Kevin DeYoung at Gospel coalition is asking these questions of queer Christians and their allies. There are obvious problems with interrogating these Christians, as if the onus is on queer people to defend their position, when one could easily respond by interrogating DeYoung: why do you advocate a position of marginalizing and oppressing (at least in effect if not intentionally) populations of gender and sexual minorities because you don’t agree with them? Granted I am Jewish, and I shouldn’t be answering these questions, I decided to do so anyways because Christian rhetoric has implications for the public sphere.
Edit: My friend Keegan and I were working on them together, you can find her answers here.
Edit 2: My friend Alan also answered the 40 questions, which you can find hir answers here.
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
This question is tricky because I have largely been critical of queer movements focused on marriage. I think marriage is largely an economic institution, meant to secure property and move it from family to family. Given there are so many queer people in poverty, in many states, those who are trans or do not fit into the gender binary can still lose their jobs without recourse to the legal system. Queer people of color will still face violence in our legal system and against police brutality. That being said, even though these are issues I feel even conservative Christians could support, they have largely been silent, or defend it on the basis of their beliefs (“I can’t support a queer person who identifies the way they do” or a “christian business owner has the right to fire whomever s/he wants to.”), despite the Bible’s overwhelming message to care for the poor (and queer antagonism is a large reason for poverty). Moreover, I still support an individuals right to get married regardless of their relationship configuration. Despite my argument that same-sex marriage won’t save us (that is, queer identified people), which I have long believed, I have also long believed that the government shouldn’t discriminate against an entire population of people.
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
Well, I’ve never really changed my mind on the issue. I’ve always been supportive (and I too am queer). Deuteronomy talks about צדק צדק תרדף “righteous righteousness you must pursue” (Deut 16:20), which granted is about the judicial process, but I think it functions as a hermeneutical key for me. Indeed, there are any number of passages about caring for the socially marginalized, to support them and to feed them. While these passages are socially contextualized to talk about marginalized groups in ancient Palestine (the widow, orphan, and resident-sojourner), the root of the message is that one must care for and provide for the marginalized. I can’t also help but think of passages in Isaiah, where YHWH talks about liberating the marginalized, to break them out of prisons, to be a herald to the poor (Isaiah 42; 61). Because I think intersectionally, I cannot separate poverty from the social conditions that create them (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.).
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
Genesis says, “it’s not good for man to be alone.” I think the whole narrative itself helps us think about this a little more deeply. In Genesis 2, God begins by recognizing that it isn’t good for Adam to be alone. The first thing he does is create animals. It is only through recognizing that Adam doesn’t seem himself compatible with these animals does God create a human counterpart. In other words, God allows the human to decide who is and is not his counterpart. The question is, why don’t we emphasize this aspect of the story, which seems to promote the idea that humans have some agency over whom they desire.
I also just think to the passage in Paul (here I am limiting Paul to his seven authentic letters, where we can clearly discern him as the author: 1 and 2 Cortinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans), where he talks about celibacy being a gift and encouraging people to marry who couldn’t curb their lustful desires. Personally, I disagree with Paul on that issue, and feel that people should be able to have sexual relationships outside of marriage. But so much of Christianity posits marriage as an institution for procreation, and someone y’all clearly privilege is talking about it as if it’s not.
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
Well, I am kind of an outsider on this issue, but I feel like the beloved Disciple or the Disciple’s following Jesus around have homoerotic potential. These aren’t specific verses, but I don’t work in the context of proof texts, because I don’t consider them to be the smoking guns many evangelicals believe. Nevertheless, these relationships I think positively depict the attraction of several men to this one man, even if this isn’t a sexual attraction, there is still an element of homosociality, if not homoeroticism (and honestly, we should challenge the notion that attraction to another person is based only on a sexual attraction).
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
Although I think Jesus is a failed messiah (and depicting him as an hypostasis of God is a later development), I think that’s something only God knows. More importantly, we have little historical evidence about what the actual Jesus thought. The Gospels are about how each community thinks about Jesus in relation to their community. I don’t see why queer Christians aren’t allowed to think through those same things on their terms. The great flaw of Protestant Christianities is ignoring that communities formed these texts for their communities. I am pretty sure that Paul might be baffled today that Christians are reading his epistles as if they’re equivalent to the Old Testament.
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
If you’re talking about Matthew 19, there are two issues I see. First, literarily, Jesus is using Genesis 2 to prohibit divorce tout court. Again, we have little historical evidence for what Jesus actually preached. This is what the author of Matthew thought Jesus would say, and the author likely presumed marriage between man and woman as a normative position. Moreover, Jesus is talking specifically about divorce, so it seems in bad form to say, well he cites this approvingly, thus it must be so. This is a culture where gender and sexual minorities would probably have been shamed. Jesus was part of that culture, so who knows. Second, Jesus contradicts the Torah, which clearly presumes divorce as normative. So I feel like maybe we want to be more careful in asserting this passage so seriously (why not ask, “why do you take this passage so seriously when Jesus clearly contradicts the Torah.”)
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
πορνεια is a rather elastic term, but given the cultural norms, I am willing to be it focused more on fornication, prostitution, and adultery.
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
Two things: Paul is doing that common prophetic posturing (see Amos’ oracles against the nation to lull the audience into a false sense of security in order to critique the audience), and so one needs to understand the rhetorical thrust of Romans 1. He’s lulling the Roman church into a false sense of security. He is making a statement that will appeal to his audience, and thus there is some irony in Christians using it as a proof text.
Second, I feel it worth repeating that Paul would likely be baffled his epistles are being treated as equivalents to scripture. Romans 9-11 depicts Paul wrestling through God choosing Israel, and begins by saying “God chooses who he wants to choose (implying he can also reject what he has once chosen)” and ends by asserting that the whole thing is a mystery and Israel will always been chosen.” Paul changes his mind and contradicts himself because he’s like the Dear Abby of the early Jesus Movement.
I believe that is what they teach, but does this mean that I have to whole-heartedly accept them? No.
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
the diversity of gender and sexuality? The issue is that hermeneutics are contextually conditioned and that different groups have interpreted many passages in the bible differently, so why is this generation any different with respect to its social issues. Did you know that despite y’alls preaching Romans 1 opposed lesbianism that the early church fathers thought the acts in Romans 1 referred to women having anal sex with men or with men outside marriage? Or that Rashi thought Deut 22:5 was thinking about men cross-dressing in women’s only spaces to have sex with them (so anti-cuttlefish)?
To be honest, I’d rather have an interpretation that didn’t justify the marginalization and oppression of a whole population of people in the US.
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
This question is essentialist because it is presumes that there isn’t a diversity of opinion in other parts of the world. The other tricky think that DeYoung ignores here is the centuries of Imperial Christianity that have erased the gender and sexual diversity elsewhere in the world. This gives an appearance of “universalism,” when in reality, the violence Christian empire has done to other cultures has erased cultural diversity. That being said, Christianity’s use of the bible to marginalize and oppress gender and sexual minorities is problematic and this is done in places other than the United States.
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
I think this is very difficult to tell. Obama clearly hid his support for same-sex marriage for some time to court conservative voters. Clinton could have changed her mind for popularity’s sake. But let’s also not forget that many conservative politicians court these conservative voters by making a stink when they really don’t care much about whether people of the same gender
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
No. In fact, all the data suggest that economics plays a key factor in whether children will do well in life, and thus, doing better with two parents is usually because that child will be raised in a situation of economic security (thus, the gender of the parents is irrelevant).
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
see above. Also, many same sex couples have to conscientiously choose to become parents. With cisheterosexual couples there is risk of an unexpected pregnancy, which can result in raising a child in a situation where the two people are not financial secure.
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
Both have a role in promoting healthy relationships, but I don’t see why either should be privileged to determine this. I think same-sex couples are just as good of parents (and likewise, I think single parents can successfully raise children).
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
I think that’s up to the individual couple. Clearly there are legal and economic benefits to marriage though.
18. How would you define marriage?
A contract between two consenting adults that they love and support one another.
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
Clearly Abraham and Sarah were allowed to marry one another even though they were half siblings (cf. Genesis 20).
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
Clearly Jacob was allowed to marry both Leah and Rachel (along with having booty calls with Bilhah and Zilpah) (cf. Genesis 29).
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
The point of this question seems to be advocating the slippery slope position, which is bad argumentation. Let’s focus on same-sex marriage here.
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
Yes, an age where both adults can legally consent (18 years of age?).
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
We already have things like common law marriage or benefits for domestic partners?
24. If not, why not?
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
As long as it doesn’t harm queer people in any direct and indirect way (e.g. a queer person doesn’t lose their job because a Christian boss doesn’t accept their “lifestyle.”)
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
Will you speak up on behalf of queer people when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened? My issue with this question is that queer people can still be fired in many States without legal protection, and conservative Christians won’t speak up in defense of these queer people. If you can say yes to my question deflecting yours, I will say yes to speaking up for Christians (granted their religious freedom is ACTUALLY being threatened).
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
Why have so many conservative Christians remained silent about shaming and bullying of queer people? If those groups are actually being bullied, then yes, but I would like to know why evangelicals and Catholics remain silent about bullying against queers.
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
Maybe we should focus on those opposite-sex relationships first, before we hone in specifically on LGBT relationships (this puts LGBT people under the microscope in the expectation that they MUST perform better than opposite-sex couples).
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
No, because they have both consented to that social configuration. But I don’t think straight couples should be disciplined either.
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
Unless its an open marriage, then adultery is breaking the contract the couple has made between one another.
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
I guess thinks like poverty are a bigger issue for me than sexual issues.
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
Again, God commands us to continually pursue justice (Deut 16:20 to refresh you), and I think that justice shapes my understanding of love, and the proper kinds of relationships people should have.
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
It depends on the decision. In reference to protection of queer people in all facets, I feel that Christians have been abysmal at loving the Other. Here I am not talking about same-sex marriage specifically. Again, I think this puts a lot of onus on queers to be loving and forgiving: when will evangelicals repent for the horrible actions against queer people they have justified or ignored because we supposedly “brought it upon ourselves.”
On the other hand, if you like vanilla ice cream more than chocolate, it’s easy for me to love someone and disagree with their decision.
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
It hasn’t. In fact, in coming out, I have felt closer to God and the Torah.
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
I’m not an evangelical.
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
I’m not an evangelical.
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
I’m not an evangelical.
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
conservative evangelical Christians and their myopic focus on antagonizing queer people (cf. Romans 2)