Alicia Johnston: LGBTQ Theology — Adventist Voices

Happy Pride Month! Four years ago, Alicia Johnston resigned from her job as an Adventist pastor due to her bisexual identity. This week she joins me to talk about her new book, The Bible and LGBTQ Adventists: A Theological Conversation About Same-Sex Marriage, Gender, and Identity.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11281

This seemed more of a celebratory jaunt, in praise of Alicia Johnston’s new book, than an exposition of its content, or a dissection of its core propositions.

People like me — who aren’t beholden to “Adventism,” but who deem the practice of homosexuality as, biblically, outside of God’s will — are, presumably, peripheral to Johnston’s target market; I’ve never heard the word affirming used, before, to designate a social or philosophical category.

Further, I’ve always perceived the term “same-sex marriage” as a screechy misnomer. “Marriage” effectively means a merging of differences; your new album might be hailed by critics as “a marriage of classical music and jazz,” but never as “a marriage of fusion and fusion.”

Despite these objections, I consider myself persuadable. All that is required, to convince someone like me, is an argument; a better one than the one I currently believe is in the Bible; one I can follow and that makes sense. Yet, I’ve never seen this offered.

Ryan T. Anderson, president of DC’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a well-known opponent of same-sex marriage, said the following to C-SPAN in 2016, when he was promoting his new book, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom:

“Every marriage policy draws a line between what is a marriage and what isn’t a marriage. If you want the right line to be drawn, you have to know what the truth about marriage is, and what gets the government interested in marriage in the first place. So, what I argue in Truth Overuled is that marriage is based on three secular truths: An anthropological truth, that men and women are distinct and complementary; a biological fact, that reproduction requires both a man and a woman; and then a social reality, that children deserve both a mother and a father. And that these are the reasons, the secular reasons, for why every society, up until the year 2000, recognized marriage as the union of male and female.”

That’s an argument. It’s compact, you can follow it, and it doesn’t require a 300-page book for people to be moved by it. Also, Anderson repeats these three truths in every appearance he’s made on this subject, to every audience, even hostile ones; for example, this CNN studio audience, three years before C-SPAN, on Piers Morgan Live, in debate with financial planner Suze Orman:

Alicia Johnston, I suspect, is going to need something comparable, if she wants to talk to people who don’t already agree with her.

Either that, or she can, like quantum theorist Max Planck said, wait for her opponents to die off, and a new generation to grow up with her ideas who are familiar with them. But at 4,000 years and counting, it’s going to be a long wait.

HA

Harry Allen, your response tells me that.Alicia Johnson has wishful thinking if she expects her new book to change any minds.

Those most in need of her arguments are highly unlikely to buy her book nor read it and like you, will condemn it out of hand.

As to your remarks on same sex marriage, only a sadistic God would create five per cent of the planet’s population ( one in twenty ) with a sexual orientation for which they had zero input nor choice, and then condemn them to life long loneliness.

Furthermore, while this despotic deity demands life long celibacy from this vast population, He cruelly endows them with the same hormonal / neurological sex drives as their heterosexual siblings and cousins. Pure cruel sadism!

God clearly hates the gay population. He creates untold misery for them with His homophobic Scriptures.

He hates gay children, delighting in creating MISERY for them, by programming His followers, be they Orthodox Jews, Muslims or Christians, to treat their gay children shabbily and shamefully. A gay child in an accepting atheist family is better off than a gay child in a hateful, rejecting Adventist family ( of which I am sure yours would be a prime example, if your son were gay ).

Eastern religions, Buddhism, Hinduism and Shintoism, have zero anti gay edicts in their religious writings and are far more accepting of their gay offspring and there is less homophobia in their societies than in western, Christian cultures which are cruelly discriminating to gays.
Even the communist Chinese, uninfluenced by anti gay Scriptures are kinder to their gay population.

Hopefully you have no immediate family member who is gay / lesbian— if you do, knowing your views, they have taken pains to hide their true selves from you.

1 Like

Thanks, @ezbord.

• I haven’t “condemned” Alicia’s book. I haven’t seen it.

If you read my post, you’ll notice I don’t even say anything about it, except that it’s “new.” It is.

• What I did say was, if Alicia’s point is that the Bible allows the practice of homosexuality and the marriage of gay people, I’d like to hear the reasons she believes this is true.

But what I was also saying is, in my opinion, unless she’s given up on reaching the majority of SDAs, she should make, or be prepared to make, her case everywhere she goes. It seems that her appearance on Adventist Voices was far too important to not make her case.

So, I’m essentially making a media critique, here. Most of what I wrote is given to making this point.

• I don’t believe God hates gay people. I think if He did, He would just say so; He doesn’t strike me as a retiring kind of Deity.

I think what’s more likely is that God has a moral order that doesn’t permit the practice of homosexuality. If that is so, then, objectively, the issue of God’s “hate” becomes a non-issue, though, obviously, subjectively, many gay people feel differently.

• I don’t have children, so some aspects of parent-to-child relationships are abstract to me. I have a nephew and niece, though. If I found out they were gay, it would not change how much I love them and, thus, how I treat them.

• I have a few gay relatives, whom I adore, and many gay friends and colleagues, about whom I have varied feelings. That they are gay is not an issue to me, because we don’t debate SDA theology. My post was, in part, about SDA theology.

I don’t say this to prove anything to you, certainly not about myself, but to clarify what motivates my written statements is not animus toward gay people.

• I’m not clear, Robin, what your point is concerning these other, mostly, Asian religious and philosophical systems.

In other words, if God exists, then these are man-made artifacts with limited spacio-temporal reality. They’re certainly not morally determinative.

What are you saying that SDAs, who believe the practice of homosexuality is outside of God’s will, should do?

HA

he’s actually quite remarkable…especially since he’s only 31, at least in this video…

1 Like

We live in a complicated world - a broken world full of broken people like me.

God is love! He loves all of us!

God did not create 5% of the world’s population to be gay. He did not create people to fight wars. He did not create people to be born with Down’s Syndrome.

We live in a broken and complicated world.

God calls us to love. We love to judge and separate and segregate, but we are not called to do that. We are called to love!

We live in a complicated world. I’m tired and old. I have more questions than answers.

Love!

1 Like

You state:
GOD DID NOT CREATE FIVE PER CENT OF THE POPULATION TO BE GAY.

Inescapably, demographics reveal that every tribe, race, ethnic group on this planet has a large minority gay / lesbian population.

Where did they come from ?

I thought God was the sole creator.

Satan, himself a created being, has zero creative powers.

Did some mythical “ space alien “ create these unfortunates, who through zero input / choice of their own, are suddenly condemned by the Adventist church to life times of loneliness and celibacy ?? And hateful discrimination by the larger population?

What did they do to deserve this ?

In response to HARRY ALLEN

You state :
GOD HAS A MORAL ORDER THAT DOES NOT PERMIT THE PRACTICE OF HOMOSEXUALITY

Then why in God’s name does He create gays? ( see my points above )

He exhibits pure unadulterated SADISM by creating them and then condemning them for the way He created them!

As to what the Adventist Church should do —- they have already done it !

They have condemned their gay / lesbian offspring to life times of loneliness and celibacy and treated their gay kids despicably, shamefully and shabbily —- ask any SDA KINSHIP member for their childhood experiences !

So I advise any Adventist gay / lesbian, the moment they have any intuition / inkling about their unchosen gay orientation , to immediately distance themselves from all denominational schools, congregations, and families.

They will only cause themselves irreparable harm by continuing to allow the church to treat them with cruelty.

1 Like

Please read my response to Mike Austin

Why in the world would God care if homosexuals follow their sexuality in a way that’s analogous to the way that heterosexuals follow theirs? Why can’t the rest of us just butt out?

1 Like

Thanks, @ezbord.

According to the Bible, God created gay people for the same reason he created everybody else: So He could, through Christ, justify, sanctify, and glorify them.

Finis.

HA

Thanks, @Harry_Elliott.

The Bible does not say.

Please define “butt out.”

HA

“Butt out” is a crude way of saying tell them our opinions only if they ask. But you knew that. :wink:

1 Like

Thanks, @Harry_Elliott.

No, Harry: You knew that, because you used the term. :slightly_smiling_face:

So, here’s the question you, essentially, asked:

If homosexuals follow their sexuality, why can’t the rest of us just tell them our opinions only if they ask?

The answer should be obvious: Because such a policy would be fatal to ecclesia; the fellowship of believers.

A church, where the discussion of behavior it deems wrong could only be initiated by those engaged in such activities, would inevitably become deeply corrupt.

You could just as well ask this question: If embezzlers follow their fiduciary instincts, why can’t the rest of the bank just tell them our opinions only if they ask?

HA

I meant you knew what “Butt out” means. If you equate homosexuality to embezzlemeant, I abandon all hope (to quote Paul Frees).

HA, I agree with you on this one.

However, I do take your logic a bit further, given that it seems to me that the death blow to any fellowship of believers happens the instant one member of the fellowship realizes that he no longer believes as do the others in the group.

At that point, there can be no fellowship, as such, given that the “true” believers will inevitably band together in an effort to ostracize and/or eliminate the “false” or unfaithful, former believer so that they can get back on the good side of the angels and god, even if this means that the group may inevitably be whittled down to a congregation of one. :grinning:

Thus, I see no way–or even any logical reason–for a homosexual, or a disbeliever such as myself, to cling to the idea that the group or the bank–which, in this analogy as see it, would represent god–will ever accept anyone who doesn’t think as they “should”. I’d also suggest that there can only be subjective or emotional explantions for making any effort to change people for whom abandoning the group’s orginal ethos is not only anathema but is, by definition, a sin.

Instead, I’d encourage those who find themselves in such an unpleasant situation to give up on their pipe dream of trying to fix what the core insists is not broken, and to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. While also saying, “Come on in, boys and girls. The fire hurts at first but then you’re purged and can get on with life after death.”

That said, this conversation became too “Harry” for my tastes, several comments ago, so having said all I had to say on this point, I’ll just…no, I’m not going to go there. :rofl:

Thanks, @Harry_Elliott.

No, I meant you can’t talk credibly about what I “know.” Only I can do that. The only reasonable assumption is that you know what “butt out” means, because you used the term.

You’re bear-hugging a common talking point — the ill of comparing homosexuality to something authentically offensive, in order to make a larger point — and being needlessly picayune.

Select any act — otherwise innocuous — you like.

• Replace “embezzlement” with “stopping to pick pretty flowers by the side of the road,” but make the offended group “Team F1 race car drivers.”

• Replace “embezzlement” with “parkour,” but make the group “an award-winning society of classic still-life painters.”

It doesn’t matter. The point is that a) any group can be offended by some behavior, but, more importantly, b) no group would only leave it to members who offend them to raise the subject of their offense, and only speak about the offense when the offending group brought it up. This is what you have actually suggested SDAs do.

If you ran a submarine, and you had a group of seamen aboard who liked to drill holes in the side of the sub and see who could patch them up the fastest, the commander on board would not “butt out.” He would butt them out.

HA

Thanks, @NY_G_Pa.

Good.

It could be the “death blow,” if the group does not find a way of managing disagreement, and deciding for which disagreements members are worth ejecting.

To cite my response to @Harry_Elliott, an F1 race car team may be able to abide a member who has disagreements about whether wheels/tires should be cambered at, say, Xº or Yº. Depending on the effect of the adjustment, they might just chalk it up to preference.

On the other hand, an F1 race car team could not abide a member who has disagreements about whether, when he sees pretty flowers by the side of the road, he should stop his race car, get out, and pick them. That driver would be fired the first time he did this, and no other team would pick up his contract, because they would deem him insane.

Immediately, at the present time, the “bank” is the church. Ultimately, the Bank is God.

And you’re correct: The purpose of authentic theology (and its accompanying effects) is to change the mind of the individual, so that they can produce correct thought, speech, and action; “correct” meaning congruent with God’s ideals.

They are to do this because, according to Christianity, at a future time, God will make His home with human beings, forever. No one who clings to another way of being, counter to God’s, can possibly exist there, in that realm…nor would they want to do so.

People who don’t aspire to be like God can live any way they want, for as long as they can.

If the Bible is true, what it says is that such people’s existences will come to mirror Thomas Hobbes’ description, in Leviathan: “Continual fear, and danger of violent death … solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Don’t know what this means. Totally fine with that.

HA

This is one of, or part of, your primary objections? You’re objecting to a new-to-you idea because it’s new to you?

Just wanted to quickly point out that the Bible doesn’t condemn consensual same-sex marriage. I’d recommend Unclobber by Colby Martin.

Your second objection is about how you don’t like a word or phrase? Objecting to the syntax rather than the subject matter looks a lot like a red herring fallacy.

What, so confirmation bias? Such a line of reasoning certainly makes it easy for a person to wave away any accountability for understanding nuance, but I’m not sure if that was your intent. It’s a neatly packaged method of foregoing empathy. I wonder how quickly such a principle—of deciding the compactness of an argument is the most valuable measure of an argument, which in itself seems fallacious—breaks down in any scholarly debate? What you seem to be after is a (seemingly) concise argument which lacks nuance, not a plain old argument.

It really is a sad state of affairs when people are not interested in discovery, learning new things, and honestly entertaining challenging ideas. That people aren’t willing to read a book to learn something new and must be given simple ideas which can only be “followed” (as you put it) because of some given common ground. To be clear, you’re not wrong about Christians broadly, in that they typically have no interest in absorbing information other than what scratches their confirmation bias itch.

If I’m being honest, all your talk reads like you’ve never looked. I recommend Alicia’s book as a starting point.

(1) Doesn’t matter when it’s an issue of the government. Even if we entertain that it does matter, this binary belief is unsupported by modern science.
(2) Marriage does not exist only for procreation.
(3) Convenient theory, but the data indicates children do better with a secure, loving environment provided by two parents, regardless of their gender, when compared against single parents and controlled for gender of the parents. At best, research is inconclusive whether different-sex marriages are better for children than same-sex marriages. Point (3) also implies marriage only exists for procreation, which is not the case. On that fact alone we can also throw it out.

No. Two reasons:
(1) one must assume or believe the given behavior is morally or otherwise bad; this is what allows you to draw a false equivalency between embezzlers and those who want same-sex marriage. This belief is only supported by modern, decontextualized mistranslations of the Bible.
(2) this conclusion also requires a deep lack of empathy for the experiences of people from the LGBTQ+ community and a lack of understanding of related history.

Thanks, @morrcahn.

No.

  1. There are no new-to-me ideas, here; just, from my purview, unsupported ones, as I stated.

  2. I make mention of the fact I’d not heard the term affirming. I do this to reinforce the point that, presumably, I’m not part of Alicia Johnston’s target audience; I assume her target audience is familiar with, and uses, the term.

Thanks for the book recommendation!

The Bible doesn’t condemn serial killing, either. It doesn’t need to do so, because it condemns the root act: killing.

It’s not that I “don’t like” it. It’s that it’s a misnomer. The term doesn’t make sense, semantically, because, as has been widely observed, one would have to change the meaning and idea of what a marriage is for it work, doing so for the reasons I gave.

As I said to @ezbord, the point of my first post was to critique Alicia Johnston’s failure to use her time on Adventist Voices to make and defend her argument. This is the mass of my objection; what most of the text confronts.

As well as being a smart critique of same-sex marriage, Ryan T. Anderson’s argument is smartly made; it’s sensible, simple, and frequent.

My suggestion is that Alicia do the same; make a sensible, simple, frequent argument, if she hopes to be as compelling. C’est tout.

I have a general philosophical position I hold to be true, and it’s if one understands an idea, one’s self, one can explain it to a five-year-old.

So, before I necessarily commit myself to reading another 300-page book — I have lots of them I need to read, about subjects to which I’m more intellectually committed — I want a sense that the author has a grasp of their own material.

In the couple of times I’ve seen Ms. Johnston present her case for same-sex marriage, I’ve not yet been convinced that she does.

Now, that’s not a final conclusion. You’ve left out the most, literally, pivotal statement in my commentary: Despite these objections, I consider myself persuadable.

This means that I’ve not closed my ears to an argument for same-sex marriage, or to one which concludes homosexuality is within the will of God. I’m just waiting for someone to make the argument.

I’m happy to give Alicia Johnston another chance. I’m going to wait until her book is out. I’m going to watch or listen to her talk about it. I’m going to decide if, given what she says, I should research more. On that basis, I will purchase it, or not.

But, again, I’ll be looking for arguments. That Sodomites were guilty of being inhospitable, or that Roman homosexuality was akin to rape, are not, to me, arguments. Neither is saying nothing about these, or other arguments, when one appears on Adventist Voices.

You’re talking about your perception of your thoughts, correct? Because you couldn’t be talking about mine, since you can’t see them.

I have commitments that keep me from responding to these three points, now.

However, Mr. Anderson addresses them, often and at length.

The SDA church believes that the practice of homosexuality is morally or otherwise bad.

Yes, it is, but this equivalency isn’t false.

Please see my response to @Harry_Elliott’s “bear hug,” and my elaboration on it in my response to @NY_G_Pa.

That’s a proposition of which people who believe it, must, now, convince those who do not.

One could have profound empathy for the experiences of people from the LGBTQ+ community and a deep understanding of related history…and still believe the practice of homosexuality is outside of God’s will.

Are you suggesting, if one believes the practice of homosexuality is outside of God’s will, empathy for the experiences of people from the LGBTQ+ community and an understanding of related history should move them to reverse that conclusion?

Really?

HA

Dude, I don’t want to pile on, here, but please consider this.

Even if I, unlike HA, grant that all of your specific points are valid, it still seems to me that the most basic point of your comment is misguided.

As I said in my response to him, I can see no reason–either objective or subjective–to make any effort to impart your wisdom on those who don’t want to accept any of your truths just as there is nothing to be gained by showing up at parties where you’re not wanted.

In other words, I find his Formula 1 reference particularly apropo–and not just because I hate Mercedes Benz and think Botas is a destined to be a perpetual “second banana” who would do just as well to spend the race picking flowers–but because this is the biblical equivilant of “shaking the dust off your crocs!”

Further, Jesus doesn’t seem to have any issues with schisms in “his” church, as these have been happening since the first century BCE, while he, personally, has done nothing whatsoever, to prevent them.

(It should be noted of course, that he has also done nothing to definitively and officially sanction any of these thousands of splinter groups, either, which kinda makes me think that Neitzche was probably right when he said the last “true” Christian was nailed to the cross. But then again, that’s only evidence of a negative, not proof postitve, so Jesus’ lack of interaction with any of “his” church groups may not be in any way meaningful, at all.)

I would suggest, however, that you not hold your breath while you’re waiting for the Holy Spirit to come down and bless your newly formed LGBTQ get-togethers by saying “This Non-Homophobic Denomination is the one I like best.”

Not because it would be wrong to assemble as such, but simply because no such group has been able to prove that it absolutely resembles the church to which christ aspired as there is no way to prove, based on something other than hearsay, that christ intended to start a new religion, in the first place! :wink: