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 interview with Whosoever.
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 our interview, Vines shared 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.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.