The Evangelical community tends to lag behind the broader culture on social issues, whether we’re talking the civil rights movement or feminism or environmentalism, which is unfortunate. It’s not really a progressive moral force, it’s something that holds the culture back and then changes its mind after the culture moves forward, apologizing all the while for holding things back, and I do think that will happen in many segments of the Evangelical community on gay marriage as well. In fact, it already is happening.
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D: When does standing up for one’s religion become bullying?
J: I think a lot of conservative Evangelicals feel like they’ve been treated unfairly because they would say, “We don’t hate gay people, but there are moral rules and the loving thing to do is to hold people accountable to moral rules, not to just dismiss them.” If you honestly think that someone’s going to go to Hell for being in a homosexual relationship, then it does make sense, that the loving thing to do would be to try to prevent them from being in that relationship.
The problem with that is “love” is usually defined in the minds of Evangelicals as just –we have this given set of rules, we’re not gonna question that, we’re just gonna enforce it. But sometimes “love” means reevaluating the rules themselves in light of new evidence or arguments or experiences.
*D: What can you tell gays about God’s love without making them feel persecuted?8
J: It would be a message that God loves you and that your sexual orientation is not evil. And that any reading of the Bible that projects a condemnation of your sexuality onto God is not motivated by love but by unacknowledged and (usually) unconscious prejudice.
D: What’s your message to the Christian community?
J: Christians need to be more attentive to how their preexisting values shape their interpretation of the Bible, whether it’s on homosexuality or the other topics I talk about in my book, like abortion or evolution, and stop pretending they’re “just taking the Bible for what it says.”
D: What’s your message to the Gay community?
J: Gay people who may be tempted to believe that God really does condemn their sexuality should realized that throughout history, rules that are portrayed as God’s Will have quite frequently been reflections of human prejudice…What a community takes to be moral rules can reflect prejudice and…submitting to those rules is ultimately submitting to the prejudice that formed those rules…So I would just say, don’t feel that submitting to the perspectives of conservative Christian leaders on what the Bible says about homosexuality is equivalent to submitting to the will of God.