On homosexuality in the church, Alison, and Girard’s uphill battle

I wrote the following post over 4 years years ago, but then didn’t publish it because it contained some negative conjecture. My thoughts on this were not very well-developed back then. They still have a ways to go in fact, but I saw this gathering dust in the draft folder tonight and decided ‘what the heck?’

If you’ve been reading my posts for the last few weeks (early 2010), you might think that I really diggin’ James Alison’s theology. Well, this is true when it concerns his extension of Girard’s work. I’ve discovered a few other gems as well! Some of his other work though, such as his completely ridiculous handling of Romans 1 is enough for most people to throw out everything else he has written. This is so disappointing. For years Christians haven’t taken Girard seriously because he wasn’t a proper theologian (or megachurch pastor). Now they won’t take some of his best disciples seriously either because they are Catholic (Gil Baille), or gay (Alison), or don’t hang out it seminaries.  It’s an uphill battle.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to James on the phone. He graciously answered some questions I had about Raising Abel and gave some helpful suggestions and encouragement. I intend to read a lot more of his work. Frankly, the Girardian reading of scripture (that Alison does really, really well) is probably THE thing that is finally returning me to read and love the scriptures again after quite a few years of complete boredom with them.

Homosexual issues are hot, hot topics in the church these days. What is their relation to the latest abuse scandals bothering Rome? I saw that Christian musician Jennifer Knapp just came out as a lesbian yesterday. (Always liked her stuff. If she would sing blues instead of pop/country she could blow the paint of the walls). Last year, Ray Bolts (whose concert was the first I ever attended as a child and the first tape album I ever owned) did the same thing. The year before that, megachurch pastor Ted Haggard was humiliated and dethroned after messing around with a male, um, message therapist. Someone asked me the other day what I thought of same-sex unions. I’m not entirely sure. On one hand, I think calling it “marriage” is silly and undermining. Christians are right to point out that it is subversive. I’m not for institutionalizing a distortion of the created order, though we do it all the time. On the other hand, I have a libertarian bent and I don’t like the government telling everyone exactly how they are allowed to (for example) purchase health insurance. Why can’t I buy health insurance for anyone I want to? I can make a good case they are a dependent. So I’m of two minds about a lot of the particulars.

My friend Josh goes to an Episcopal church in Portland where gays are welcomed and nobody asks them to even consider changing. I can’t be in that crew for all kinds of reasons, but part of me is glad that those people have somewhere to go to meet Jesus. I know Machen said that Jesus isn’t really there in liberalism (and it can get pretty hokey at times), but I still think it’s a lot better than nothing. And that’s what we have to offer gay people in a lot of places: nothing. Sure we have the gospel, which rocks, but it gets too obscured. We have trouble stomaching the sin that we have no temptation to. We’re better at being graceful toward people with our own sorts of problems.

Doug Wilson talks a lot about how Sodomy and Infanticide are the two holy sacraments of the world. A lot of that rings true. What doesn’t sit will with me is – what then do you do with real people in the church? How do you still show them grace and not just hand them a heavy pack and send them on their way?

Alison uses some of Girard’s tools to justify an acceptance of homosexuality. It starts out really good, but he ends up taking it way too far. He is not coming at it from the traditional liberal position, which is rather interesting. He is still pretty darn conservative about a lot of things. He also draws a lot on the Pope’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which most protestants don’t actually care about. I am not familiar with it enough to really discuss it. Yes, he (Alison) was kicked out of the Dominican order back in the early 90s. I’m still a big fan of his good stuff, and I am not really that interested in the weak stuff.

The deeper you get into scholarship, the more you are going to encounter people that you don’t agree with, but who need to be read anyway. I talked to two different pastors lately who admitted that, hands-down, the very best Old Testament scholarship out there is done by some Jewish guys. Remember, these guys completely reject Christ! But when it comes to old Hebrew, they are the smartest guys in the room. Ignore them at your own peril of ignorance.

For the past 100 years (and longer depending on where you are), a lot of protestants have been seriously allergic to anything Roman Catholic. And there are all kinds of reasons I’m not Catholic (the Marian dogmas for starters), but that’s OK. Some of the best _____ (fill in the blank) are RC. Some of the best books in my library are Merton and Chesterton. Where would we be without Augustine or St. Francis? I like Pope B16 too, for what it’s worth.

So I’m going to keep drawing what I can out of Alison. It loaded with good stuff. I haven’t gone Brian Mclaren on anybody. Just to prove it, see Orthocuban’s post on denying communion to church members facilitating abortion. I find little to add to this. It goes along with what I posted a couple days ago about grace.