I don’t think it’s outrageous, at all, really, that the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD), via its agent, the Adventist Learning Community Department (ALC), fired Kendra Arsenault, and embargoed the three episodes of Advent Next which are under discussion.
Put another way, if Arsenault was the host of a United Nations podcast, and produced three episodes considering terrorism as having a legitimate use in the armory of statecraft, she’d have been similarly canned. (I won’t ponder, here, the U.N. response, had she admitted, at the end, she’d been recruited by Al Qaeda.)
Some, here will, perhaps unthinkingly, react. They’ll say I’m stating homosexuality, and/or LGBTQ theology, is a form of terrorism.
That’s dumb. I’m not. I’m saying that advocating for an open, warm, egalitarian reception of “affirming” theology is as outrageous to the NAD as doing the same re: state terrorism would be to the U.N. (If you want, make the analogy, instead, one about Burger King publicly embracing McDonald’s’ new menu, via a hypothetical Arsenaultian spokesperson.)
Further, I’m saying this is objectively the case: Just look at what the NAD, and the U.N., say they are against in their charter documents. If one doesn’t get this, they are probably going to miss much of this event’s significance.
Is there, however, a way Arsenault could have covered these subjects, without prompting the denomination to go nuts?
I’ve thought about this, and I’m not sure. I first considered that she could have framed the topic as a debate; one where Alicia Johnston lays out her ideas, and the denomination’s most respected theologian on gender, family, and sexuality — if there is such a person — responds.
However, I’m one whose tried to create similar fora, albeit in a different theological area, in order to get SDAs on the record about their ideas in an oppositional setting. I don’t think the church would have ever stood for such a discourse.
By this, I don’t only mean they’d have probably felt put upon, having to defend their doctrine in a media forum for which they were paying.
I also mean SDAs are a group which ostensibly considers every possible contact both homiletical and evangelical. As part of the way they frame this, the denomination doesn’t have conversations they cannot win. (The exception may be legal dialogues, where they are compelled to converse with antagonists.)
This is why even our narratives of, for example, witnessing are, frequently, framed as zero-sum games: The cool, experienced revivalist goes to the home of the woman whose husband is peeved she’s been at the tent meetings. With logic and rhetoric whisper-smooth as Mr. Spock’s, he deflects and unravels the working man’s ill-formed conclusions about God, winning him over to the faith.
For the record, I believe the practice of homosexuality is outside of God’s will for people. I say this based on my understanding of what the Bible says. Having now heard part of Johnston’s theology — she outlines it in Part 1 of her Advent Next appearance — I’m still convinced of this; indeed, I might say, even more so.
However, I’m still open to a biblical argument. Which also means I’m not against LGBTQ people making defenses they, in good faith, deem cohere with scripture.
Whether this changes the church, or not, in the short term, may not be the issue. Whatever happens, we will all learn a lot more about the Bible, and, as I often note, Planck’s Principle is continuously operative:
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. . . . An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.
— Max Planck, Scientific autobiography, 1950, p. 33, 97
Finally, yes: As @PavSim noted, if you want to hear the transgressing pieces, these are links which escaped the censor’s reach:
The Bible & LGBTQ Adventists (Alicia Johnston):
LGBTQ Adventists & The Bible PT. II (Alicia Johnston):
Pastor Paul Anthony Turner on queer theology:
As well, in this new YouTube Q&A for Adventist Today, @lorenseibold talks to Kendra Arsenault about the Advent Next podcasts, her firing, and LGBTQ issues in Adventism: