By Dr Isaac Newton
I welcome Dr Lazarus Castang’s position that Christians shouldn’t sin by mistreating homosexuals whether in or outside of the church. He presents an effective ethical cohesion between meaning and message (Love the homosexual or homosexuality, or both, or neither?
) Despite deeply embedded in a pluralistic society, Dr Castang builds upon a solid spiritual foundation in his response to homosexuality and the Caribbean church. His agenda, though full of promise and excitement, is bloated with difficulties. He admits that the mere declaration of heterosexual norm isn’t a therapeutic deliverance to rise above experiences that ostracize.
Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Dr Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues
Yet, he implies a pastoral dilemma. The sin of homosexual practice must be staunchly condemned as part of proclaiming the restorative gospel that is appropriated by faith. Dr Castang fuses the power of God to overcome homosexual practice with surrender and obedience of those practicing homosexuals who are convinced by the gospel. Since God’s gift of righteousness ushers in a new sexual ethic, spiritual transformation of homosexuals is both possible and desirable.
My position is that such a response should have two chief pillars: the cultivation of Christian compassion for those who struggle with homosexuality, such that the expression of Christian love could be experienced in tangible behaviours. And structures of restoration within the church that provide spiritual support for gays and lesbians in their sincere quest to serve the Lord. These pillars should operate on the individual and organizational levels.
Dr Castang’s first difficulty is helping Christians marry Biblical profession with practice. Both fact and value or personal piety and social ethics can be too easily overlooked when gays and lesbians come to church hand-in-hand. This difficulty increases tenfold, when church-grown homosexuals (those whose childhood socialization are rooted in their Christian orientation) desire to stay in church without any need of conversion.
If healing souls, saving lives and providing hope for eternal life defines the church’s core functions, Dr Castang’s second difficulty is to flesh out the impact of the church’s call to sexual holiness without displaying an attitude of polluting the sanctuary to homosexuals, especially when they wish to be a part of the family of God.
The Caribbean church has a lot of homework. It will now have to respond to the challenges of connecting the principle of hating the sin with loving the sinner in ways that enrich congregational life. Genuine worship requires more than just declarations and teachings; it demands spiritual conversion of habit, motive and attitude as well.
This creates a whole new practical/ethical frontier. For now, let’s bracket the question: Can the Caribbean church be faithful to heterosexual norm in ways that invites all those who suffer from sexual sins to find solace in presence of God? Most Christians are still far from sexual wholeness and cannot claim it through mere personal ethical response, however valuable that response is. Yet ministering to gays and lesbians who are sitting in the pews will keep the church busy and animated with wrath, frowning, and disgust, for a long time to come.
Dr Castang consistently condemns homosexuality but his call for faithful examples of Christ-like virtues in the treatment of homosexuals is strong. Now, let’s take a real life look inside the church, to see whether church members mirror extensions of the love ethics that rejects homosexuality while stressing solidarity with the power of God to welcome “whosoever will” to the church.
Real Life Scenario: Two lesbians walk into the church on a glorious Sabbath or Sunday morning or two young church men openly confess that they are gays during a spirited worship service. Reactions from the pew -- Welcome them? Avoid them? Show them open hostility? Ask them to leave? Moralize them? Patronize them? Embrace them?
Reactions from the pulpit -- Preach against them? Embrace them? Condemn them? Invite them back? Study with them? Refuse to interact with them? Ask them to leave? Expose them to God’s wrath? Show them God’s love? Publicly chide them as sinners to be cast into lake of fire?
Would the “faithful” see sin as the homosexuals? Would grace-filled church worshippers be able to separate the sin from the sinner? If the pastor embraces them, would the pastor be supporting a culture of vice over the morality of God? What if the pastor is homosexual? What if homosexuals ask to be married in the church? What if homosexuals desire to hold a leadership office? Very soon, the Caribbean church will have to address these issues squarely.
Those homosexuals who wish to serve the Lord with their sexual identities intact, should they open up their own church? Are the signs of God’s disapproval expressed best against the sexual immorality as opposed to gossip, ruthlessness, deceit, bad mindedness, backbiting and all other forms of relational corruption that exist in the church?
Since moral admonition has no power to save anyone that insists upon it, Dr Castang need to share how could the church stop applauding unchristian attitudes that alienate homosexuals far more than heterosexuals, who violate the sexual morality that the church promotes. Perhaps Dr Castang should tease out the actions the Caribbean church is failing to take to help churchgoers practice what they preach regarding the manifestation of the love of God towards homosexuals or any other person in church traumatized by trials and shortcomings.
If the church is a hospital then when the people in church won’t live right, what shall we do? Let the church roll on? Ultimately, the church’s ethical desire should not compromise the duty of the Caribbean state to affirm an inclusive democracy for all ‘Caribbeaners.’
Christian practice/pastoral response is never the fruit of spontaneity but of genuine sanctification of mind, religious space, and human relations. This implies transformation of structures and attitudes that depart from a spirit-filled intimacy with God for every member in the congregation.
Can the Caribbean church say Amen or Halleluiah when homosexuals come to church or when they stay in the church and refuse to come out in the open? The church has to continue to in all its activities to be abundant in mercy, sober in judgment and passionate about the world to come while groaning with those who suffer from all forms of sexual immorality without downplaying its ethical principles.