On Valorizing Gay Marriage: A Response to Wesley Hill

Dr. Hill wrote a post explaining why he was so “moved” by “gay” friends celebrating the Supreme Court “gay marriage” decision rather than being anguished by that decision

The writers of Scripture and the Church Fathers had such a negative view of homosexual acts as a violation of the very foundation of creation that all discussion of the goods of homosexual coupling must be treated as a desensitizing of the Christian church against this grave wrong. If we would be concerned about a Christian leader who says that he is “moved” by adult-committed incestuous or polygamous unions and bemoans the church’s failure to recognize the non-sexual goods in such relationships, we should be all the more concerned when a Christian leader does the same for homosexual “marriages.”

 

In an article entitled “Hoping for Love” posted June 28 by Dr. Wesley Hill on his Spiritual Friendship site, Dr. Hill made a series of remarks that prompted me to post on my Facebook page: “Am I the only one for whom this post by Wesley Hill sets off alarm bells, particularly after yesterday’s disclosure of Julie Rodgers’ acceptance of ‘gay marriage’ as a valid alternative for ssa-Christians?” Rodgers, a self-identified “celibate gay Christian,” was one of the contributors to the Spiritual Friendship site (last contributing in Oct. 2014).

Matt Kennedy produced a response to Hill’s article, “Love Does Not Rejoice in Wrongdoing,” which included a quotation of one of my comments on Hill’s article. Dr. William Witt (systematic theology), a colleague of Dr. Hill’s at Trinity School for Ministry, rushed to Dr. Hill’s defense, saying (among other things):

“I was disappointed that Gagnon completely missed that the whole point of Wes’s article was about friendship. Gagnon’s criticism does not even mention the word ‘friendship.’ Did Gagnon even read the whole article or did he just read the first paragraph and take off running?”

Let me begin by assuring Dr. Witt that I read the whole article carefully before commenting on my FB post. Dr. Hill wrote a post explaining why he was so “moved” by “gay” friends celebrating the Supreme Court “gay marriage” decision rather than being anguished by that decision: (1) the alternative for most was a church hostile to celibate “gay” Christianity or at least indifferent to developing “spiritual friendships”; (2) there are many goods associated with homosexual relationships even if the sex can’t be approved from a biblical standpoint.

In speaking about alarm bells I was not equating what Dr. Hill had written to Julie Rodgers’ new acceptance of “gay marriage.” At several points in the article (not to mention his other writings) he states that he is not rejecting the church’s teaching that homosexual sex is wrong. Indeed, just yesterday he distinguished his position from that of Julie Rodgers in an op-ed for the Washington Post (“Yes, many Christian communities are toxic for my LBGT friends. But there’s more”; similarly, the co-founder/editor of the Spiritual Friendship site, Ron Belgau).

My concern is rather that in his “Hoping for Love” article Dr. Hill is blurring boundaries in a way that Rodgers blurred boundaries before Rodgers finally crossed over into the other side. Perhaps he himself does not realize that he is valorizing homosexual relationships in an unhealthy manner. But he is.

Dr. Hill begins by commending a statement of Alan Jacobs, who was “moved by many of the scenes yesterday of gay people getting married…. I hope that many American gays and lesbians choose marriage over promiscuity, and I hope those who marry stay married, and flourish.” Dr. Hill comments: “I felt that too.”

“I hope those who marry [a person of the same sex] stay married”? What’s next? Hoping that polygamous unions stay together as a better option than the alternative of promiscuity? No, of course neither Dr. Jacobs nor Dr. Hill would argue that. So neither should argue the same for homosexual relations.

In his concluding paragraph Dr. Hill says:

“When some of us traditionalist Christians were moved by the pictures we saw of gay couples, or moved by the real-life visits with our gay friends, the day of the SCOTUS ruling, ….we were wanting our friends not to be lonely and alienated from love, and we were wanting them to keep hoping and searching for Love Himself.”

The last clause indicates that those in homosexual relationships should keep searching for Jesus, the very embodiment of love. Well and good. Yet the preceding remarks about being “moved” and, in a way, about feeling happy for their newfound legitimacy as “gay couples” are quite out of touch with the views of Scripture.

In the rest of the article it looks like Dr. Hill is making a brief for homosexual relationships, minus the specific moments in which sexual intercourse is taking place. He talks about the “lump in my throat on Friday [immediately after the SCOTUS Obergefell verdict] as I was scrolling through news feeds and seeing gay friends’ pictures pop up on Facebook and Twitter” and “their current jubilation.” He contends that “the so-called Great Tradition of the Christian faith” has not condemned “the legitimate human desire for closeness that may or may not accompany [same-sex sexual] acts.” He adds:

“That same teaching certainly isn’t condemning all the things about ‘gay culture’ that give us those weepy chills when we see them at their best. Historic Christianity certainly isn’t saying that … all their longings and loves are any further removed from God’s design than their heterosexual neighbors’ are.

“Nor is the Christian tradition intending to denigrate the many virtues exhibited by gay couples [note: not just persons with ssa but those in homosexual relationships]. I myself believe that when the history of our particular time … is eventually written, we will look back on gay couples as the [sic] among the ones who rediscovered and taught us some important things about the virtues offriendship, things we’d forgotten in our fixation on heterosexual romantic love. I think, for instance, of Andrew Sullivan’s beautiful writings about gay friendships during the AIDS plague years; those stories will be remembered.”

“Weepy chills”? Note that the context indicates by “gay couples” Dr. Hill means homosexually active persons. In our “fixation on heterosexual romantic love” we have lost sight of the fact that “gay couples” are “among the ones who rediscovered and taught us some important things about the virtues of friendship”?

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