By Doug Elders
As an SBC pastor I am very disappointed in the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s recent article, What Should Christians Think of Governments That Criminalize Homosexuality? I strongly disagree with its perspective. I have been a Southern Baptist for nearly 40 years and have been so because we stand firmly on the unchanging authority of Scripture. I believe this article undermines very clear Biblical teaching about the abominable nature of homosexuality and provides an ivory tower perspective of how life might be if everyone shared a Biblical worldview (of course, if that were case, we wouldn’t be have the conversation about the merits of laws for or against homosexual behavior!)
The day I saw that the Ugandan president signed their new law, I made it a point to research his background. I don’t know whether he is a political tyrant; but his biography says that he is a Christian man. He is also very concerned about liberal western pressure for African nations to capitulate to laws that normalize homosexual behavior. I emailed the Ugandan president that day to thank him for taking a Christian stand against such sin and encouraged him to stand firm. I praised him for being a more moral man than our current president. We should be praising, not chiding, countries that are willing to take stands against immoral acts. Homosexuality destroys lives just as much as prostitution, yet we support laws against prostitutes. Homosexuality also kills and we support laws against murder – thousands are dying daily in African nations because of the AIDS epidemic, a disease that is transmitted through homosexual behavior at a much higher rate than heterosexual behavior. -And the politically incorrect fact regarding the AIDS epidemic is that its origin and spread was largely due to homosexuality. Chiding governments for trying to protect their citizens from such harmful behavior is not what I want to be hearing from my denominational ethicists.
I am a pastor in a suburb of St. Louis. In the past couple of years, St. Louis has made two unenviable “Top Ten” lists. It has been listed as one of the most “sinful” cities in America and as one of the most “gay friendly.” After the last presidential election, I began collecting articles from the St. Louis Post Dispatch regarding homosexual issues. Within six months, I had a bulging folder in my file cabinet. A recent Letter To The Editor sums up a disturbing position that might belie the next homosexual push. It can be found at http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/mailbag/letters-to-the-editor/constitutional-hypocrisy-over-same-sex-marriages/article_138f79f7-baa9-5ab0-b178-48fe4799e95a.html .
Local churches, including some non-SBC “Baptist” churches, have made headlines about their acceptance of homosexuals and how non-Biblical it is to deny them their “right” to be who they are. St. Louis county has passed a bill that requires churches to allow homosexuals to use their facilities if those facilities are commonly allowed to be used by other non-church organizations. Churches that teach against homosexuality are increasingly maligned by liberal media and organized activist groups. It is only a matter of time before they will be demanding equal access into our buildings and suing pastors for not performing weddings, just like they have recently been suing (and winning against) Christian-owned bakeries, photographers, and print shops for not providing services. I believe the ERLC article could be used against a local church and/or pastor to show that “Southern Baptist leaders” believe that laws and local churches should not discriminate against homosexuals.
Southern Baptists are one of the only evangelical denominations left that have not given up ground to the homosexual lobby; but I believe the ERLC article does that. Although it very clearly states a solid Biblical position regarding marriage, its chastisement of foreign governments can be taken as division and weakness within SBC ranks on this issue. Leaders of other countries that are trying to navigate in a very difficult political landscape — especially Christian leaders — need our unfettered support. In so doing, we also show solidarity with the Christian bakers and photographers and printers in America. It isn’t enough to say that there should not be laws to restrict our religious rights when the ERLC turns around and chastises governments that restrict harmful and immoral behavior. Homosexuality is a moral issue as well as a public health threat. If nothing else, we should be fighting for laws that restrict it as much as possible. I view the ERLC as a major social and political voice for Southern Baptists. I believe it should stand strong against the homosexual lobby without sending out confusing messages that could communicate a softening message regarding our stand on the issue.
What Should Christians Think of Governments That Criminalize Homosexuality? We should stand behind and support them. Then we should try to determine whether this could be an open door for evangelism and helping to spread a broader Christian message to lost people in those countries.
(Doug Elders is pastor of Central Baptist Church, Eureka. The views expressed are solely his.)