A trending story in the Chattanooga LGBT Twitterverse is that Robby Gallaty of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga has said some horrible things about homosexuals. There are tweets that report that he said that, “Christians should never accept gays,” “Don’t stop hating gays,” “God wants them put to death,” and other such nonsense. These statements are nonsense not only because they completely misrepresent what the whole Biblical narrative teaches about those who practice homosexuality (among all the other sins), it’s also nonsense because Gallaty never said those things. All you have to do is actually watch his sermon, or even just watch the abbreviated video posted on Rawstory.com. Mr. David Edwards does a bit of a spin job as well with the title of the article and some of the convenient quotes that he pulls out of context. I realize that no one should be surprised at this sort of tabloid reporting, but it still remains a juvenile way of approaching disagreements over religious convictions.
I might have offered a slightly different sermon than Robby, based on the 8 min portion I heard, but from what I heard he did a fairly accurate job of representing the harsh realities of God’s Old Testament decrees as they correspond with, and fall under, the grace filled way in which Christ took punishment for the sin of all believers on himself at his crucifixion. Again, I have not heard the whole sermon, but the controversial portions include nothing that is controversial to those who hold to the authority of the Biblical text. Protestant denominations such as Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and others all hold to the progression of the gospel narrative from Old to New Testament that Gallaty presented in his sermon. Raw Story and Mr. Edwards should do interviews with other local Chattanooga pastors such as Timothy Tinsley at First Presbyterian, Chris Sorenson at The Mission Chattanooga (Anglican), or Kevin Smith at New City Fellowship. I believe he will find a similar understanding of the orthodox understanding of sin as he interviews those men and many others.
I realize that there are highly volatile voices on both sides of this issue that need to be rebuked and guarded against, but Robby Gallaty is not one of them. I might have spoken a bit more on the complexity of sexual orientation and of the proactive role that churches should take in equally addressing all sexual sins, but my understanding of the biblical text would land with Robby and his explanation of God’s plan of sanctification for those who trust in Christ Jesus as their savior and lord.
Lastly, I hope that most readers and literate citizens of the world understand by now that most of the time someone uses the term “homophobia” it is a complete abuse of the word. There is no fear of persons involved in the convictions that most Evangelicals have concerning the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. There might be an increasing desire to redefine the word in order to allow it to include “disagreement with homosexual behavior,” but that is simply a political abuse of the English language. Nevertheless, Robby and others like him will continue to be targeted by the growing LGBT community in Chattanooga. There are certainly amiable, friendly citizens of Chattanooga who identify themselves as homosexuals, but there are also those that will cast hateful accusations and demonize the persons they feel threatened by. Hopefully the religious communities and LGBT community in Chattanooga will approach one another with more respect in the future than was portrayed in Mr. Edwards article and the tweets of those who desire to create drama.
We are on opposite sides of this argument, you and I. I look at the abridged sermon in the RawStory link/ video, and find it a repellent rant. I see you do not.
“You’re not gay. You’re not homosexual”, he says. We can stop having sex, he says.
He is telling us to refuse to have any romantic relationship or life partner, ever. I don’t know if you disagree with this statement, whether you think we can change orientation. But note, he does not say that straight out. “If you have SSA not OSA you must remain life-long celibate”. He says “you can stop engaging in homosexual acts”. Just as an adulterer can stop engaging in adulterous acts, and the church would ask him to- unless, of course, he had remarried, which for many churches just isn’t a problem any more.
There is my criticism. “You can stop sinful sex”, he says. This distances his audience, most of whom will be straight. It reduces their empathy. What he means that we can have friends, but never a life-partner. He should say that. He demands that we should never have a life-partner, he should say that straight out.
The other thing I find objectionable about this straight man preaching to a mostly or entirely straight congregation about gays is- since when is preaching about the sins of those people over there useful? I remember one extremely moving sermon when the vicar preached on his own sins; and valuable sermons when he preached on ours- but what good does saying there are people who have temptations we don’t have, and they should not fall to them, do? At best it is irrelevant, at worst it inculcates a harmful sense of superiority.
Clare, thanks for taking the time to engage my blog post. I realize that this is a highly personal issue for those that see themselves as homosexuals and/or those that struggle with SSA. I have had my share of good friends in my life that have dealt differently with this issue in their own lives. I’ve had friends that successfully fought their desires daily…and are still fighting them. I have friends that fought at first, but then gave in to the lifestyle after a long battle against their desires. I’ve also had friends that never had an issue with their SSA. However, most of these friends all understood that the Biblical narrative that they once held to or still hold to does not allow for homosexual activity. Amazingly enough, I have many more friends that know where the Bible stands on lusting over pornography and fornicating and struggle to abide by the Bible’s standards. Those friends don’t get the same sympathy and validation that homosexuals get in our culture, because their desires aren’t trending in the culture the way homosexuality is. Robby’s point was to show that the Bible doesn’t isolate homosexuality as the only unapproved sexual activity, rather the Bible has a very clear message of what a proper sexual relationship looks life.
Fairness is a myth. There are all sorts of “unfair” advantages that you have in your life simply because of your culture and heritage and color. The Bible doesn’t want to validate my fleeting sexual desires, it wants to communicate God’s intentions for my life, whether I agree with Him or not. The worst part of my sinful flesh would love to sit around and look at porn. Our culture even suggests that there are healthy properties to looking at porn and fantasizing, but I don’t shake my fist back at God and say, “How dare you give me this burden.” Robby’s sermon was not meant to flaunt the fact that homosexuals can’t have sexual relationships, it was meant to call all Christians to a place where we submit our desire to Christ’s standards for our lives. If you think life is about copulating with someone you care about, well, that’s a fairly shortsighted and narrow minded perspective. That’s what the Bible says. The Bible is God’s written revelation to us. So, Robby was simply relaying the narrative on how The Bible approaches homosexuality and other sins…..including another sermon he recently preached on cohabitation and hooking up.
As far as audience goes, you never know who is in the audience. I personally know of individuals that go to his church that have been involved in sexual lifestyles that violate Biblical norms. I teach at a Christian college, but I have known several students over my time on faculty that viewed themselves as homosexuals or struggled with SSA. Robby was addressing many sins over several weeks because he knows that those sins are a constant temptation in our culture. Your voice is just another reason that Robby feels the need to speak to the matter of homosexuality. You might disagree with him. You might hate that he doesn’t validate you, but that doesn’t mean he should just walk away from his convictions and the responsibility to inform the congregation that he serves.
I realize that we might not easily see eye to eye on this matter, but appreciate your response and willingness to read my lengthy response to you.