April 28, 2013

Cultural Crossroad III - Shifting Cultural Norms & Homosexuality

What we are now seeing is that the culture is accepting homosexuality and other sexual immoralities as alternative lifestyles. These very same behaviors are described as a sexual sin in Scripture when viewed through a conservative interpretive lens. This conservative or traditional point of view has put Bible believing Christians at odds with a majority of the modern culture. This includes those that have a liberal theological perspective that is decidedly pro-homosexual or prone to other types of liberal presuppositions. This of course has earned Christians (conservative) not only the ire of activist and militant homosexuals but also the ire those that approve of that lifestyle. Christians are increasingly viewed as intolerant, hateful or are considered anti-homosexual “haters” for not accepting this fast-growing cultural norm.

Due to the environment that is growing increasingly hostile to obedient Christians, it is conceivable that Christians may begin to enter a phase of persecution for the belief because their anti-sin viewpoint is often viewed as anti-homosexual. People that wish to live a moral upright and biblical life are going to come under mounting pressure to conform to a homosexual schema that is driven by a litigious and politicized atmosphere as we will see below in the Canadian court system’s case of Lund v. Boissoin elaborated on below. We also see it in incidents of gay marriage being placed on voting ballots in in as many as 31 states, most recently four states: Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington. This is followed by the fact that it has been legalized in six states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont; and the District of Columbia as of November 2012 (Baylon).

If Christians do not conform to this shifting cultural norm they will eventually be pushed to the margins of society just as the early Christians were for their “radical” views in relation to the cultural norms of their day. This pro-homosexual view in the culture that surrounded the early church is no better exemplified than through quote(s) of some of the Church fathers. Athenagoras who was a 2nd century apologist mentioned the vast difference in morals between the Christians and their accusers in his A Plea for the Christians. He state in defense against the culture that they had set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure and…

“They do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways” ~Athenagoras (c.175, E), 2.143. (Bercot 347)

Tertullian never being one for mincing of words was more direct and to the point…

[In contrast to the surrounding culture] The Christian man confines himself to the female sex ~ Tertullian (c.197, W) 3.51. (Bercot 347)

It has often been the case that what is accepted by the culture is not accepted or approved of in the Bible. So what we end up getting is controversy and conflict over ideologies. One ideology is worldly and usually ignorant of Christian viewpoints. The other is biblical viewpoint that understands the world but for reasons of obedience to God, refuse to conform to the culture. We see a pro-homosexual view that is deemed acceptable and even encouraged and reinforced by gay marriage being placed on ballots nationwide in American culture. Any view opposed to this cultural trend comes under the criticism of not only people that are pro-homosexual but now are even coming under the gaze of those that have power to influence the lex terrae  or the laws of the land in westernized nations like Canada (Craine).

Based on aforementioned observations, it seems that true Christianity founded in proper biblical exegesis that views homosexuality as sin is falling out of favor in the culture at-large. In a cultural manner Christianity may be starting to be viewed as a modern form of de facto religio illicita as opposed to religio licita. It is commonly understood that the United States has no official State sponsored religion and its Constitution even forbids the US Government form making any law, “respecting an establishment of religion” (US Constitution-First Amendment).

The first amendment also prevents government from stopping a Christian from stating their views against the sin of homosexuality. Conversely, this does not prevent a culture within a nation from alienating and marginalizing a religion it deems as “backwards” or out of step with what is currently culturally acceptable. In this way I believe Christianity is de facto (in reality) becoming religio illicta (an illegitimate religion) in the eyes of the culture that often times has more power over people than the government because the culture affects those in government.

Religio Illicita

As a point of reference it should be stated that religio licita was an idea to describe the special status given to Judaism and other religions to practice their beliefs under Roman Imperial rule and Christians should’ve been given the same freedom to practice their religion as any other religion in the Roman Empire.  As we know from history, the early Church was riddled with persecution because Christianity was inevitably not viewed as religio licita. At first Rome was at least tolerant of Christianity because it was viewed as a sect of Judaism and as long as it did not interfere with the interests of the State it was tolerated (Scaff 64-65). Religio licita therefore afforded some protection under Roman rule. After the hostilities of the Jewish revolt with the Roman Tenth Legion this protection faded. Being outside of religio licita, Christianity ended up being relegated to a status of religio illicita by the beginning of the second century and therefore did not fall under state protection and were susceptible to persecution (Longenecker 35).

To carry this idea forward we now see similar litigious events beginning to take place to make it illegal or at least undesirable to teach the truth of the Bible about homosexuality. If any court cases or legal precedents ever manages to stand or stay legal and is spoken out against in public by the Church, there is possible legal recourse to turn against Christianity or the Christian that espouses that view. If further legal case can be made in light of that fact and silence these Christian truths, Christianity and Christian beliefs have then become religio illicita (at least in a de facto manner) in the United States or a modern sovereign nation, not Ancient Rome.

Before one dismisses this as improbable, one may want to consider recent decision in the court case Lund v. Boissoin in Canada. It featured a Christian pastor who wrote an editorial to the Alberta newspaper Red Deer Advocate in 2002 on his biblical views against homosexuality. The case brought against him by homosexual activist Dr. Darren Lund reached Canada’s highest court level in an attempt to silence his “hate speech.” The letters to the editor were eventually deemed to be not hate speech and the lower court’s ruling that silenced Pastor Boissoin were overturned. Unfortunately, a precedent was established in a modern westernized court for future cases to be brought against Christians (Craine).

When combining all of these aforementioned aspects it is not hard to see that the issue of homosexuality will be one of the main battlefronts the Church will face and are facing early in the twenty-first century not only in the United States but also worldwide (Holtam 592). It is an issue that will not just go away. It will need be confronted head-on and dealt with in a biblical manner. To be able to do this we as Christians need to define not only exactly where we stand on the issue of homosexuality but how to prevent this sin from infiltrating the church, watering down its doctrine and orthodoxy as to essentially force the acceptance of homosexuality as an suitable lifestyle to be practiced within the Church body so that it fits in better with the culture. We are to engage the culture and converse with it; we are not to embrace it and conform to it (Romans 12:2). We are to obey the lex terrae or the laws of the land only as long as they do not go against what we are told in Scripture. Essentially, we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:13-17).

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