But before we do, a note: I’m going to swear a little bit in this post. If you find that offensive, please know that I am not doing so to purposefully offend you. I am doing so to stress the gravity of both the debate that is taking place and the seriousness with which I hold the position I do.
The video below has been making the rounds over the past couple of days. It features Rob Bell and British pastor Andrew Wilson on a British radio show called Unbelievable?, hosted by Richard Brierley. It’s long but worth the watch.
Throughout the conversation, it seems like Brierley and Wilson gang up on Rob, insisting that he defend his recently announced support of same sex relationships. Wilson works hard, trying to get Rob to say whether or not gay sex is sinful. Rob refuses to take the bait and tries to keep framing the discussion in a way that resonates with him. I deeply appreciate that.
At times Rob looks bemused, annoyed, and detached. It’s like the debate that Wilson and Brierley want to have sounds to him like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Eventually, around 16 and a half minutes in, he kind of snaps and calls bullshit on the whole thing.
And I am so glad he did.
One of the traps that Brierley and Wilson use is to try to label Rob’s position as “liberal” and “unorthodox.” The presupposition is that Rob has set his own opinion over and against the opinion of God. It’s God vs. Rob Bell. This is rather clever of Brierley and Wilson. If you can frame the debate that God “clearly says x, y, and z” while your opponent says something else, you’ve won. Being of the same opinion as God is the ultimate trump card.
This is bullshit.
It is not that Christian proponents of monogamous, faithful same sex relationships have their interpretation of the Bible while opponents of homosexuality have God’s interpretation. That’s simply a logical and hermeneutical fallacy. It’s bullshit.
Do you mind if I raise my voice a little bit?
EVERYONE IS INTERPRETING THE BIBLE. NO ONE IS OBJECTIVE. ALL OF US IN THIS DEBATE, REGARDLESS OF THE CONCLUSIONS WE COME TO, ARE SEEKING TO MAKE THE BEST SENSE OF THE BIBLE THAT WE CAN. WE ARE NOT TRYING TO RID OURSELVES OF GOD. WE ARE TRYING TO FIND GOD IN THE MIDST OF A VERY COMPLICATED WORLD.
I have had this bullshit foisted on me. When I have spoken out in favor of same sex marriage, I have had people send me lists of Bible verses, as if I had not given any thought to them, as if a list of Scriptural prooftexts is all that is needed for a discussion. Bullshit. I have wrestled with the biblical texts. A lot. I am interpreting them using my knowledge, faith, and experience, along with various hermenteutical tools, just like my friends who have come to different conclusions than me.
The Bible can easily be used to defend both sides of this debate. The debate is not won, let alone advanced, by simplistic prooftexting.
I too have had people accuse me of being against God because of what I have said and written. This is bullshit too. The conclusions I have come to are motivated by my love for God and my desire to see the love and justice of God’s kingdom spread far and wide.
It is disingenuous and not a little insulting to have my brothers and sisters in Christ try to pit me (or Rob, for that matter) against Jesus and his Father when I am simply trying to follow the way of Jesus as best I can.
Disagree with me. But be honest about my intentions and my process.
Debate me. But don’t try to label me as something just so that you can lump me together with some group you don’t like, as if that is the end-all and be-all of biblical interpretation.
Dismiss me if you have to. But don’t damn me to hell just because I come to a different hermeneutical and interpretative conclusion than you.
These kinds of conversations are tremendously important. But they are not just important because interpretations of the Bible are at stake. They are important because people’s lives, well-being, and faith are at stake. To suggest anything else is, well, bullshit.
In reaction to this post, an open letter was written to me on another blog. Here is my response.
I have also now posted some humble suggestions about how the church can best engage in this debate. You can read those thoughts here.