God and the Gay Christian: A Whosoever Magazine Interview with Matthew Vines

In 2012, Matthew Vines produced a video that went viral, even though it did not feature even one kitten doing something funny or cute. Instead, his video was a speech he gave to his Presbyterian Church USA congregation in Wichita, Kansas, explaining exactly why six pieces of scripture, commonly called the “clobber passages,” do not, in any way, condemn homosexuality as we understand it today. The video has been watched more than half a million times and has been featured in major news outlets such as The New York Times.

“I knew the people at my church cared about me and loved me and I could tell they were pained because they wanted to be able to embrace and support me. I could feel the anguish and internal tension, but many felt they didn’t know how to embrace me without having to significantly revise their understanding of scripture,” Vines said in an exclusive podcast interview with Whosoever Magazine.

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The video has since been expanded into a new book by Vines called God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, which Vines admits relies on the vast amount of scholarship already laid out on the passages that supposedly condemn homosexuality. What makes his book different is that it is specifically tailored for a more conservative, Evangelical audience, taking a higher view of scripture than many progressive or liberal arguments against the common anti-gay scriptural arguments.

That audience has proved less than receptive so far, with Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, penning an entire booklet designed to refute the book’s arguments before it even hit the shelves.

“I don’t think we can ultimately agree to disagree because this issue, and non-affirming beliefs, are very damaging to the lives of LGBT people,” Vines says about the backlash he’s faced from Evangelicals. “It’s also a double standard, because most people who hold non-affirming beliefs are straight and they don’t have to live with the consequences of their beliefs. They’re asking LGBT people to do something that is vastly harder than they themselves are doing. That separates LGBT people from God and it’s damaging to their dignity and their ability to form relationships.”

Vines remains unfazed by the pushback and is instead using his newfound fame to start a movement called The Reformation Project to change the church from the grassroots up. Vines believes that it’s harder for clergy and other church leaders to put their jobs and reputations on the line to reform the church on this issue. Instead, Vines hopes the arguments in his video and book will be enough to convince that moveable middle in the pews to demand that church hierarchies change on this issue and welcome LGBT people into full membership and full communion.

In this wide-ranging interview, Vines shares his LGBT-affirming interpretations of popular passages used against the LGBT community including Romans 1 and the Genesis story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the end, he argues that LGBT people are not sinless, of course, but that God intends for LGBT people to be able to come together in intimate, committed sexual relationships.

Below, you can listen to a portion of our podcast interview with Vines. To hear the full interview, join our Whosoever Community. Members of the Whosoever Community get exclusive access to this kind of content every month and so much more including message boards, live group meetings, daily messages of inspiration and a chance to be themselves, be loved and grow their faith deeper within community.

podcast_iconListen Now: Matthew Vines Podcast

The Angel Within

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. — Jeremiah 1:5

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me. — Psalm 139:13,16

According to legend, when a young boy asked the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo why he was working so hard hitting the block of marble that would eventually become his greatest sculpture, David, the artist replied, “Young man, there is an angel inside this rock, and I am setting him free.”

Often the world judges people and events by the external circumstances. For without full knowledge we can never be sure our judgment is correct. God has known us from our conception and has designed works that only we can accomplish.

From humanity’s early days we have been given the gift of choice, and the realization of right and wrong. Each of us chooses the road we will take, regardless of our nationality or circumstances. We may choose to seek learning and knowledge no matter what the cost, or we may conclude it is beyond us. We may be born into a nation where poverty and disease prevail. In which case we may choose to seek out food and assistance for our family and ourselves, or we may simply accept the status quo.

Recently in Afghanistan we have seen the result when one girl who was determined to attend school defied the edicts of the Taliban. She was shot, but that shot rang out across the world, and we all realized how deprived these children were. Since her recovery she is now in the UK and absorbing her lessons as would a thirsty camel drink water.

Only God knows what lies inside each of us, just what potentials and gifts we have, and how our lives will unfold if we walk the path set before us. Nothing, no person nor circumstance can divert us from God’s goal when we choose to put our hand in that of our Creator. But it is we who must make the choices in our lives. We cannot blame our failures or disappointments on others for our response to interaction with others is always our own choice.

The most attractive people in the world are those whose inner beauty shines through their conversation, the peace they exude and their cheerfulness in the face of adversity. They look at the world, whether it is just their own region or events world-wide, and are awakened to the needs of others, and to the shortfalls in society. They are not usually the banner wavers, instead in their own quiet way they seek to be part of the remedy.

God is like the sculptor who sees in the rough stone of which we are composed a beautiful angel, a vision of loveliness. And in God’s hands that vision comes to life, and can reach its full potential. However from that initial glance to the finished product there are lots of hammer blows that will impact on that stone, blows that will provide the initial shape, and then all the finer gentler taps that define the figure emerging from the rough source. And every so often the sculptor steps back to gain a newer perspective of the work in hand, before recommencing the refining chiseling.

Looking back at our lives we can see the times when there has needed to be a distinct change in our lives, when circumstance had changed our direction, when close friends have relocated or become distant. In all of these circumstances we can see God’s hand at work, removing from our lives those parts or people who mar the emerging angel. The lighter shaping has been accomplished without too much disruption to our lives, but still the transformation God has in mind is constantly being achieved.

Of course there are those times we deliberately by word or deed leave the path God has chosen for us, and find ourselves in the quicksand of disaster. Our relationships have gone awry, our work has proved futile, and our attempts to assist have instead created more problems. Happily, though, God has not left us alone, and is there to take our hands and guide us to a path less thistle-strewn, and without the briars that have pricked us wherever we turned. The angel within the stone is re-emerging. God again holds the chisel. And our transformed lives emerge.

Balancing Solitude and Solidarity in the New Whosoever Community

I learned recently that there are a lot of folks who think my wife Wanda and I are weird. We were at dinner recently with a couple of friends who were talking about another couple we know and I looked at Wanda and said jokingly, “Y’know, I wonder what they say about us when we’re not around?”

I didn’t expect an answer, but they were quick to tell us: “Oh, everybody just thinks you two are strange because you don’t do a lot of things together.”

Wanda and I kind of laughed about that, but upon reflection, I suppose we are kind of strange in that way. I don’t like camping, so Wanda goes camping with other people.

Wanda doesn’t care for bookstores, or writing retreats, or music camps, theological events or beer festivals, so I tend to go by myself or with others. One of the features we even liked about the house we own is that it allows me to be in the office doing what I want to do and her being in another part of the house doing what she wants to do.

Which is not to say that we don’t spend time together and enjoy it. We do, but it has been the time apart that has helped us stay together. We’ve encountered other couples who have to do things together all the time, even though one may not like the activity all that much. Or, one person in the couple doesn’t get to do their favorite activity because the other won’t go along or doesn’t want them to do that activity without them or with others.

Wanda and I, however, have a natural rhythm of alone and together time, but sometimes that, too, can get out of whack. There are some times that one is the loneliest number, when we’ve been apart too long and we begin to get lonely, or take the other person for granted or lose our intimate connection. There are also times when we can be together for too long and then two can become as bad as one … when we’re getting on each other’s nerves and snapping at each other.

The key to any relationship, I believe, is striking that balance between being apart and being together, between pursuing individual fulfillment and coming back together to dream common dreams.

Our personal relationships, then, are a microcosm of this larger world we live in. Each of us needs some time for personal retreat, but stay too long and you may become a lonely world-avoiding hermit. Every human being is a social creature who needs to joy and comfort of a community, but if we stay too long, we can find ourselves feeling lonely even in a crowd as we come to expect too much from those around us, asking the community to give us what we can only find in solitude.

Instead, we are called to find a balance between solitude and solidarity.

A Healing Community

Even Jesus knew how important this balance can be. In Luke 5:15-25, the story begins with Jesus retreating to “deserted places” to pray. But, by now, Jesus’ popularity has grown around the area and whenever he shows up, a crowd seems to gather, so he finds he must balance his solitude with his public ministry.

This passage gives us a clue on how to do that. As Jesus was preaching and healing inside of a home, the crowds were so large that some men who were carrying a paralyzed man on a bed could not get him in to see Jesus. So, ingenious fellows that they were, they climbed up to the roof and ripped a hole in it so they could lower the man down to Jesus.

What does this teach us about making room for being alone and together? First, it teaches us the danger of spending too much time alone. I understand this danger, because I tend to be a bit of a hermit. Given the choice of staying home or going out, I’m more apt to stoke the home fires than light up the night on the town.

Those of us who tend to hibernate are like this paralyzed man — we can no longer get out and function in the world. We’re so stuck in our caves that going out into the light of day can be painful, so we stay where we are, paralyzed with fear, or loneliness, or both.

This is where the community becomes important for hermits like me. It took a community to bring this paralytic man outside and get him the healing he desperately needed. This is the role of community — to heal us, to help us become whole, functioning human and divine beings, to hold us accountable and give us a sense of belonging.

Spend too much time alone and you become certain that you don’t belong anywhere. This is one of the major causes of depression in our society. People believe they don’t belong, that no one cares and no one would miss them if they were gone for good.

This is the calling of community, to seek out the paralyzed and get them what they need to be healed, even if we have to tear off the roof to accomplish that. This is the entire purpose of our new Whosoever Community, to seek out those paralyzed by isolation, loneliness or in the grip of the lie that they cannot reconcile their sexuality and spirituality and practice both with integrity and help them heal so they can take up their mats and walk as whole human beings.

In this new community, we come together to support one another, to grow our own faith and provide a safe and sacred place to explore both our sexuality and spirituality without the fear of being condemned for either.

I invite you to visit the Whosoever Community and see what we have to offer. Joining is easy and cheap — just $5 per month, or $50 each year (which includes two free months). Members have access to exclusive content such as podcasts, a chance to connect with LGBT Christians and straight allies in their area, message boards and live events such as book studies and special teaching and question and answer sessions.

As a community we’re called to provide for each other, whether that means giving love, friendship or just holding a space where those around us can be who they really are without fear or judgment. We are called to carry each other, to recognize our solidarity with one another and call each other into the wholeness of community life.

Go here to sign up to become part of the Whosoever Community!