Jay Bakker: Book Review of Fall to Grace – Can Churches Find Enough Grace for Gay Marriage?

image Jay Bakker’s latest book, Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society (Faith Words 2011) is on the face of it a part-biography, part pop-theology meditation on the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

Bakker is the son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, made infamous in the US in the 1980s for their dramatic fall from grace with the collapse of their Praise the Lord (PTL) ministries due to financial and sexual scandal. Bakker has told some of his story before in Son of a Preacher Man: My Search for Grace in the Shadows (Harper Collins 2001).

So Fall to Grace is something of an update of that story, recalling his own struggles with drugs, alcoholism and cruel and unforgiving versions of Christianity. But it’s more than that. Bakker is one of the founders of Revolution Church New York City. Among Revolution’s original intentions was, as their website puts it, to identify with people ‘the church was ignoring and even blatantly rejecting … based on their appearance and lifestyle.’

While originally that might have meant Goths or skater kids, of late Bakker and Revolution have become better-known for welcoming and affirming people from the LGBT community.

Within many expressions of Christianity, that’s not the ‘right’ or ‘proper’ attitude to have towards homosexuality. I’m sure I don’t need to rehearse the arguments on this website, but here it goes: homosexuality is a sin, therefore gay marriage should not be allowed, and Christians should do everything in their power possible to stop it (including making laws so gay people outside the church can’t get married).

In the YouTube clip below, you can see the reaction of the congregation at Grace Church, described as a gospel church, when Bakker says: ‘I’m pro gay marriage. I don’t believe it’s a sin.’ The once enthusiastic crowd greets him with a stony silence.

While it is not the main focus of Fall to Grace, Bakker dedicates a significant portion of the book to explaining how he arrived at his views on homosexuality and gay marriage. This includes some personal stories – it’s clear that Bakker has been profoundly influenced by friendships with people who are openly (or not so openly) gay.

But having experience of Christian traditions that have used particular passages from Scripture to argue that homosexuality is a sin, Bakker is keen to root his own position in Scripture. His argument is based on two premises:

  • Old Testament references to homosexuality, such as Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, are as outdated as Old Testament prohibitions on eating shellfish, cutting sideburns, getting tattoos, interracial marriage, slavery, and treating women like property (p. 169). Baker argues that Christians who today use these passages from Leviticus to make their case, claiming a so-called Biblical high ground, are in fact taking a pick and choose attitude towards Scripture.
  • New Testament references to homosexuality (in I Timothy, I Corinthians and Romans) have been mistranslated and ‘actually refer to acts like male prostitution, ritual sex, and inhospitality to strangers – all things that Christians discourage, whether gay or straight’ (page 170).

It’s worth thinking about this second point, because Christians who use these Scriptures to condemn homosexuality are likely to say that the charges of ‘mistranslation’ are simply political correctness gone mad, and an attempt to make the church conform to modern, secular ideas. So to give one example of how Bakker expands his argument:

‘… Paul uses the Greek words malakois and arsenokoitai in I Corinthians, which are often mistranslated as “male prostitutes” and “homosexuals” respectively. But the latter, mistaken translation hasn’t been around very long. The first time the word homosexual ever appeared in an English-language Bible was in 1958. Greek language scholars have begun to recover the true meaning of the word. Malaokois, we now know, probably meant “effeminate call boys” – young hairless men who were used for sexual pleasure. Arsenokoitai, meanwhile, referred to the married men who hired them for entertainment. So Paul was talking about prostitutes and the men who hired them, not adults engaged in consensual same-gender love.’ (p. 172)

Chapter 15 includes an extended treatment of this topic, including consideration of that tricky passage in Genesis about the destruction of Sodom.

Bakker is aiming for the most generous interpretation of Scripture possible in regards to homosexuality – not only is it NOT a sin, but the way that many Christians today treat homosexuality is counter to the example of Jesus.

Jesus, after all, never speaks about homosexuality in the Bible and he was known for hanging out with the people that his co-religionists considered ‘sinners’ – tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.

Fall to Grace is about much more than Bakker’s position on homosexuality. The book is saturated with his own experience of grace – feeling deeply accepted by God for who he is. He thinks that extending acceptance to outcasts, and not demanding that they change to become just like us, is not an ‘anything goes’ approach to Christianity. Rather, Baker sees it as a more authentic interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus.

I agree with Bakker – at the least I’d like to give him some more space to get a genuine conversation (not a shouting match, punctuated with cut-and-paste Bible verses) started.

We should not be afraid to question whether the way Christians use Scripture to arrive at positions on a range of matters – homosexuality is just one of many – is the way that Christians actually should use Scripture. We should not be afraid to consider the possibility that we might be wrong, and be open to hearing what others’ interpretations may be.

Most of all, we should not use Scripture to build our ‘Christian’ walls ever higher, alienating people and cutting off relationships with them.

43 thoughts on “Jay Bakker: Book Review of Fall to Grace – Can Churches Find Enough Grace for Gay Marriage?”

  1. I’d like to recommend Stephen R. White’s “The Right True End of Love” on the issue of the church and sexuality – a really inspiring book, which has implications far beyond the specific questions with which it deals.

    It’s interesting that homosexuality seems more or less to be the only issue upon which a range of people will still simply refer to ‘what the Bible says’ with little further analysis, not even a basic distinction between the Old and New Testaments. (It would be encouraging if they would bring an iota of the same literalism to bear upon what the Bible says about creation or about the poor.)

    Unless we want to take a strictly God-dictated view of Scripture, in which case, as you point out, we should be eschewing prawn sandwiches and mixed-fibre shirts, there is nothing to be afraid of in asking, in the case of each verse, who is saying it, what exactly they were saying in their original language, why, and in what kind of society they were speaking. Then we bring to bear upon that knowledge, absolutely crucially, what we know from the Gospels of the nature of God, and to a lesser, but still important extent, what additional insights we have been granted by science and history.

    I think it was Stephen White, in the book mentioned above, who said that if we hear, second-hand, an unpleasant story about what one of our close friends has supposedly done, and we judge it out of character, we don’t automatically assume the negative story to be true. In the same way, if something we read in the Bible seems to contradict the loving and accepting God revealed in Jesus Christ, it is our duty to ask further questions about it.

  2. We might be right and we might be wrong. We have, on the one hand, 2000 years of Christianity. Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, the practise of sodomy was condemned as one of the sins crying out to heaven for vengeance. There are sound arguments against the practise from the Natural Law, from Scripture and the constant Tradition and the constant Magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church. We also have the insight gained from psychology, which actually supports the Biblical position, that would be the orthodox position. The work of the muchly disparaged NARTH, for example, supports the Christian stance on this issue (for there is only one).

    On the other hand, we have the recent trend whereby there has been a concerted campaign to normalise homosexuality, and it has been tremendously successful, hence this conversation. They tell us it is not a sin – don’t worry and enjoy your life.

    There is a truth about this issue, and it is knowable. We can know, and God wants us to know, what is the truth on this issue, among many others.

    False charity, and false compassion, would fool people into remaining in their sins, and it would deny them the forgiveness and mercy of God. It would deny them eternal life.

    Jesus did mingle with sinners, but He never condoned sin – He never winked at sin, or laughed at it, or acted like it didn’t matter. He said, ‘Go, and sin no more’ to the woman caught in adultery, just as He says the same to us today.

    I suppose a variation of Pascal’s Wager could be useful here, since there is doubt and confusion: Let us suppose the Church teaching on homosexuality is wrong. What have we got to lose? Some pleasure and enjoyment I suppose. But let us suppose that the Church teaching is right, but we ignore it and choose to do our own thing – what then? Well, we would life a life of hedonism, and when we die, where shall we go, remembering that nothing unclean shall enter heaven, that only the pure in heart will see God, and that unrepented sin cannot be forgiven and bars us from heaven? Eternal life shall be lost, and we shall spend our eternity separated from God. We’d be thrown out of the wedding banquet all because we refused to put on the wedding garment that had been prepared
    for us. We would lose everlasting life and be thrown into the eternal darkness.

    If we love God, we would do anything, anything, to avoid offending Him, we would seek to avoid anything that would risk offending Him and going against His will. Would a Christian take a risk at offending God so much, and risk their eternal life?

  3. A couple of points, not really addressed to Martin, who has everything sewn up neatly at the moment (though give reality another twenty years or so…)

    Firstly, I’ve always thought Pascal’s wager a particularly cowardly and cynical grounds for belief. If it’s true, as C. S. Lewis, said, and I agree, that we can only choose what to believe, I’d prefer to follow his own Puddleglum’s lead,

    “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones…. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. ” (The Silver Chair)

    Secondly, who is making the choice? If a person who is a homosexual Christian isn’t sure whether or not God wishes him or her to enter into a relationship and therefore chooses to be celibate, as several people who are very dear to me have done, I have nothing but admiration and respect for them. Their sacrifice is a true gift to God and will be rewarded in heaven many, many times over. But for those of us who are heterosexual and have been given the enormous benefits of being able to marry and have children to choose to condemn homosexuals in the hope that this may squeeze us into salvation is despicable and mean. Jesus spoke to us very clearly about what kinds of behaviour would make us welcome in Paradise – feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, visiting prisoners … he said nothing about condemning the different.

    Thirdly, yes, he told the woman caught in adultery that she should go and sin no more. Adultery is a sin, a betrayal of the person we have promised to remain faithful to, and, as Jesus said, we are practically all guilty of it, in thought if not in deed. A gay man or woman in a marriage (or civil partnership, if this the most they are allowed) who looks upon someone other than their spouse with lust is as guilty, but no more so, than a straight person in the same situation.

    Finally, there has not been nearly enough tolerance, in time or quality, to be able to properly judge the psychological implications of being homosexual as compared to being heterosexual. At the moment gay people must still bear enormous burdens, if not of illegality, then still of condemnation, misunderstanding and disappointment. It is far too soon to know the true causes of any greater strain which they bear.

  4. Tanya, couple of points, based on both of your posts.

    ”But for those of us who are heterosexual and have been given the enormous benefits of being able to marry and have children to choose to condemn homosexuals in the hope that this may squeeze us into salvation is despicable and mean. Jesus spoke to us very clearly about what kinds of behaviour would make us welcome in Paradise – feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, visiting prisoners … he said nothing about condemning the different.”

    — I am certain that nobody has condemned homosexuals to hell on this webpage at this point in time. Perhaps a little overused, but love the sinner, hate the sin springs to mind. If you think that God is loving and accepting of sin, then you are mistaken. God was crucified and died a bloody and monstrous death to show to us – miserable sinners as we are – what sin costs: the blood of Jesus Christ poured out for us so that our sins might be forgiven. God loves sinners so much that He died for them and paid the price for our sins. Not so that we could sin again, but so that, once forgiven, we could live the new life in Christ, putting to death all that is sin.

    If you think the Catholic dogma on this issue is going to change in twenty years, then you are mistaken. That belief is based in Modernism, and has been condemned by the Church. Modernism is closely related to relativism. There is no absolute truth, they tell us and our ‘truth’ is always shifting.

    You say that homosexual sins of lust are no worse than heterosexual sins of lust; not quite. Heterosexual sins of lust are in the order of nature, whereas homosexual are not. Thus the sins of homosexual lust are even graver than heterosexual lust. However, it is nitpicking since all are grave sins. Thomas Aquinas and Church teaching would agree with this point.

    Let us look at one verse from Scripture:

    ”Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites
    nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God. That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
    (1 Cor. 6)

    Gladys is not keen on lengthy quotations from Scripture here, so that will be the only one
    I post.

    But what is the deal here? The deal is, if you choose to give up on God, and choose to live your life your way, indulging in sin, without repentance, without amending your life, then how can you expect to enter paradise when you treat God like a fool? God is not mocked. If we return to our vomit having once been forgiven, as Scripture says, we shall be in a worse state than we were before. At the risk of sounding crass, I ask just how is the living, perfect, and infinitely good God glorified by homosexual acts? The Scripture makes clear that salvation IS available for all, but we must give up sin!

    I think this whole argument is really trying to square triangles. We want what we want – the best of both worlds – we also want to get to heaven so we can see God as well as enjoying the sexual pleasure. Personally, I’d love to think that if I met a nice girl I could fornicate with her and God wouldn’t care, but who am I trying to fool? Come off it! Even if I fool myself, I cannot fool God. God HAS told us what He expects of us in every area of our lives, and as Catholics, both you and I Tanya know what God expects. As Catholics we can pray the Act of Faith with great confidence:

    ”O MY GOD, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I believe that Thy Divine Son became Man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.”

  5. Thank you for this, Martin. I think that we agree upon what is fundamental. I’m not saying for a moment that sin doesn’t matter or that God loves or accepts sin. And I would further agree that hedonism and promiscuity are sinful. Where we differ is on the question of whether the Christian understanding of marriage can develop to encompass a marriage between two men or two women. I think it possible that it can. This is what I am talking about; those gay couples I know who work, raise children, grow vegetables, serve their communities, pray to God and are faithful to one another.

    Yes, truth is absolute, and failures to love God and one another, to be just, to be truthful, to be fair will always be sins. But other religious prohibitions, such as dietary ones, do not define sin for all time; they are particular to the society in which they were needed, and pass away when they are no longer required. Jesus’ acts on the Sabbath show this to be the case. The question here is whether the prohibition on homosexual activity is such an instance. For most of history, it has been essential that many children should be born – hence the strong emphasis upon fruitful marriage. Now, very suddenly, we are living in a world where it is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to provide for all the people living in it, and where medically it is now possible for children to be conceived without heterosexual intercourse. These changes in themselves of course raise enormous moral questions of which I don’t know the answers; their relevance here is only to show that society no longer requires marriage to be necessarily fertile or exclusively heterosexual. You will say that, nonetheless, God requires it. You may be right; as you say, you certainly have tradition on your side, but my conscience and reason lead me to think that this may be an issue upon which tradition can develop further.

    The quotation from 1 Corinthians is one of those referred to in Gladys’ original post, so brings us back to her original question – how should we use Scripture? Let us hope that this conversation can do something to lower the walls she speaks of. I won’t be able to post here for a while but would like to thank you again and extend my best wishes.

  6. Martin, it is not lenghty quotes from scripture that I object to (I don’t think I have ever moderated scripture quotes off the blog, if I have, I don’t remember), what I object to are long, cut and paste quotes from other websites. These, in my experience, usually are off the topic of the original blog post, and therefore get moderated.

    You also seem to have missed the point of the post of being open to the idea that our interpretations of scripture could be wrong. There was the part in the post about a possible mistranslation of Greek words to mean homosexuality in modern versions of the bible. Scholars also dispute just what the biblical writers might have meant by sodomy. I reference Bakker’s long discussion of this in his book, but don’t go into it in depth in the post. Briefly, many dispute that sodomy refers to homosexuality or homosexual acts, and think that it refers to gang rape and/or being inhospitable. This is based on an intepretation of the visit of the angels to Lot’s house, where Lot was so ‘kind’ as to offer the crowd his daughters to be gang raped.

  7. Glady’s, I’m a bright boy. I know what the main thrust of this argument is about. I haven’t missed any ‘nuances’.

    Why would we think the Church has got it wrong? Not only the Catholic Church, but every Protestant ecclesial community up until very recently held homosexual acts to be immoral. Why now are some trying to change it or tell us that God got it wrong when He promised the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail, and that He would guide His Church into all truth? I think it is interesting that the disputes today among Christians are generally confined to matters of sexuality. One rarely if ever hears somebody say ‘I just can’t accept the Trinity!’ No, it’s usually more to do with sex.

    Look, the issue is this: the faith and morals of the Catholic faith are like a seamless garment. Once to start trying to remove particular threads, before you know it, you have nothing but a big pile of meaningless threads, which are good for nothing.

    If you accept homosexual acts and homosexual unions as morally acceptable, then you must, to be fair, allow sex between the unmarried, thus the Bible’s prohibitions against fornication must go out the window too… Do you see where this is going?

    If you place your own reason and your own conscience as superior to the wisdom of God, well then, that could be a major problem for you. Tanya, you express a total misunderstanding and ignorance of how doctrine develops in the Catholic Church, when you say that the tradition can ‘develop further’. If by ‘develop further’ you mean that one day the RCC will bless and approve homosexual unions, then I am sorry to disappoint, but that will never happen. It also endangers your own soul and those who you may influence if you lead them to reject the faith.

    The Catechism states thus:

    2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

    Tanya, I recommend for you to read the first few chapters of Genesis as well as Googling the following articles: ‘Catholic Answers, Homosexuality’ and ‘Protestants, chastity sf’

    I can’t believe the two of you are trying to argue in favour of sodomy – it really beggars belief. And for that reason, as they say on Dragon’s Den, I’m out.

  8. Hi Martin,

    You may think you are a bright boy, but either you are just wrong about your own intellect or you are deliberately misrepresenting Gladys and Tanya here. Gladys said that our interpretations of Scripture might be wrong. And hasn’t the church been wrong in its interpretations of scripture before, like slavery? The church told us slavery was okay too, and that black people were inferior because of the curse of Ham or Shem or whoever. What about eating meat on Fridays – that used to be a mortal sin, didn’t it? Or the babies in purgatory? The list goes on and on.

    Anyway, if you actually read or understood her comment, Gladys also defined sodomy as gang rape and inhospitality. i don’t see Gladys or Tanya arguing in favour of gang rape or inhospitality.

  9. Gladys – the Church treats homosexuals the same way She treats all Her children: she loves them so much as to present to them the truth about God and the truth . It is false compassion and false charity which would lead people to fool others into continuing in their sins, all the while promising them that salvation is available for those who refuse to reject sin and who reject chastity. That is the ultimate cruelty – to deny people salvation, and that is, in the final analysis, what is at stake here. That is anything but charity or compassion. It is like the voice of the Deceiver in the garden: ”Did God really say sodomy is a sin? Surely something so pleasurable can’t be a sin?” The well-meaning persons who would lead us along this path lack compassion for us and seek only their own self-satisfaction. We abandon holiness in pursuit of our sensual pleasure. If we sow in the flesh we shall reap in the flesh. If we sow in the spirit, we shall reap of the spirit.

    If you truly wish to help people, you give them the truth, all of it, even the bits that the world regards as unpalatable and politically incorrect.

    True compassion is NOT a broad-minded acceptance of anything. Jesus came to save us from our sins. He did not come to condone sin or pretend it doesn’t exist. He came to show us how our sin hurts us, others, and how much we stand to lose if we persist in it. His mission was a mission of true compassion – to call us away from sin and into holiness. Sexuality and sin are very closely connected. Our sexuality is one of the ways in which the divine reality is in some way illustrated in us. It is also the means by which Satan seeks to distort and pervert the image of God in men. Holiness of life depends on purity and a holy life leads us to live a life of chastity. Chastity leads us to reject all sexual activity which is not open to new life within the bounds of Holy Matrimony. This is not repression, but chastity is the purifying transformation of desire into love.

    If we spurn chastity, we spurn Christ. It’s that simple.

  10. The first line of my post above should have read:

    ”Gladys – the Church treats homosexuals the same way She treats all Her children: she loves them so much as to present to them the truth about God and the truth about themselves so that they might attain salvation.”

  11. Hi Martin,
    Do you keep missing the part where Gladis (and Jay Bakker if you go back to the original post) raises the question: does sodomy equal homosexuality? The whole point is that MAYBE, just MAYBE sodomy means gang rape and inhospitality, not homosexuality.

  12. Thankfully, the Catholic Church teaches us that homosexuals are to be treated with respect, compassion & sensitivity ( Cathecism 2358 ) ; would that the liberal media applied the same standards of civility to the Church. But Martin is right, the Church simultaneously/eternally/consistently teaches that homosexual acts are sinful. The Church has set up the organisatuon ” Courage “, to assist homosexuals who may wish to order their lives in accordance with Church teaching. Of course they are free not to do so. There are similar organisations for those of us who are heterosexual. Surely in keeping with the concepts of plurality/tolerance, the Church has the right to teach what it sincerely believes to be true & good. Paul McCabe is correct that the Church can refine her teaching as reason evolves – Aquinas being the prime exemplar of same ( See ” The Victory of Reason “, by Prof. Rodney Stark ). For es=xample, he may be interested to learn that one of the earliest admonitions against slavery ( partially in response to Aquinas’s lecture’s ) was issued by Pope Eugene IV – ” Sicut Dudum “, in the 1400’s.

  13. Come off it Paul – do you think we’re all stark-raving mad ejits?

    sod·om·y (sd-m)
    Any of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural or abnormal, especially anal intercourse or bestiality.

    — Nothing there about inhospitableness, gang rape, or giving people a dirty look!

    It’s gross anachronism and foolishness to even attempt to suggest that sodomy refers to anything other than unnatural sexual acts.

    From the very start of the Church, the Christians held that these acts were immoral. Look at the Didache, the Apostolic Constitutions, the Church Fathers, the constant Tradition of the Church, Scripture, Tradition, the Natural Law, and now science and psychology – always and everywhere these unnatural acts were held to be gravely immoral and the catholic Church continues to teach it to this day.

    ***Forgetting all of this, can anybody tell me how, exactly, homosexual acts give glory to the most holy Trinity? It is blasphemy to suggest that these acts can be approved and in doing so, imply that they give glory to the good God.***

    ”For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them… they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.

    While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man …Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper.”

    [Romans, chapter 1.]

  14. Martin, how does a cut-and-paste dictionary definition of sodomy prove anything? So now the Oxford English dictionary, or wherever you got your definition, should be held on the same level as sacred scripture?

    It still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter – were the people who lived in Sodom punished because they were homosexual and wanted to engage in homosexual activity; or were they punished because they wanted to rape someone (the angel visitors, Lot’s daughters, it didn’t really seem to matter to them) etc?

    Yes, we English speakers got our word ‘sodomy’ from the city of Sodom in the bible story. But that doesn’t mean we understood (or correctly translated) what kind of (sexual) activity the original biblical writer was talking about.

  15. ***Forgetting all of this, can anybody tell me how, exactly, homosexual acts give glory to the most holy Trinity? It is blasphemy to suggest that these acts can be approved and in doing so, imply that they give glory to the good God.***

    Anybody? (Bear in mind that once you accept homosexual acts as good and morally acceptable, you cannot exclude fornication and masturbation. If you accept one, you must embrace the others, because you have accepted that sexual activity outside marriage which is closed to new life is OK).

  16. Hello all,

    i believe as a progressive Christian we need to bring contemporary
    cultural and social attidues and insight plus individual reason into dialogue with scripture in an ongoing conversation in issues such as homosexuality. The biblical passages about this subject cannot be the only authority in this matter as they are open to a variety of multiple often contested interpretations ..Jay offers a in my mind a compelling biblical interpretation that suggests homosexuality is not a sin. I have listened to the stories of gay christians in group settings talking about the harsh judgementalism they have sufferred from fellow Christians in NI which has made them think about giving up the faith as they have recieved more tolerance, friendship and acceptance from secular society.

    The authority of the Great Tradition whilst useful as a source of wisdom cannot be authorative for me as the church (i include all denominations) has got it wrong so many times in the past which has brought great shame and disrepute to Christianity in general. I suspect that there is an unbridgeable gulf in my position compared to Martin and others but such is the way in the differences between christian traditions.


  17. I would like to change my wording that the great tradition cannot act as a final authority as opposed to authoritative!!!!!!!!


  18. I find it fascinating that Pope Pius XI addressed the crux of the matter in his 1928 Encyclical, Mortalium animos, On Religious Unity.

    ”There are some, indeed, who recognize and affirm that Protestantism, as they call it, has rejected, with a great lack of consideration, certain articles of faith […] and which the Roman Church still retains. They soon, however, go on to say that that Church also has erred, and corrupted the original religion by adding and proposing for belief certain doctrines which are not only alien to the Gospel, but even repugnant to it. Among the chief of these they number that which concerns the primacy of jurisdiction, which was granted to Peter and to his successors in the See of Rome. […] Others again, even go so far as to wish the Pontiff Himself to preside over their motley, so to say, assemblies.


    9. These pan-Christians who turn their minds to uniting the churches seem, indeed, to pursue the noblest of ideas in promoting charity among all Christians: nevertheless how does it happen that this charity tends to injure faith? Everyone knows that John himself, the Apostle of love, who seems to reveal in his Gospel the secrets of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment “Love one another,” altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt version of Christ’s teaching. […] For which reason, since charity is based on a complete and sincere faith, the disciples of Christ must be united principally by the bond of one faith. Who then can conceive a Christian Federation, the members of which retain each his own opinions and private judgment, even in matters which concern the object of faith, even though they be repugnant to the opinions of the rest? And in what manner, We ask, can men who follow contrary opinions, belong to one and the same Federation of the faithful? […] How so great a variety of opinions can make the way clear to effect the unity of the Church We know not; that unity can only arise from one teaching authority, one law of belief and one faith of Christians.”

    Well, there you have it from the mouth of Pius XI way back in 1928 – what I have been saying all along and in particular on this thread. That it is irreconcilable to claim to have Christian unity when such diverse opinions are held which are disgusting and repugnant to the other. Also, genuine ecumenism has as its ultimate end, the unification of all Christians within the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, under the one earthly shepherd appointed by Christ – the Roman Pontiff. The full encyclical is worth a read – it’s not long.

    What is proposed on this blog, on the other hand, is what I term ‘ecumania – really an irreconcilable spiritual schizophrenia that can bear no good spiritual fruit.

  19. As a Catholic, let me apologise for Martin’s rabid anti-Protestantism. (and anti-anyone who doesn’t agree with his interpretation of Catholicism, for that matter …)

    Doesn’t he think the Catholic Church has moved on in its attitudes to ecumenism since 1928?

    It’s a sad conception of ‘unity’ that doesn’t allow for discussion, questioning and sharing of ideas. I think unity can tolerate a little difference of opinion and interpretation, but Martin clearly doesn’t. Gladys, why do you not ban Martin from this blog? He refuses to engage in a constructive way, he just seems to see it as his personal mission to attack you and anything you say. He just uses your comments as a personal platform for spreading his own narrow version of Catholicism, claiming he represents all Catholics. He really should get his own blog if he wants to do that. Referring to your blog, Gladys, he says ‘what is proposed on this blog … is ecumania .. etc, blah blah blah’. I take it he is referring to your slogan, ‘building a church without walls’.

    Martin, you are building a church with the highest walls possible , which is contrary to Jesus’ example and contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit.

  20. This is not ‘my interpretation of Catholicism’ Mine is not a ‘narrow view of Catholicsm’. I take all my cues from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other Magisterial documents – you can easily check that what I propose is in full accord with the teaching and beliefs of the Church – the same beliefs all Catholics hold, otherwise they are not Catholic. I’m afraid your understanding of the Catholic Church and Her faith is flawed. You simply cannot pick and choose which elements of the faith you will accept and which you will reject. I feel for you though, since the knowledge of Catholics is woeful, due to the demise of Catholic education and the collapse of catechesis. I have been a victim of this too. As Archbishop Diarmaid Martin said, the Catholics of Ireland are largely theologically illiterate. There then is the call to take up the Catechism and learn our faith. Don’t worry though, it is never too late and there has never been a better time to do so.

    The Church has not, and cannot, ‘move on’ from the reality of what ecumenism is and what its goal is. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, ecumenism has as its goal the unification of all Christians under the Successor of St. Peter. That has not changed since 1928, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise given what we’ve seen for the last few decades.

    All your discussion and sharing of ideas ultimately has one goal: the condonment of sin. This matter of gay sex has already been definitively decided by God and confirmed by the Church from day one. It is an insult to Almighty God, and a wound to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that you lot are sitting round talking about sodomy and thinking it might be OK even as Our Blessed Lord has said it is a sin.

    It’s about what God wants, not about what you or I want. God is love, not sin. Sin offends the good God and it destroys our soul. I’ll keep saying that, because it is true, even if nobody wants to hear it and even if those who laud freedom, tolerance, and diversity would move to silence and shut down anyone who would dare to disagree with them.

    My basic issue with Glady’s entire project is this: It represents pan-religious imperialism. As far as I understand it, Gladys wants to see the Catholic Church and all the separated ecclesial communities melded into one motley bunch, with a lowest common denominator approach – the same approach that is condemned by Pius XI in 1928. But this is contrary to human freedom. As Pope Benedict said, it represents a new intolerance, because the Catholic Church is not allowed to ‘be’ Herself, but instead is being pressured to enter into the ‘new religion’ and the new moral code, as if it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.

  21. Isn’t God lucky that he has you as his mouthpiece to tell us all what is right? Thanks, Martin. Or should I say, thanks God?

    Ecumenism isn’t about melding ecclesial communities into one motley bunch, that’s just your distorted view of it. A straw man you have constructed for your own purposes. Ecumenism allows all the different churches to ‘be’ themselves. It does not want a new religion or a new moral code. There is such a thing as unity in diversity. Your idea of getting everyone to be a Catholic after your image and your likeness is far more imperialistic than Gladys’s project.

  22. Martin I find your remarks very offensive. I generally am all for free speech but its seems to me you hijack every post Gladys puts up with your extreme rantings.

    You are poisoning the atmosphere of this blog and I for one thinks Gladys should just ban you, you bring nothing to the conversation only dogma and bile.

    If you are so keen to get your views across go and set-up your own blog. I am fed up with you throwing your fundamentalist hand grenades into every discussion.

    It is putting me and I am sure other people off commenting on this site, as we don’t want people like you sniping at every remark made.

  23. Paul, I find your insults insulting, so where does that leave us?

    I merely present the teachings of the Church. If you have an issue with the crux of my arguments, you might take it up with Pope Pius XI or his Master, the Lord. The arguments are not mine.

    I bet if Jesus was to sign up on this blog, He’d have His IP address permanently barred, such was His absolute claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. His claims would be intolerable here.

  24. I am with Mark, I read Gladys Blog to find out about churches in the 21st century not to get brow beaten with catholic dogma from the 18th century.

    Martin you are like some opinionated drunk in a bar who winds everyone up the wrong way.

    Gladys is it not time to call the bouncer over to this guy??

  25. I read your blog and enjoy it too – I am with Mark, Mike and others about Martins extreme ranting.

    I wish he would set up his own blog instead of hijacking yours!

  26. I’d be sorry to see anyone ‘banned’ from this blog.

    I tend to think that disagreement – which is all that’s happening here – is one of the main ways that we realise – in the sense of ‘make real’ – the appalling mystery of actual other people.

    Maybe Mr. Sartre was right? Maybe hell IS other people? Seems like that’s true for me, anyway, quite a lot of the time. But hopefully the hell of other people is one that Christ has visited and overcome for us as well.

    Though I suppose that that might not stop a visit to it feeling like a crucifixion…

  27. Like Peter, I would not like to see anyone’s contributions to this site permanently barred, but it does seem as though we are reaching the same kind of impasse repeatedly, and perhaps need to examine the fundamental reasons for this. In writing this, I am deliberately not responding to the comments which Martin has made about me personally. These hurt, of course, but I don’t think they are justified, and will let them pass.

    Earlier in this thread, Martin wrote:

    “Look, the issue is this: the faith and morals of the Catholic faith are like a seamless garment. Once to start trying to remove particular threads, before you know it, you have nothing but a big pile of meaningless threads, which are good for nothing.”

    I think that this choice of metaphor goes a long way towards explaining the communication difficulties which we have encountered between different commentators on this blog. Obviously, to those who view their faith in this way, attempts to explore change will be dangerous and often incomprehensible. By contrast, for others of us, both Catholic and Protestant, natural metaphors for our faith, communal as well as individual, might be those of journey or a tree. On a journey it doesn’t much matter if you take the odd wrong turning, so long as you keep your wits about you, communicate with one another and keep in touch with your guide: you can be back on the main path quickly and meanwhile have explored a little more scenery. Or to look at it the other way around, when growing a tree, or rather, allowing a tree to grow, pruning back the redundant side-shoots allows the main body to grow more sturdily.

    This will be nonsense, probably wicked nonsense, to Martin, Eric and others. Please don’t take the trouble to say so; there is no need, and this comment is not intended to start a new debate. But to those of you to whom our way of thinking about faith is, sometimes quite literally, anathema, I would ask that, if you wish to participate in this conversation, you listen to what we are actually saying and accept the terms of reference within which the dialogue exists. As has been pointed out, there are numerous websites devoted to the maintenance of your ‘seamless garment’ and we would not have the discourtesy to intrude upon these to comment negatively upon their raison d’etre. I only ask that you extend to us the same courtesy.

  28. Tanya, I would never describe anyone’s contribution as nonsense. I might not agree with it, but if it’s their sincerely held view, I would respect them, while trying to explain the rationale for my beliefs. Can I direct you to the methodology & content of Pope Benedict’s teachings in this regard. Deo Caritas Est, is a wonderful/beautiful place to begin. The Pope is a brilliantly intelligent, non-confrontational teacher, he sets out Catholic teaching in intelligent/compassionate terms. In total contrast to the intolerant/irrational ranting of his media critics. Catholic teaching may seem superficially harsh, but that’s only because it aspires us to try to be better than we might otherwise be ; & via the sacraments provides a safety net for us on our journey. For example, from the perspective of a heterosexual male, sometimes the call to marital fidelity can be difficult ; nevertheless because of the beauty of the Church’s teaching on marriage, we are inspired/heIped to perservere. Hope this helps. God bless.

  29. What pains me here as a homosexual, God-loving, faith-filled human being, is that some of you are talking about homosexuality from the standpoint of sex (I’m not going to point my finger at people). Homosexuality is not about sex. Its about how one feels in their heart about oneself. Its about one’s preference for companionship (amongst other lifestyle choices).

    I can not imagine myself, physically nor mentally, having a relationship, sexual or non-sexual with a female. It just does not fall into what I believe God has formed me into.

    So the church then says “well you must remain celibate in that case.” So basically, all openly-homosexual people must miss out on the companionship and love that heterosexual people have access to as a given. We must be pushed back and watch from the sidelines.

    I firmly believe that God never intended this to happen. I firmly believe that the Bible has been misinterpreted, rewritten, embellished, taken away from etc. etc. etc. to the point where we have too many interpretations and too many interpretations of those interpretations!

    Romans 1 wouldn’t be complete without Romans 2 🙂

    I was brought up Christian. My father is a retired church pastor. Both my parents fully accept me as I am and totally 100% believe that God does too. As a homosexual man, I’m not dirty. I don’t go around doing dirty things. I am like anyone else and struggle with the same struggles as anyone else would struggle with. I want the privilege of being in a long-term companionship with someone who I love very much. And its not too much to ask.

    I would like to direct you to a couple of books:

    “Calling The Rainbow Nation Home” – Elaine Sundby

    “Exchanging The Truth Of God For A Lie” – Jeremy Marks

    I’m pleased that the love of God is in my heart and that I can say that I do love every one of you in this forum. I don’t judge, criticise or try to force my opinions on anybody. I can merely just say who I am and hope that you will accept me, respect me and love me too. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, shall NOT perish, but WILL have everlasting life.


  30. Aaron, I have to correct you. You have totally missed the point of Catholic teaching. You are absolutely not denied companionship & love. The Cathecism explains this clearly. However the Catholic Church ( I don’t know what other Church’s teach ) does not encourage sexual relations of a homosexual nature – the teaching has always been thus. There are obviously very serious health & psychological reasons to support this teaching. It’s not done out of spite/hate, quite the contrary. You might be interested to know that the Church has established a support group ( for people of all religions & none ) called ” Courage “, for those who wish to try to lead their lives in accordance with the Church’s teaching. Dont be too hard on yourself. No one is perfect. Hope I’m not being offensive to other religions when I say this, but the sacramennt of penance/reconciliation can be a great support also in this regard.

  31. This is an interesting article about the Catholic view of Homosexuality and how it leaves homosexuals in a pretty lonely place. This article is questioning how one is to minister to Homosexuals if all there is, is a list of no’s and don’ts,

    “Here’s a real pastoral question to consider: What place is there for the gay person in the Catholic church? With the warning from the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., that it would pull out of social services in the city rather than accede to a bill that would afford benefits to same-sex spouses, a question, too long neglected, arises for the whole church: What is a gay Catholic supposed to do in life?

    Imagine you are a devout Catholic who is also gay. Here is a list of the things that you are not to do, according to the teaching of the church. (Remember that most other Catholics can choose among many of these options.) None of this should be new or in any way surprising. If you are gay, you cannot:

    1.) Enjoy romantic love. At least not the kind of fulfilling love that most people, from their earliest adolescence, anticipate, dream about, hope for, plan about, talk about and pray for. In other cases, celibacy (that is, a lifelong abstinence from sex) is seen as a gift, a calling or a charism in a person’s life. Thus, it is not to be enjoined on a person. (“Celibacy is not a matter of compulsion,” said then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.) Yet it is enjoined on you. (“Homosexual person are called to chastity,” says the Catechism, meaning complete abstinence.) In any event, you cannot enjoy any sort of romantic, physical or sexual relationship.

    2.) Marry. The church has been clear, especially of late, in its opposition to same-sex unions. Of course, you can not marry within the church. Nor can you enter into any sort of civil, same-sex unions of any kind. (Such unions are “pseudo-matrimonies,” said the Holy Father, that stem from “expressions of an anarchic freedom”) They are beyond the pale. This should be clear to any Catholic. One bishop compared the possibility of gays marrying one another to people marrying animals.

    3.) Adopt a child. Despite the church’s warm approval of adoption, you cannot adopt a needy child. You would do “violence,” according to church teaching, to a child if you were to adopt.

    4.) Enter a seminary. If you accept the church’s teaching on celibacy for gays, and feel a call to enter a seminary or religious order, you cannot–even if you desire the celibate life. The church explicitly forbids men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from entering the priesthood. Nor can you hide your sexuality if you wish to enter a seminary.

    5.) Work for the church and be open. If you work for the church in any sort of official capacity it is close to impossible to be open about who your identity as a gay man or a lesbian. A gay layman I know who serves an important role in a diocese (and even writes some of his bishop’s statements on social justice) has a solid theological education and desires to serve the church, but finds it impossible to be open in the face of the bishop’s repeated disparaging remarks about gays. Some laypeople have been fired, or dismissed, for being open. Like this altar server, who lives a chaste life. Or this woman, who worked at a Catholic high school. Or this choir director.

    At the same time, if you are a devout Catholic who is attentive both to church teachings and the public pronouncements of church leaders, you will be reminded that you are “objectively disordered,” and your sexuality is “a deviation, an irregularity a wound.”

    Nothing above is surprising or controversial: all of the above are church teaching. But taken together, they raise an important pastoral question for all of us: What kind of life remains for these brothers and sisters in Christ, those who wish to follow the teachings of the church? Officially at least, the gay Catholic seems set up to lead a lonely, loveless, secretive life. Is this what God desires for the gay person?

    James Martin, SJ:”

  32. I am a first time visitor. I arrived via Jay Bakker’s book review.

    I am a protestant. I love Mass; but not having grown up Catholic, conversion presents a number of barriers that would, if I am honest with myself, be too big to leap. That said…

    I am currently debating my stance on homosexuality and the bible. I am not gay. My social views are that homosexuality is how someone is born, and I don’t view that or acting in line with that attraction as a sin. But I am striving to understand whether my view is biblically correct. So far, after reading about the original texts of the bible, and placing OT stories in context as well as dismissing its Judaic laws as inapplicable to Christians, I am coming to believe that Christians have been condemning an act based on social prejudice rather than biblical dictate. So far, anyway, that’s my take.

    But the real reason I’m writing is Martin. It strikes me that people like Martin present most of your readers with a counterbalance to more open dialogue. And I think that is a good thing. As with anyone you disagree with, if his striving gets to you, ignore him. But also value what he brings to this blog, bringing him deeper into the discussion when that conservative perspective is beneficial. And trust that his determination likely guarantees that you will get dragged back a few hundred years; isn’t part of the power of the Catholic church, its age old ritual and insight? Few protestant churches have that, and that lack is a weakness.

    Best of luck to y’all. Martin, I don’t agree with you. But more power to you. Men and women like you keep men and women like me honest. I hope to see you on the other side. (I’ll be the devastatingly handsome protestant.)

  33. I just love how any person such as Martin could even fathom commenting on how it is to be a gay person when he isn’t gay. It just chaps my hide. Plus, I’m not Christian, so all this rhetoric really has nothing to do with me! But why must I live under this heavy, oppressive, and discriminatory spew daily in this country?

  34. I have never been homosexual or had those tendencies, but I am someone who has been delivered from pornography addiction by the power of the blood of Jesus, so I believe I can speak about this issue and ask a few questions. Can anyone please name one obviously homosexual from the Bible who is described as a righteous person? Why would God tell the first man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply” and then confuse them by creating them to be attracted to the same sex? What scripture proves that God created men and woman to be homosexual? How could Jesus who is the finisher and author of our faith have come into existence if everyone was a homosexual? How could God make a promise to Abraham to be the Father of many nations if it is Gods will for people to be homosexual? For the record I do believe people can be born homosexual. But I also believe people are born as theives, liars, blasphemers and have a bent towards sin of all kinds because we all descended from the seed of Adam. I love Jim Bakker and I’m praying for you Jay.

  35. We are a democracy not a theocracy. We can’t impose laws that force people to behave the way we want them to because we feel that they are not “Christian.” Why would anyone be against two people loving each other and hurting no one??? It’s none of our business. It’s between God and them. Many gays ARE Christians, many are leaders in the church. Many Christians, like Jay and myself and many churches support gays. Why? Because it’s not a sin as Jay and bible scholars point out. Some Christians just fear difference – gays, minorities, the poor, etc. Have you noticed that the things the conservative Christians get mad about center around sex?? We could write a book about this. Why? Conservatives are repressed, so it makes them mad that others love and enjoy their sexual union. Abortion is also not a sin. Exodus is clear that abortion is not murder. This is why Jews do not believe this either. It’s their scripture before ours. Embryos and fetuses have no legal rights in the old testament, or today and well they shouldn’t. Several scriptures state that life begins when God breathes life into us at birth. Everything else that is said about this is pure conjecture and false. Bottom line: only 2 commandments: Love God and Love everyone else. Period. Trying to get someone who is not a Christian to behave the way you want is not love. Love is what changes people’s lives, not force.


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