The Throckmorton Files: Update 1 of 2
As readers of this blog are aware, a couple of weeks back, I stood up for my good friend Warren Throckmorton, who is currently being relentlessly attacked by Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, an organization which, in our “For What it’s Worth Department”, has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is my belief that Christians ought to be held to a high standard of accuracy and fairness when it comes to communications, and it seems clear to me that AFT, and its founder Peter LaBarbera, have neither been accurate or fair in their criticisms of Dr. Throckmorton. Telling half a story, or shading an issue in order to make a person with whom we disagree simply look bad, is beneath the dignity of a reputable, Christian organization, and yet in ways I have documented, as well as some others, it is my contention that AFT has done just this in the case of Dr. Throckmorton. Once again, full disclosure: Warren is my friend; I was his pastor for the better part of ten years in Pennsylvania, and while there are likely some points of disagreement between Warren on myself on this and other topics, I respect very much what he is trying to do—which warrants two paragraphs before we go on.
First, there is a place for what Peter LaBarbera is attempting to do—if done correctly and in a spirit of “truth in love”—in standing up for Biblical morality with regards to the issue of homosexuality. I do not question his motives; it’s not my place. I do see the homosexual agenda of “normalizing” homosexuality as one of the real threats to the fabric of our society. Further, this is not a battle Christians have generally sought; I mostly disagree with the criticism that Christians are on some kind of vendetta against homosexuals. No…I believe that this is not a battle we’ve chosen; this is something that we’ve been forced to deal with. We’ve not always done it well, to be sure, but the animus that motivates most Christians, as far as I’ve seen, isn’t hatred toward homosexuals; far from it.
At the same time, there must be a redemptive motive behind all we do. We call sin “sin”; we point to God’s grace in Christ. It seems to me that Mr. LaBarbera and his ilk, as judged by his website, major on the former and go pretty light on the latter. Yes, if pressed, I have little doubt that they’d profess concern on both fronts, but it also seems clear that these folks “lead” with hating the sin instead of leading with loving the sinner. Dr. Throckmorton’s approach has changed through the years, it seems to me, from some level of the former to a strong emphasis on the latter; he chooses to “lead with love”. If we boiled this whole dispute down to its essence, it seems to me that the bottom line is that the “truth” folks are concerned that the “truth” is being sacrificed by Dr. Throckmorton in his determination to reach out with love. One could level the opposite charge at folks who focus on truth: is the truth being shared in love, or is that balance being missed? The problem, of course, is that this is a harder case to make: if someone has clearly written or said something untrue, we can nail that to the wall; how, though, can we accurately judge another person’s motives? How can we be at all certain that love does or does not exist behind someone’s words and actions? We can make estimates to some degree, but we’re too ready these days, it seems to me, to attribute specious motives to others. We throw words like “love” and “hate” around way too loosely; they’ve become code words to some degree, even epithets, instead of serious words with clear meaning. But give us a quote—even one that we have to remove from its context to make our point, and we can begin the heresy trials and ready the stake.
But it’s truth in love, folks, truth in love; focus on one and diminish the other, and we’ve got problems. It’s a hard balance to keep—but it’s an utterly necessary one.
OK, this has turned into a post of its own. Next, I want to delve into what Dr. Throckmorton has indicated are his own views—I will let him speak for himself and respond to the charges at hand. I’ve been pretty personally busy recently, but I hope to get to that very quickly.
So, I just followed the threads between Peter and Dr. Throckmorton. I started with Peter’s thread and read as much as I could find, then read the actual interviews and Throckmorton’s blog. What I found most interesting is when I read Throckmorton’s actual interview, his logic and intent were very clear. C’mon – I think it is a logical statement to make that congruence to the Scriptures and 180 degree change are 2 different things, and that change is less frequent (but not impossible). Throughout the Bible, men struggled with their sin, and made good and bad choices. In many of those cases, the struggle was not removed from them, but in most cases they made choices with God’s grace to obey God despite the temptation. I wish that true change of the struggle being reversed was true in my own life, but the fact is that sin is sin, and I have to make choices about obeying God or not obeying God every day. That doesn’t mean that the sin is right or acceptable, or that God can’t change and remove the struggle. I will tell you this – when I make good choices and obey God, He makes me a stronger man for it. I think the intent is clear, logical, and silly to think otherwise.
On professional ethics – again, and area where the actual words taken in the full context are clear. There is definitely a difference between being a professional counselor and a pastor. There are professions where you are paid for your professional input where you need to stay as neutral on your own beliefs. That doesn’t mean they don’t influence you, and how you love people. On the contrary – I have witnessed individuals who while they stayed neutral (in how they treated)b/c of the oath or commitment they made, the love that they obviously had for me made me want what they had. I also know if asked to do something wrong, they would then be forced to make the same choice as the homosexual – obey or not obey, sin or not sin. Teachers don’t come out and say in the classroom that homosexuality is wrong. However, they love those kids that they can see have those tendencies, and show them through their actions and words what the alternatives are.
I think the problem is that we somehow classify this homosexuality thing as a different type of sin. It’s a hard one, don’t get me wrong, but Grace is an amazing thing – I have experienced it first hand.
I think that these issues become so big in our own minds that we forget the point. Whether it be Aids, Homosexuality, Poverty, Adultery, Abortion, or Drugs, we get so focused on issues, that we forget that Christianity is not about the issue or the individual sin. Christianity is about loving people, and saying a simple statement – “God, what do you want me to do today, right now” and then actually doing it. It’s about an incredible act 2 thousand years ago, when Jesus took MY sins on the cross. I don’t deserve life, yet in an incredible act of grace, he lets me live AND gives me freedom. And on top of all that, I get to actually have fun, enjoy life, and make my own choices about what to do or not to do. WOW!!
I give the benefit of the doubt to both of these gentlemen – but I say, just stop. There are too many people that need to hear the truth to waste your energy on judgment. I have too much sin in my life to throw the first stone. I can’t even pick the stone up 🙂
Bravo. Bravo. Great post. Thanks, Justin, for saying it and saying it so well. Truth in love, exemplified.