St. Louis is known as the “Gateway to the West.” The moniker provokes images of adventure and excitement; a gateway takes you somewhere, opens new possibilities. But we should remember that gateways can open to places you ought not go. Some thresholds should not be crossed. Some doors should be barred—especially for the Christian.
A gateway is being ceremoniously opened in St. Louis today, and I fear it is a shameful thing. I fear it will result in shame at that great and terrible last day. The gateway I speak of is the Revoice Conference.
The stated summary of Revoice is “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” It is a troubling capitulation to the categories of this world, and quite possibly a gateway to worse.
Revoice exists in that margin of evangelicals who have not embraced the new sexual revolution wholesale, but who have accepted some of its categories in troubling ways. The conference is hosted by a PCA church, and expresses adherence to the Christian stance that marriage is between a man and a woman. There is no endorsement of homosexual sexual activity here. No doubt the baseline understanding of sex and marriage of Revoice seems woefully benighted to the dominant voices of the Episcopal church or the UCC.
But, in its own way, that makes Revoice all the more likely to create inroads for the acceptance of LGBTQ+ identity in evangelical churches. We see a group that is holding up biblical standards on sexual activity with one hand and the world’s understanding of sexual identity with the other. There are other problems with Revoice, no doubt, but that is the one I wish to address.
Here is how the latest phase of the sexual revolution unfolded in America. Immoral behaviors that had been regarded as obscene for two millennia found sudden acceptance by hijacking the legacy of the civil rights movement. In the civil rights movement a wonderful victory for liberty had been won, and a great blow was dealt to the evil of racism in our nation. But activists for the sexual revolution discovered that the same rhetoric could be (mis)applied to human sexual desires. If a moral question about sexual behavior could be transformed into a question about equal rights for people who are different, resistance would crumble. Those who disagreed could be lumped together with racists. So it unfolded.
That is why language must be considered carefully. Terms and categories come with a whole set of associations, and tend to bypass much of our critical thinking by taking advantage of these associations. It was of the utmost importance that the issue of homosexual marriage be labeled marriage equality. It was extremely valuable to talk less about the sexual acts involved, and talk more about love—for who wants to be seen as opposed to love?
Returning our attention to Revoice, we see that the categories of the world have made their inroads, and if accepted are likely to do great spiritual harm to churches and especially to those individuals struggling with same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, etc. Two examples will suffice:
The most glaring problem is the use of the term sexual minorities. Like marriage equality, this creates a false connection with the matter of civil rights. Sexual attraction is not a category like race, sex, age, etc. If this linguistic transfer is made and sexual attraction becomes a civil rights category, everything that belongs to it is legitimized both morally and legally. To run a comparison, it would be like calling thieves property-rights minorities or something of the kind. No area of sin, nor of temptation, creates a legitimate identity category.
But this term is perhaps accepted by Revoice on the foundation of a more basic set of terms, the ones that appear in their purpose statement: gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians. This is a fundamental and far-reaching linguistic surrender to the categories of the world. The Church must not accept it. What do I mean? There are Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, and Christians who struggle with gender dysphoria. But they should not be described or describe themselves as gay Christians or transgender Christians.
Why not? Because Christians are to mortify their sinful desires, not fold them into their identity. The acceptance of these as identity categories invariably suggests that there is something innocent about the inclination as long as you don’t act upon it. But our sinful inclinations are not innocent. If I struggle with pride, it is perfectly good to admit that in the appropriate context. But I should not make arrogance a part of my identity.
For the Christian’s identity is found in Christ. In Christ we have been given the Spirit and called to mortify the flesh. We still struggle with sin, but it does not define us. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
We no longer belong to this world; we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
That means we live by kingdom ethics: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:5-6).
It means we find our identity in Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria have a hard road to walk. They are already fighting battles most of their brothers and sisters do not have to face. They are already fighting against a world trying to tempt them to embrace those desires and to declare good what God has declared evil. They already have churches that wave the rainbow flag, tempting them to turn from the way of the cross and to live out of the flesh. It is no kindness to suggest they make the sinful desires they struggle against into fundamental aspects of their identity. That’s one of the gateways the world offers; the Church shouldn’t be opening it for them.