(Update, November 4: Some readers have faulted me for not making all of my terminology crystal clear in this post. Comment 3 contains my further explanation.)
Jen Hatmaker says she thinks LGBT relationships can be holy.
How so? Her husband, Brandon, explains the “bottom line” on Facebook: “We don’t believe a committed life-long monogamous same-sex marriage violates anything seen in scripture about God’s hopes for the marriage relationship.”
There’s something oddly contradictory going on there.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen it; it’s there almost every time a Christian speaks of the Bible’s purported support for homosexual relationships. It was prominent in Matthew Vines’s book on the subject.
I’ll show you the contradiction in a moment. First I need to put it in context of the LGBT package.
LGBT: The Package Deal
I few days ago I asked if anyone could explain the ideology behind the LGBT movement. Skep wrote in reply, “there is no ideology. Rather, there are ideologies. We’re not a monolith.”
I’m sure that’s true in some senses, but there’s still a monolith there: the one expressed in the abbreviation LGBT, and even in the expanding alphabet universe of LGBTQIA and the like. It’s the unspoken yet powerful and apparently universal assumption that L, G, B, T, and often Q, I, and A necessarily belong together.
The Urban Dictionary certainly assumes it’s that way: “LGBTQIA is a more inclusive term than LGBT for people with non-mainstream sexual orientation or gender identity.” They all go together.
Doubt me? Think how far you’d get dropping one of the letters. Does anyone support LBT without G? LGT without B?
No, L, G, B, and T are a package deal. (Q, I, A and a few others often get invited along with them.)
The Hatmakers support it as such. I’ve already noted Jen’s opinion that “an LGBT relationship” can be holy. Brandon makes three references to “the LGBTQ community. ” Both of them clearly accept LGBT as a package.
The Problem With the Package: B Doesn’t Fit
Given the social reality of the package, let’s go back now to that other opinion Brandon Hatmaker expressed: “We don’t believe a committed life-long monogamous same-sex marriage violates anything seen in scripture about God’s hopes for the marriage relationship.”
Let’s take that at face value, along with his and his wife’s support for the package. (The contradiction should be coming into view by now.)
The Hatmakers say homosexuality is biblically fine as long as it’s practiced through a committed lifelong monogamous relationship. That gets them through L and G, but it gets them nowhere toward affirming B. Monogamous means “with one.” Bisexual means “with two.” Two is greater than one. (Hey, I was good at math in school, too.)
If monogamous relationships, and only monogamous relationships, can be godly, then bisexual practice cannot be godly. There’s no getting around the conclusion: it’s sin.
Therefore, based on the Hatmakers’ view of the Bible, it might be possible to affirm LG, but it’s still impossible to affirm B — which means it’s impossible biblically to affirm LGBT. And yet that’s what they try to do.
(The T part is an entirely separate discussion; to go into it here would take us on a tangent.)
Why Do Brandon and Jen Hatmaker Affirm the “B” in LGBT?
So what can gay-affirming Christians do about the B? Clearly no one could support “LGT-but-not-B.” Imagine the outcry! “They belong together! You can’t tear the package apart that way!”
But I wonder whether the Hatmakers have thought it through enough to see the B problem. If not, they wouldn’t be alone. Based on email conversations with Sean McDowell — who has read a lot more on this than I have — I don’t think many people are raising that question. I suspect it’s because we all tend to take the package for granted. It’s time we gave it real thought instead.
Yet there’s something else going on besides. Brandon Hatmaker wrote in his article,
Listen, regardless of what we think, many of our churches are not safe places for LGBTQ. Every Sunday, people searching for hope and community sit in confusion, condemnation, private pain, and the fear of being singled out, publicly humiliated, and being rejected. The exact opposite of what we all hope for.
There’s a very positive motivation at work here. No one needs to be condemned, humiliated, or rejected. Too often the church has done that. The Hatmakers want to help: they want to bring LGBT persons into the community of faith. They’ve found a way to interpret Scripture (they think) that relieves at least some L and G relationships of the guilt of sin, opening the door for their full participation in the body of Christ without shame, without guilt, and without the need to let go of relationships they value.
But what do they do with the B? It’s still sin — even on their LG-affirming interpretation of God’s word.
A Better Answer
There’s a better answer: God loves sinners.
The church is for sinners. Guilty people. People with shame in our lives. Humiliation, even.
We can even be sinners at church! I don’t mean we should sin at church (although inevitably we will), but rather that we should quit pretending we aren’t sinners when we’re there.
I was a sinner at our men’s Bible study group this morning. I opened up about an angry mistake I had made this week in my relationship with my son, and I asked for prayer for the healing conversation that my son and I will be having soon. They understood, they continued to accept me, and they prayed for me.
A close friend sitting at the same table was a sinner at church, too. He mentioned part of his history — we all knew it anyway — in which he nearly destroyed his family by committing adultery. (He and his wife and kids were reconciled after much loss and pain, much hard work, and much exercise of God’s grace in their lives.)
God loves sinners. That’s who the church is for! God doesn’t say of our sin, “Don’t worry, it’s not wrong.” He says,
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8)
God’s heart is open to LGBT persons the same way his heart is open to all of us. His way is the way of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. There’s more love and goodness to be found there than in papering over anyone’s faults.
Whether they’ve thought about it or not, the Hatmakers need to be prepared to tell practicing bisexuals their need for God’s grace and forgiveness. While they’re at it, they really ought to recognize that the same thing applies L, G, and T persons, too. Just as it does to us all.
For more of the same clear thinking on marriage and morality — not just for parents and not just for teens — read Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality With Teens (Kregel Publications, 2016).
Related: Don’t Be Confused: Gay People Really Should Have the Right To Choose Who They Love!
Image Credit(s): Roger Mommaerts.