Tuesday, May 17, 2011

quick hit: sojourners & sexuality

It's fun now that I have more time to peruse news stories to see how often thesis-related topics turn up in my feeds. Here's another story about evangelicals wrestling with the issue of sexuality -- specifically non-hetero sexuality.

Sojourners, for those of you not aware, is an evangelical social justice organization that originated at Trinity Evangical Divinity School (the seminary associated with Trinity College, which accredited the Oregon Extension during its early years) amoung a group of students and faculty opposed to the war in Vietnam.

From Killing the Buddha:
An online firestorm began over Mother’s Day weekend when the Rev. Robert Chase, founding director of Intersections, penned an article for Religion Dispatches documenting Sojourners’ rejection of an ad from Believe Out Loud that advocated full equality of LGBTQ people in the church. On the God’s Politics blog, Jim Wallis justified Sojourners’ decision not to run the ad on the grounds that “LGBTQ issues may not be our primary calling as our work against poverty and hunger, and for peace.”
From Religion in American History:
Even prior to this present controversy, Sojourners' responses to homosexuality (and abortion--but that requires separate treatment) have made them uncomfortable and on occasion unwelcome partners with more liberal Christians who otherwise share their vision for social justice. Sojourners magazine did not address homosexuality as a matter of either Christian ethics or public policy until 1982, over a decade after its inception as the Post-American. In an editorial entitled “A Matter of Justice,” publisher Joe Roos outlined the magazine’s interpretation of homosexuality as a civil right but religious wrong. “While we do not believe that Scripture condones a homosexual lifestyle,” Roos explained, “we do believe that homosexuals, like anyone else, deserve full human rights” that are not “conditional upon agreement over sexual morality.” Churches can privilege heterosexuality within their own communities, he argued, and thus Sojourners welcomed but did not affirm gay and lesbian Christians.  
And from Religion Dispatches:

Wallis’ tent has long been too small—and on more issues than simply LGBT justice and abortion rights. People on the religious left have often felt that he doesn’t speak for them, even leaving these two issues aside. Already in the 1970s and 1980s when Wallis became influential, he was standoffish toward many forms of liberationist theology.

When neoconservatives mobilized to demonize and defund ecumenical left networks centered in the mainline denominations and National Council of Churches, he tacked toward the center. True, he took up a place to the left of many politicians and evangelicals, especially on issues of peace and economic justice—but also well to the right of prospective “tent-mates” in the ecumenical world. Differences were especially clear on a range of feminist issues, as well as Sojourners magazine’s coolness toward scholarly work in Christian thought and ethics that was critical for maintaining the strength and credibility of left-liberal Christianity in the universities.
As with the struggles of queer students on Christian college campuses, it will be interesting to see how organizations that seek a middle path (between rejection of all non-heterosexuality as inherently depraved and acceptance of queer sexuality as equal to straight sexuality) fare in the coming decades.

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