My Experience with Soulforce

Recently I learned Soulforce, a gay activist group that attempts to express how Christians commit spiritual violence by adhering to thousands of years worth of Church teaching and tradition on the subject of homosexuality & sin, was coming to visit my Seminary (Southeastern Baptist, SEBTS). Being a student of Ethics, and having recently written a research paper on the subject (ETH6550 Is Sexual Identity Changeable), I decided to go to research them. The entire premise of their movement is to get the Christian community to engage in discussion with them regarding their interpretation that scripture does not condemn homosexuality as sin. Since they were visiting my campus, and in the name of exchange and discussion, I went to them via their Soulforce forums.  The purpose of their forums are listed as follows:

The Soulforce Forums are a place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trangender people along with our heterosexual allies to engage in discussions which are both constructive and fun.”

I must also lay down this premise: I really did visit the forum to merely have open discussion about these sensitive topics. There was no ounce of negativity or spite in my approach. I have tried to have these conversations with gay friends in the past, but their reactions left much to be desired (which lead me to write the formerly mentioned paper).

On the forum, one post in particular caught my attention. It was regarding the Sodom and Gomorrah accounts, and it was made by a straight evangelical asking for arguments from the Soulforce community. They responded by arguing that the Sodom accounts are really about Hospitality laws and violent sex. I had refuted this in the above mentioned letter, and decided to address the topic (since obviously every other response listed was biased to these views).

This was the response I gave:

Greetings!

The rape and hospitality arguments are minorities in scholarly studies. They also fail on many accounts (especially inner biblical evidence).

One of the first major objections to the text by proponents is found within the claim that the passage merely condemns acts of rape. As defended by Walter Barnett in “Homosexuality ad the Bible”, the crowd sought to gang rape Lot’s visitors. They then argue that the act to be condemned is not homosexuality itself, but any form of rape. However, this understanding is quite lacking. Feinberg and Feinberg in their work Ethics for a Brave New World provide a clarification and refutation of this:

Nowhere does the text even slightly hint that what the men of Sodom wanted to do would be permissible if only Lot’s guests had consented. Moreover, this interpretation does not account for the fact that God’s judgment fell upon two entire cities. Was homosexual rape a common practice and thus brought the judgment of God? It could have been, but such is not stated in the text. What is more damaging is that God’s judgment on homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah is quite in harmony with his prohibition and denunciation of this sin in other Scriptures properly interpreted. It is not as though this is the only time homosexuality is denounced and judged. (p. 190)

In addition to the argument of rape, a second popular explanation is offered. This argument is founded upon an understanding that the Hebrew word yada is used only 10 out of the 943 times in the OT to refer to sexual relations. For a response to this argument, known as the argument of hospitality, we must remember that mere statistics of word usage cannot account for meaning. We must take the word yada, and look at it within its context and author. Of interesting note, given the earlier statistic, is that seven usages of yada in the sexual sense occur within the book of Genesis (Gen 4:1, 17, 25; 24:16, 38:26, plus those in question). Given that proponents of the hospitality argument acknowledge that, absent of the two usages of yada in question, only ten usages refer to sexual acts, and half of these occur in Genesis. We have evidence to suggest that it’s author, Moses, would have used the word stylistically to refer to sexual acts.

However, the best understanding of this text must be an evaluation in context. If we take yada to refer to some hospitable act of getting to know each other, how does Lot’s offering of his daughter make any sense? To quote the text, “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man,” (Genesis 19:8, ESV), however if understood absent sexual relations, we must take this to mean Lot’s daughters have never become acquainted with and met men. This makes no sense, simply because their father, Lot himself, is a man. In addition, it is impractical to assume they had never before met men, and as such the sexual understanding makes more sense. Lot was offering his daughters up for the men sexually, and their rejection points in the way of homosexual desires. It would then make most sense, given the sexual understanding of yada in Genesis 19:8, that it’s usage in Genesis 19:1-11 would mean the same.

Finally, in response to this argument, we may cross-check it with other references in scripture. Jude provides commentary on the actions and judgment cast upon Sodom and Gomorrah, stating: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire,” (Jude 1:7, ESV). The cause stated was ’sexual immorality’, and the Greek used is σαρκπσ ἐτερασ, which describes unnatural sex. As Feinberg and Feinberg explain, “Jude uses the verb porneuo with the preposition ek, which means they gave themselves up to sexual immorality completely and utterly! This is an extremely strong statement!” When we take this in combination with the fact the city was punished, and not Lot (who would have breached the hospitality code and merited punishment), we see how weak such an understanding is.

Also, since the earlier post was quite lengthy, a direct response to Stevecampsout regarding scripture interpreting scripture.

Quote:
Nowhere in scripture is Homosexuality, or any other sort of sexuality even mentioned when expositing what the sin of Sodom was.

Jude 1:7 states: “In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practices perversions, just as they did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Sexual immorality stems from the word ek-porneuo, or fornication (to go a whoring). Perversions stems from the words heteros (strange) and sarx (flesh), or unnatural human flesh (unnatural in the sense of against nature and God’s designs found in Genesis).

The verse also links (1) the sexual immorality and fornication to (2) the act of punishment [this prevents the excuse that ‘sure they sinned sexually, but Gen talks about their hospitality or rape’].

In addition, to the often quoted Ezekiel verse, see 16:43, which describes the ‘abominations’ using the same Hebrew word found in Lev 18:22 (sexual sin of men sleeping with men) when referring to Sodom’s sins.

Placing Jude 1:7 and Ezekiel 16:43, as well as the clear context of the narrative itself, in addition to various other texts regarding the subject, shows the linkage between the sexual sins of Sodom (and thus the term Sodomite).

About an hour after I placed my post up, I went to check to see if any responses were given, and I found the following:

The post was moved. When I clicked on it, I received the following:

Lenny, you do not have permission to access this page. This could be due to one of several reasons:

  1. Your user account may not have sufficient privileges to access this page. Are you trying to edit someone else’s post, access administrative features or some other privileged system?
  2. If you are trying to post, the administrator may have disabled your account, or it may be awaiting activation.

I thought my account may have been deleted, so I double checked. It was still there. I began to wonder why the post was moved, and contacted an administrator to find out (1) why it was moved, and (2) where it was moved. It was rather suspicious that such movement occurred 1 hour after my response.

I sent the following message to Keltic63:

Greetings Keltic!

I was going to post something to the Genesis post, yet I noticed it was recently moved. It doesn’t list where it was moved to, and when I clicked it, I was given a message that I do not have access.

Which forum location did the location go to?

My thanks,


Lenny

He gave me the following response:

I moved that thread to the Foyer. here are the instructions on how to access that part of the forum: http://www.soulforce.org/forums/show…3338#post43338

I went to that link and found the following definition of ‘Foyer’.

By default, the foyer forum is not viewable by regular members or the public. Members have to specifically join this forum in their User CP.

The foyer is an entrance hall in a house. We bring to the foyer those guests who have posted messages which violate the Soulforce guidelines on anti-gay comments. The foyer is also a place for threads that the moderator team believes are not appropriate for the public forums where they can be viewed by all visitors.

Of course, what I did next was review the Soulforce Forum Guidelines (it must be the Chief Justice in me). It lists three areas to adhere to (1) Posting Message, (2) Respect your Fellow Members, (3) Inappropriate Content. As you yourself can observe, I was clearly adhering to (1) and (2). In addition, my post was directly responding to the topic of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, and how it is to be understood (as you yourself can observe above). Nothing in it contains inappropriate content. They list inappropriate as follows:

  • Links to sites containing adult images
  • Sexual harassment
  • Anti-Gay comments
    We welcome people who are on the journey to understanding and accepting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. However obvious anti-gay comments will not be allowed in the public forums. Such comments are not merely opinions, but rather a way to demean and oppress GLBT people. Any posts deemed by the Soulforce staff or moderator team to be anti-gay will be responded to with a warning and, in most instances, the removal of the offending post. Members who continue to post anti-gay comments will lose their right to post messages on any of the Soulforce Public Forums and also their right to send private messages to other members.
  • Materials promoting “ex-gay ministries” or “reparative therapy”
    Some homosexual persons claim to have experienced a change in their sexual orientation. Their stories are their stories and we should not try to change them if they are sincerely happy. With that said, however, the vast majority of these brothers and sisters entered “ex-gay ministries” or “reparative therapy” under the belief of a homosexual orientation being morally inferior and a heterosexual orientation being morally superior. Such a belief is a falsehood that is used by many to deny GLBT people equality in society and full membership in our churches. Thus the promotion of “ex-gay ministries” or “reparative therapy” is not permitted on the forums and will be handled as anti-gay comments.
  • Anti-gay material of our adversaries
    Neither links to, nor quotes taken from, the anti-gay material of our adversaries will be allowed in the public forums unless the member making the post also invests the time to confront the untruth in the material. For a good example, see this thread. Posts that do not follow this guideline will either be moved to the Foyer or removed entirely at the moderator’s discretion. The purpose of this guideline is to prevent casual postings of anti-gay material (i.e. a couple of sentences followed by a link to offensive writings.)
  • Posts that are excessively hostile to Soulforce
    We certainly make room for forum members to disagree with Soulforce and post constructive criticism. However we don’t permit excessive hostility towards the organization on our own website. Such posts will be removed and offenders will lose their privilege to post messages.
  • Spam
    Off topic messages, irrelevant advertisements, and “copy and paste” mass postings not dealing with the thread’s topic will be considered spam and promptly removed. First time offenders will always receive a warning via private message. Repeat offenders will lose both their right to post messages on any of the Soulforce Public Forums and also their right to send private messages to other members.

In addition, the moderator admits that

You haven’t broken the letter of our guidelines. However, I do see the potential for that, and as such, I reserve the right, as MODERATOR, to move the thread to the Foyer. That is where those types of potentially adversarial conversations are allowed to take place.

The potential..? Again, I clearly didn’t violate any of the inappropriate content provisions.

My opposing view was not tolerated on a site decrying the lack of toleration by protestants! Their very premise for visiting my campus is to teach us against ‘spiritual violence’, and what the scriptures really don’t say about homosexuality, as well as open this sort of dialogue. When I take my time, in a genuine commitment to dialogue with them on their own grounds, I conveniently get tossed to a ‘Foyer’, where access is limited.
You can understand my frustration, given I’m the very person they’re trying to converse with.

Their Faith and Nonviolence Forum section has the following purpose:
“A forum for conversations about Faith, God, Theology, Religion, Spirituality, the Bible, etc.” Obviously that conversation works one way.”
In the words of the 2010 Equality Ride Director,
We didn’t come here to try to get people to agree with us necessarily, but to have a conversation, to get to know you,
To think that they decry ignorance, bigotry, and ‘spiritual violence’ when private institutions restrict them from visiting their campus, however when I visit them on their own grounds, and respectfully offer a differing opinion and critique of their arguments, they toss me to a ‘Foyer’ (aka a prison of opinion).This is not meant to be an attack, but reveal an unfair practice, given the public nature of the activist groups efforts.
Here was my response:
Keltic,

I don’t understand, you’re moving it on a presumption that is may break the policies? The standards for sending posts to the foyer appears to me to be a breaking of the terms policy (not merely a presumption that a breakage may occur). I was under the impression that the section of the forum was intended for ‘conversation’, given a respectful tone (which I carry).

“We bring to the foyer those guests who have posted messages which violate the Soulforce guidelines on anti-gay comments. ”

The post obviously did not violate this sentence.

“The foyer is also a place for threads that the moderator team believes are not appropriate for the public forums where they can be viewed by all visitors.”

I’m guessing you refer to this, however there is nothing there at the moment which is inappropriate (unless you believing studying the text from rivaling perspectives to be inappropriate). It is wholly appropriate, given it’s a study of Sodom in Genesis, and the responses target specifically that.

You’ve moved it because you have assumed it may be offensive at some point (and from my points, it will not, given I’m really only interested in respectful discussion, unless someone from the forum will desire harassing me). In all honesty, it tastes like censorship. No disrespect meant.

When I expressed this concern with the Moderator, this was the response I was given:
I’m sorry you don’t like my decision.
To my understanding, it is that very response on the part of institutional leadership that they firmly reject (as they have experienced such an attitude on the trail thus far from other Christian institutions). Respectfully, my seminary has taken a different approach, and has invited them to join us in our Chapel services. In addition, we invite them to experience the love of Christ within the seminary community at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Understandably, our campus is excited to  engage in intellectual exchange, and to graciously and humbly share the truths regarding sexual morality and conduct revealed within scripture.

They will be visiting us tomorrow, and I will ask them directly regarding this issue, as well as some friendly conversation on the disagreements I’ve presented on the issue (as well as some other concerns brought up by Mel White that necessitate great explanation). It is my hope that they will change such policies and allow the free-flow of intellectual exchange I wished to partake of, especially on their forums.

To find my attempt to dialogue with them, click here.

God’s Blessings.
Advertisements

7 thoughts on “My Experience with Soulforce

  1. This is one of the responses given by an individual named Matt on the above-mentioned post on the forum. It has kinda been the universal response I am given by the gay community whenever I’ve tried to dialogue about Scripture and sin:


    ‘…my gay friends…’

    Allow me to disabuse you of this notion: You are no friend to any gay person. You may know some gay people. You may have some gay people in your family. You may even be on speaking terms with some gay people. But your words and deeds are not those of a friend.

    And yes, I am absolutely intolerant of spiritual violence. The Church would be a much healthier and more Christ-like organism if everybody took that stance.

    As for the rest, my relationship with the Christ is neither defined by nor dependent upon your opinion, and I have no intention of entering a debate with someone who quotes NARTH as a reputable source. Quoting NARTH and then claiming to be a victim of The Homosexuals doesn’t fly with people who know NARTH up close and personal. It’s what we call a non-starter.

    God’s Blessings!”

    Imagine, this organization being one which desires to engage in dialogue with conservative Christians, if Christians responded to them in the same manner.

  2. While I don’t disagree with your interpretation of the biblical story of Sodom and Gommorah, I find a few problems with the story itself.

    For one thing, if I understand you correctly, Lot is approached by a crowd of people who express their desire to rape his guests, who happen to be male Angels. Lot, the hero of the story who is singled out by God himself as worthy of surviving the horrible calamity that will later befall the 2 cities, offers this crowd of “sexually perverse” rapists his 2 daughters. To be raped instead. Isn’t there something incredibly wrong with that? Is that not morally reprehensible? For goodness sake, what kind of a person offers up his own children to a crowd of rapists? And what kind of a God would be okay with this?

    To be quite honest, and I say this with all due respect, the whole premise that God would choose to smite a city for sexual perversity, while sparing a person willing to sacrifice his own daughters to a pack of rapists seems like a bit of a stretch.

    Even more troubling is the idea that God would choose to smite cities for perversity long ago and then spare Nazi-era Berlin or Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. That seems a bit strange. Sure, if you assume that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that every story in it is 100% true, maybe that doesn’t matter. But if you look at the story objectively, with an eye toward genocidal regimes specifically, the implication is that God finds homosexuality more worthy of his wrath than the wholesale, brutal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people, as in Rwanda in ’94, Nazi territories in the ’40’s and many other places. To me, that makes little sense.

    Rwanda in ’94 is a good example of why this story seems apocryphal to me. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I think that hacking people to pieces with machetes as their children look on in horror knowing they’ll be next is a little worse than being homosexual. And yet, that happened repeatedly, and nary a genocidaire was smote.

    Please, if you can, explain why it is ok for Lot to offer his daughters to a crowd of rapists. Also, maybe you can explain how I’m supposed to believe that an almighty God allows things like the Holocaust to happen but chooses to intervene and smite 2 cities for being homosexual. You’re a smart man and nothing if not a Biblical scholar, so if anyone can make a good case that what Lot did was ok or that homosexuality is worse than genocide, it’d be you. I look forward to your response.

    • Greetings Chris,

      The offering of his daughters to the crowd is never affirmed as something positive. Scripture never points to such an action as something we must model. Simply because some event exists in scripture, doesn’t mean scripture affirms its practice (such as the various travesties committed by a host of biblical characters [Moses and his murder being an example]).

      So a short answer to your question is that: (1) Scripture is not presenting Lot’s actions as something morally positive, (2) We do not know the intention of his offering (in other words, for all we know, he could be offering his daughters as potential virgin brides).

      As a response to the latter portion, being the problem of evil, that desires a very hefty response. This has been answered for over 2000 years, and you can find some fleshed out and hefty responses from leading christian voices (a search online would do). One such example is CARM: http://www.carm.org/questions/about-doctrine/why-there-evil-and-suffering-world

      However, if you would like a summary, then this is what I can offer: If God were to start to remove evil, he would have to begin with us. After all, God is purely Holy and Good, and thus it would be unjust for him to simply remove what we would consider evil. He would have to remove it all, which would include the sinful and totality of man. To remove the problem, he would remove us. After all, WE are the source of evil, not God.

      How?

      We contain within us free will. This free will allows us to make choices according to God’s Will (good), or against it (evil). If God were to remove our free will (this being necessary to remove the evil we create via our sinful nature), he would also remove our ability to freely follow God. Love necessitates free will, as you must be free to choose to love, otherwise you are merely robotically programmed to respond in a certain way (which is not love).

      In other words, we all too often desire to blame God for the existence of evil, when in reality we are its very source. You may point to the Holocaust and to other travesties as evils, but what about the other things God reveals? Have you not lied, stolen, thought lustful thoughts, etc? Of course, and God being purely Holy, these would deserve to be purged as well.

      “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ” (Romans 3:23)

      “3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
      (Ephesians 2:3)

      Then we must also not forget. You, and everyone else, always has a potential to do evil things. Is God then to wipe us out completely for the sake of us committing potential evils?

      And if God were instead, because we desire him so, to stop every evil action that would be committed, how would reality even be possible? God would merely pull strings and puppets, and we would be nothing more than such (as you would obligate him to correct every evil WE commit).

      Now God has no free will, as he would be obligated to respond to correcting us. We have a logical problem: A purely free God is no longer free, and we no longer has the possibility to have free will (thus we cannot freely love God).

      Can God choose to intervene when he wishes? Absolutely. To state otherwise is to deny the Ultimate Will his Ultimate Freedom. We can also understand why he intervenes in the scenario with the Israelites, when we read where their story finds its climax: Jesus.

      God, being so merciful, so loving, so wise, and so kind, not only allows us the freedom to love and follow him, but he humbly goes forth to the cross for our very sinfulness! Where we deserve to be punished for our evilness, God exhausts his own wrath for those who choose to submit to him. Eternal peace is granted to those who follow this paid price, and I cannot imagine anything more gracious and loving than this: That God send his own son, Jesus, to die on the cross, and provide me with life.

      Feel free to check out the website and others for answers regarding the question (Norman Geisler is a source/apologist I would recommend).

  3. What I don’t understand is why, if they are a self-described religious organization, why wouldn’t your views, as a member of a Seminary where they are visiting (and one who is willing to research their organization before passing any sort of critique, be welcomed?
    You make a valid point (“Imagine, this organization…”), and though I may or may not share your views, you certainly had the right to engage in a dialogue rather than be “spoken to” about views you, and conservative Christians, typically do not hold.
    If they are not seeking approval (or validation of their relationships with Christ via your opinion) then why are they coming to your Seminary?
    That is the type of dialogue they are opening themselves up to if they are not willing to discuss their own views, or a rationale for them, to someone who they intend upon meeting with.

  4. My experience is similiar. I was banned for asking why Christians who believe that homosexuality is wrong according to biblical guidelines was intolerant, but their desire to “change” those beliefs to their way of thinking was “tolerant.” I also countered a member’s claim that Jesus would approve of a homosexual union, using scripture. I was not confrontational or rude, I simply spoke the truth, biblically. I was banned. This group is in no way tolerant. They do not seek dialogue or tolerance, they want approval and acceptance of their lifestyle and they will settle for nothing less. They are really not very far removed from the people they decry at Westboro Baptist, and they use basically the same tactics of shame, intimidation and dishonesty to achieve their goal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s