So apparently I struck a nerve last week – well not me, actually, but a quote from Rosaria Butterfield that I tweeted, struck a nerve.
In a recent interview, she said, “Gay Christianity is a different religion. I’m not standing in the same forest with Greg Johnson and Wes Hill and Nate Collins looking at different angels of the trees, I’m in a different forest altogether.”
To which I added my own commentary: “This is what love looks like. It tells the truth.”
The initial pushback was expected. People who are personal friends of Greg Johnson, Wes Hill, and Nate Collins or fans or followers of the Revoice/Spiritual Friendship movement, came out of the woodwork insisting that they love the same Jesus, believe the same gospel, and they are committed to mortifying their sins and lusts. How is it charitable to claim that Gay Christianity is a different religion? The gospel is not at stake, they claim; this is a secondary issue at best, but not a creedal, doctrinal matter. There’s just a small, semantic disagreement over whether a Christian can call himself “gay” in any helpful way. This, by the way, is the essence of the Missouri Presbytery’s Report (PCA) on homosexuality from 2017: this is merely a semantic disagreement and not a substantive difference, and good, orthodox people may come down on either side of this debate. The moniker “gay” attached to Christian need not be considered any downgrade or compromise.
48 Hour Petri Dish
But the next 48 hours served as a small, non-scientific microcosm of the problem. It was like my tweet was one of those petri dish experiments you did in elementary school, where you swab various and sundry surfaces in the classroom and see who can grown the most gnarly fungus in three weeks’ time. I’m pretty sure I got the winner. My swab came from the Revoice desk, and that thang went viral. I mean, seriously, it got all funky. The first responders were the bleeding heart believers who no doubt mean well and believe they are preserving unity and peace and really do love Jesus but are blind to reality.
But the way this Twitter thing works, when those people began interacting with my tweet, their friends took notice, and the second wave of interactions was decidedly a step further away from orthodoxy. These ‘second wave’ responders were less emotional, but had relegated these sexuality issues completely to secondary issues. “Good Christians disagree about these issues,” was the refrain, but what became very clear was that under “these issues” was no longer merely the celibate, non-practicing “side-B” Gay Christians, but now the so-called “side-A”, practicing homosexuals were welcome under some of these sweeping “it’s not a gospel issue” statements. Most of these did not personally approve of Christians practicing homosexuality, but left room for others to disagree while still agreeing about gospel essentials.
But Twitter did it’s little dance, and about 24 hours into my petri dish experiment I was interacting with full-fledged, out and proud homosexuals. Some had left heterosexual marriages, some were single and looking for a “partner,” but they were openly homosexual “Christians,” explaining Scripture away as cultural, naïve, and banking on God’s grace if they were wrong. Finally, and beware, it’s about to get a little crass in here, I came smack-dab into contact with a Twitter handle called “pornyshit,” which based on a brief glance at said person’s account is a person who is a former Christian, now dedicated to drawing pornographic pictures that have apparently been banned from Instagram (and thank God).
Said obscene Twitter account then proceeded to ask me, with apparently no irony at all, what I could possibly mean by associating sexuality with violence of any kind. It was actually at this point that I clicked on the avatar of this account — perhaps foolishly, I admit — and was greeted by a cartoon-ish drawing of a not-really clad female in a dog collar with needles and various pieces of metal in her body and face, which I suppose someone could go hunt down even now on the twitters, should they doubt me. What hath sexuality to do with violence, you ask? What harm could effeminacy, sodomy, or other perversions cause? Um, well, maybe the one drawing girls in dog collars should tell us? On second thought, no, please don’t.
But this is the kind of blind insanity we are up against.
Now, I take Scripture’s warnings about our language very seriously, and I do not share these details to be lurid or unnecessarily vulgar, but I believe the conservative Church is in the process of wading into a sewer of confusion and I know of no other way at this point to sound the alarm than to point out the feces floating just a few feet out from where we are currently standing. And as it turns out they are very open about it. They even name their Twitter handles conveniently to identify what it is they are up to. The Missouri Presbytery Report insists that there is no significant difference between Rosaria Butterfield’s take and Wes Hill’s take, but I suggest you take a water sample of their respective pools and see how it looks.
Within 48 hours of sharing Rosaria’s quote, the “out and proud and open and affirming” crowd was out in full force, explaining the Bible away like a swarm of flies on a warm cow patty.
The Degrees of Separation Game
Now I know full well that the come back to all of this is that the degrees of separation game is hardly conclusive and two can play at that. Have conservatives like myself never attracted bull-headed men who think headship means abusing their wives and children in the name of Ephesians 5? Have conservatives like myself never attracted people who actually wanted the American South to rise up and reinstate race-based chattel slavery? In other words, don’t all leaders and teachers and movements sometimes attract the wrong sorts? Yes, they almost always do, but the key question is: and then what? What do the leaders do? What I do, if/when the racists or misogynists show up on my front porch, is fire a couple of warning shots in the air and tell them they are not welcome. If I love the truth, I must guard the truth from every threat, including those who pretend to be my friends. We practice church discipline on men who treat their wives poorly, and we have no use for racial vainglory or pride. To Hell with all of that.
In other words, there will always be freeloaders attracted to the church, but the question is: what do you do about the freeloaders? Paul had to write the Thessalonians and warn them about keeping company with people who would not work to support themselves because the Church was (rightly) known for its generosity and care for the poor. So we must all be aware of those who are attracted to our churches for all the wrong reasons, and the decisive thing is not presence of unwanted roadies, but whether the roadies are being shown the door or not, whether the problem people are being addressed or not. And so that is my point here: the funky oranges and purples that emerged in my 48hr. Gay Christian Twitter petri dish were not so much the vulgar twitter handles themselves – trolls gonna troll, sinners gonna sin. But where were the Wes Hill and Nate Collins defenders then? Where were the “celibate-Gays” when their “friends” came out of the woodwork all open and affirming? As far as I know, they were silent and absent.
And so my point is not merely that Nate Collins and Greg Johnson and Wes Hill are attracting the whole LGBT+ sewer system, but that they do not have anything like a filtration system that can handle the sewage coming down their pipes. Rosaria sees what’s going on, and she is warning all of us. She is loving Nate and Wes and Greg like almost no one in the conservative evangelical world is willing to. She is sounding the alarm, and the Revoicers sit placidly in their fecal tidepool insisting that they believe the gospel so they are safe. No, you are not safe. The tide is coming in, and the tide is full of gunk.
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).
What would it take for me to think the Revoice project has any chance of being healthy or helpful? They need to drop all the alphabet soup of letters and monikers — and just be “Christian.” Full stop. Period. Stop identifying with the sin that Jesus died for. Drop all the semi-marxist language of affirming and empowering and minorities and victims, and repent of ever suggesting that “Queer treasure” might be brought into the New Jerusalem. They also need to begin leading with what the Bible actually says about homosexuality and not nervously tip-toeing around it and burying it in footnotes. Stop saying “same-sex attraction” and “disordered” and start saying “vile affections” and “degrading passions” and “unnatural” and “perversion” and “abomination.” This would also mean repenting of all effeminacy and butchness and drop all the “goodness of singleness” nonsense and call men to biblical masculinity and women to biblical femininity, which will ordinarily, in the vast majority of cases include marriage and childrearing, under God’s blessing. Repentance is always two-fold: turning away from sin and putting on new obedience. I believe that the church has significantly failed in this latter task. The reason “pray the gay away” has not really worked is because the church has not had much of a positive vision of manhood, womanhood, or sexuality. And more on that soon.