they hold to the right of homosexuals to marry, then it is good for us to ask: “What has changed within Christianity, since 2008?”

Nothing has changed for the Christian…so what has changed?

(Video from 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign forum, hosted by Saddleback Community Church and Pastor Rick Warren).

About the author: Carmen Fowler LaBerge

Carmen Fowler LaBerge heads the ministry of the Presbyterian Lay Committee as its President and Executive Editor of its publications, including The Layman.

1 comment

  1. tc says:

    Carmen asks “What has changed?” The problem isn’t with the question, it is with the answer. The answer points to the assumption that the “Word of God has not changed.” On the surface, this is absolutely correct, but it ignores the obvious. We, when we read the English version of the Bible do not read the original “Word of God.” Even going back to the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, we do not have the original “Word of God.” What we have is a literary interpretation and compilation of what was originally written. As one looks at the Bible history, while the original “Word” doesn’t change, what does change is understanding and interpretation, especially when it comes to academic research into the culture and other writings we do have of the time period for comparison. A word here or there may change over time based on better understanding of the original context and culture (example Apostle Junia). An example would be if someone 2000 years ago was reading a writing of today and saw the phrase “out in left field,” would they know it relates to baseball? Regarding the specific issue, as more scholars look at the questions text, the following observations have occurred (within the last several years — thus the tie-in to Carman’s question of “what has changed”):
    1. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not primary a story about homosexuality. If one compares Jesus’ own response along with what the prophet Ezekiel, one sees a more complex issue, a lot having to do with treatment of the guests and the over indulgence, in all aspects of life (not just sexual).
    2. From N.T. Wright (and others), one needs to exam Romans 1 in context with Romans 2 and 3, and not isolated. The question is “whom” is Paul talking about in Romans 1 given the transition at the start of Romans 2. The common thinking is that Paul is using a common set of phrases that Jews used to describe Gentiles in Romans 1, much like my example of “out in left field.” If this is the case, then the section is a generic description and not meant to be specific as it is so commonly understood.
    3. Multiple sources confirm that the modern term “homosexual” used in Corinthians and Timothy is (1) a term added to English translations around 1958 (KJV uses effeminate), and (2) in Greek a word that Paul coined and only uses in these instances. With the latter, the word is not found as a common used term in other Greek writings. So, the question is: Do we trust modern English translations of the Greek to be correct when there were common words in Greek to refer to what we today would refer to people who are homosexual?

    One can still argue that the ideal for marriage is a man and woman based on Jesus reaffirmation of Genesis, but does this preclude the principle being proposed by some that “monogamy” in both our relationship with God and others is also a common theme throughout the bible. Just as with the slavery issue, this issue needs to take into account the spirit of the law, not just what is written (and how we interpret it). To me, this is beginning to look more like the issue of woman ordination, baptism, and even the eucharist, where Christians do have different interpretations of what the Bible says. The question is what should be the overriding principle that applies, like in the question of slavery, where the spirit of the law overrides specific phrases that were used to justify the practice. I for one have not seen good arguments on what the spirit should be and I feel it is laziness by evangelicals that rely on there traditional interpretation of select passages, instead of doing detailed research on what principles need to apply.

    Just as Peter had to convince the Jews to accept the Gentiles in Acts, one does wonder if this is a period where we need to be more open to the spirit opening up the Gospel and still maintain the underlying principles retained. With the case in Acts, there were certain lines that Gentiles had to follow, but they also didn’t have to follow all Jewish law in order to be accepted. What are those lines today with this discussion and why is this issue a primary essential that all must agree, when the text in question can be unclear (like we do not know for sure what Paul meant in Corinthians and Timothy due to use of invented word), or should this be a secondary issue along the lines of baptism, ordination of woman, and the meaning of the eucharist. (see Zwingli versus Luther on what Christ meant by “this is my body”). On secondary issues, Protestants have disagreed from the Reformation on, but still share unity in Christ.

    One final note relating to the article: One needs to remember that Obama was a member of the UCC, which has for years accepted things like gay marriage. So, his evolution can be said to bring more in line with the denomination he had associated with and not abandoning of his faith. As one can see, the UCC, ELCA, Episcopal church, and others like select Disciples of Christ churches, this is a schism point in the protestant church where the disagreement is over how one interprets the bible and not the authority of the Bible (sola scripture).

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