On My Struggle With Destructive Theology
In the Spring of 2006 I came home very upset from an encounter I had with a girl at my high school. This girl was a lesbian, I had never met her before but she was friends with one of my friends, and so we ended up at the same lunch table. She was talking about how hard it was for her to get a good night’s sleep, because her “Christian” parents threw her out their house. I cried in that lunchroom. I cried on the bus. But I cried the hardest after getting home, I told my mom how ashamed I was to be a Christian, because these people weren’t loving their daughter, were violent with her, and were nothing like the Jesus I know. My mom, a Christian for almost my entire life looked at me and said, “Jay, did you ask her why she thinks she’s a lesbian?” It was like a slap in the face, “No, I was too busy worrying about how she was going to survive on the streets her parents threw her on.” I said. Then I went up into my room and cried some more. My mom was one of those Christians too.
Michael’s eight-page manifesto came to my attention as I perusing Twitter, as is my nature. I use Twitter to get the news, to connect with strangers, to vent about evil and oppression in whatever form they present themselves, and to talk about theology and church. As a moderator for #DreamUMC I always have a search going on it, so I read a lot of articles shared by Methodists across the country. Keith Mcilwain, a UMC pastor who regularly posts anti-LGBT things on the hashtag, shared this article. Normally, his posts on the hashtag are all written by CisHet White men, who are using poor exegesis and misquoted theologians to condemn LGBT Methodists; but today he shared one written by an actual LGBT person.
Salinas’s article starts out with a theological thesis on sin, and its corrupting effect on the world along the lines of the new pseudo-Calvinism that is sparking in churches now. He connects the corruption of Creation to the corruption of human flesh, a theological tie that has often been used to vilify people with disabilities and racial minorities, but which he is using to blanket condemn LGBT people which he describes as “Someone who rejects the words of Scripture that condemn homosexual relationships and sexual activity or any of the commands of God’s Law unrepentantly…” While he is falling into the commonplace misjudgment of criticizing LGBT affirming Christians for rejecting Scripture, rather than observing that they are simply interpreting Scripture differently than him using other Scripture, Christian tradition, reason and personal experience to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to them through it; his straw man attack is routine for LGBT and allied Christians.
Nuance is important in theology, because finite beings wrestling with the infinite will always fail and get things wrong; the author of this piece does not see nuance but a simple world of black and white. White is the beautiful purity and holiness that only heterosexuality can bring, and Black is the dirty filthy and disgusting lust-filled life of sin and debauchery that resides in the hearts of all “gay Christians”. Salinas often refers to being gay as “this curse”, “wretchedness”, “the thorn of homosexuality”, etc. His deep hatred for his own body and the gift of human sexuality, while reminiscent of Saint Augustine, is lacking in legitimate reasoning. Such an approach to fellow humans ultimately reflects what the author believes about God. While he does, talk about how great sex is supposed to be for the heterosexuals that can get married because they've been blessed by being born hetero, his language surrounding it still reflects a parent warning a kid about something dangerous and fearful that must be contained by marriage rather than a free gift that comes from God’s own hand via Creation.
Like my mom in the story earlier, Salinas grows so focused on sexuality that he fails to see the rest of the gospel. His baptismal theology stops only at creating what he calls “kin” but makes no mention the redemptive nature of baptism, the promise of resurrection and restoration, and the claim it makes on a person for Jesus Christ. It isn’t a hazing passage that simply grants one some frat/sorority siblings that can kick us out at any moment – it is the physical representation of the spiritual promise that we belong to God, God belongs to us and is with and for us, no matter what.
For an author who so frequently references “God’s holy Word” he seems unaware that the Word of God is not the Bible, the Word of God is Jesus Christ, at least that’s what the Bible says in John 1; Colossians 1:19, 2:9; John 5:39; and others. The author also never references the alleged verses that he claims condemns same-sex relationships and/or sexual activity. It could be possible the author knows that verses that condemn same-sex relationships do not actually exist, whatever the reason, I find it disingenuous to constantly refer to Scripture without listing any.
Ultimately, what this article does is attempt to frame the debate surrounding how to treat God’s children around a personal story using one person’s choice to continue self-denial and the denial of God’s grace through a work’s righteousness approach to salvation. Michael Salinas’s argument is not based in Scripture, or even his own experience of God’s Holy Spirit leading and directing, but in his own desire to achieve salvation by forcing celibacy on himself or forcing himself into a relationship with a woman. He claims to be attracted to women, which brings up an entirely different issue tackled by Eliel Cruz in this article. His theological approach to gay men is the same standard “Love the Sinner Hate the Sin” nonsense I talked about here. But the fact that it’s nonsense doesn’t mean it isn’t a popular message, but that which causes harm and damage to minorities, the author included, is often popular – fortunately the message of the gospel isn’t swayed by what’s popular, but by what is holy, and holiness – that which reflects the God of Creation, has plenty of room for the “gay Christians” that Salinas is condemning, it has plenty of room for lesbians, transgender people, bisexuals, the queers, and all people. Because holiness is a gift from God, not achieved by the works of humans.
Salinas said, “Pray for me and others like me, and for all Christians because we still dual sin in this broken world. But fear not. The Lamb is on His throne. And we won’t always be torn in two.” And he’s partially right, we won’t always be torn in two, once we give up our own thoughts about what Jesus is supposed to do in our lives, we can stop battling within ourselves, and actually follow his command. We can simply follow him, not with half of ourselves, but all.