David Gushee has written a piece for the Washington Post today explaining his recent shift away from a biblical view on sexuality (which I wrote about here). He also singles-out me and Robert Gagnon as being inappropriately focused on biblical interpretation. He writes:
Evangelical Christians, such as Denny Burk and Robert Gagnon, are criticizing me because I’m now “pro-LGBT.” They want to shift the discussion immediately to the debate on same-sex relationships and the proper interpretation of those six or seven most cited Bible passages.
I would not presume to speak for Gagnon. I haven’t even read his entire post. For my part, I didn’t really address “the proper interpretation” of the key texts. Rather, I simply observed that Gushee’s “shift” on this issue is not the bombshell that it has been made out to be. Gushee has been moving toward the theological left for a long time. He’s already endorsed at least one pro-gay marriage book. In other words, his recent remarks and his new book affirming gay relationships do not measure on the evangelical Richter Scale.
Even though he mischaracterizes my post, Gushee is keen to criticize those who are hassling too much over the interpretation of biblical texts. And that is the real news here. The key issue for Gushee is not what the Bible says but what experiences have led him to have more sympathy for gay people. To that end, the line that stuck out to me most is the one underlined below:
It is hard to describe exactly why my moral vision shifted in this way. But undoubtedly, it had much to do with my move to Atlanta in 2007 and my growing contact with LGBT people, especially fellow Christians. I hardly knew anyone who was gay before that move, but afterward, they seemed to be everywhere, and a few became very dear friends. It became clear to me — in a deeply spiritual place that I will allow no one to challenge — that God was sending LGBT people to me. The fact that one of these LGBT Christians is my dear youngest sister, Katey, has made this issue even more deeply personal for me than it would have been.
This is why I said in my previous post that Gushee is an example of an ex-evangelical. It is very clear that the decisive influence over his change of heart was not scripture but his experiences. Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the norm that is not normed by any other norm. Nevertheless, Gushee says that his relationships with gay people–especially with his sister–normed his view of the Bible. In fact, he even says that he will allow no one–not even someone bearing a biblical message–to challenge his newfound beliefs.
This is a profound departure from the evangelical tradition, which has always held that everything we believe must be tested by the light of scripture. Apparently, Gushee is no longer open to that light–at least not if it’s coming from someone who might challenge his new orthodoxy.