Gospel Living in an Oscar Culture

The movie “Milk” is based on the true story of a homosexual activist from the late 1970’s named Harvey Milk. Among other things, the movie depicts Milk’s fight against Proposition 6 (a ballot measure aimed at keeping homosexuals from teaching in public schools), a measure which seems to parallel the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California.

If you watched the Academy Awards last night, then perhaps you saw the two speeches from the two winners who were related to this movie. The first winner was Dustin Lance Black who won the award for Best Original Screenplay, and second was Sean Penn who won the Best Actor Award. In their acceptance speeches, both artists took a hard-line in favor of gay-rights.

Black directed his remarks to children, telling them that it’s okay to be gay and that their parents and churches who tell them otherwise are wrong. He concluded with this, “No matter what anyone tells you, God does love you, and that I promise you, very soon you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.”

Penn set his sights on those in California who supported the recent ban on gay “marriage” that was passed in the form of Proposition 8. He said, “I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”

Anyone who regularly reads this space knows that I couldn’t disagree more with Black and Penn’s remarks. That being said, however, I am not writing now because I think this a good opportunity for Christians to cluck their collective tongues in rabid protest of the Oscars. Rather, I am writing because I think that Black and Penn’s remarks give us a glimpse into a worldview that Christians need to understand and to respond to.

In this worldview, gender is viewed as a social construct that has nothing to do with what it means to be human. Notwithstanding the accidents of biology, male and female are totally interchangeable in marriage and in society. The normalization of homosexual relations flows naturally from this view, as does advocacy of gay “marriage.” When male and female are interchangeable, almost any sexual arrangement can be normalized. Both Black and Penn put this worldview on display in their acceptance speeches.

I think that Black and Penn represent a point of view shared by many people both in America and in other western countries. Yet this worldview is in fact in irreconcilable conflict with biblical Christianity. According to the scripture, God created human beings in His own image as male and female (Genesis 1:27), each of whom has their own distinct roles to play in marriage (e.g., Gen 2:18; 1 Cor 11:2ff; Eph 5:21ff). According to Paul, the union of a man and woman in marriage has a deeper, gospel meaning. The “mystery” of marriage has always been to image-forth Christ’s love for His bride, the church. In other words, the innermost meaning of marriage is the gospel itself. A distortion of marriage equals a distortion of the gospel. For that reason divorce, adultery, fornication and all other deviations from the biblical norm are consistently portrayed in scripture as grave offenses. Thus homosexual acts too fall outside of what the Bible allows as acceptable behavior for humans created in the image of God (e.g. Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10).

Black and Penn’s remarks at the Oscars reveal just how much the ambient culture stands in opposition to this Christian worldview. But the response from Christians to that opposition should not simply be just to curse the darkness and to retreat from culture. Rather, what the culture needs more than anything is for the Christian church to engage the culture with proclamation and a wholesome living-out of the truth about human sexuality. The Christian church should be a counter-culture that images forth an alternative set of priorities. In other words, the church should be a place where marriage is held in high esteem both in living and in teaching and discipline, and it should be that way because of its commitment to the gospel.

The movie “Milk” and speeches by Black and Penn are not the main problem. They are but a symptom of a larger system that is set against Christ and His purposes in the world (1 John 2:15-17). And what our friends and neighbors need more than anything is for Christians to set forth a faithful counter-witness when it comes to marriage and sexuality. The messages coming from the “Oscar culture” are clear. The church’s should be even more so.

29 Responses to Gospel Living in an Oscar Culture

  1. D.J. Williams February 23, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    Great post, Denny. I watched Dustin Lance Black’s speech last night and was greatly saddened by the heartfelt, hopeful speech that was ultimately devoid of real hope.

    “They will cry themselves to sleep for want of a savior, but they will not come to the only one who has the answers.” – Alistair Begg

    There but for the grace of God go I.

  2. Nathan February 23, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    “The Christian church should be a counter-culture that images forth an alternative set of priorities. In other words, the church should be a place where marriage is held in high esteem both in living and in teaching and discipline, and it should be that way because of its commitment to the gospel.”

    I couldn’t agree more with the statement above. Sadly, however, the church has been behind the curve on issues of marriage and sexuality. That is not to say that we cannot get to the place we need to be, but the church may need to repent of her apathy.

    The Protestant church was woefully behind the Catholic church on the issue of contraception (The Pill) and still is to some degree. Protestants captitulated to the culture of smaller families for years. Many young couples are finally shedding themselves of that stigma, but damage was done in the eyes of the culture.

    And for all of our conversation about homosexuality the Protestant church is painfully abhorent in the area of tolerating divorce among couples claiming to be Christian. The divorce rates inside most congregations are not that far removed from the culture at large. (And I am not referring to a divorce occurring prior to conversion, but two espousing believers divorcing).

    I would like to know how others think the church is reflecting the glory of God in our marriages and contraception choices. And what are some meaningful ways for the church to present a more biblical viewpoint.

    Sean Penn reflects the nature of the world. At some level the more stark the difference between Christendom and the culture the more opportunity to be salt and light.

  3. Nathan Williams February 23, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    Thanks for the very insightful comments. I appreciate the focus on not retreating from culture, but instead on understanding the bigger issue at stake in the worldviews of Sean Penn and Dustin Black. Thanks for your clear thinking.

  4. Derek February 23, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    A lot of Christians- particularly young Christians- are embracing homosexuality’s compatibility with Christianity. They say that there were all kinds of ideas and rules that were part of the ancient middle east or Mosaic Law, that just aren’t applicable today. They point out that even the most conservative or fundamentalist Christians do not adhere to early church practices for a wide variety of reasons. For instance, Paul dictated that women were not allowed to speak in church and that women had to wear head coverings for the duration of the services. And of course there were the dietary laws in the OT. There is a long list.

    So they would go on say that we cannot ignore what “modern science” has taught us, i.e. that “people are born gay”. They say that when we understand God’s character, that He would not expect a person who knows that they are genetically gay to adapt to something that is totally foreign or abnormal for them. They say this would violate a larger framework or understanding of God’s character. In other words, His compassion and love trump rules, that we should not be like the Pharisees, who dogmatically demanded that people hold fast to unrealistic standards or apply the truth of God’s Word in an overly rigid or wooden manner.

    That’s what they say anyway.

  5. Jeff February 23, 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    “…very soon you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours (Black).”

    The issue at hand is not one of equal rights, but one of ADDITIONAL rights.

  6. Paul February 23, 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    “The issue at hand is not one of equal rights, but one of ADDITIONAL rights.”

    I wasn’t going to comment here, but if someone’s going to utter complete BS, then I’ll have to say something.

    Jeff, you and I, as straight men, have right to enter into contract with our wives, giving rights of property passage, power of attorney and a whole bunch of other rights for no more than $50 anywhere in the country.

    For gay folks to do likewise, they have to pay a lawyer to draft contract after contract individually, just so that some uppity grand-nephew or easily agitated nurse can nullify it anyway by claiming lack of a bloodline or marriage contract.

    There’s nothing additional to it. I don’t agree with the lifestyle, and I see where it’s clearly a sin. But, clearly, if we’re going to talk about equal rights for all, then lets have equal rights for ALL, not just all that are like us.

  7. Derek February 23, 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    Paul, you left out a couple of things. They’ll be able to adopt children on the same terms as heterosexual couples (this is why Catholic League Charities shut down their operations in Massachusetts a couple years ago). Gay married couples will be able to sue churches, parachurch organizations, renters, schools, etc. for discrimination under the same legal structure that has been established for racial discrimination.

    These laws have enormous implications on the next generation and for religious liberty. The concept and idea of marriage is shared by most people of faith, not just Christians, and when you open it up to anyone’s definition, it loses all meaning.

    Paul, can you tell us all with sincere honesty, that you don’t believe that this has serious implications for our children and for the moral state of our nation? That Christians should just stand down and allow the definition of marriage be defined in postmodern age terms as opposed to how it has been defined for thousands of years?

    By the way, polygamists are already gearing up to take advantage of the legal changes that are taking place, and they will actually have a pretty good argument if marriage is framed only in a discrimination/non-discrimination framework as is being laid out.

    Paul, the architects of the same sex marriage laws and provisions are looking several chess moves down the road – are you?

  8. Chris Garner February 23, 2009 at 8:15 pm #

    Derek,

    Good call on bringing up the polygamy argument. I absolutely agree that this is the kind of implications that the passage of same sex laws will bring.

  9. Javier February 24, 2009 at 1:18 am #

    I’m one of those young, well-educated Christians (Lutheran) who is ashamed of Christians who think their rightwing or fundamentalist views justifies mistreating or discriminating against my bisexual and gay brethren, family, and friends. One’s narrow religious beliefs should not be codified in law since so many people have contrary religious beliefs. My pastor blesses same-sex unions for example, and a growing number other churches do or moving toward doing so. Stop using primitive tradition or religion to justify cruelty toward other humans.

  10. Derek February 24, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    Javiar,
    How sure are you that you are not living and teaching a counterfeit gospel? Are you really, really sure? 90% sure? 100% sure? I say this without malice or negative intentions towards you in any way – but I believe Scripture teaches that your very soul is in grave danger. But understand that you will not give an account to me. You will give an account to Christ Himself, as will I.

    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. (2 Tim 4:1-5)

  11. Paul February 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    I’ll attack this point by point…

    “They’ll be able to adopt children on the same terms as heterosexual couples (this is why Catholic League Charities shut down their operations in Massachusetts a couple years ago).”

    Come talk to me when and only when every well to do straight couple (I recognize that the financial considerations put on prospective adoptive couples is extreme, but until the laws change…) is willing to adopt. Even here on THIS VERY SO-CALLED PRO-LIFE PAGE, one of the super duper right winger commentors mentioned that he didn’t think it was his duty to adopt someone else’s mistake.

    Well, if someone is willing to love that child, I’m not going to be the one to stop them.

    “Gay married couples will be able to sue churches, parachurch organizations…”

    That’s really some chicken little stuff there. First off, until the First Amendment is drastically altered, churches will be able to quote from scripture to make their points. Secondly, it is up to the churches to start lobbying NOW to ensure that laws protecting themselves from legal action for denying certain people the right to marry are put into place.
    “…renters (sic)(you mean landlords), schools, etc. for discrimination under the same legal structure that has been established for racial discrimination.”

    If a landlord denied a single gay guy or a LGBT couple living quarters based on their sexual orientation, that’d be enough for a lawsuit now, as well as it should be. What, should that landlord be afraid that Jimmy the homo is going to get gay on the drapes or something?

    The same thing goes for schools. What possible scenario would exist for a school to discriminate against LGBT folk? Teaching positions maybe, but only in private schools who can claim to hire based on religious doctrine, so they’re immune from legal action anyway.

    Javier,

    “One’s narrow religious beliefs should not be codified in law since so many people have contrary religious beliefs.”

    I agree here.

    “My pastor blesses same-sex unions for example, and a growing number other churches do or moving toward doing so.”

    Scripture clearly condemns homosexuality, and so when your pastor blesses those unions anyway, he doesn’t do anyone any favors. What good is a pastor that picks and chooses what parts of the Bible to work with? That’s certainly not a pastor I want leading me or mine. If you’re comfortable with a pastor that’s not comfortable with scripture, then that’s on you and your soul.

  12. Derek February 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    Paul,
    With all due respect, we’ve had this conversation about adoption before and you frankly lost this debate hands down. I’m not going to debate this with you again because you are dead wrong on this topic. If you want, I’ll look up the thread and post it so people can see your ugly and mean spirited comments about Christians who choose to adopt and they can judge for themselves.

    The reality is that most people who are in the homosexual lifestyle have come out of a permissive sexual environment. You can deny this or close your eyes to this reality, but it will not change the fact that it is a great tragedy for a child to grow up in a home where perversion is not just accepted, but celebrated.

    And of course you are right that there are more tentacles to the legal issues than are addressed in this legal framework that is being established. But that does not change the fact that the marriage laws passed in Mass. were a template for future laws (including the ones passed in CA) that WILL impact adoption groups, faith based organizations, Christian schools, churches, etc. There is an end game here, and the end game is to create a whole series of laws that eliminate a lot of the ambiguity that exists. You know this, Paul – you’re not a dumb person – just be honest here rather than accepting and promoting the PR spin. The reality here is that people of faith are not just collateral damage, they are the target of this legislation.

    Finally, here’s the side you are on, Paul- the side that IS trying to intimidate and silence anyone who holds to a religious (not just Christian) belief that marriage is a sacrament and ought to be preserved:
    http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=11297

  13. Paul February 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    speaking of mean-spirited, Derek, there’s an awful lot of vitriol in that thar post, dude.

    Get someone to give you a hug.

    Then realize that not everyone thinks like you.

    Thanks.

  14. Paul February 24, 2009 at 7:16 pm #

    Darius,

    interesting and thorough.

  15. Derek February 24, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    Darius,
    Even though this “compromise” offers more to the gay marriage proponents, they would still sit down at the proverbial bargaining table and spit upon this proposal, because they will not accept anything less than all the marbles. And at the end of the day, this has much less to do with “rights” than it does with making a point, settling a score with religious conservatives, de-stigmatizing homosexuality and with deconstructing the concept of marriage.

  16. James Brown February 24, 2009 at 8:02 pm #

    My observation; the homosexual lifestyle simply destroys those who participate. Sometimes it’s quite evident; other times rather subtle seen over time.

    I’m opposed to encouraging people to live a lifestyle that will ultimately be destructive here and hellish there.

  17. Darius T February 24, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    I agree Derek. But being the “better man” would show the gay lobby for what it is: a group of largely intolerant bigoted perverts. They claim to just want equal rights, but as soon as that is given to them, they push for more. At least they would have absolutely NO leg to stand on with this proposal.

  18. Derek February 24, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    If it weren’t for the media pushing so hard for their agenda, I’d actually agree with you here. But you can count on the media to spin everything short of total triumph as an infringement of civil rights.

  19. John February 24, 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    It is interesting to me that there is a lot of talk about what we think, but very few comments about what the Bible says. Our views are not driven by what seems fair to us, by what seems right to us, or even what the great “theologians” like Penn and Black think–our views are grounded in what the Word says. Therefore, Penn and Black are wrong as are those of you trying to push an agenda that goes against what the Word says.
    What does the Word say about marriage? What does it say about homosexuality? What does it say about parenting? Focus your attention there and see where this discussion goes.

  20. Darius T February 25, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    John, please explain what YOU believe the Word says about homosexuality and marriage. And what agenda is being pushed on here that “goes against” Scripture? Obviously, it would be quite appropriate to back up your response with Biblical text.

    Thanks.

  21. Brian Krieger February 25, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    Ted Slater had an interesting viewpoint. His quote:

    And so when I interact with guys whose affections are toward other guys, I can get uncomfortable. What can I say? How can I even relate?
    Well, you know what, I absolutely can relate. Though I’ve never had a homosexual thought in my life, like those who feel the draw of same-sex attraction (SSA), I have experienced my heart drawn toward things that Scripture says are unacceptable.

    It’s an important point for me to remember. I may not relate in specific experience (with SSA), but I can certainly empathize (I struggle with sin as well, but, following the bible, I certainly don’t call dark light or evil good).

    And I am curious, too, what is unbiblical about the comments here (assuming that as the reference in John’s remark in #20).

  22. John February 25, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    Darius,
    I’m a black and white kind of guy. Lev 20:13, Romans 1:26-28, and 1 Cor 6:9 clearly teach homosexuality is sin and while I am not in favor of taking up OT stones I certainly cannot see how it could be accepted as normal when the Bible clearly teaches it as being sinful.

    Marriage is always addressed within the Scripture as being between on man and one woman and it is ordained by God as is for the Church and as long as the Church stays within the Word of God this is a non-issue.

    Finally, to both Darius and Brian, my previous comment should have said, “…those who are trying…” and not those of you. I am sorry for that…I’ve spent the day in bed with a bug that must have started last night!

  23. Brian Krieger February 25, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    with a bug that must have started last night!
    –Blame it on MacAfee, oh, wait…..

    Thanks, John, it was nice of you to shoot back the comment!

  24. Derek February 25, 2009 at 7:05 pm #

    John,
    There is a growing divide on this topic in many Christian circles. As I mentioned in post #4, many young Christians and postmoderns are challenging age old assumptions on this topic. Still others say that we have no obligation to support or promote the Biblical or even religious definition of marriage.

    I agree with you that it is sad that we have to remind our fellow proclaiming Christians what the Bible says on these topics, but we all need to be more literate in understanding the framework (e.g. postmodernism) from which these challenges are coming from and we need to be able to make arguments that are thoughtful, persuasive and centered on Scripture as well as wisdom (i.e. knowing when and where to fight your battles).

    I also think we need to be aware of the serious consequences of abandoning our Biblical mandate to advocate and articulate our Christian perspective, worldview and value system in the public sphere. Many remain unpersuaded that this is a worthwhile endeavor.

  25. Darius T February 25, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    Thanks for the clarification, John. I agree completely!

  26. Philip A. Kledzik February 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    I wanted to say that I’m glad the truth of Scripture by reference was added finally to this discussion. I also wanted to add Genesis where God made man. The Bible says man was alone. It has got to be clear what God’s intention was and is today. He took woman from a part of man and made her physically different. God did not give Adam another man, or a man and woman to choose from.
    Now, part of the problem with this issue is that those that are not written in the Lamb’s Book is of a different “master”. If they are not in Christ then they are against Him. This world will always be against Christ. And if we are apart of the “Vine” then we will always be attacked in one way or another (covertly or blatantly). And remember, it will get worse before He comes and makes it better.

    Philip Kledzik
    “An Issue of the Heart”
    authorphilipkledzik.books.officelive.com

  27. Michael March 2, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    Denny,

    You wrote, “And what our friends and neighbors need more than anything is for Christians to set forth a faithful counter-witness when it comes to marriage and sexuality. The messages coming from the “Oscar culture” are clear. The church’s should be even more so.”

    I couldn’t disagree more ardently. I believe that ‘more than anything’ Christians need to be people who actually love people that they see as their enemies rather than launching counter rhetoric. I believe that Black was correct when he said, “No matter what anyone tells you, God does love you.” I wonder if you would disagree with that. If you do, then I would point you to Jesus and the God who sent him to die for people like Black, and you, and me. I believe that Christians too often busy themselves with attempts to be “right”, when the gospel would be better served if they would simply shut up, love their enemies, and “not judge lest [they] be judged” (cf. Luke 6.37).

    It’s seems strange to me that, although there was rampant sexual immorality (including sexual immorality) in the first century CE, we don’t see any stands in the NT about ‘gay marriage’ or whatever. You’d think that if it was as important to Jesus as it is to his later followers that he would have addressed the issue more directly (his remarks on divorce and his citation of Gen 2 hardly count).

  28. Gary May 11, 2009 at 11:03 am #

    Great post Denny!

    This is one of many reasons we are trying to change the “Oscar culture” by producing and developing God honoring films and documentaries like This Life I Live.

    We need to change the mind set of this culture as Jesus did in His time. To have people question, seek for truth and righteousness.

    Jesus himself did speak about same-sex relationships. He says in Mark 10:6-8 – “…at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his WIFE…” and in both Matthew 6:31-32 and Mark 10:10-12 Jesus speaks of marriage and divorce being between a man and a woman, clearly using feminine and masculine terms. It is clear He never considers man with man or woman with woman.

    Jesus was clear in his message, He spoke concerning a man and a woman not same sex marriages. This is a huge issue for many but very simple and clear from a christian perspective.

    God Bless

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