I APPRECIATED the exchange between Robert Gagnon and Walter Wink ("Gays and the Bible," Aug. 14-27). The debate in families, churches and denominations about how to deal fairly, justly and lovingly with homosexual persons and their families remains an essential one. It is not a theoretical debate, but one that impacts real people in real ways.
Gagnon's research and reasoning are impressive, but in making a large number of very precise arguments, he does not do justice to the fact that the biblical sexual ethic is a diverse and developing one, that homosexual orientation is much more complicated than a simple, willful, sinful choice, and that religious people and religious bodies talk about loving the sinner but hating the sin of homosexuality--and find it almost impossible to do both.
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church,
In discussing homosexuality Gagnon dismisses any analogies to slavery, women or divorce, claiming that there "is tension within the canon itself on these issues. There is no tension regarding homosexual behavior."
Gagnon confuses his personal contemporary opinion with historical reality. Read the defenses of slavery written by clergy in the early to mid-1800s. Yes, they use scripture to defend their support of slavery. I challenge Gagnon to find a single one of these misguided clergy who says, "Well of course, there are tensions within the Bible on the issue of slavery." I would love to be around in a century or so to show Gagnon that people will look with the same incredulity upon his (mis)use of scripture as we do upon the proslavery remarks of 19th-century clergy.
H. A. Tillinghast
Wink takes issue with Gagnon, St. Paul, Jesus and "putative orthodoxy" concerning sexual ethics. He also disagrees with St. Matthew over the existence of hell. St. Matthew "had some unresolved anger at the persecutors of his church" and "wanted revenge," says Wink.
Wink seems to throw out whatever scripture offends his view of God's love and mercy. This boils down to Augustine's statement, "Love God and do as you please." Fine, but my pleasure should be informed by my love of God.
Wink might look at St. John's definition of love for God in 1 John 5:3-4: "For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world." Certainly love and mercy are commanded by God, but Gagnon is helping us understand some of God's commandments concerning other aspects of our sexual relationships.
Of note in Walter Wink's reply to me is what he does not say. He gives no attention to developing criteria for discerning the closest analogues to the Bible's core proscription of same-sex intercourse. He claims that I try to make him "say the very opposite of what [he] said." Actually, his reply suggests that he is more extreme than I previously thought, for he insists that there are no "absolute sexual precepts universally valid in every time and place." This will be good news for practitioners of bestiality, incest, adultery, pedophilia, prostitution or rape. Wink also claims: "Gagnon makes no attempt to deal with my argument, which is, I believe, unanswerable. …