This is the seventh post interacting with Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity. Please remember that I cannot reproduce the book in these posts. I will do my best to summarize without being overly simplistic or reductionistic. Each post will be two parts. The first will be a summary of McLaren’s discussion and the second will be my reflections.
The Sex Question: Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
McLaren begins this second question of application in a way that plays to our prejudices (it’s a fantastic bit of writing!). He paints the picture of what many Christians would consider to be the “homosexual movement”. However, he is really painting a picture of what he calls “fundasexuality” which is centered on “heterophobia” or the fear of the different. He says that this is packaged in many forms, “Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or even atheist. (174-175)” McLaren goes on to argue that sociology tells us that “groups can exist without a god, but no group can exist without a devil (175).” Who is the devil for the fundasexualist? Gays, lesbians, bisexual, and trans-gendered people.
The argument against “fundasexualism” is built on the story of Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8. I think I rightly summarize the argument this way:
- The Ethiopian eunuch had visited Jerusalem to worship.
- The Ethiopian eunuch had not been allowed to worship because he was not Jewish and Deuteronomy 23:1 prohibited a eunuch from doing so.
- The Ethiopian eunuch hears the gospel of creation, liberation, and reconciliation “embodied in a man who was stripped naked and publicly humiliated, despised, rejected, and misunderstood, a man without physical descendants, a man who was cut and scarred forever.” This is a man to whom the Ehtiopian eunuch can relate.
- The Ethiopian eunuch who was condemned “by the Jewish scriptures” now has found entrance into the kingdom of God and requests baptism. Which he is by Philip.
- The Ethiopian eunuch a “non-heterosexual” becomes a missional leader taking the gospel to Ethiopia.
This argument is then extrapolated to be inclusive of homosexuals and undocumented aliens.
McLaren continues to paint the horrific picture of sexual brokenness that exists in the heterosexual world and within the church. The list of sexual sin is long, painful, and honest.
The solution? “We must pursue a practical, down-to-earth theology and an honest, fully embodied spirituality that speak truthfully and openly about our sexuality, in all its straight and gay complexity.(189)”
I continue to appreciate the fact that McLaren does not let us get away from the hard questions that face us today. Sex is the predominant topic everywhere. Ads, pop culture, the news, and even Sportscenter: sex overshadows it all. I agree with McLaren that the dialogue must be opened. We have to have the conversation, no, we need to have the conversation. I also agree that we must move beyond the binary, “I’m right, you’re wrong” bickering. I agree with McLaren’s conclusion.
There are parts of the discussion that I disagree with though. I think that he makes a leap with Ethiopian eunuch. There is nothing in the text which tells us of his gender identity. We simply know of his physical limitation to carry out the sex act. This has nothing to do with gender. To make the leap that he was “non-heterosexual” is too far and it is too far to assume that he was “heterosexual”. I think that his sexual identity is not the question at hand. I think that McLaren rightly identifies the issue of the Ethiopian eunuch not being allowed to worship, but is wrong when he asserts it has to do with gender identity.
I come back to the same issue as I have had so many times before. How? At this point in the text McLaren has removed all means by which to have any kind of authoritative ethic. Sexual conduct is of deep concern in the Scriptures and there is an expectation of honoring God with our bodies and there are limits. However, if the Scriptures are simply one voice in the discussion then we can regulate them to a more primitive idea and that we have evolved past their prescriptions for healthy lives. This is very dangerous and unwise.
The sexual brokenness that exists in our world is in desperate of not only a “man who was stripped naked and publicly humiliated, despised, rejected, and misunderstood, a man without physical descendants, a man who was cut and scarred forever” but a man who also died and rose again and in so doing made a way for reconciliation between God and people, people and creation, and people and people.