Surprised at Love Won Out – The Church and Homosexuality, pt.2

This post is part two. Part one can be found here.

What garnered a standing ovation at this particular conference was [name redacted by request]’s testimony. If you are interested in getting audio editions of this, or any session of the LWO conference, contact Christian Audio Tapes, 888-228-2737 or www.catapes.com.

THE STORIES WE TELL: What else surprised me about the LWO conference was the presentation of intellectual material, thoughtful study and reflection coupled with the testimonies of real people who had gone through real-life situations. For those of us with a cause, we must understand that much like Pascal’s quote that “the heart has reasons which reason knows not of,” so it is that stories have a power that powerful arguments will never have. The caveat, of course, is that the stories have the power to do something far different than what well reason arguments may attempt, but fail miserably.

Christianity could learn a big lesson here in all of its causes and all of its attempts at seeking to persuade people of the truth of God. If our methodologies remain weighted with argumentation, we will have missed huge opportunities for truth, and perhaps most important, we will have missed what Jesus was calling us to do as followers of him.

You see, well thought argumentation attempts to persuade people of factual truth. Using logic and reason as the primary tools, this kind of approach often has the backlash of developing within the opponent a resentment towards the issues, especially when it comes to heart issues such as sexuality. Even using the word “opponent” garners that feeling. Why? Most often the case is that people, on both sides of the spectrum decide what data is true, based not on its logical validity, but based more upon their emotional tie to the conclusiveness of the information they choose. In other words, I feel first, decide later. I emote and deeply yearn, then gather arguments that support my a priori decision. My experiences validate my study.

Now throw in controversial subjects like sexuality.

And this is why reasoning methodologies fail. We miss the bigger picture, and we approach “subjects” (people) as objective material. Again, what surprised me at LWO is that there seemed to be an understanding that this truth (and this way of truth) must be realized, and if the issue of homosexuality was to be addressed in its fullness, it cannot be relegated to mere Biblical arguments and a refined theological anthropology. People must tell their stories, others must hear those stories, and we all must allow those stories to be the basis for upholding any reasonable position. You can’t deny a story, a testimony. You can’t falsify its logic (even though one may attempt to point out discrepancies, it’s still the individual’s experience and perspective that makes their story “true”). Stories also disarm, emote, and argue, all at the same time. And the power of the story is not necessarily in logical persuasion, but in the ability to move people towards compassion, to feel with the other person, to engage with the soul of the argument, not just the mind of the argument.

This does not negate the need for reason. This is simply an observation of how the two correlate. I once heard it said, “Speak to the heart, and the head will follow. Speak to the head, and the heart may never follow.”

Biblically speaking, this is exactly our calling, and always has been. Throughout the Scriptures, we see stories, narratives, pictures, allegories, metaphors, testimonies, and witnessing, all to the end of declaring God’s Kingdom, and in moving people’s hearts and minds. As Jesus told the man whom he exorcised,

“Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)

And people on all sides of issues such as this one ought to take good care to listen first, and hear the soul-cries of very hurt people who are desperately seeking help, healing, and often times, validation. We all must take care to have and express compassion in the fullness of our abilities, and the fullness of the others’ receptibility. After hearing [name redacted], I am convinced that ministries like LWO and Exodus Int’l are doing great things for those who need it. The ministries would be bankrupt if that were not the case. And I would also pray that there would be a validation of the other 30% who have gone through the programs, and have emerged on the other side feeling more damaged than before. For their story is just as valid as [name redacted]’s.

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

3 comments

  1. paul

    Dear VIA,
    I appreciate your apparent carefulness.

    I am not a Christian anymore, so I don’t approach this discussion as one. I can, however, speak from 45 years where I approached life as a Christian. I hope you will forgive my paraphrasing from memory what I have read in the bible, and if I butcher it badly, know that my intent is not butchery but rather I am only expressing what I ‘heard’ when reading.

    I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. Key here was the belief that the bible is the “inerrant word of God.” Since my de-conversion I have met, and have several friends who are, “liberal” Christians. I’m not sure where you fall here. Both sides, and a thousand variations on those themes, do have in common the use of bible to inform their beliefs, however. My observation is that there is something in the bible for everyone, even those who are diametrically opposed in their conclusions of who the God of the bible is and what that God wants. Your mention of “Constantine’s Sword,” (for example) is a study, really, of two groups of believers in the God of the bible and a history of how one of those groups sought to destroy “the people of the book.” Apparently, to this day no method of interpretation has evolved to unite the various factions. As you note “I feel first, decide later.”

    I am responding to this post because you seemed to be heading in a direction ( I am not quite sure you got there, and I may have imagined that you were going there) that seems to me the more honest approach for a Christian to take. i.e., basing your belief on your own personal encounter with God vs. basing it on someone elses experience.

    We cannot make someone elses experience our own. Yet in the absence of having that experience we can wishfully hope it is true and believe accordingly, because we can make someone elses belief our own. It seems to me that the purpose of witness or testimony is to point one to the “Lord [who] has done for you…” so that (crudely put) one can experience first hand that same “Lord,” not just believe second hand.

    Okay, in a blblical context, I can see that belief is based on faith that is “the gift of God, lest anyone should boast” and “faith comes by hearing.” “And, how shall they hear if someone doesn’t tell them…,” thus the “witness” of the “disciple.” But the so called great commission is not only to preach the gospel, it is to “make disciples.” Followers, not just believers in Jesus, but followers of Jesus. My read is it should go something like this: faith initiates belief leading to relationship (i.e. first hand experience), which should generate further testimony.

    My own experience with ex-gay ministries was that method was substituted for “God,” because “God” was conspicuously absent. I don’t doubt the sincere beliefs of these people, I understand those beliefs first hand. I simply see no evidence that there is anything more than belief.

    Enter “logical methodology.” A tool to demonstrate something is true, demonstrating substance by repetition of similar results using similar method. With figures like “30%” are absolutes like “God” and “truth” being demonstrated, or are we experiencing the odds of trying based on belief?

    I am convinced that ministries like LWO and Exodus, inadvertantly and usually ignorantly, do great harm to those who least need it because “the very hurt people who are desperately seeking” validation don’t get it. Validation only comes at the price of renouncing who we are and espousing particular beliefs, which is no validation at all. Your use of “Constantine’s Sword” as a comparison was very apt.

  2. VIA

    Paul,
    Thanks for your very thoughtful comment.

  3. Pingback: Surprised at Love Won Out – The Church and Homosexuality, pt.1 | vialogue

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