The “Jesus had two dads” placard at this year’s Belfast Gay Pride parade has provoked a strong reaction from some conservative Christians. Some people from the gay community claim that it was simply an attempt to use wit and irony to make a point. Many will say that its immature mischievousness, bad taste and theological inaccuracy has done little to promote an intelligent debate on the issue of the adoption of children by same-sex couples, and has only resulted in many orthodox Christians looking the other way. Gay Christians might be ashamed and embarrassed by the placard, just as some orthodox Christians might not be totally enthusiastic about the fundamentalist protest.
So it raises the question: Is it possible for there to be an intelligent conversation between gay and straight people on the issue of human sexuality and the adoption of children by same-sex couples, other than by displaying mutually-offensive placards and shouting abuse at each other?
The gay lobby faces a difficult (and many would say, impossible) task when it comes to persuading orthodox Christians about the validity of their lifestyle. The Bible clearly sets out God’s will for us in the area of our sexuality, namely, that intimate sexual relations are only legitimate and meaningful within the context of the covenant of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. All other sexual relationships are sinful and wrong. And it goes further in that it specifically prohibits homosexual relationships and describes them as a sign of godlessness within a society. No wonder many Bible-believing Christians stand open-mouthed when they hear of Christian denominations taking steps so that openly gay people are allowed to hold leadership roles in the church.
Those who advocate the ordination of women in the church have had a difficult task in making the Bible’s clear statement “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” to mean the exact opposite of what it says, “I do permit a woman to teach and have authority over a man”. “A” must, by means of some clever exegetical footwork, come to mean “non-A”.
The gay lobby has faced an even more challenging assignment. They must demonstrate that behaviours and patterns of family life which the Bible calls immoral and sinful are actually God-honouring. Black must be called white. Clear biblical statements must not only be excised, but re-written to say the opposite.
Some have found the task of providing a biblical foundation for a homosexual lifestyle so impossible that they have resorted to the argument which we heard at this year’s Church of Scotland General Assembly, “We know better than the Bible”. For such people, the legitimacy for homosexuality, and for gay Christian leadership in the church, must be built on a foundation other than the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture. For orthodox, confessional Christians, that is an impossible position for us to take. But maybe we need to explain with greater clarity why we believe that planting our feet on any foundation other than the Bible is a dangerous and perilous place to stand. Our gay neighbours need to listen and feel the weight of our argument.
What is clear is, that whatever our orientation, we all struggle in the area of our sexuality. Sexual sin is not just a problem for those who experience same-sex attractions. In this matter, ‘there is no one righteous, not even one” and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). It is level ground at the foot of the cross of Christ. It is there that all sinners, whether gay or straight, need to see that they are guilty before God and unable to save themselves, and that there is only One who can be their Saviour. The conversation and discussion between gay people and orthodox Christians needs to begin with that recognition of our common sinfulness and our shared need of a Saviour.
Ironically, maybe it’s here that the offensive placard has a role to play. If the theological background of the placard’s claim that “Jesus had two dads” can be accurately unpacked and become the starting point for our conversation, then we might make some progress in our discussion. After all, God’s Son was born into a human family precisely because we sinners needed a Saviour and Redeemer. It is only through Him that we spiritual orphans can be adopted into God’s family and know Him as our Heavenly Father. Then we can begin to talk together about how we can live so that we please and honour our loving and gracious Father.