Blog Chatting with a Pastor

A few days ago a link to a blog article showed up in my Facebook newsfeed.  Not sure what made me think it would be worth reading, but the title was interesting, and I had a feeling it was related to the Chick-fil-A debacle.

We’re not hateful, we just disagree.

The author, Sean Azzaro, states: “I am lead pastor at an amazing place called River City Community Church, which really is a church for real life!”

His article follows:

In the aftermath of Dan Cathy’s comments in support of the biblical definition of a family and the massive groundswell of support that his company, Chick-fil-A, experienced on August 1st, the terms “bigot” and “hateful” are being thrown around like ketchup on waffle fries. One thoughtful, enlightened individual referred to the supporting crowds lined up outside a Chick-fil-A as bigots, and wondered why they left their white hoods at home. I was one of those people and I don’t have a white hood. No, this person doesn’t know anything about me except that he suspects I may disagree with him. Therefore I am a dangerous, hateful, clan member. I want to challenge those of us who support a biblical ideal of marriage and family not to take the bait. Don’t allow the ad hominem attacks (attacking your challenger and calling them names rather than analyzing and addressing their position) to distract from the real issues at the core of this debate and the real people impacted.

For many of us, there is definitely a religious aspect to the conversation. How we view God, creation, truth, the bible, mankind, and morality greatly informs our views of marriage and family. However, at a more basic level, this really comes down to how we view sexual behavior. A great number of us consider equating sexual behavior or appetites with race or nationality (like being white, black, Hispanic, or Jewish) as simply offensive. We all know that there are lots of sexual appetites that we don’t condone or validate with marriage status. Why not? If homosexual tendencies are a genetic inevitability, then why not every other sexual desire? It seems fairly well established that sexual appetites can change or be influenced by developmental factors. There are sexual addictions that we deem harmful and that we help people overcome. Suffice to say, there are a lot of questions to be answered before we equate sexual urges and choices with race and skin color. You see…we simply have a different view of sexuality and of marriage. We don’t hate people who disagree with us…we just disagree.

A very large number of people in this country believe that sex is a gift from God for the procreation of the human race. We believe that it is designed to be enjoyed by a man and a woman who have committed to one another in marriage so that the children who result from the union have a family to be raised in, where they can have the love and support of both parents and role models of male and female adulthood. (I understand that this stems from my religious views, but it also seems to be reinforced by anatomy and sociology.) We believe that, while there are other types of families that experience God’s blessing, this union is the cornerstone of civilization, and it always has been. We also believe that anything less than the biblical ideal of sexuality eventually causes hurt to the people involved and the community around them.

It is very important to understand that, while I obviously can’t speak for everyone who shares my views, I think I am very safe in saying that, we don’t hate those who disagree with us! In fact, we want the very best that God intended for all of us. We believe that acting according to God’s design is a key to the joyful and fulfilling expression of our sexuality. You may disagree. In fairness, you may even think we are deluded and totally wrong! But you can’t say that we are hateful for sharing what we believe to be a gift for everyone. In fact, if we really believe these things, how cruel would we have to be to not share our message?

It is truly sad that, while these views are widely held by many people, and have been since the beginning, the things I just wrote are considered dangerous and hateful. We can’t even really have a discussion about this without being called bigots, Nazis, and haters. This seems wrong…especially for people who claim to hold tolerance as a virtue.

We’re not hateful…we just disagree.

I took this as an opportunity to engage him on the issue, in a respectful way of course!

  1. Sean,

    Nice article. I fully agree with the point that people that support CFA and traditional marriage have been unfairly characterized as hateful. Bigotry, on the other hand, is not as simple.

    Had religion not been used as the primary rationale to keep blacks and whites from marrying, this may not be the wedge issue it has become – at least from a religious perspective. There are still hundreds of thousands of Americans, the vast majority good, loving, and Christian folk that still believe anti-miscegenation laws should be in place.

    From your article, you state:

    “We also believe that anything less than the biblical ideal of sexuality eventually causes hurt to the people involved and the community around them.”

    I’m curious, and I’m not trying to bait you, how exactly does a same-sex union “hurt” them, you, or the community? How does a same-sex marriage cheapen your own?

    For me, I can see no daylight between this issue and interracial marriage. Both have had religious arguments thrown against them. In fact, if anything, strong same sex marriages will enhance the institution, in my opinion.

    Lastly, in the states where same sex marriage is legal, have you noticed a significant decline in the quality of traditional marriages in these states?

    I stop short of calling people that are pro-traditional marriage bigots. I do not believe they are or mean to be; however, I do consider people that continue to be unsupportive of interracial marriage bigots – and that is the trajectory this issue is moving in. It may not be bigoted today, but in 20 more year’s it surely will be.

  2. Hi “Other” Sean,

    Thanks for your response. I think your comments really get to some of the key components of this issue.

    First, you compare my views on homosexuality to prohibitions on “blacks and whites” marrying. My view of creation and origins causes me to recognize that there are no “blacks and whites.” People are actually shades of brown. I believe in common origin and common creator. Old Testament prohibitions on “intermarrying” had more to do with belief and culture than with actual race. Rahab the Canaanite prostitute and Ruth the Moabites are both in the actual lineage of Christ given in the New Testament. The New Testament gives no such prohibition. You say “There are still hundreds of thousands of Americans, the vast majority good, loving, and Christian folk that still believe anti-miscegenation laws should be in place.” You may be right; I just don’t know any of these people. Please understand, just because someone tries to distort the scriptures to fit their purpose doesn’t mean it actually supports their cause.

    In my original post I state clearly that we don’t equate sexual behavior with race. This is a really important point that gets to the core of the issue. The bible, both Old and New Testament, list homosexual sex as sin…along with of all kinds of other sins. We believe that God hates sin because it kills the people that he created and loves. We also believe that we have all sinned and that God made a way for us to have life through Jesus Christ. (John 3:16, Romans 3:23, 6:23) So the nature of sexual desire is critical. Is it a predetermined genetic inevitability or is it a behavior choice? Thus my comments in the original post.

    You asked me a question…you state: “I’m curious, and I’m not trying to bait you, how exactly does a same-sex union “hurt” them, you, or the community?”

    I’d rather let the gay community answer that question. This is a link to an article from a site called “Xtra, Canada’s Gay and Lesbian News”, which is a pro gay site.

    http://www.xtra.ca/public/national/canadaapos/healthcare_system_is_homophobic_says_group-6314.aspx

    The site shares a report of a complaint filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission by 6 homosexuals alleging homophobia in the Canadian national healthcare system. Here are some quotes:

    “The report’s list of health issues affecting queer Canadians includes lower life expectancy than the average Canadian, suicide, higher rates of substance abuse, depression, inadequate access to care and HIV/AIDS…

    “There are all kinds of health issues that are endemic to our community,” said Hellquist. “We have higher rates of anal cancer in the gay male community, lesbians have higher rates of breast cancer. These are all issues that need to be addressed.”…

    In the meantime Hellquist charges that the healthcare system has been equating gay health with HIV/AIDS. “When Health Canada or anyone talks about health issues in the gay/lesbian/bisexual communities they’re talking about HIV/AIDS and the reality is there is more GLBT people in this country who die of suicide each year than die from AIDS, there are more who die early deaths from substance abuse than die of HIV/AIDS.”…

    “It seems that… now that we can get married everyone assumes that we don’t have any issues any more. A lot of the deaths that occur in our community are hidden, we don’t see them. Those of us who are working on the front lines see them and I’m tired of watching my community die.”…

    Sean, we are a community. The things that impact a group of us impact all of us. These are people that we care about. Their healthcare issues become our healthcare issues, as seen above. The things that these homosexuals described are not good for them or for us. Unless a group chooses to move to a deserted island and not be part of our society, what they do and lobby for affects us all. (Obviously, if the homosexual community did that, they would be extinct in one generation)

    But again, as obvious as these things are, it is almost unthinkable to say them for fear of being called a bigot. Thanks for listening.

  3. Sean,

    Appreciate the response. At the risk of saying you kinda sidestepped the question, I’ll seek clarification.

    So you are implying that the Canadian Health study citing that gay men and lesbians have a higher risk of anal and breast cancers respectfully, therefore…what? This is god’s way of punishing the gay and lesbian community for their sin?

    Sucking up health care resources is how it impacts the extended community and you and your family? Just trying to make sure I understand the argument (not argument in the sense of fighting) you are making.

    It doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue as to how same-sex marriage cheapens or diminishes your own.

    With regard to interracial marriage, it is nice that you acknowledge that we are all human beings. This attitude would have been considered highly progressive 50 years ago. Would you not agree that those who still view interracial marriage as a “sin” today are bigots?

    25 years ago, 52% of Americans thought interracial dating (not to mention MARRIAGE) was not a good thing. Today, 11% of Americans (that would be approximately 32 million people) think interracial marriage has made our society worse. I think it’s an extremely fair benchmark to base attitudes on, especially since the issue is marriage and how larger society views who gets to participate in it.

    Pew Study on Intermarriage

Several other posters chimed in to challenge Pastor Sean’s views on same sex marriage, but I tried to elicit the pastor to stay on topic:

Sean Asbury says:

Sean (1?, not “other Sean” :) )

I’d hate to see this fantastic opportunity for discussion devolve into an emotionally heated argument. Jason does raise some excellent points.

One thing that we’ve not discussed or approached is the disparity of views on this issue within Christianity itself. Many of the mainstream European Christian churches have embraced and sanctioned same-sex marriage, as well as Canada, and a growing number of US protestant denominations are also providing church sanction to same-sex marriages (not just unions). I truly wonder how this plays out with Christian theology and doctrine. Does it further splinter and divide the faithful? Will it cause finger pointing among “real” Christians and “false” Christians?

A great number of parishioners, at least according to polls, seem generally supportive of same-sex marriage, while the official positions of the churches they attend is pro-”traditional” (or biblical) marriage.

Historically, the “church” has always been conservative in the sense of being change-resistant, however, willing to adapt doctrine to the needs of adherents and the times. I think the “anger” that is generally associated with this debate is that many people see this issue as beyond the tipping point, and in accordance with who we are as 21st century Americans, we are impatient and want the change to come immediately (or to hold fast as long as possible)…

I know you probably never intended to open this debate to the point it has reached. And I know you are being peppered with questions (especially by me), so I should point out that I appreciate your willingness to open your blog to differing views and really hope you can find the time to continue this discussion. :)

Ultimately, I think Pastor Sean had had enough of this conversation.  He pretty much threw up his hands in acknowledgment that his views on the matter were not open for debate:

Sean Azzarosays:

Gentlemen,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Supernova, the reason I haven’t responded is that I have a pretty busy couple of weeks ahead of me and I haven’t had time. Because of time, this will be my last post on this conversation. You gentlemen feel free to continue. I kind of wish we could all sit down and have coffee. This is a very interesting discussion!

I understand what you all are saying, but we see reality very differently. I, along with large percentage of people in the US, do not equate race with sexual behavior. We see race and color as something that a person cannot choose. We see sex as something that we have choices in. (For example, I can wake up and say, “I’m not going to have sex today.” I can’t say, “I’m not going to be Anglo today.”) As I said, we see race and sex very differently. On this we disagree and I don’t see any sign of that changing. We all agree that some sexual urges and behaviors are harmful and that a person can and should choose not to engage in them. We simply put homosexuality in this category and you do not.

Another thing we can all agree on is that ideas and behaviors have consequences. The bible uses the phrase “you reap what you sow” and we would all agree that our choices bear fruit in our lives. I, and six gay activists from Canada (see link in my first response to Sean), see some very negative repercussions of the gay lifestyle. These very real issues are physical, emotional, and spiritual in nature. I believe (and here the six gay activists from Canada would strongly disagree) that God created men and women to enjoy a sexual relationship in the commitment of marriage. I see the physical and emotional complications listed in the article above as the inevitable consequences of sexuality that we weren’t designed for. Again…you disagree…I get it.

Jason, I’m glad you joined the conversation. I’d love to sit down with you some time and actually open the bible with you. We see the scriptures very differently. Your notes look like talking points from an atheist blog designed solely to discredit the scripture rather than to understand what it actually says. Suffice to say that the bible (Old and New testament) lists homosexuality as sin, along with many other sins. We believe that God hates sin because it kills those he loves. (Rom. 6:23) You may consider the bible a flawed, hate filled, textbook of bigotry. I consider it an amazing revelation of God’s redemptive work to call mankind back to a relationship with him. It tells of God’s power, available to all of us, (heterosexual and homosexual alike!) which empowers us to live the life we were created for. The bible gives a message of great hope to those who will listen. Have people distorted it to justify intolerant and anger filled perspectives? Yes. I’m sorry for that.

Fortunately, we have the freedom to have this conversation. The purpose of my blog post in the first place was to help people understand that our position is not one of hate. I don’t hate or fear homosexuals. I lost a good friend to Aids, and have a close relative who is gay and struggles with just about every issue the Canadian article discussed. This is very real to me. These are real people. We all want to help. We just disagree on what will actually help. One word of advice… Bigot is a strong and inflammatory word; it does not help people come together, it only drives them apart. Thanks again for commenting.

Sean out!

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2 Responses to Blog Chatting with a Pastor

  1. Sean,

    I am a little concerned about how “traditional family” / “Traditional Marriage” = Biblical Marriage. Most notably, the story of Lot and his daughters found in Genesis 19:30-38 justifies incest, thus I wonder if people that are pro-Biblical marriage are supportive of incestuous relationships. At the same time, I doubt that many that claim the Bible as the source of defining traditional marriage have actually read it cover to cover.

  2. seanasbury says:

    Rex – a poster on the original article, Jason D’Haviland Firestone, covered the Biblical definition of marriage extensively. I cut out the other respondents posts for the purposes of my blog – but the other posters had great points to make as well — I think Sean Azzaro felt a bit outgunned.

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