Worship is the Only Cure for Homosexuality

Jason Micheli —  May 5, 2017 — 5 Comments

The Church’s acrimonious impasse on the issue of sexuality is not without victims. The fight has alienated gay Christians from living out their baptisms by out and active participation in congregations, and it has mired the Church in expensive and time-consuming legalities that undermine the scope and effectiveness of its larger mission to make disciples.

Do I even need to f@#$%^& point out the kids I’ve baptized and confirmed over the years in this one congregation who now wonder if the church that baptized and confirmed them loves them enough to let them live out their baptism in this church?!

Another victim of the Church’s unreconciled and possibly unreconcilable domestic dispute is St. Paul. Specifically, Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

We’ve gotten so accustomed to going to Paul’s letter to answer or address individual questions, particularly about the issue of homosexuality, that we ignore the overall development of Paul’s logic in Romans, which, remember, was intended by Paul to be announced to the faithful in a single beginning-to-end reading. We turn to Romans for points of doctrine when, in fact, what Paul is up to in Romans is worship.

For example-

Opponents of the inclusion of gays in ministry frequently turn to Romans 1.18 as Exhibit A to evidence their argument. Romans, unlike Leviticus say, is not compromised by being a fulfilled Old Testament law. Yet, as my former teacher Beverly Gaventa notes:

“…just as shining a spotlight on a stage leaves the rest of the stage in near darkness, putting a huge spotlight on one verse has obscured the rest of the passage. Indeed, directing that spotlight toward this verse distorts even that verse since it tempts readers to think that Paul’s only real concern is with sexual conduct.”

Intense and solitary focus on Romans 1.18 obscures that Paul’s focus is not on sexual conduct but worship.

Not only is sexual conduct but one sin in a list so comprehensive not one of us is excluded- for no one is righteous, not one- it is referenced here by Paul as the product of a more fundamental sin: withholding right worship.

The practices in 1.18 then are not stumbling blocks frustrating us from right worship of God. They’re not stumbling blocks for which we must repent so that we can worship God rightly. Interestingly, Paul NEVER uses the word repentance. Rather, they are practices that result from refusing to worship God; that is, sexual misconduct, greed, gossip, etc. they are practices produced by idolatry.

Paul’s point, the point which our no holds barred arguments over homosexuality has veiled, is that worship is formative.

Right worship of God forms us in the virtues such that repentance of our vices is possible.

Wrong worship forms us in vices and makes repentance an impossibility.

Proper worship of God, therefore, is the only condition for right conduct. So then, following the logic of Paul’s larger argument, those who are concerned about homosexuality and see it as a sin should be the last people working to exclude homosexuals from the worship life of the Church. To alienate them from the Church and push them from it, to follow Paul’s logic, is only to push them into false worship, idolatry, for outside the Church there is no salvation just to the extent that outside the Church, without the Church, we are all every day preyed upon by idolatrous ideologies like nationalism, materialism, individualism.

The very text most often deployed by traditionalists to push gays out the Church is, in fact, the very text that should compel traditionalists to welcome them into the Church and worship with them.

If you think homosexuality is a vice, inherently sinful- and I do not, follow any of the tags on this blog- then worship is the only “cure.”

 

Jason Micheli

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5 responses to Worship is the Only Cure for Homosexuality

  1. Jason,

    Your comments appropriately denounce any effort to push homosexuals out of worship, but they don’t address persons who want homosexuals in the church only if they understand homosexuality is a sin. I’d love your help with that. I believe Paul is wrong on this point, but that elevates my conclusions above Paul’s – a deal breaker for those more conservative than me.

  2. You make a clear case for a church being open to all, but I am afraid this will continue to be a very painful topic for those on both sides of the issue. Sadly, while it seems cruel for some to interpret the Bible literally and declare homosexuality a sin, I understand their faith that the Bible is the word of God. I agree with that, but I also fundamentally believe that God is very clear about how we are to treat our neighbor. God, alone, is our judge and my job is to love everyone I encounter, even those whose personal interpretation of scripture is not exactly the same as mine.

  3. Bill Cleveland May 5, 2017 at 1:27 PM

    I was surprised to see the word Cured in your title line. My view is that homosexuals are the way God made them, and we shouldn’t seek to change that.

    • You should probably read the whole article and not stop at the title. You’ll find out how and why he uses the word “cure” in the title. (Spoiler: he doesn’t actually believe homosexuality is something to be “cured.”)

  4. Todd Erickson May 17, 2017 at 8:26 AM

    The folks on “Progressive Methodists” on Facebook didn’t get it either.

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