I want to point you to this important Atlantic article, “The Scandal Tearing Apart America’s Largest Protestant Denomination.” There are a few crucial connections I want to make to point out why this matters for anyone who doesn’t want to demonize LGBT+ people.
Last June I joined a group of LGBT+ advocates at the Southern Baptist Convention. We started conversations and engaged people around the topic of the harm their theology was doing to SBC children. During that event I was often told that my “temptation” to homosexuality was no different than their pornography problems, temptations to be unfaithful, addictions, etc. I was told that we are all sinners and this is just my sin. I remember one pastor telling me that he has a terrible sin of food addiction and is just as much a sinner as I was. I asked him if he would ever lose his position. He said maybe that could happen. I asked him if it had ever happened in the history of the SBC. I hope he saw my point.
Last July I heard that one of my favorite Christian authors, Eugene Peterson, had come out fully supportive of same-sex marriage. He said he doesn’t believe it’s even an issue anymore, citing a gay man who is employed at the church he is retired from. Immediately the entire Evangelical Christian Network turned on him. LifeWay Christian Resources said they were trying to get in touch with Peterson to clarify his statement, and they would pull every one of his books from their shelves if he was supportive of LGBT+ inclusion. He is the author of the message translation of the Bible and dozens of popular books. Within 24 hours he had retracted his statement.
Now it has come to light that a man in a very powerful position in the Southern Baptist Convention is a sinner, too. Paige Patterson is both seminary president and a well-connected member of the old-boys network. He believes that women who are physically abused should pray until their husbands are converted. In the mean time, they should submit as best they can. When challenged on his statements, he’s only become belligerent. He said in defense of himself that he believes wives who suffer “non-injurious physical abuse which happens in so many marriages” should just pray their husbands through it. He has also objectified a 16 year old girl in a sermon. And worst of all, he covered for a friend of his who was molesting children. He is scheduled to speak at the next Southern Baptist convention. Some people are criticizing him, many are protecting him. The same LifeWay Christian Resources put out a statement denouncing Patterson’s words, but they haven’t said anything about pulling any of him many books from the shelves. The reaction of the Evangelical community over spousal abuse, objectification of teenage girls from the pulpit, and covering for child molesters is nothing compared to their rage at someone who would dare support sacrifice and fidelity in a marriage between people of the same gender.
So what happened to all those pastors who insisted that my “sin” was like their sin? The truth is that all along they have seen my sin as the worst of all.
And in case you are Adventist and you are reading this thinking that we are better, let me share with you a quote from the SDA Theological Seminary’s book, “Homosexuality, Marriage, and the Church,” page 198. “Robert Gagnon makes a strong case that, according to God’s Word, ‘homosexual practice is a more serious violation of Scripture’s sexual norms than even incest, adultery, plural marriage, and divorce.’ Only bestiality is presented as a worse sexual offense.”
The immorality here is deep. The arrogance of looking down at people in loving and committed relationships while encouraging spousal abuse and objectification of women is something I don’t even know how to break through. All I can do is try to shine a light, and hope that people who are involved in or support these systems will refuse to do so any longer. Men like Paige Patterson will never change. But he stands on the shoulders of tens of thousands of people who complacently support him. If that’s you, I hope you resolved today that you will no longer support institutions that bring shame to the name of Jesus.