(good) gracious.

mjkimpan  —  September 18, 2013 — 6 Comments


i’ve contemplated writing this post for about a week.

as someone who is positioned as a bridge-builder between opposing world views – as someone who claims to follow jesus and is about the business of reconciliation and peacemaking – i am acutely aware of the importance of the words i choose.

because words matter.

yet it is precisely because words matter that it is incumbent upon me to write this post.

last week, i was on my way home from an unbelievable trip to NYC. i met in manhattan with some like-minded evangelical leaders whom are interested in elevating the conversation between the religious and LGBT communities. these confidential conversations were primarily concerned with the way in which our tribe has been guilty of mistreating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

we together discussed the story of the good samaritan and searched to find ourselves in that parable. we watched a screening of the film God Loves Uganda and discussed ways in which we can work together within the theological framework presented within the tribe of evangelicalism to create safe and sacred spaces for all people in the church.

it was truly beautiful – and i am optimistic that there can be real progress made within our respective expressions of faith as we build bridges with the LGBT community. the conversations i had with individuals across a broad spectrum of faith and sexuality in the Big Apple reminded me in many ways of the spaces we inhabit on a daily basis at The Marin Foundation in chicago.

i also had the distinct privilege of enjoying dinner with not only some of the folks who participated in these conversations, but also a variety of LGBT people who had flown in from russia to discuss some of the real ramifications of the antagonistic atmosphere created by the passed and proposed laws on the criminalization of homosexuality in their own country.

on the way back to my apartment in Boystown, the gay neighborhood of chicago where i live, i scrolled through my twitter feed. this one caught my eye ::


as i read this, i attempted to be cautiously optimistic – after all, i told myself, if RHE calls the post ‘gracious,’ perhaps it wouldn’t be bad as anyabwile’s previous post.

clearly, i misread what rachel meant.

maybe it was my lack of sleep. here i thought she was saying, ‘oh look! this is a gracious response to the criminalization of homosexuality!’ when in actuality it was more of a statement of disbelief, as in, ‘GOOD GRACIOUS.’

that’s kinda like cussing for sweet southern folk.

though this post from anyabwile received less internet outrage attention than his previous post, the message behind it is just as – if not more so – damning.

to briefly summarize the article featured on The Gospel Coalition’s website, anyabwile suggests that countries which have passed legislation criminalizing homosexuality are examples to be followed and models to be praised by christians. he then defends this position and his use of ‘explicit language’ in his previous post as having a biblical basis.

which makes me want to use explicit language (i’m not southern).

in countries like russia, zambia, uganda and elsewhere, the legislation (or attempted legislation) aimed at criminalizing homosexuality has been steered in part by toxic misunderstandings of the gospel and teachings of jesus.

in uganda and russia in particular, folks like scott lively have played a crucial role in creating an atmosphere of fear and hatred toward LGBT people based on outdated, debunked information, myths and outright lies regarding gay people. his ideology in support of the ‘kill the gays’ bill in uganda has been exported to russia and well-documented.

scott lively has written a book that blames gay people for the holocaust, and he was one of the three men who originally went to uganda to stir up a lot of anti-gay sentiment in preparation for the ‘kill the gays’ bill. he is now facing charges of ‘crimes against humanity‘ for his actions in that country. the case alleges that his actions in uganda over the past ten years have led to the persecution, torture, arrest and murder of gay people in uganda.

when putin and his russian law-makers recently passed their controversial anti-gay bills, lively wrote an open letter to the russian leader, warning putin that gay-propaganda laws would not be enough. he later posted another open letter as a blog post entitled, ‘praise for putin‘, declaring the russian leader was an ‘unlikely hero’ of family.

this is tragically ironic, considering the russian legislature is considering a bill depriving gay parents of parental rights. in other words, the bill would remove children from homes of LGBT families and place them instead in russian orphanages.


good gracious indeed. for anyabwile to suggest that the path taken by russia (and zambia, and uganda) is one which he can see christ walking down is at best tragically ill-informed and more likely desperately misguided.

that’s not to claim that anyabwile and his friends at The Gospel Coalition – or anyone else, for that matter – aren’t welcome to hold sincere beliefs about homosexuality. they can, and do. but as i’ve written previously here, and again in my initial response to his earlier post – thinking that we’re right does not dictate nor demand disrespecting those who believe differently.

and it does not excuse the mistreatment of another human being.

i can appreciate the opinions of those who hold traditional and conservative positions regarding sexuality and the beliefs that often underpin them. yet these beliefs do not provide support for the beatings and abuses being endured by people who are gay in these countries. to suggest the government-sanctioned systematic maltreatment of any people group is something to be desired by christians is insane.

it is completely contrary to the example of christ to single out a group of people for unfavorable treatment. our christian faith recognizes that all human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God, and christ teaches that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. all acts of bigotry and hatred, mistreatment and abuse betray these foundational truths.

the bills passed and proposed in these countries forcefully push lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people even further into the margins, and criminalize anyone (including clergy) who speak up and provide support for their LGBT brothers and sisters rather than reporting them to law enforcement. persecution of this kind has no place in any community guided by the commandment to love one’s neighbor.

regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality – along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows – is simply incompatible with the teachings of our faith. to suggest otherwise is neither gracious, nor good.

what do you think?

  • Katie Mac

    You are so right Michael, in everything you have shared! I don’t see why the church is not rishing up to defend the gay community in these countries and being places of refuge for those who need it most. If those who call themselves Evangelical, in those same countries, were being “criminalized” in the same way, can you imagine the outcry and aggressive campaign by the wester churches to stop it??? This all makes me sad…thanks for using your words to draw attention to this!

  • michaeldanner

    AMEN!!!! That’s a loud as I could be without the ability to bold and underline. Well written. Spot on. What on earth is going on over at TGC??? How can anyone who follows Jesus think these kind of laws are good, edifying, God honoring and life-giving! Good Gracious, indeed! Thanks, Michael

  • thank you for this post, michael

  • Well said Michael. The cynic in me thinks Anyabwile is trying to make a name for himself.

  • Thank you for this Michael. I couldn’t agree more. I join my voice with yours and hopefully many, many others in speaking out against the marginalization and oppression of people who are gay.

    I think this article is germane to the conversation:

    Also, here is Soctt Lively’s “Letter to the Russian People” written after his 50 city tour in 2007.

  • Isaac Gould

    Michael, I’ve read Thabiti’s article carefully, and I think you (and Rachel Held Evans) have mistaken his point. Had you approached his post with a more charitable eye, I think you would have come to a different conclusion. He is a gentle, gracious brother for whom I have much respect, and I can assure you that he is NOT presenting Zambia or Russia as legislative models for dealing with gay rights.

    His points are much more subtle (perhaps, I fear, too subtle for the inflammatory nature of any public discourse surrounding gay rights):

    (1) The wording of Zambia’s penal code forbidding homosexual acts appeals to “the order of nature,” providing an example of how Christians might respond to homosexual practice from the standpoint of natural law. He does not deal with the context of the law so much as its wording as an example in the public sphere of an argument against homosexual practice that does not appeal to the Bible.

    (2) Zambia and Russia are running into roadblocks in their relationship with the United States directly linked to their unwillingness to promote homosexual practice, indicating a shift in foreign policy, a ramping up of the level of discourse. Thabiti is suggesting that the administration’s recent behavior makes it seem as though gay rights are the most important foreign policy issue as far as our nation is concerned. He is concerned that this is an imbalanced perspective. This is not to deny the abuses of human rights that occur in nations such as Uganda (which he does not mention) and Russia or to suggest that we follow in their footsteps; he is merely observing with concern a shift in our foreign policy.

    (3) He is defending as biblical his effort to depict gay sex as something morally repugnant. I’m not sure he does this particularly well, but nothing in what he says comes anywhere close to “excus[ing] the mistreatment of another human being” or runs afoul of the command to love our neighbor. I think Thabiti sees himself as being loving for pointing out something of importance to his neighbors.

    Anyway, I would urge you to read his post again carefully, and I think you will find Evans’s contention that Thabiti is “supporting Russian/Zambian criminalization of homosexuality” to be misleading.