Another day, another double life

The Rev. Lonnie W. Latham, former senior pastor of the South Tulsa Baptist Church and former member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, is a vocal opponent of marriage equality, and one of those cheap, oily yappers about the “sinful and destructive lifestyle” of GLBT people. At least he was until January, when he invited an undercover police officer to a hotel for oral sex.

Now he is outraged – absolutely OUTRAGED – at the charge filed against him.

His attorney, Mack Martin, filed a motion to have the misdemeanor lewdness charge thrown out, saying the Supreme Court ruled in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas that it was not illegal for consenting adults to engage in private homosexual acts.

“Now, my client’s being prosecuted basically for having offered to engage in such an act, which basically makes it a crime to ask someone to do something that’s legal,” Martin said.

For the Right Reverend Latham’s edification, that would be the Lawrence v. Texas decision that was made possible by people living with integrity, people who, unlike himself, were not ashamed of who they were created to be. For added irony, it turns out that the ACLU is speaking up for this guy, too.

Yeah, I think we should recognize that people like this are broken and hate themselves because they’ve been chewed up and spat out by false religious doctrine. However, for some reason I’m having trouble coming up with much empathy this time. I’ll leave that to Soulforce:

It’s unconscionable that so many, like Rev. Latham, have never been told the truth that they can live with dignity and express their God-given sexuality in ways that are open, honest, loving, and life-affirming. Trapped by Southern Baptist misinformation, many people of faith think their only option is to live a dark and secretive double-life. The SBC needs to be held accountable for causing this kind of needless suffering.

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18 Responses to Another day, another double life

  1. whackette says:

    “Yeah, I think we should recognize that people like this are broken and hate themselves because they’ve been chewed up and spat out by false religious doctrine.”

    I’m trying to decide if I want to take issue with that or not. I suppose it depends on what you’re calling false doctrine. If you are calling the teaching that sexual relationships only belong between a married man and woman false doctrine, I will have to argue with you. It is a very valid biblical stance.

    However, if you are referring to the tendency most Christians have of making any one who isn’t heterosexual feel unwelcome, unloved and like they are a greater sinner than everyone else, then I agree with you.

  2. David says:

    I do think that “the teaching that sexual relationships only belong between a married man and woman” is false (human) doctrine.

    The idea that people of other cultures and races were “unclean” and that it was an abomination to share a meal with them was the accepted doctrine of the religious authorities who were contemporaries of Jesus. It was the equivalent of a very valid biblical stance, and it was a false doctrine. In Christian terms, we are all children of God, no matter where we come from. We were created with a huge variety of attributes, and none of them is supposed to exclude us from the table.

    If you ask the question, Why would a loving God create people of different cultures and phenotypes, but only care about the welfare of one of them and consider everybody else unclean? it’s pretty obvious that this idea was cooked up by people.

    I’m assuming that you acknowledge that sexual orientation is a human attribute like handedness or eye color or the part of the world one happens to have been born in. Your position is that the choice isn’t whether to “be” gay, it’s whether to act on it, is that correct?

    The way I see it, you can only be saying one of two things: 1) That a person who is gay should not have a loving, sexually intimate relationship with another person at all, or 2) that s/he should limit that relationship to one with someone of the opposite sex. Neither one is something that I think a loving God could possibly have in mind. Why would a loving God create different sexual orientations, but expect sexual relationships to be limited to only one of them?

    Human beings are sexual beings, that’s how we were created. A doctrine that perverts the gift of sexuality into something that forbids some human beings from living whole lives is, like the example above, a uniquely human invention. The topic of this post is yet another illustration of the unnecessary suffering that doctrine leads to.

    In the second option, not only is the gay person’s whole being truncated, but their partner’s is as well. Who would want to be married to a partner who can’t love them completely; who would choose that for their child; and why would a loving God want that for anyone?

    Your reference to the idea that gay people are not “greater” sinners than everyone else suggests that you may equate having an authentic sexual relationship as a gay person with behaviors like infidelity or other things that would be categorized as irresponsible or selfish choices. There is such a thing as sexually irresponsible, selfish behavior, but these are completely unrelated things. As a person in a committed relationship, I choose whether or not to honor my commitment and respect my partner just as you do. Those choices are independent of orientation. The choice you seem to want to equate to that is the choice between living an authentic life according to the sexual orientation I was blessed with, and living an inauthentic life, rejecting the way in which I was created by God in favor of conforming to a human doctrine.

  3. whackette says:

    David, this may seem like splitting hairs to you, but I didn’t say that I thought being gay is a greater sin than others. Go back and read what I wrote. I didn’t call it a sin but pointed out that the way most Christians react to homosexuality is wrong.

    Like it or not, what the New Testament has to say about homosexuality is, at best, not very flattering. It is things like this that cause me to say that I struggle to reconcile my faith with reality. I have no reason to doubt that sexual orientation is beyond human control. I know I didn’t choose mine and it would only be logical that no one else does either. So how can something that we can’t control be a sin? You brought up the difference between being gay and acting on it. If there is a difference it is razor thin. As you have pointed out before sexual orientation isn’t only about sex, it is about attraction, love, and caring for another person. For the most part those are not things we can choose not to engage in. I want to believe there is no sin in a committed relationship between two adults; at the same time though those verses are hard to ignore.

  4. David says:

    I didn’t understand you to be saying it is a greater sin (the view that you were criticizing), only that being in a committed same-sex relationship is just one of many possible sins.

    As far as I know, there are at most six passages in all of Scripture that could conceivably refer to what we understand today as same-sex intimacy. That these few references to the cultural rules of an ancient society, one that was struggling against assimilation with the surrounding cultures – what is really nothing more than ceremonial law, equivalent to dietary restrictions – could be elevated to its current importance, is very strange.

    In the light of everything else in Scripture leading us to differentiate between the laws of men and the laws of God, I find them easy to ignore, or at the very least, to question.

  5. whackette says:

    I think I cleared up in my second comment that I had not meant to even imply that it is a sin. At this point I just don’t know, and believe me, it’s very uncomfortable sitting on the fence.

    I specifically said New Testament. You’re right about the Old Testament passages they should have little to no influence when it comes to this topic.

    I was referring to passages like Romans 1:18-32. and 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. There are a few others but they are not as clear and more open to interpretation. I think it is dangerous to ignore these New Testament passages but it is a good thing to question them. I know there is debate out there concerning the meaning of these passages when read in context and set against a cultural background and I am taking a very close look at these arguments.

  6. Russell says:

    Is this a discussion about religious passages and doctrine, or hypocrisy and the dangers we face when we relinguish our own rationality and objectivity and how these dangers are exposed through irony, and, sadly, we never listen? Are we weak? Apathetic? Lazy? Or just plain irrelevant outside of our own minds? I also find religious banter, in the context of viewpoint expression, futile. When the day comes where someone is stoned to death for working on the sabbath, for “not honoring GOD”, then maybe I would be interested. Until then, there can be no pluralistic religious authority, only an individual one. Whackette, I admire your struggle of reconciliation. It is an honorable and courageous thing to give faith and reality their applicable considerations.

  7. Jerry Foltz says:

    A brief comment on the Apostle Paul and his writings: It is hard if not impossible to formulate coherent Christian doctrine or a systematic theology just based on Paul’s writings, especially the extra ones that are often attributed to him. He is deeply affected by diverse cultures — Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman. And what was his “thorn in the flesh” — a speech impediment, epilepsy, unresolved sexual needs or urges, or something else? We don’t think he was married. He had uncomfortable things to say about women and their leadership in church, especially in scripture where his authorship is most questioned. Yet he praised the women leaders, pastors perhaps, in some of the churches.
    Christian theology and doctrine (the United Church of Christ is thankfully non-doctrrinal) needs to incompass not only the essential teachings of Paul and the important teachings of Jesus, but also how Christian tradition has dealt with and lived out those teachings (imperfectly at best), and how God speaks to and inspires us all today — yes, even through our evolving culture.
    For us to always have to deal with two obscure NT passages without regard for true “salvation issues” (as my enlightened Baptist colleagues phrase them) is boring and burdensome, and I guess really someone’s “personal problem.”
    Real Christianity embraces the love of God in Christ which enables us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And the better people can accept themselves and find serenity and peace in their own lives, the more comfortable I am with them as my neighbors, as well as my leaders.
    More than two cents worth, but now I feel better.


  8. David says:

    I have always been flummoxed by the idea that a particular translation into English of ancient religious texts written in other languages could be the inerrant word of God – but I was not raised with that belief. I freely admit, I don’t get how anyone can believe that. But that’s my problem. Honest, good people do believe it, and when they find themselves trying to reconcile that with other compelling information, it’s very difficult. It would no doubt be easier to just reject any contradictory information if it’s not your own identity at stake, especially if it’s causing conflict with family members. I too am very impressed with Wackette’s willingness to engage in this struggle and this dialogue, and I’m also curious about what it is about the idea of biblical inerrancy/orthodoxy that is appealing to people in the first place.

  9. Russell says:

    Could it be that the idea of biblical inerrancy/orthodoxy, for that matter ANY religious doctrine inerrancy/orthodoxy, that is appealing is that, in a sense, it removes or alleviates responsibilities? If I am not mistaken, many prophetical doctrines, if not all, contain the ideas of “don’t take my word for it”, “work out your own salvation”, or “question what I say”? A highly personal, singular, and intimate intercourse with faith.

  10. whackette says:

    Russell, it doesn’t remove responsibilities at all. It is a great responsibility to study and understand what God expects of us and then apply it to how we actually interact with others. I think it would be easier to reject the authority of scripture and just believe and do whatever I please.

  11. Russell says:

    Ah … removes responsibilites in the sense of it’s inerrancy. One does not have to “think” about anything, just obey because the bible says so, because it is God’s will and He directs my actions and thoughts. A rejection of the authority of scripture places the burden wholly upon yourself and does not mean that you can do whatever you please. For instance, we are not born with hate, we learn it, then we spend an extreme amount of time and energy unlearning it because of its effects on others and how we must interact so that there is effective functioning.

    For that matter, there are those that uphold the authority of scripture and STILL do whatever they please and there are those that do not uphold the authority of scripture and are better people than some that do. This may be what David was hitting on at the beginning.

    I do actually think it much harder when one rejects that authority as you are bound by much more of that which makes you the person you are. Whether you believe that the person you are is really the person you think you are is how we actually interact with others and you have a choice of interacting with others for the good or the bad – in their eyes is where the results are tabulated – “yours is in the eye of the beholder”. For instance, Mormon missionaries came to our house the other day and gave us a pamphlet on “family”, needless to say, my family was not included in their definition. Now, they were acting on their scriptural authority and interacted with us – “being others”. The experience of the interaction from our perspective was not good one(a suffering), from theirs I can only speculate that is WAS good since we took the time to pleasantly talk with them in their missionary work(not suffering) and accomplished their goal of reaching out.

    So, if actions, coming from an authority of choice, causes suffering in another, then how responsible is it, that when actions coming from non-authority but from a belief in inherent human nature and interaction, cause no suffering?

    Going back to the start of the original conversation, Rev. Latham, easily taking refuge in the authority of scripture, was powerless against the person he really is.

  12. whackette says:

    No, we do have to think and that is what’s lacking. Too many listen to radio and tv preachers and read books ABOUT what the Bible says rather than actually reading the Bible. If all you do is listen to the rants about the evil homosexual agenda… indoctrinating children… unrepentant sinners… damned to hell… blah blah blah… you’re going to have a warped view of what the Bible actually does say. This is one of the dangers of picking and choosing which part to believe and which parts to ignore. While Christians often accuse those sympathetic to the GLBT community of rejecting scripture when the passages I “mentioned before are glossed over or outright rejected we should also realize that when homosexuality is spoken against so harshly with hate and condemnation it means we are also guilty of rejecting scripture. I make a point of avoiding these commercialized sermons but the majority of them that I have heard are severely lacking in the humility department. There is no message of reconciliation or mention of God’s boundless love. Are these Christian principals rejected in favor of a message of hate?

    “So, if actions, coming from an authority of choice, causes suffering in another, then how responsible is it, that when actions coming from non-authority but from a belief in inherent human nature and interaction, cause no suffering?”

    If I read Colossians 3 and discover that we are instructed not to lie and then say lying is bad, have I acted irresponsibly since my statement may cause a lier to feel bad and suffer? Can nothing be labeled right or wrong for fear of causing suffering? I have a big problem with the idea that right and wrong can be decided by whether someone feels bad but then I suppose there are plenty of people that have a problem with the idea that right and wrong can be determined by scripture and since this is solely a matter of faith it will probably never be settled.

  13. Russell says:

    hmmm … I can see where the bible can be somewhat confusing.
    Maybe in the example you present, it should be thought as not “the instruction to not lie” but “what an act of lieing causes”. There is then no good or bad, only a result and what that means to each involved, and judgement is removed. For instance, would it be ok to lie in a certain circumstance to protect a persons’ emotional state(someone who may be suicidal) so that they are better equipped to handle the truth later, safely? If you have been instructed not to lie, would that lieing behavior on your part be bad and cause you remorse? If you didn’t lie and that person then killed themselves, would your lieing then be irresponsible, or would you have a greater responsibility to your behavioral instruction. Then, would the fact that you didn’t lie not cause you remorse? What about the other person?
    What authority was present in either case? Scripture, or a personal one?

  14. Russell says:

    Which does one heed to?

  15. whackette says:

    My example was not to start a discussion on whether or not it is ever preferable to lie but to show that you cannot base right and wrong on how people feel. You presented a situation where any answer can be deemed wrong depending on how you look at it, but I suppose I can choose either one and you cannot say that I am wrong because knowing that you think I did something wrong would cause me to suffer and that goes against your ethics system.

  16. David says:

    There is an either/or dichotomy here that is troubling, and I think it revolves around the difference between the “authority” of Scripture and the “guidance” of Scripture. I believe that God gave us brains, and we are supposed to use them to discern the difference between the core ideas contained in Scripture (like loving one’s neighbor) and things that are not core ideas, but details that simply illustrate an individual author’s relationship with or experience of God.

    A whole lot of picking and choosing of what to include and exclude from the official canon has already taken place, and that needs to be part of the equation, too.

    I don’t think we are faced with a black and white choice between the authority of (the literal words of) Scripture and basing right and wrong on how people feel. And how people feel in a given discrete example is also not comparable to the idea of increasing joy/love/abundant life and reducing suffering in an overall sense. It’s the latter meaning that I think is the core idea of Scripture, and discerning what that requires of us in human community is something we have to figure out day by day as new information presents itself.

  17. whackette says:

    I can’t completely agree with you, but that was very well put.

  18. David says:

    Thanks. Weirdly, we just got a comment on this old post about this very topic of reconciliation and last year’s Equality Ride. What is that thing about God working in mysterious ways? I had forgotten about this program.

    A book that you will probably appreciate, but also may not entirely agree with, is The Phoenix Affirmations, which you can read about here.