Matt C. Abbott
August 26, 2010
CBN and the dubious Christian outreach to homosexuals
By Matt C. Abbott

The Christian Broadcasting Network, commonly known as CBN, recently had a segment featuring Chicagoan Andrew Marin's outreach to homosexuals. To watch and/or read the text of the segment, click here.

To me, Marin's outreach gives the impression that it's OK to be a practicing homosexual and still be "right" with God. Not good.

Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D., associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, agrees. Dr. Gagnon sent the following e-mail to CBN:

    I'm surprised that CBN would promote Marin's work. Marin has compromised God's word, not by loving self-affirming homosexual persons (for this we are supposed to do) but by refusing to acknowledge Scripture's clear and strong rejection of homosexual practice. Marin has made little effort at understanding how overwhelming the case is for a male-female requirement for sexual relations and for the high risk of exclusion from God's kingdom for those engaged in such behavior (as with incest and adultery).

    I have written extensively on homosexual practice for a decade now, with two academic books published and many scholarly articles and articles for a general audience. I'm widely recognized as the world's leading authority on the subject, certainly from a 'traditional' (i.e. scriptural) perspective. Yet CBN never asked me for a comment on Marin's work, much less ever devoted an article on my work.

    Has CBN now signaled its desire not to say anything 'judgmental' about homosexual practice? It seems to me, that for consistency's sake, CBN should now do a piece on how we need to reach out to embrace Christian polyamorists without engaging in any judgment of their behavior....

Heather Sells, the CBN news reporter responsible for the segment, responded to Dr. Gagnon in a brief e-mail, to which Dr. Gagnon responded:

    Marin is not 'encouraging Christians to remain true to their theology' if that theology involves maintaining the rigorous opposition to homosexual practice that Jesus and Scripture generally prescribe. If he were doing that 'while reaching out in friendship to gays,' I would have no problem with Marin.

    Rather, Marin is encouraging Christians not to tell persons engaged in homosexual practice that such behavior is (1) sinful and (2) could get them excluded from God's kingdom. Indeed, regarding the second point, Marin claims that a person who is in a committed monogamous homosexual union and is 'growing in Christ' will go to heaven.

    In response:

    (1) There is no other form of egregious sexual immorality that the church has pledged not to bring up to church members engaged in it. Homosexual practice is viewed in Scripture, early Judaism, and Christianity as severe as, or more severe than, adult-consensual incest and adultery. Should we say nothing to believers engaged in such behavior? That certainly wasn't Paul's approach, as is clear from Paul's handling of the incestuous man in 1 Cor 5 (and follow-up in 6:12-20).

    (2) By definition, persons actively engaged in homosexual practice are not, in the main, growing in Christ. Again, by Marin's rationale, Paul should have assured the Corinthians that the incestuous man would be going to heaven as long as he kept the relationship with his stepmother committed and monogamous and kept growing in other areas of his life. Instead, he indicated that such a person, along with 'men who lie with a male' and 'adulterers,' will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). Why should we believe Marin, who obviously doesn't know his Scripture well, and not Paul the apostle to the Gentiles who has the lion's share of texts within the canon of New Testament Scripture?

    Paul's remarks in Rom 1:24-27 certainly do include committed homosexual relationships. This is clear enough from the echo to Gen 1:26-27, the nature argument based on male-female complementarity that he uses, the indictment of lesbianism in 1:26, the reference to reciprocal affections in 1:27, the fact that committed homosexual relationships were known in the ancient world (even semi-official marriages and yet some Greco-Roman moralists as well as the rabbis and the Church Fathers could condemn even these as contrary to nature and indecent), and the fact that the offender group 'men who lie with a male' is a term formulated from the absolute Levitical prohibitions (i.e., which were interpreted absolutely in early Judaism).

    We should love persons who engage in homosexual practice, of course! But true love doesn't entail withholding the truth when someone is engaged in behavior injurious to themselves and to others. It involves actively reaching out in love to reclaim offenders for the kingdom of God, gently and firmly encouraging them not to engage in behavior that puts them at high risk of being excluded from God's eternal kingdom. As Augustine said, 'Let not in the person his error but the person. For the person God created; the error the person himself created.'

    By doing such a puff piece on Marin you conveyed the erroneous impression that Marin's work is making only a positive contribution to the homosexuality issue in the church. The reality is that, though he may be doing some positive things (and I question whether even this can be said), his overall contribution is negative since it does nothing to deter homosexually active persons from engaging in sexual immorality. As I said, you might as well do a piece on how not judging those engaged in adult-committed polyamorous behavior (multiple-partner unions) or adult-committed incest (or any non-sexual sin like economic exploitation of the disadvantaged or racism) is furthering the gospel about Christ. For that is the absurdity to which Marin's position leads.

    I appreciate CBN, which is why I took the time to respond to your piece. I hope you will to some extent undo the damage by writing a follow-up article on those who have legitimate concerns about Marin's theology and practice.



Pertinent links:

Robert A. J. Gagnon

The Courage Apostolate

Americans for Truth

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He has been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR and WLS-TV in Chicago, and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback from readers. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me... (more)

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