Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-Day Adventist Perspectives
Edited by David Ferguson, Fritz Guy, and David Larson
Published by SDA Gay Perspectives
Find on Amazon.com
Review by Billy Glover
February 26, 2009.
It is clear that all of the problems homosexual Americans have in gaining equal/civil rights come directly from religion — all religions.
So in many cases, thinking homosexuals have left religion since “religion” left or has rejected them.
But there are those who do not leave their religion. And so there is a conflict in the community/movement in how to deal with the opposition coming from religious institutions and people.
It is time that homosexuals stop doing to each other what bigots in religions have done to us: refuse to listen to other views, possible methods/tactics.
A resource to start this dialogue is found in such a book as Christianity and Homosexuality—some Seventh Day Adventists Perspectives, edited by David Ferguson, Fritz Guy, and David Larson, published in 2008 by Adventist Forum, in Roseville, California.
The problem, as usual, is getting such an excellent tool to the very people who need it — not only members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church but to all people dealing with religious issues. For while there are a few small sections that deal with specifically Seventh Day Adventist issues, over 90% of this book has material — facts and views — that are not only useful to everyone but in a few cases have not seen print anywhere else.
Since religious problems are a personal issue, the first section is from personal experience as a LGBT Adventist, and most of the writers came from a deep SDA background.
Then there is a remarkably good “history” of the biomedical history in dealing with homosexuality. The major people are covered, such as Evelyn Hooker, Alfred Kinsey, and Edmund Bergler and Irving Bieber, etc. Then there is the behavioral aspect, sociology talking. Then a scriptural discussion, overwhelming in a sense, and as is later pointed out, irrelevant to most people since logic is not a good argument to people who have a fixed view, pro or con.
Then there is the question of how the church should handle the issue, how it should act over making laws — a very special issue for SDA people since the church has suffered greatly s a church that worships on Saturday and thus its members have been punished for not being like “normal” Christians.
While some homosexuals will not understand the homosexuals who insist on staying in their church, there is a good thought presented: some of us are incurably homosexual and incurably religious.
The book is mainly a product of the LGBT group of SDA members, Seventh Day Adventist Kinship International. They have been active since the 1970s, incorporating as a group in 1981, and later had to fight a legal battle with the church over the use of the church name, which they won.
A type of thinking toward the Bible and history is called “present truth” which means having beliefs that are based on study and revelation as well as word for word use of the Bible.
There can be no doubt, as is covered in the book, that the behavior of the church has harmed young people. A good use for the book is to show to young people that there have been other SDA people who have overcome the terrible injustice of the church.
As an aside, I thought the issue of having a partner was handled well when it is said that if you can’t find a good Adventist partner, it is better to have a good Methodist than settle for a bad Adventist.
One problem I have with the coverage, which is excellent on how the world has looked at homosexuality, is the complete failure, with only the usual exception, to acknowledge that the advance made in our area has been the result of the civil rights movement for homosexual citizens started mainly in Southern California in 1950 with early Mattachine, moving onward with ONE, Inc./Homosexual Information Center and later Mattachine, the Daughters of Bilits, SIR, etc. It is hard to understand why all of the writers seem to ignore or not know of this history and only think this movement started a virgin birth at Stonewall in 1969 — it will not make those people happy to know that the one mention calls it a riot, since those there constantly point out that it was a rebellion or revolution, and this is a big difference.
This is relevant since there might not have been a Dr. Evelyn Hooker, or even a good Dr. Alfred Kinsey, had therefore not been the help of Mattachine and ONE. Yet their work is presented in a good timeline of events and people in the long procession toward today.
The writers do accept the relationship among the various civil rights movements — Black, women, etc., so it is clear that the people who then (and now) rejected homosexuals also rejected Blacks, poor, etc. (Which again makes it hard for me to understand why so many Blacks stayed in the church that supported slavery, or women stayed as major supporters in a church that kept them as second class members, and also why homosexuals stay.)
The book discuses the ex-gay movement, especially how the church accepted a fraud, Colin Cook, and it also points out that, as some relatives kept saying to those who came out as gay, you know what the Bible says, and you know the Devil knows how to use it, and that applies to our movement, which seems to worry about letting our work be known — in both cases the fact is that “Satan knows the Bible better than we do,” and our enemies know what is going on in our movement faster than we do.
The ideas come forth that having companionship is important, both as a support group and as a partner, and thus comes up the issue faced in the very first public discussion of homosexual marriage, in ONE magazine in 1953: it may lead to an idea that there are good/moral homosexuals, who are monogamous, and the rest who are bad and not monogamous.
The point is made that giving long factual arguments does not always work, and I want to say people should have read this issue a long time ago in such books as In Defense of Homosexuality, published in 1965 by R.O.D. Benson (The Julian Press). Logic doesn’t work with bigots or fanatics. And the more “religious” someone is, the more judgmental — an example being that relatives often constantly harassed a gay person who said he or she was homosexual.
Another aside, some of the people writing in this book should be the type of guests Oprah has and not all the suddenly outed celebrities who have never suffered the loss not only of a job but of a family, church, etc.
One of the better chapters is by the mother of a gay son. She covers all the usual stereotypes and dismisses them, and gives a list of resources.
I also found it interesting to know that the daughter of H. M. S. Richards, a radio preacher, has two gay children. So, being a leader of a church does not mean your children will not be homosexual. (I had listened to him but don’t recall him discussing this issue.)
In a list after each chapter there are resources and references. I see some, such as Wayne Besen, and wonder if he and others have seen this book.
An issue is raised by one writer about wondering if the church should be encouraged to start discussing homosexuality. At first, I thought the answer today would be “no” since it would be a negative one. That is like what Don Slater and ONE said about having sex courses in school: Don’t, as none of them would allow the homosexual viewpoint, so it would be more harmful, and of course we see — think of the daughter of the governor of Alaska — that abstinence-only classes have proved worthless.
I don’t recall hearing before a term used, but it is used wisely. It seems in years past many people were classed as “social degenerates,” meaning those who were not white men mostly — and that was racism, slavery, anti-semitism, anti-homosexual, anti-poor, etc. Medicine often did not correct this anti-human view, and the writing makes it clear that while Freud did not consider homosexuality a problem, later Jewish physicians did and often caused harm, and the problems was that their views were not based on medicine or research but on their religion, and that often to try to prove that Jewish doctors were just as good as non-Jewish. Only later did sociologists etc. understand that it is not homosexuals who are ill but society. And it is to the same of what should be a great medical school, Loma Linda, which works to make people healthy, would use medicine to harm homosexuals. And like too many medical schools, a person could graduate without ever having talked about homosexuality.
In this regard, the change in the view of the psychiatrists and psychologists is discussed, and it is pointed out that it was not politics that made them change their views, and in fact it was politics that had made homosexuality an illness in the first place.
The point is made that in medicine the issue of homosexuality should not be a theological or moral issue. It is past time to allow prejudice to become evidence. And no matter what the view, a school can not allow bullies to harm a child, and the schools must be attacked legally if they do.
In the discussion of “change,” it is pointed out that if someone claims no longer be homosexual, the claim is disproved when it is admitted that when they have sex in a dream, it is still homosexual.
The church claims to be a caring church, but it turns out on this subject to be like President Bush’s compassionate conservatism: nonexistent.
A question being asked today is where in a church’s priorities is the issue of homosexuality. This church has spent much money on Colin Cook and his Homosexuals Anonymous and Quest, and lately against gay marriage. This is in direct violation of the history of the church, which suffered greatly from laws against it. It promoted separation of church and state, as of course did early Baptists.
This church often talked about freedom yet has fought gay marriage. And much of the religious discussion seems to deal with Paul; I find it strange that Christians ignore Jesus and push Paul. If the church is not ready for same-sex marriage, the church may not be ready for Jesus. Certainly the early religious practiced incest and polygamy, and no one talks about David and Jonathan.
But the worst sin of this church is that it is not using these wonderful resources, these fine men and women who seek to join and serve.
Certain phrases stand out: “the gospel is first, the law is second.” “We can be ‘correct’ and still be wrong.” And the closing pages go directly to what seems irrelevant but is pure Jesus. Rethink what is said in the story of the Good Samaritan — lawyers and preachers passed the hurt man by, and the outsider did the right thing. Others would seek to call a conference to deal with the generic issue of criminals, set up a committee, find any excuse, but talk rather than act and take responsibility.
And then finally there is the return of the prodigal son, who returns. He is given equality, which doesn’t make the son who stayed happy.
The church today, has to face reality: if Ellen White could allow members to accept racial segregation if they lived in the south, and not try to end prayer in school, then it is past time for the church to deal with the fact that a Bible that accepted slavery is not a Bible that should be used to make homosexuals outcasts, and the future of our nation will not have a place for a church that is less Christ-like than the government.
This book is almost a one-stop history of all issues of homosexuality. Every library should have it, and every young person should be able to read it. It gives no false hopes, but it gives a honest view of the past and present and perhaps the future, and considering the world of a President Obama, that is a good start.