In the debate over homosexuality, there are generally two sides. One side says that God’s opinion, as recorded in the Bible, should dictate what constitutes acceptable human behavior. The other side says that human desire should dictate what constitutes acceptable human behavior. Given the presuppositions of both camps, it is impossible that they will ever agree. Because of this, I generally refrain from engaging in the debate. I certainly hold a position that I will share with anyone who wants to know it, but my experience is that most people don’t want to know my position. So be it.
Then, I came across an interesting article, which you can read here, that seeks to provide a third side to the debate. Actually, I think the author, A United Methodist youth pastor from Mississippi named Tyler Smither, would say that he is moving beyond the debate itself and seeking to find a completely different solution to the issue. He says that everyone should keep his opinion about homosexuality to himself because it does not matter what anyone thinks about the morality of homosexuality. He says that both sides of the debate have missed the point and that they should simply “try telling a gay kid that [they] love him and [they] don’t want him to die . . . inviting her into [their] church and into [their] home and into [their] life.” As he makes his case, he also makes eight outrageous claims that go way beyond the issue of homosexuality. These are claims that I simply cannot ignore. So, I won’t.
1. The stakes have changed
Smither claims the time for debate over the morality of homosexuality is over because the stakes have changed. At some point, it was apparently worthwhile to discuss God’s opinion about the matter. Now, things have changed. What exactly has changed? According to Smither, “The stakes are too high now. The current research suggests that teenagers that are gay are about 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.” Even though God clearly has an opinion about the issue, the importance of his opinion has changed because gay people are killing themselves more often than non-gay people.
2. Whether or not people are dying is the basis of what matters
Now that homosexuals are killing themselves at a rate higher than non-homosexuals, it no longer matters what God’s opinion is regarding homosexuality. In regards to the debate over God’s opinion on homosexuality, Smither says, “It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying.” That is a fascinating claim. I wonder if the suicide rate of fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, murderers, rapists, and thieves is higher than that of people who don’t engage in these behaviors. I have not seen the research, but I am willing to bet that the suicide rate of at least one of these groups is higher than the average. Surely murderers kill themselves at a higher rate than normal people. Therefore, according to Smither’s logic, we should not take into account what God says about murder because God’s opinion no longer matters when “people are dying.”
3. A person is only a human being if he gets physically ill when a homosexual kills himself
This has got to be the most outrageous of Smither’s claims. I don’t get physically sick when anyone kills himself, regardless of whether or not the person is gay. Yet, Smither says, “Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way.” There you have it. In order to be considered human, you have to get physically sick when a gay person kills himself.
4. Being theologically correct about homosexuality is morally irresponsible
I know it is hard for logical people to conceive of a world in which correct theology is not congruent with morality, yet that is the world in which Smither lives. He says that it is impossible to both hold a correct doctrine of homosexuality and treat homosexuals in a morally responsible way. The implication is that the correct doctrine of homosexuality is that it is a sin and that the morally responsible way to treat a homosexual is as if homosexuality is not a sin. Therefore, Smither says, “When faced with the choice between being theologically correct and being morally responsible, I’ll go with morally responsible every time.” If theology is correct, it necessarily follows that it is moral. This is because theology is the study of God and because morality is a reflection of God’s perfect moral character. If our theology is correct and if we live our lives according to it, then what we do will, by definition, be morally responsible. Smither, though, apparently lives in an alternate universe where either morality is not a reflection of God’s character or where theology is not the study of God or both.
5. The treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany is comparable, at least on some level, to the treatment of gays by Bible-believing Christians
Until now, I had never been compared to a Nazi just for wanting to know what God thinks about a moral issue. Yet, this is precisely what Smither does when he gives the reason for Dietrich Bonheoffer’s attempt to assassinate Hitler. Smither says, “[Bonheoffer] believed that complete pacifism was theologically correct. And yet, in the midst of the war, he conspired to assassinate Adolf Hitler; to kill a fellow man. Why? Because in light of what he saw happening to the Jews around him by the Nazis, he felt that it would be morally irresponsible not to. Between the assassination of Hitler and nonviolence, he felt the greater sin would be nonviolence.” Smither’s implication is that gays are being treated as something less than human, the same way the Jews were treated during WWII, by those who claim homosexuality is a sin. Even though it is theologically accurate to define homosexuality as a sin, it would be morally irresponsible to not stop Bible-believing Christians from saying that homosexuality is a sin in the same way that it would have been morally irresponsible for Bonheoffer to not attempt to kill Hitler.
6. Seeking the truth of Scripture is an unnecessary luxury
It seems really strange to me that someone claiming to be a Christian pastor would make this claim. Yet, Smither says, “We no longer have the luxury to consider the original meaning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.” How quickly is orthodoxy replaced with apostasy when finding the truth of Scripture is a luxury that we can set aside when it becomes inconvenient?
7. No one is permitted to speak when lives are at stake
Apparently, people are only allowed to talk under certain circumstances. One circumstance that abolishes the right to speak is when a homosexual is contemplating suicide. In Smither’s own words, “We are now faced with the reality that there are lives at stake. So whatever you believe about homosexuality, keep it to yourself.”
8. The gospel is irrelevant–all that matters is saying nice things to gay people
What should a Christian pastor say to the homosexual who visits his church on Sunday? Most of us would think that the gospel is a good place to start with all unbelievers, regardless of whether or not they are gay. Not Smither. He says, “Try inviting [the homosexual] into your church and into your home and into your life. Anything other than that simply doesn’t matter.” Wow. The only thing that matters is saying nice things to gay people.
Those are Smither’s outrageous claims. There are numerous implications to what Smither writes; but I only want to address one, the one that reveals his hypocrisy.
I believe the Bible. I believe it is God’s word. It is the full revelation of God’s will and his character. I believe that all decisions in life should be based upon what the Bible says. I believe that God’s opinion is not only the most important opinion but the only opinion that matters. Over the last several years, I have been mocked, ridiculed, threatened, and slandered because of my beliefs. My coworkers reject me. People like Tyler Smither dehumanize me by questioning why I don’t get sick when a homosexual kills himself and by comparing me to Hitler. I am so distraught over this that the only option of feel I have left is to end my life, and I am not alone. There are millions of us struggling to deal with the continuous rejection we face. Yet instead of keeping his opinion to himself and telling us that he loves us and inviting us into his home and life, Smither tells us that we are not humans, that we are morally irresponsible, and compares us to Hitler.
Smither’s treatment of Bible-believing Christians is appalling. He may love gays, but he certainly does not love people who care about God’s opinion–and the fact that he demonizes one group of people in the name of love for another group of people makes him a hypocrite. The loving thing would be to treat everyone lawfully. If Smither wasn’t a hypocrite, he would treat everyone equally. He would accept all of us as we are, Bible-believers and gays alike. As it seems though, Smither’s love for gays is merely a thin veneer for his hypocritical treatment of others. This is not the way Christian pastors should behave. We should treat ALL people, including those who disagree with us, the way they deserve to be treated. We should treat ALL people based upon their God-given, objective rights. We should treat ALL people the way that God says in the Bible they should be treated. We should treat ALL people the way Jesus would treat them.