A Question for Full Gospel Believers…

Okay, I know I’m extremely delinquent on my post-holiday rundown, but a lot has happened since my return from Richmond, and I write about what’s on my mind…..

There really is a freakish amount of traffic hitting my blog from Google searches on  unsaved loved ones.  With the exception of my minibar post since Tony Bourdain’s DC show last week, the majority of my traffic has always been from my friends and people searching for answers about the unsaved.  I really do TRY not to be such a curmudgeon when it comes to addressing the formation of my Christian worldview, but it’s like Billy Jack said: “I want you to know….that I try.  When Jean and the kids at the school tell me that I’m supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like they are, I try.  I really try.  Though when I see this girl…of such a beautiful spirit…so degraded….and this boy…that I love…sprawled out by this big ape here….and this little girl, who is so special to us we call her ‘God’s little gift of sunshine’…and I think of the number of years that she’s going to have to carry in her memory….the savagery of this idiotic moment of yours….I just go BERSERK!”. 

So considering all that has gone on with the loss of family members in the past few weeks, and in the spirit of the new year, I’ll try…..I’ll really try…(in THIS post)…to articulate a question that has been on my mind lately without the usual “treatment”.  To my friends and regular readers, I apologize for being so serious of late, but I have an honest question that goes out to those who consider themselves full-gospel, spirit-filled believers.  I know I focus on this topic a lot, but it continues to mystify me….

I’ve shared this story with a few of you, but to begin the journey to my eventual question, I have to start with what I consider the most shameful day of my stint as an Assemblies of God minister.  On Saturdays, we’d generally work at the church to get ready for Sunday, but it was never too busy of a day….we’d usually have to do a funeral, do rehearsals for whatever program we were working on, etc.  One Saturday I guess a few of the fringe-members of the church…..people who do stuff like take bullhorns to the bar district to preach on the corner on a Friday night…were going to go down to the Plaza and protest at the annual gay parade.  So with nothing else really going on, the senior pastor goes “hey, let’s go down there”.  Granted, I was one egocentric Torah-loving turn or burn human being back then, but there was something about holding up anti-gay signs that gave me pause….I never understood how the prospect of eternity in hell was a better motivator than topics like grace and compassion.   I REALLY didn’t want to go down there but was goaded into it, and sure as anything, when we showed up the serious street evangelist types gave us signs to hold up.  I can tell you this….out of all of the crap I did that made me unfit to be a pastor, and there is a laundry list of it, nothing sticks out in my mind like the looks on the faces of the men and women in the parade as they passed by our little group of protestors.  Sure, there was some (deserved) verbal abuse, but mostly we just got puzzled, if not amused, looks from people who may or may not have understood the glaring contradiction of some 350+ pound men telling THEM what sin was and how they should live.

Yes, I KNOW I’ve brought this up a bazillion times, and I KNOW that Christianity is about much more than the hot topic of homosexuality.  However, I haven’t been able to articulate it in the form of a simple question before now, and I’m hoping for a real answer from a black and white thinker who believes a sin is a sin.  I know there are a TON of you who stop by here, but I guess I never give you a chance to reply because I’m too busy with the sarcasm. 

As far as the whole gay “lifestyle” topic goes, I don’t need to hear scripture, I know all of that as well as any former exegete who spent an inordinate amount of time buried in his Hebrew/English and Greek/English lexicons.  The meanings of the scriptures quoted by evangelicals are at the very least debatable, but I’m willing to meet halfway here and just say that for the sake of my question…..GAY = SIN in both the Old and the New Testaments.  If you’ve made it this far, bear with me because I really want to think through this….

I still have many ties with evangelical/full gospel culture, and there are few things that get the big “NUH-UH!” as often as the topic of homosexuality.  If I live in a bizarre midwestern bubble and it’s different everywhere else, my apologies.  The gay topic just seems to be the one thing that every evangelical/fundamentalist/pentecostal can agree upon….it is wrong, it is sin, there is no room for interpretation, to even question that fact would be to give into the gay agenda, nobody is born that way, it is a lifestyle choice, it is an abomination, and most of all….you CANNOT be a born again believer and continue to live a homosexual lifestyle.  They believe it is sin, possibly demonic, and is something from which a person with this affliction needs deliverance.  Am I missing anything?  I think even the most moderate, media savvy evangelical’s “love the sinner” viewpoint would be covered here…..as would the most deplorable “god hates fags” rhetoric.  All of it is covered under the umbrella of “as it was in the days of Noah”…..

In short, if I’m understanding the viewpoint correctly….sin will send you to hell, and the prolonged, unrepentent decision to continue in a homosexual lifestyle despite the knowledge of what the gospel (for which you are accountable once you have heard it) has to say about it….is a damnable sin.  True repentance would mean turning from that lifestyle.  That is not to say you’d be perfect, maybe you’d fail at it, but as long as you TRULY repented and no longer immersed yourself in the lifestyle you could be saved.  On the other hand, if you are like Ray Boltz and believe you can be an openly gay Christian, you are fooling yourself.

Have I about covered it?  Aren’t the wages of sin still death?  By that I mean, if I lived in the aforementioned lifestyle and I contracted AIDS, and I did not TRULY repent and stop living that lifestyle before I died…..where would I spend eternity?  Rhetorical question, but again I think that even the most moderate evangelical would have to give a nod to my logic. 

So now, before the million dollar question, which I hope is not completely anti-climactic at this point, I go back to that day at the gay parade (with the understanding that an unrepentent, prolonged life of what the Bible considers sin will send you to hell)…..  and I think of the puzzled looks on some people’s faces as we protested their lifestyle choice, I ask this:

If a sin is a sin, what is the difference between living a gay lifestyle and dying of AIDS and living a gluttonous lifestyle and dying of a heart attack or stroke?

I know that may be a stretch for some, and others of you are sick of hearing me talk about it, but isn’t the lust of the flesh that drives someone to satisfy their sexual desires the same lust of the flesh that drives someone to satisfy their gluttonous desires?  And I say this as someone who literally had to have their stomach stapled in order to live until the age of 50….I know a million folks who would never smoke one cigarette or have one glass of wine, but they don’t think twice about gorging themselves into morbid obesity.  And nine times out of ten, they’d preach at a gay family member or church member, but they’ll watch their loved ones die of a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, or any number of weight related afflictions.  If you are controlled by your appetite, does it matter what sin you are feeding?  As two 350+ lb men holding protest signs, how different were we from the “out” homosexuals in the parade?  Using the Bible as the standard, weren’t we ALL examples of people who had completely lost control of their habits and given into a lifestyle of excess?

Now, anybody who knows me knows where I stand on all of this…..I don’t subscribe to the black and white interpretation of scripture.  I don’t know all of the answers, but I’ll always error on the side of grace (not libertinism).  In short, and I know this is where I’ll lose many of you, I absolutely think you can be gay and be a Christian.  I’ve seen the “sin” angle debated successfully in the affirmative and negative, so I’m not able to shed any new light on that….I simply think it’s a non-issue when you consider the real message of the gospel and the state of humanity.  We’re all extremely flawed, and I guarantee we all have something in our lives that would qualify as sin…some loss of self-control or something we do to excess without TRULY repenting….but a lot of those things are a lot easier to hide or rationalize.   I mention the whole gay thing because it’s such a hotly contested “sin”, and I counter it with gluttony because it is something I know about personally AND it’s as hard to hide as being flamboyantly gay. 

I hammer on this topic a lot not only because I like playing devil’s advocate, but because I think something that is sorely lacking in fundamentalist/evangelical culture is a sense of compassion and humility.  Admittedly, I target that culture without much of a sense of compassion OR humility…but I speak of what I know.  If the focus could shift from the business side of church and the numbers game, and being God’s army,  to a sense of self-awareness that really DOES include the “full gospel” instead of the sensationalized parts of it, it would go a long way in fixing such a broken church culture.  Everyone knows someone who is obese, but they’re more sensitive to them than someone who is gay …..because they generally know a lot more fat people than gay people.  I swear to you, I do not know how many people in the past few years, bigger than I EVER was at my heaviest, have talked about how digusting it is to be gay without the slightest sense of irony at their use of the word “disgusting”.  Trust me, if as many anti-fat comments came from pulpits as anti-gay ones, congregation numbers would shrink significantly, but I am 100% positive that particular sin is far, far, far more rampant in churches today than just about anything else.  That and closet porn use, but secret porn usage is one of the things you can’t quantify. 

Anyway, I’ll try not to bring this up again for a while, but at some point in the past few weeks I was finally able to come up with what I think is both a succinct and valid question worthy of a self-aware answer that falls outside the usual scripture-slinging and arrogance that are both hallmarks of evangelical culture.  If you believe the full gospel, and a sin is a sin…..how far off am I in saying that if you drop over dead of a heart attack due to a lifestyle of gluttonous excess, how different is that from any other sin-related death?  How many people do you know who  unabashadly hammer on one while practicing the other?  And don’t even bring up genetic predisposition or thyroid issues, because if that’s the case there is the whole gay gene thing to talk about…..


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10 responses to “A Question for Full Gospel Believers…

  1. I suppose there actually is very little difference in the long run.

    The Cardinal Sin of Lust covers Homosexuality since Lust leads to perversion. The Cardinal Sin of Gluttony cover the other.

  2. Not so sure on this one, I agree that we are supposed to repent of our sins, which is supposed to include changing our lives so as not to commit that sin. But have you ever considered that it is not always quite that easy? Ask any alcoholic, or drug addict. And also, as a Christian, aren’t we supposed to be forgiving of other peoples sin. Yes, we are supposed to evangelize and spread the word, but not judge. And by classifying who is and who isn’t a Christian, aren’t we doing just that?

  3. zeemanb

    Dsunker, you and I would probably agree on several points, chief of which would be the “classification” of who is a Christian and who isn’t. People segregate themselves into denominations based on their belief of what Christianity is, and then further set themselves apart interpersonally by setting what they believe are the specific ground rules. My personal view of Christianity is pretty inclusive….I don’t think anyone can live perfectly, that we all have demons to deal with, and it is definitely not as easy to quit doing some things as people might think. I can tell a crack addict “why don’t you just STOP IT!”, because I don’t have a problem with crack….yet at the same time I had such a problem with food that I had to go get surgery. Anyway, thanks for stopping by the blog, I definitely think focusing on what others do or don’t do is an easy diversion that keeps us from dealing with ourselves.

  4. I personally believe that salvation isn’t merely about eternity, but also about today. I mean, Jesus died to save us from the hell we put ourselves through on this earth. He wants us to live full and happy lives, and we can only do that if we leave our sins behind us.

    Which is my rambling way of getting around to saying that all sin separates us from God, all sin leads to pain and either the big Death or a million little deaths every day. Jealousy, greed, gossip, idle talk… all of these things lead to negative consequences, create rifts in our relationships, distance us from the Creator.

    We can’t make lists of which ones matter more. We can go off said lists from the Bible, but in the Bible greed and idle talk seem to take up as much space as anything else.

    It was a rich young man who was having such a hard time finding salvation, not a gay kid.

    Anyway. That’s my two pennies. And some pocket lint and ribbon, too. 😀

  5. zeemanb

    Hold it, hold it, hold it….. if we can’t rate our sins on a big continuum like a “Top Ten”, then how are we supposed to know how much penance we have to do in order to be forgiv……wait, sorry, spent last week around too many Catholics… ;).

    BTW, just saw a snippit w/Ted Haggard on CNN discussing his lifestyle, and while he didn’t “come out”, he also didn’t go hardline one way or the other…..which, if you grew up with the evangelical rockstars that I did, is actually a pretty significant babystep……OR, he’s going to be on the ticket w/Palin in 4 years and is practicing his politics….you can never tell. I guess HBO is going to be airing a documentary beginning this weekend called “The Trials of Ted Haggard”. It’s done from his perspective, but should be interesting nonetheless.

  6. leslie

    first let me say i am agnostic. i have never participated in organized religion (except when my mother wanted to be alone and dropped my sisters and me off at a church when i was 7-10 years old). the “hard-fast” rules and answers of organized religion is what turned me off long ago. the concept of your post pretty much sums up my disdain: hypocrisy and division.

    here’s what i do know: the sexual orientation (or weight, or addiction etc.) isn’t what makes a person evil or unforgivable. in my days of waiting tables, i came to abhor sundays. the blatant rude, unkind and cheap behavior of “church goers” was just sometimes more than i could take. i sometimes felt compelled to pour coffee on the laps of these self-righteous assholes. i also believe that not all church-going-take-the-bible-word-for-word persons are assholes; commonly close-minded, for sure.

    okay, back to your question. i think the wole level of “sin seriousness” is ludacris. i i think a lot of peoples’
    beliefs are predicated on fear and ignorance. it’s just whole lot easier to damn the people we don’t understand.
    i don’t think there is a person on this earth who has all the answers on the subject or a religion that can explain the enigma of being human: not a christian, jew, buddhist or muslim.

    my oldest daughter is a lesbian. she is probably one the kindest, gentlest and most generous persons i know. she lives a good and honest life. should she repent? i think not. the assholes in the restaurant on sunday? get in line.

    ever best,

  7. leslie

    sorry, i know i’m not a full gospel believer, but i felt compelled to offer my view.

    • zeemanb

      You’re no full gospel believer…….so I tend to trust you more than most! But seriously, full gospel morons are the worst tippers EVER….I can’t even begin to tell the stories about my pastor who thought he was doing a favor by leaving a tract in lieu of a tip….no I’m not kidding…..”full gospel” tract in lieu of tip…..what a shitty, shitty human being, but that’s how we lived back in the day. All I can do is apologize and hope for the best…..Christians do NOT tip well…..and for that I am sorry.

  8. Rose

    Did you know Ted Haggard goes to First Assembly in Phoenix? Ha ha. Just discovered that before reading this post 🙂 Jim Bakker as well.

  9. zeemanb

    Hey Roseanne, yeah, I knew that Tommy Barnett was one of the pastors helping to “rehabilitate” Ted. In the last month or so there was a great documentary on HBO called “The Trials of Ted Haggard”, done by whatsername Pelosi who also did “Friends of God” right before the initial news about Haggard broke. I guess he was not only officially “banished” from his church, but the entire state of Colorado…. didn’t know that sort of thing still went on. Felt pretty sorry for the guy, trying to find jobs and make a living….would feel much more sorry for him if he hadn’t been the type of hypocrite who would have burned anyone else at the stake if they got busted before him first. But at least he never comes right out and says “I’m straight now! Praise the Lord! I’m healed!”. Boy, now I’ve got memories of my year in the Masters Commission at Phoenix First…

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