Jennifer Knapp & Larry King: Why We Always Lose this Debate
- Tuesday, April 27, 2010
After viewing Friday night's Larry King Live (4/23/10) with Jennifer Knapp, pastor Bob Botsford, and Ted Haggard, I was struck with the question:
Why is it that whenever a proponent of Christianity's historical view of sexuality goes head to head with an advocate for gay rights, the traditional Christian almost always loses the argument?
Read the transcript from Friday's roundtable discussion here. Watch as Pastor Bob Botsford seeks to be loving and gentle, and yet still gets pelted with the pejorative term "judgmental." Why is this so?
I'm convinced that we continue to lose the argument about homosexuality and Christianity because the traditionalist almost always makes his case within a conversation that has been framed by the opposing viewpoint. The Christian doesn't lose the argument at the micro-level. The argument is lost from the beginning because of how the discussion is framed.
I only know Jennifer Knapp through her music. (Kansas is one of the best albums in Christian music, as far as I'm concerned.) I do not want the rest of this post (or the comments) to focus on her particular story. Instead, I want to analyze the Larry King appearance as a launching pad from which we can think clearly about how we might re-frame this discussion in ways that benefit the traditionalist position.
Here are four ways to get started:
1. We need to shift emphasis from the truth that "everyone is a sinner" to the necessity of repentance.
"We're all sinners" comes up again and again in discussions like this. In her Larry King interview, Knapp realized the power of having the pastor admit that he too is a sinner. Once she received this admission, she had the upper hand in asking, "Then why are you judging me instead of me judging you?"
Whenever the discussion centers on "homosexuality is a sin… but we're all sinners," the traditionalist inevitably comes across looking like he is singling out homosexuality as a worse sin than all the rest. His protests to the contrary always ring hollow.
But this is the wrong way to frame this debate. We are not saying that some of us are worse sinners than others or that homosexuality is a worse sin than pride, stealing, etc. We are not categorized before God as " better sinners" or "worse sinners." Instead, we are either unrepentant or repentant. True Christianity hinges on repentance. The pastor on Larry King Live eventually made this point later on in the broadcast, but the rhetorical damage had already been done.
If we are to reframe this discussion along biblical lines, then we must emphasize the necessity of repentance for the Christian faith. The point is not that the pastor and the Knapp are both sinners. It's that the pastor agrees with God about his sin, while Knapp remains in her sin without repentance. That is why he is questioning her Christianity, for Christian teaching makes clear the necessity of repentance as the entryway into the Christian family.
Ultimately, the debate is not about homosexuality versus other sins. It's about whether or not repentance is integral to the Christian life.
2. We must not allow ourselves to be defined by our sexual attractions.
There is a difference between homosexual attraction and homosexual behavior. Whenever this discussion takes place in public, the homosexual advocate inevitably merges these two concepts together and then fashions an identity based upon this attraction. The traditionalist is then considered judgmental for telling the homosexual that she should not be true to herself.
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