How to avoid a thicket (II of II)

I think it’s possible that Gaither could be both a “don’t ask; don’t tell” Christian and someone who meant what he said from the stage about a lesbian songwriter being included in the family of God. It’s all in how you understand his delivery. What he said was essentially a version of “hate the sin love the sinner,” except that he recalibrated it by applying the sweetness and light ethos he and Gloria have perfected. “Don’t listen to all those people that say you’re not a child of God if you’re a homosexual,” he said (I’m paraphrasing). “We’re all God’s children, so sing with me …” Notice that he’s not approbating “the lifestyle,” and he’s certainly not necessarily assuming “family of God” or “God’s children” means one of the elect, or “saved,” or whatever way you prefer to designate the distinction between Christians and non-Christians. At the same time, Gaither’s not condemning the person either. He’s simply and smartly inverting the placement of emphasis in the “hate the sin; love the sinner” formula - from the sin itself (which is where too many hardcore evangelicals get tripped up even when they think they MEAN to come across as loving the sinner) to the real humanity of the “sinner” who needs support and affirmation on their way to God’s love, which in this kind of account is essential to being “healed” or de-gayed or whatever. I still think it took courage and above average sensitivity to the religiously dispossessed for Gaither to say what he did. But however much I hate to do so, I must concede that it may not necessarily be a definitive statement about Gaither’s progressive views on sexuality (though I still want to believe that and God bless him if his remarks actually were meant to signal a reconsideration of some previous hatefulness toward homosexuals). The most we can say for sure, I think, is that Gaither has perfected an everyman vocabulary of Homecoming ecumenicalism, which admits a variety of interpretations without getting Bill pinned down in an ideological or a theological thicket. Whether or not he uses this idiom because money makes da worl go round … well, that’ll have to wait for another day.

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