When people of faith disagree: 10-8/9-11
More on church disagreements: 10-11-11

Out anti-gaying a preacher: 10-10-11

Over the weekend here on the blog, I described how two pastor friends of mine were carrying on a policy disagreement with civility and respect.

GAY-christian Today I'd like to show you a bit of a contrast to that -- which is to say one pastor taking on another one publically without any apparent effort to talk with the one with whom he disagrees to settle things or at least clarify things. And a case in which both pastors are misguided.

Al Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and he does a lot of writing about faith and life.

He's an interesting guy but someone with whom I pretty regularly disagree.

In this longish, sort of snide piece, he writes about the well-known televangelist Joel Osteen and Osteen's recent interview on the Piers Morgan show on CNN.

Mohler is all atwitter about several things Osteen said (or mumbled) in the interview, and he is pretty unsparing in his critique.

At one point Mohler reacts to some of Osteen's TV remarks this way:

"This is beyond mere incoherence. It is moral and theological nonsense. More than that, it is a massive statement of ministerial malpractice."

What both pains and amuses me about all of this is that in some ways both Mohler and Osteen have chosen to be on the wrong side of history for reasons that are not theologically sustainable. Which is to say that both of them believe the Bible calls homosexuality a sin. (For my own views on that subject, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.)

So when Osteen inconsistently says homosexuality is a sin but he'd attend a same-sex wedding if the couple were friends, Mohler jumps all over him for not being a purist about it. In the 1950s and '60s in the South, certain politicians were described as trying to "out-seg" opponents, which is to say that they sought to be more rigid segregationists than the next person.

And many people observing that tawdry stuff simply shook their heads and understood that eventually this ridiculous racism would give way to something more moral and coherent. The same is true of anti-gay preachers who are trying to out-anti-gay the next preacher, as Mohler is trying to do to Osteen.

Much of the rest of the world looks on and shakes its head, wondering when people of faith are going to get on the right side (I would argue the biblical side) of history. And as a result of the kind of Mohler-vs-Osteen argument, the cause of faith is dealt one more harsh blow it need not have suffered.

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The controversy among Republicans about whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and John Huntsman belong, is a cult is just sad. This is a debate that grows out of prejudice and hate, not decent politics or decent theology. It is much more a theological question than a political one, but it's one that grows out of a need to separate and isolate not to understand. The instincts that lead one to denounce Mormons as cult members (look up the various meanings of the word cult sometime) are misguided and just mean and such instincts should be anathema to any people of faith, including Christians.


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