A lot of evangelicals who are angry about World Vision's filp-flop are debating whether they should cease to identify as evangelicals. I can't answer that question for anyone. I wouldn't even proffer a recommendation. I would remind them that people on the other side were as hurt and angry Monday and Tuesday as they are after Wednesday's reversal. But I hope pro-SSM evangelicals will think hard about what their leaders really think of them.

Suppose you're an evangelical Christian and you believe:

A) Homosexual attraction is a naturally occurring fact of human life arising out of some confluence of genetic and environmental factors, is not inherently aberrant, and in any case should not be repressed, cured, resisted, or "treated" with prayer, self-loathing, or psychotherapy (whether from mainstream practitioners or those with a background in Christian counseling); and/or

B) Gays and lesbians can seek out lifelong, monogamous partnerships or marriages; and/or

C) Same sex marriages are morally permissible for Christians in jurisdictions where they are legal and may be solemnified by religious traditions that have (through deliberative, faithful, searching discernment by clergy and laity over many years) chosen to bless them; and/or

D) In your long years of devotion to God, faithful Bible study, spiritual formation, and prayerful discernment, God has revealed to you or impressed upon your Christian conscience a belief that the small handful of biblical prohibitions against homosexuality should be weighed against the pre-scientific cosmology and normative reality of the biblical authors (which presents a "biblical worldview" sanctioning human slavery, extreme patriarchy, God-condoned violence, etc.) and that sound interpretation of such texts is required just as we apply an interpretive framework that leads us not to sanction for today's men and women "biblical" marriage models such as arranged marriage, child marriage, plural marriage, etc.; and/or

E) Christians of good faith and good will can disagree about A, B, C, or D above.

Take heed:

Many of the most powerful men in your religious tradition do not believe you are a Christian at all.  In their judgment, it is impossible for a Christian to affirm A, B, C, D, or even E above. While perhaps an unsaved person might erroneously believe one or more of those things and then get saved from eternal conscious torment in Hell and wrong thinking about homosexuality, your leaders believe that a truly regenerate, born-again believer cannot and will not affirm these things.

Thus, if you affirm any or all of them, many evangelical leaders do not believe that you are regenerate or born again. Given that there is no room for nuance, you are, rather, an unsaved, Hellbound apostate whose understanding and experience of your own perceived salvation is mistaken. Your eternal soul is in peril without a salvation experience that not only awakens you to God's saving activity through Christ in your life, but also cleanses you of the unchristian, devilish ideas represented in points A-D, and even E, above.

That is what they think of you. But they can't come out and say it because they can't afford to push 27 percent of their constituents out the door just yet. They are hoping that, literally by some miracle, more rather than fewer of their own people will see how same sex marriage is ruining civilization and come to agree with them over time. But they have drawn a line in the sand, ever closer to themselves, claiming that through their perfect interpretation of Scripture, they can draw that line and declare, "Thus saith the Lord." More and more people are outside that line, and will eventually need to be shown the door. A shedding of nominals and not-reallys will bring the One True Church (literalist, not Catholic) into sharper contrast against the vile, secular world.

Unless you're a person with some kind of platform (such as one of the "professional evangelical dissidents" they deride), they aren't explicitly condemning you to Hell. Yet. (But they are implicitly saying you are not really a Christian. After all, how many Rachel Held Evans blog posts can you read and agree with before you are not merely a mistaken Christian, but rather not a Christian at all?) You can continue to have your thoughtful and faithful engagement with a complex issue of faith, rights, reason, revelation, truth, and justice dismissed by the people whose salaries you (in many cases literally) help pay and who are supposed to be your shepherds.

Or you can just walk out that door yourself.

But...

Be advised that there are very few places you can go in the Protestant world (and nowhere in the Catholic or Orthodox world) that are open and affirming of homosexuality. Unless you join traditions that are a lot (United Church of Christ) or somewhat (Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) more doctrinally liberal and liturgical (ELCA Lutherans, Episcopalians), you will be walking into another denomination that is having a more deliberative, less apoplectic version of the same fight. Even the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination, The United Methodist Church, has not officially acknowledged the reality that Christians of good faith and good will can disagree about homosexuality.

So if you leave, think and pray hard about where you will go. If you need to leave, I hope you find a spiritual home elsewhere in the Christian family. Wherever you go, at least you will not find pastors and denominational leaders who preach "priesthood of the believer," then turn around and deride people just like you whose exercise of that cherished Protestant principle leads them to a different conclusion, saying that they are not believers at all.

 

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