by Charles Eaton
I have had the opportunity to live in two distinct subcultures of America. My home state is California; a state with a very peaceful, very “chill”, very accepting mainstream culture which has significantly influenced the Seventh-day Adventist subculture. Many of the hallmarks of fundamental Adventism are missing or subdued in California. The dresses are (generally) shorter, the earrings are longer, tattoos abound, Starbucks is common, and I know three women pastors just in my area. I also currently go to school in Northern Alabama. Not surprisingly, the Seventh-day Adventist subculture differs greatly: Chocolate, seen as sinful at worst and unhealthy at best, is occasionally replaced in favor of carob (supposedly—read: not really—just as good). Girls are still strongly discouraged from wearing pants, and the pizza company is not allowed to deliver meat to the residents of my SDA school. Granted, there are individual churches and areas that are counterculture in both states, but in general, the South is much more conservative than the West Coast.
Recently I stumbled upon a social group on Facebook called Seventh-gay Adventists. The people in charge are using this group to promote a feature-length film depicting the struggle of 3 LGBT couples to reconcile their lifestyles with the Adventist church they know and loved. (The film looks very interesting and I will probably get a copy of it when it becomes available.) As I perused through the comments left on the page, I received the distinct impression that many on the site did not consider being gay “sinful”. I am not a theologian, nor do I have any special insight into anything other than what my Bible says. Therefore the method they used to arrive at that conclusion, while indeed an appropriate question, is not one I intend to address. I am simply astonished to discover that the common assumption many of us heterosexual Seventh-day Adventists have about God’s condemning views concerning homosexuality is not necessarily an assumption shared by our LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ.
As I talked to friends of mine in both areas in the country about what I discovered, two clear lines of thought emerged, the more conservative emerging from the East Coast, and the more progressive from the West. My West Coast friends couldn’t get with the idea that homosexuality is not a sin, but they did understand the making of a group and movie to document the struggles of the LGBT Adventist experience. They felt as though the Church needs to find a way to treat them better and the LGBT’s should not be ostracized because of their sexual orientation. However, my East Coast friends not only disagreed with the idea of homosexuality not being a sin, but they were also greatly discouraged at the fact that a pseudo support group had been established to help people maintain their LGBT status while still seeking reconciliation with the church. They felt as though making this movie and support group equated helping people stay in their sin instead of pointing them to Christ.
I have to admit I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. Above everything else God commands us to love vertically (love the Lord your God with all your heart), and to love horizontally (love your neighbor as yourself). All other doctrines, rules, and traditions are subservient to those ideas. Clearly then, we are to love our LGBT brothers and sisters the same way we love ourselves. That much is obvious. But do we, as a collective body of believers, have any other responsibilities than that? Are they doomed to be banned to the back pews of the church, with love of course, possibly without membership, until that lifestyle is renounced? Will that “second class” treatment foster or hinder their own relationship with God? Or are we supposed to be more accepting of how they choose to live their lives and not necessarily worried so much about individual sins? Though I personally lean more with my East Coast friends than West Coast, the issue should be addressed and not just swept under the Adventist rug without open discourse. Too often we simply don’t talk about things either because the issue is too sensitive, or because the backlash could be too great. As modern day America continues to progress at a much faster rate than religion does, we can no longer afford to just say nothing and assume everything will turn out fine.