By Michael Wagner: Published in the March 2011 issue of Reformed Perspective magazine (http://reformedperspective.ca), pp. 15-16
The Rev. Dr. Mel White was raised in an evangelical household and his father was an evangelical pastor. White ended up getting theologically trained and also became an evangelical pastor. He was extremely gifted in communications and helped to produce evangelical video documentaries and “ghost-wrote” books for famous Christian leaders such as Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson.
From the outside he appeared to be an exemplary Christian leader, advancing the cause of conservative Christianity. However, he was secretly struggling with homosexual tendencies. Ultimately, those homosexual tendencies won out. He divorced his wife and began living in a homosexual relationship with a man.
I do what I like, and God loves it
Not content to fade away from conservative Christianity, White decided to go on a campaign against the “antigay” teachings of conservative churches. He wants to straighten out all those Christians who think homosexuality is incompatible with the Bible. According to him, as he states in his book Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right (2006), “the real problem” homosexuals have today is “the antigay religious teachings and actions that support intolerance and discrimination” (p. 329).
White’s agenda is to “dialogue” with conservative Christians to show them that the traditional Christian view of homosexuality is based on lies, half-truths and caricatures. If Christians would look at the real truth, they would see that “Homosexuality is not a sickness, not a sin” (p. 183). After being brought up in an evangelical household, White had to learn this for himself. Now he understands that “God created me a gay man and loves me exactly as I am” (p. 298).
In fact, he claims that “homosexual intimacy,” is “another of God’s loving gifts” (pp. 144-145). God doesn’t just accept homosexuality, He thinks it’s great! Referring to living with his gay lover, White is confident that “God not only approves of our relationship, God celebrates it. God blesses it. God informs and inspires it” (p. 187).
Conservative Christians who read those statements will likely be puzzled. Doesn’t the Bible clearly condemn homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments? Particular verses from Leviticus and Romans come to mind. Don’t be so foolish, Mel White would reply, the historic Christian view of homosexuality is simply based “on a few isolated verses from the writings of Paul and Moses, who knew a lot about God and nothing about sexual orientation” (pp. 96-97).
Paul and Moses didn’t know anything about homosexuality! Really? Or is it that you can’t accept what they say about it?
White continues: “America’s preeminent Bible scholars demonstrate clearly that the biblical authors knew nothing and therefore say nothing about homosexuality in either the Hebrew or Greek testaments. The Bible literally is silent about homosexual orientation as we understand it today” (p. 99).
We need to turn to science for our answers
Therefore the Bible alone cannot provide the basis for a Christian view of homosexuality. But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to go on. There are plenty of other sources for reliable information. Multiple disciplines together provide a coherent view that everyone should embrace. In sum, the “latest scientific, psychological, historic, pastoral, and biblical evidence” demonstrate “that homosexuality is neither sickness nor sin but another of God’s mysterious gifts” (p. 114).
Don’t get hung-up on what appears to be some very obvious Old Testament verses to the contrary, because scholars “assure us that the author of Leviticus says nothing about homosexual relationships as we understand them today” (p. 161).
According to White, the little reliable information about homosexuality that we find in the Bible is actually quite positive. In Luke 7:1-10 there’s an account of Jesus healing the servant of a Roman centurion. That servant was the centurion’s homosexual lover. The centurion wanted his lover to be healed by Jesus, but he realized that if Jesus actually came to his house he would be “outed” as a homosexual and then be ostracized. So he asked Jesus to heal the servant without coming into his house.
White writes that, “Jesus must have smiled to himself knowing that the centurion and his lover had no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. He knew why they hid their loving relationship from the local religious authorities and the gossips on the street, but they had no reason to hide their relationship from God, who created them and loved them exactly as they were. Instead of taking that risk, Jesus healed the outcast lover on the spot” (p. 303). Isn’t that interesting? Jesus doesn’t have anything against homosexuality. In fact, he accommodated the centurion so that he would not get ostracized by the religious authorities.
If you haven’t seen all the gay-positive passages of the Bible, perhaps it’s because of faulty translation. White claims that “Our GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] Bible stories have been taken from us by homophobic translators, and it’s time we take them back” (p. 357).
According to him, a proper translation of John 13:23 reveals the following interesting information: “The ‘beloved disciple’ was either in Jesus’ lap looking up at him or lying between his legs leaning up against his chest, or if Jesus was reclined on one elbow, the disciple could have used Jesus as a pillow.” White claims that this reveals “that Jesus is not afraid of intimate physical contact with another man” (p. 357). Get it? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. If you find this interpretation compelling, you’re probably not a regular reader of Reformed Perspective.
Errant, fallible and definitely not literal
Mel White sees conservative Christianity as the great obstacle to the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in society. Or, as he puts it, fundamentalist Christianity is “the real problem.” So the way to overcome this problem is to undermine the conservative Christian view of the Bible and the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. He claims that conservative Christians have adopted an “excessive commitment to a literal Bible” which has resulted in a particular form of idolatry, “bibliolatry” (p. 175). “The Bible becomes a dead idol when we call the words between its covers inerrant, infallible, to be taken literally” (p. 180). So it is neither inerrant, nor infallible, nor to be taken literally. And we need the liberal “scholars” to tell us what it means.
Here is White’s argument in a nutshell: The Bible contains errors and it is fallible. Therefore it is unreliable. Besides, when read “correctly”— that is, through the eyes of liberal “scholars”— the Bible presents a positive view of homosexuality. Thus the whole foundation for “antigay” views is undermined. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to oppose homosexuality. Case closed.
Truth is quite different
It sounds simple enough but it’s not true. White was raised within a Christian household and no doubt imbibed a Christian worldview. But since his homosexual desires overwhelmed him, he needs to justify himself in light of that worldview. Basically, homosexuality and Biblical Christianity are incompatible—one of them has to go. It’s like in the old Westerns where a gunslinger would tell his rival, “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us.” So White shoots Biblical Christianity.
But he’s shooting blanks.
As White’s own examples demonstrate, the pro-gay interpretation of the Bible is clearly grasping at straws. Declaring that Moses and Paul didn’t know anything about homosexuality, and twisting some verses to say Jesus approves of homosexuality, just goes to show how far people will go to justify their sin. Being unwilling to admit the obvious—that the Bible condemns homosexuality—White wants to convince people that the Bible has been misunderstood and that its real meaning is supportive of homosexuality and gay rights.
In other words, White has put politics above the Bible. Homosexuality and the extension of homosexual rights are more important to him than the Bible. Therefore the Bible has to be reinterpreted to suit his goals. Rather than change his lifestyle to conform to the Bible, he’ll change the Bible to conform it to his lifestyle. He accuses conservative Christians of idolatry, but the real idolatry is right here. Mel White’s god is homosexuality, and he wants Christianity to bow down to that god.