Liberal Christians and the gay conundrum
More conflicted attitudes emerge when the subject of homosexuality is raised, as it frequently is. The usual pattern is a main post asserting a gay-positive stance as being consistent with Christianity, followed by a furious debate in the comments. Recent examples have included a visit to a gay pride parade, changes at Exodus International, the Chik-fil-A controversy, a rather belabored challenge to heteronormativity, the conflict within American Christianity, and a re-imagining of that conflict as accusers vs. advocates.
In these various comment-thread wars, all the usual Biblical arguments get hauled out. The story of the adulteress whom Jesus saved from being stoned is popular with both sides -- yes, he saved her, but he also said "Go and sin no more". Liberals accuse the anti-gay commenters of being like the religious authorities who condemned Jesus, while the anti-gay commenters point out that Jesus condemned people too. The hoary and loathsome "love the sinner but hate the sin" meme gets plenty of airing. Occasionally actual gay people show up to point out the emptiness implicit in a life of abstinence, which seems to be the best the anti-gay side has to offer them, only to be airily brushed aside with "lots of people have to make tough sacrifices to avoid sin". The newest scam of all -- that if you attack bigots you're somehow a bigot yourself -- is frequently used (I keep waiting for "bigotophobe" to take its place alongside "Islamophobe" as a serious and un-ironic epithet).
Liberal efforts to re-assert the universal-love meme are parried by pointing out that it is not "loving" to let people continue sinning and end up in Hell for eternity (this raises the question of why a "loving" God would let basically-harmless people end up in Hell, but anyone who's ever tried to debate such matters knows the endless sophistry Christians have developed to dodge that one). Attempts to minimize homosexuality as no more of a sin than gluttony, adultery, etc. meet the response that no one is holding gluttony-pride parades or asserting adultery as a right; the special problem with the gays is that they deny they're being sinful at all (the nerve of them!). Those who find the harshness of Leviticus horrific are accused of elevating secular standards above Biblical ones. Occasionally someone gets called a heretic, or even cautiously embraces the concept.
(The point that Leviticus also condemns silly things like shellfish and clothes made of different fabrics also comes up now and then; the response involves some subtle distinction among different types of Levitical law which I don't have the knowledge to evaluate.)
The horrible cruelty and inhumanity of the conservative Christian stance comes through very clearly from these debates. Yet it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the conservatives end up getting the better of the argument, given the premises everyone is forced to accept. The liberals' view is rooted in intuition and gut feeling -- Christianity is good, and acceptance of gays is good, therefore those things must be compatible with each other! -- and the theological / Biblical argumentation is a rickety after-the-fact construct designed to support a conclusion already decided. Such ventures don't fare well when they run up against the steely clarity of those who just follow scripture where it leads. There's a good reason why the Abrahamic religions have condemned homosexuality for most of their history -- the sacred texts are pretty straightforward on the subject, when they're not being desperately twisted to fit modern morality.
So we see a cold, cruel, ugly, scolding mentality solidly supported by the Bible, against a more humane and modern position which has to struggle to find a Biblical basis for itself.
How long can this continue? I can't help but think that eventually, more and more liberal Christians will realize that their humane stance simply can't be reconciled with the religion they claim, and that they need to choose, need to jump one way or the other. It would probably be happening on a larger scale already, except that most liberal Christians don't participate in sites like Red Letter Christians where they're regularly forced to confront the contradictions in their thinking.
Taking a broader view, of course, all these arguments would be silly if the real-world effects weren't so serious. Debates about what "is" or "is not" a sin, parsing this or that phrase in an ancient collection of random befuddled folk tales to settle modern moral questions -- one could just as well (and just as absurdly) found a moral system on deep analysis of the text of Harry Potter or of the lyrics of Puff the Magic Dragon. Liberal Christians living in the modern world, with its ever-growing understanding of the real evolutionary roots of human behavior and morality, must at least occasionally have quiet nagging doubts about how ridiculous it all is. If regular encounters with the repulsive face of real full-bore Biblical morality eventually push them off the fence into full liberation from such nonsense, so much the better.