Brian McLaren caused quite a stir in 2010 when he announced in his book A New Kind of Christianity that he no longer believes that homosexuality is a sin. Many people were surprised by the news simply because he himself had called on evangelicals in 2006 to observe a five year moratorium on making moral pronouncements about homosexuality (see here). Yet in the book, McLaren not only made a moral pronouncement, he also chastised conservative evangelicals for their views on the matter.
At the time, it appeared that McLaren’s revisionist views were merely a part of his emerging theological outlook—a postmodern slouch toward theological liberalism. No doubt it was that, as his writings make perfectly clear. But could there have been more to it than that?
The New York Times reports that McLaren recently presided over his own son’s same-sex commitment ceremony. This would seem to imply that from the time McLaren called a “moratorium” to the time that he wrote A New Kind of Christianity, McLaren was dealing with the issue not merely as a detached observer but as one with a deeply personal stake in the matter. I don’t pretend to account for all of the influences over McLaren’s thinking, but it’s hard to imagine that his son’s situation would not have had some sort of an impact on McLaren’s theological revisions.
If that is the case, I think there are many Christians who could immediately relate to his circumstance. It is very difficult when one has a close friend or family member who is gay and who differs with what the Bible teaches about sexual norms. There is an incredible cultural pressure for the Christian to break the relational impasse by revising Christianity’s teaching on human sexuality. No one wants to alienate love ones. Also, no one wants to be labeled a bigot. The desire to avoid pariah status is why many people are simply moving away from a traditional view of marriage. People do not want to offend their gay friends, neighbors, and family members.
It is to this kind of temptation that Jesus Himself speaks when he says,
35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:35-38).
This text is not saying that one needs to make an enemy of one’s family members in order to follow Christ. It’s simply acknowledging that for some people the interests of the kingdom will require conflict with family members who care nothing about Christ. In such situations, Christians must choose Christ. Jesus is saying that Christians cannot shirk this confrontation. They must face it head-on and remain faithful to Christ in the midst of it. It’s a tough cross to bear, but Jesus says that those who refuse it are not “worthy” of him.
At the end of the day, this isn’t just Brian McLaren’s problem. All of us will face this temptation and will have to make a choice. We can take the broad road that leads to relational ease and acceptance from the world, or we can follow the narrow road that leads to life. No one can have both. What will you choose? The conflict is coming and for many is already here.