Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Growing Protestant Presence in Latin America

Last week, Pew Research Center released a report on the evolution of religion in Central and South America. Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region documents the decline of Catholicism and the rise of Protestantism, especially Pentecostal and Charismatic forms of Christianity, in 18 Latin American countries and Puerto Rico.

While most Latin American countries still have Catholic majorities, Protestant numbers are growing. While 84% of respondents report being raised Catholic, only 69% currently identify as Catholic. Additionally, while only 9% of respondents report being raised Protestant, 19% currently identify as Protestant.

In many Latin American countries, large percentages of Protestants identify as Pentecostal or attend a church that is part of a Pentecostal denomination, according to the Pew Forum. A significant percentage of Latin American Catholics also identify as charismatic, highlighting the growth of charismatic movements within Catholicism. Substantial numbers of Protestants and a minority of Catholics report that they have witnessed exorcisms or experienced "gifts of the Holy Spirit".

A troubling trend reported in the Pew Center's research was the widespread embrace of "prosperity theology", the belief that God will bestow wealth on believers. Large percentages of Latin American Protestants and Catholics reported believing that God will grant wealth and health to those who have faith.

In an interview with Pew Research Center's Fact Tank, Andrew Chestnut offered explanations for the growth of Pentecostal Protestantism in Latin America. Chestnut, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, offered several reasons for the growth Pentecostal Christianity among Latin Americans, such as the appeal of healing ministries and prosperity theology, similarities between preachers and their congregants, and Pentecostalism's successful absorption of Latin American cultures.

These changing religious demographics could have wide-reaching effects if Religious Right organizations can command lasting loyalty from Latin American Protestants. As discussed in prior posts on Belize and Brazil, American Religious Right organizations such as the ACLJ, C-FAM, Alliance Defending Freedom, and so-called "ex-gay" ministries have sought to expand their influence in Latin America. Members of Brazil's Religious Right, like their Americans counterparts, have loudly opposed LGBTQ rights. Evangelical protestants are a political force to be reckoned with in Brazil, both as politicians and voters. Will the Religious Right continue to use the rise of Latin American Protestantism, and in particular Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations, to their advantage? Or can Latin America's believers take a different path?

News Tidbits

Raw Story: Disrupter of Muslim prayer at National Cathedral: God and Drudge sent me

Huffington Post: Thousands Sign Petition To Cancel TLC's 19 Kids And Counting Over Stars' Anti-LGBT Sentiments

Religion News Service: Mormons change rules to allow moms, divorced women to teach religion 

Kansas City Star: Legally married same-sex couples won’t be allowed to stay together at City Union Mission

Buzzfeed: This Lawyer Thinks LGBT People Are Trampling On The Rights of Christians

Christian Science Monitor: Why are Korean missionaries flocking to Kenya?

UGO News: Ugandan President Museveni: Do Not Wed Gay Couples In Our Churches

Commentary Tidbits

The Daily Beast: What’s Next for Anti-Democratic ‘Religious Exemptions’

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Doug Phillips Excommunicated from Boerne Christian Assembly

Mother Jones: Catholic Church Argues It Doesn't Have to Show Up in Court Because Religious Freedom

Human Rights Campaign: Funding for Anti-LGBT National Organization For Marriage Drops by Over 50%

Rachel Held Evans: The False Gospel of Gender Binaries

Huffington Post: This Right-Wing Legal Powerhouse Wants to Make Gay Sex Illegal

The Gospel, Homosexuality, & the Future of Marriage Conference: Denny Burk on Transgender Issues

The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission hosted a national conference entitled "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage" in Nashville, TN on October 27-29. In an earlier post, Republic of Gilead shared quotes from Albert Mohler's talk, in which the retrograde flavor of the conference was apparent. In this post, I'd like to share quotes from Denny Burk's talk, "Is There a Slippery Slope? A Gospel-Centered Assessment of Gender Identity, Transgender, and Polygamy". Burk sought to delegitimize transgender identity as something pathological and beyond the pale of God's will, all while praising complementarian gender roles as God's alleged plan for humanity.

Denny Burk, a professor of biblical studies at Boyce College (a branch of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), opened his talk with a prayer in which he asserted that "everyone, all of us, feel deep conflicts and groanings because of fallen nature." It quickly became clear that Burk was largely dismissive of transgender identity. At the 5:48 mark, he described society's evolving notions of sex and gender as a situation in which "a person is whatever they think themselves to be".
"We're living in the middle of a culture right now that has been, not for the last decade, but for the last decades been in an enormous transitions in terms of our understanding of gender and sexuality, and this transition presents us with a challenge. The spirit of the age has redefined gender as a spectrum with no normative connection to a person's biological sex, so in this way of thinking ... a person is whatever they think themselves to be, as long as it's sincerely held and felt."
At the 6:46 mark, he claimed that the "biological realities" of sex and gender have been dismissed in today's world in favor of a "self-perceived" perspective on gender.
"Gender is more or less self-perceived and self-determined not by the biological realities that the Creator has embedded into every cell in our bodies, but by psychological realities that people feel powerfully."
At the 7:25 mark, Burk explained that the "slippery slope" in the title of his talk referred to the unknown ramifications of LGBTQ progress and evolving notions of gender.
"We call it a slippery slope simply because a revision of sexual and gender norms has implications beyond the original revision. And so, while  many people in our society are beginning to accept ... the revision on gay sexuality, same-sex sexuality, it's not at all clear to me yet where we're going in terms of this revision on gender and transgender."
The LGBTQ cause has been a success, Burk observed, telling listeners that the LGBTQ movement is winning the culture war. As a result, society is increasingly condemning those who "believe what the scriptures teach" and reject LGBTQ rights. At the 11:02 mark, Burk complained that anti-gay and anti-trans voices are increasingly being criticized as "throwbacks".
"The public is increasingly seeing this issue as a civil rights issue, the next step in society's march toward greater freedom and equality. That's what it is. That's a moral issue in the way it's being presented. And so, to oppose that progress is increasingly seen as backwards and irrational. Because 'gay is good', the public space can no longer tolerate those who would say it's not good, which makes it a problem if you believe what the scriptures teach and you bring that message into the public space. Those who say 'gay is not good' are throwbacks and they stand in the way of human rights and social progress."
Similarly, he warns listeners at the 15:28 mark that those who continue "holding to what the Bible says" regarding binary gender categories will meet with opposition.
"It is not merely that we will be treated as old-fashioned for holding the line on Biblical gender norms. We're going to be facing the same kind of challenges for holding to those norms that we're facing now for holding to what the Bible says about marriage. In other words, there's going to be the same kind of opposition from the outside to being faithful inside the church."
Burk imagined gender affirmation surgery in pathological terms, speaking of it in the same breath as body integrity identity disorder, a condition in which one wishes to amputate part of their body. (Burk discusses this in greater depth at his blog.)  He dismissed transgender identities by insisting that God created humans with static, binary sex and gender roles at the 17:04 mark.
"At the heart of the transgender revolution is this. It's the notion that psychological identity trumps bodily identity ... meaning that your gender identity has no necessary connection to your bodily identity. This view says that your personal sense of identity determines you gender and your sexual identity, potentially, not the body that God gave you. This is a reversal of Christian teaching from time immemorial that in the beginning, God made them male and female, which is an affirmation in Genesis 1 that says that there's a basic biological distinction that God has embedded into the race. We're male and female."
Burk argued that Christian communities need to confront transgender issues with "truth-telling" and "gender discipling". At the 24:31 mark, he claimed that believers must "tell the truth" by insisting that natal sex and gender identity must coincide, regardless of how one feels.
"We have got to tell the truth about what the Bible teaches about gender, and among other things, the Bible is clear that there's a normative connection between biological sex and gender identity. Now when I say normative connection, I do not mean that everybody feels things as they should. I'm saying that sometimes when there is dissonance between those two realities, the Bible is telling us the norm we should be feeling."
Burk frowned upon parental approval of minors' gender transitioning and gender fluidity. For example, he lamented the "moral confusion" exemplified by a camp for gender-nonconforming boys he learned about in the media. He insisted that most children grow out of their transgender feelings, asking, "Why would you change a body of a child in the midst of that reality?" he asked.

A better approach to gender, Burk insists, is the paradigm of evangelical Christian complementarianism. At the 29:59 mark, Burk praised rigid, binary gender roles as godly, dismissing other approaches to gender as a "choose-you-own-adventure story".
"This is exactly where the Christian vision of humanity has so much to offer people ... The Bible puts solid ground beneath our feet so that we don't have to guess at what it means to be male and female, so that parents don't have to sow even more confusion into their child's bewilderment. The spirit of the age tell us that raising a little boy to be a little boy can be cruel and abusive if that boy wishes to be a girl. They're telling us that gender is a choose-you-own-adventure story, and the parents' job is just to get out of the way and let it happen. The Christian vision is different from this and so very freeing and affirming of what we were really meant to be before God."
Burk insists that God created humans as only male and female, with gender roles as an innate distinction rooted in nature. At the 30:58 mark, he urged parents to instill binary gender roles into their children.
"God did not make us into undifferentiated automatons. On the contrary, he made us male and female, and that fundamental, biological distinction defines us. Gender norms, therefore, have their roots in God's good creation, and they're revealed in nature, and they're revealed in scripture. The task of parenting, the task of discipling, requires understanding those norms and to inculcate those norms into our children, into those who want to follow Christ."
In Burk's call for "gender discipling", I recognized a contradiction in complementarian thinking that I've seen before. If rigid, binary gender roles are innate, why do they need to be taught? If such roles are programmed into all humans, why do so many people fail to fully conform to those roles, or reject them altogether? If gender is static, why have notions of gender varied widely across time and cultures? Could it be that gender is a social construct, not a fixed, God-given reality?

Burk complained that society has become so "awash" in feminism and sexual revolution ideas that most people have forgotten what God commands regarding gender roles. For example, he explains at the 34:17 mark that he's raising his son to be a leader and provider, in contrast to how he's raising his daughters.
"There's a way of raising my son that differs with the way I'm raising my little girls, and it's not about getting him to like sports and trucks and hunting. Frankly, I don't care about that. What I do care about that he learn to be a leader and a protector and a provider."
Shouldn't we encourage all children to be leaders? I thought. Shouldn't we teach everyone to provide for their loved ones and protect others? It saddened me that Burk's daughters were not being encouraged in the same manner as his son. The link between rigid gender roles and patriarchy was clearly on display.

Throughout the talk, I was puzzled as to why Burk lumped transgender issues together with polygamy in his title. At the 35:46 mark, he explained that transgender advances erode norms surrounding sexuality and gender, which will lead to polygamy (!).
"We hold them together in this talk simply because there's a way that you can talk of them both as on a slippery slope. We hold them together simply because polygamy is an entailment of the worldview of the program of the sexual revolutionaries, whether they realize it or not. For this new understanding of gender and sexuality ... it's giving us not just a new definition of marriage; it's giving us a new definition of what it means to be a human being, and that new definition comes with an entirely new set of norms ... Once you remove the heterosexual norm, none of the other norms are stable anymore. The monogamous norm, that's not stable anymore. The permanence norm, that's already gone because of no-fault divorce."
What Burk fails to realize is that LGBTQ advances reflect justice, not some catastrophic destabilization of norms, and that polygamy does not logically follow from LGBTQ equality. Conveniently, he ignored the fact that polygamy was sanctioned in many parts of the Bible that he and his brethren hold so dear. To boot, polygamy is compatible with the rigid gender roles Burk advocates, as evidenced by patriarchal societies that practice polygamy. Burk's claims played to the fears of the audience, but did not say anything accurate or useful about LGBTQ issues or polygamy.
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I sighed throughout the talk. Burk spent nearly an hour talking about transgender persons, but it was clear that he did not respect them or understand their lived experiences. Transgender identity simply did not fit into his notions of binary sex and gender, but the growing presence of transgender people in society meant that he could not ignore them. Rather than adjust his belief system to accommodate the existence of transgender persons, he dismissed them as unhealthy.

Dismissing transgender people has devastating consequences. The belief that transgender identity is not legitimate, that transgender persons stand outside the norm, feeds into transphobia. If we are to end transphobic discrimination and hate crimes, we must eliminate the transphobia that feeds it.

To boot, Burk's insistence that God "made us male and female" completely ignores intersex people. Complementarian thinking simply cannot countenance the existence of people whose biological sex does not fit neatly into male or female.

Burk's talk, in essence, was a stubborn attempt to cling to binary notions of sex and gender. However, as much as Burk insists that binary gender roles are normative for the human race, history suggests otherwise. Many cultures across time have recognized third and fourth genders such as the hijra of India, the katoey of Thailand, the burrnesha of Albania, and the various "two-spirit" categories among Native American tribes, to name but a few. Humanity's understanding of gender has always been expanding and evolving, and the growing visibility of transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the 21st century is an example of that evolution, not a harbinger of decadence.

Gender is a spectrum, and gender diversity has always existed, regardless of complementarian attempts to shove people into gender boxes. Furthermore, by shoehorning people into arbitrary roles, complementarians ignore individuality. We are all unique, and one's uniqueness is often too big to fit into a narrow gender role. This is anathema to complementarians, as their form of patriarchy requires rigid dividing lines between males and females in order to maintain a gendered hierarchy.

In short, Burk's talk revealed his discomfort with evolving notions of sex and gender. The Religious Right, baffled at society's evolving notions of sex and gender, can no longer ignore the existence of LGBTQ people. Alarmed that their binary, hierarchical vision is no longer the norm for many people, they double down on messages about alleged "biological realities". They frighten audiences with warnings about impending polygamy and degraded morals, rather than learn about the people they fear. The Gospel, Homosexuality, & the Future of Marriage Conference seems to be a product of that fear, rather than an attempt to bring Christians to a deeper understanding of gender diversity and sexuality.

Monday, November 17, 2014

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Vatican rep: 2015 ‘ideal time’ for pope New York visit 

Al Jazeera America: US bishops may tighten restrictions on Catholic hospital mergers

The Advocate: Mississippi 'All God's Children' Pro-Equality Campaign Draws Ire of Baptist Leaders

Christianity Today: Jerry B. Jenkins Suddenly Shuts Down Christian Writers Guild

Lancaster Online: Warwick cancels school-day abstinence presentations

Religion News Service: Kenya’s Catholic bishops: Tetanus vaccine is birth control in disguise

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News: U.N. panel raises concern about "ex-gay" therapy in U.S.

Huffington Post: BET Editor Clay Cane Slams Black Church For Conversion Therapy: ‘Being Gay Is Not A Sin'

New York Times: Latin America Is Losing Its Catholic Identity

New York Times: The Duck Dynasty Family Plans a Musical in Las Vegas

Huffington Post: The Duggars Allegedly Remove Photos Of Same-Sex Couples Kissing From Their Facebook

Commentary Tidbits

The Junto: Godly Heritage and Plantation Chic: The Case of Vision Forum

Gawker: Village Idiot Kirk Cameron Wants Women to Know Their Place in the Home 

Alternet: Welcome to the Big Business of Christian Purity 

Religion Dispatches: Feeding the Hungry vs. Antigay Activism: A Double Standard for Religious Freedom?

Human Rights Campaign: 10 Things You Should Know About Focus On The Family

Spiritual Sounding Board: Fear within the Homeschool Movement Interferes with Sex Abuse Victims Getting Adequate Help and Justice for Perpetrators

Mother Jones: This Anti-Gay-Marriage Group Is Really Excited That It Just Helped Elect Pro-Gay-Marriage Candidates

The Advocate: Why Won't U.S. Catholic Bishops Listen to Gay Laypeople?

Raw Story: Kirk Cameron: Don’t drink the pagan ‘Kool-Aid’ about Christmas, historians ‘don’t know this stuff’

Slate: Russia Gets Religion: Is Vladimir Putin trying to build a new Orthodox empire?

The World According to Homophobes

The film clip above contains graphic language. NSFW!

Filmmaker Emmanuelle Schick Garcia is exploring the roots of global homophobia in a new documentary, The World According to Homophobes. The film provides a disturbing look into homophobes' fixation on same-sex acts, gender roles, and sexual shame, drawing from footage filmed in four countries. "Why are homophobes equally fascinated and repulsed by homosexual sex acts?", Schick Garcia asks at her Indiegogo page.
"As the clip above shows, homophobes have a some "interesting" views on homosexual sex. In fact, for homophobes, the issue of homosexuality seems to trigger discussion of genitals, sex (especially anal sex) and indignation that homosexuals are not ashamed of their sexuality.

Even people that could be deemed intelligent, seem to be very immature and uncomfortable when discussing sex, sexuality and the body ...

After observing the marriage equality debates in France I was struck by one important difference between the opposing sides. While homosexuals were talking about love and equal rights for their unions and families, homophobes ranted about bestiality, pedophilia, polygamy and sex. Homosexuals were characterised as immature, suffering from narcissism (because they fell in love with their own sex) and being too sex crazy to ever be a responsible spouse or parent. This made me wonder, in the eyes of homophobes, did homosexuals represent sexual liberation and freedom? Were homophobes envious of the perceived sexual freedoms of homosexuals?

With this film, we hope to spark an intelligent debate about the origins of homophobic cultures and shame, in the hopes that homophobes will turn their judgements inward, finally seeing their homophobia as something that has less to do with homosexuals and more to do with their own relationship to sex and the body."
To learn more about The World According to Homophobes, visit the film's Facebook page. (Hat tip to Huffington Post.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Gospel, Homosexuality, & the Future of Marriage Conference: Mohler on "Moral Revolution"

The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission hosted a national conference entitled "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage" in Nashville, TN on October 27-29. The conference focused on issues surrounding sexuality, marriage, and the LGBTQ community, as demonstrated by its workshop offerings. The ERLC website offered a glimpse at the conference's conversation on America's "moral revolution surrounding homosexuality".
"Are you and your church prepared for the moral revolution surrounding homosexuality and same-sex marriage happening across America? While human sexuality and social institutions are being redefined before our very eyes, the Bible presents marriage as an unchanging picture of the gospel through the union of one man and one woman. The gospel announces that the story of Jesus is greater than the sum total of our sexual desires."
Videos of the conference are available at the ERLC website, and I listened to several talks in order to hear what messages were being shares at the gathering. My first selection was a talk entitled "Aftermath: Ministering In A Post-Marriage Culture", in which Albert Mohler discusses how evangelicals are to respond to changing societal attitudes on LGBTQ persons.

Mohler cast advances in LGBTQ rights as a "moral revolution" in which what was once condemned and what was once celebrated have swapped places. At the 4:27 mark, he cites Theo Hobson while discussing how U.S. culture has changed. The implication, it seems, is that LGBTQ status was once condemned but is now "celebrated", and that conservative Christians who refuse to celebrate their LGBTQ neighbors are now condemned, to their chagrin.
"Theo Hobson says that moral revolution is different than a moral shift or a moral change because it does change everything in the culture. The culture becomes completely realigned on the other side, and he says in order for this to happen, three things have to take place ... The first thing that has to take place for a moral revolution, a massive U-turn in the culture is that what was condemned has to be celebrated ... Something that was nearly universally condemned is now nearly universally celebrated. It's normalized ...

That's just the first of three necessary dimensions of the moral revolution. The second comes when that which was celebrated is condemned ... You think about the definition of marriage, and you think about the moral response to same-sex relationships and same-sex acts, when you think about it in the context of the sexual revolution in general, it's not just that what was condemned is celebrated, but that which was celebrated is now condemned. And so, in much of our society today, the sin is not certainly homosexuality, but what is simply dismissed as homophobia ...

Hobson says there's been a third dimension that becomes necessary, and that is ... thirdly, those who refuse to celebrate are condemned. And that's where we are, and we sense that, and Gospel-minded Christians who are seeking to serve under the lordship of Christ and under the authority of scripture are wondering, how in the world did this happen?"
I found this interpretation of history unsatisfying, because it assumes that our society is monolithic in its views. Condemned by whom? Celebrated by whom? Mohler's comment about "what is simply dismissed as homophobia" also troubled me, as it suggested that he did not take homophobia seriously. Anti-gay bigotry is very real, as demonstrated by the condemnation, discrimination, and violence that LGBTQ people still endure.

Nevertheless, Mohler is not alone in his bewilderment at losing the culture war. Like other fundamentalist Christians, he realizes that not all Americans share his views, and struggles to understand what the next step is.

Mohler's attitude toward transgender persons was not reassuring either. At the 9:27 mark, he pointed out that gender identity issues have triggered as many social upheavals as sexual orientation. Mohler suggested that transgender persons spring from a post-Fall world in which "confusion" and "rebellion" reign.
"In the transsexual, transgender revolution, the revolt against the fixity of gender, that we're also looking at a testimony to what happens in a Genesis 3 world east of Eden. When we're now entering a level of confusion that Biblically would be defined as a form of rebellion that at the level of identity should leave us very humbled by what this tells us about humanity at large."
Mohler quoted from Romans 1 (which condemns same-sex intimacy as shameful, among other sins), using it to launch a discussion about the righteousness of God as revealed in scripture. Despite God's truth, all humans still suppress truth and succumb to confusion, he argued, and that Romans 1 is an indictment of all sinful humans, not just those who engage in same-sex behavior. Mohler disagreed with preachers who claimed that America's immorality would cause God to give up the nation to sin, arguing that humans have already been given over to sin since the Fall at the 19:19 mark.
"Here's a real problem again with evangelical preaching. A lot of evangelical preachers will preach a text like [Romans 1] and they'll say, 'America, you better wake up because otherwise, God will give us over. If America doesn't turn from its wicked ways, and if America doesn't get itself right and in accordance with the law of God, then God's going to give us over just like he gave over so many empires and civilizations and nations before.' It's too late! We were given over in Genesis 3. This is not something that just might happen. This is something that just did happen with Adam and Eve, our first mother and father."
As I listened to Mohler, his interpretation of Romans 1 sounded like an elaborate way of saying "Gays are sinners, but then again, we're all sinners." He failed to realize that casting sexual orientation and same-sex intimacy as sinful are still homophobic, and that such attitudes are still destructive to LGBTQ people. Whether or not we're all sinners, sexual orientation and gender identity should not be cast as something negative.

At the 26:36 mark, Mohler discussed 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, arguing that Christians should not shun "sexually immoral people" and questioning whether that would even be feasible in our society. Instead, Christians should be a "gospel people" to "sinners of every single variety".
"Paul says in [1 Corinthians] chapter 5 they were not even to have fellowship -- he says, 'I wrote to you in my letter' --that's the one we don't have, one of the two we don't have -- he says, 'I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people'. I was taught that as a boy in Sunday school and church. We're not to associate with sexually immoral people. No one ever got to the next part of that verse. In the text in chapter 5 he says in verse 10, 'not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters, then you need to go out of the world'. I think the evangelical church I knew as a boy was fairly happy with that, with being out of the world, if that meant not having to deal with this. 

We're not living in a situation in which that is possible. We're not living in a situation in which that can correspond in any way to gospel faithfulness. The clear distinction here between the church and the world is made abundantly clear by Paul. We're not to associate with sexually immoral people inside the church, but in the world, we're to be a gospel people, and that means we're in contact with sinners of every single variety."
Even though Mohler did not seem to accept same-sex intimacy and transgender status, he claimed that he was evolving on issues of sexuality. At the 29:23 mark, he repented of his prior anti-gay statements and admitted that "human sexual affective profiles" are more complex than he thought.
"One of the things we should not be embarrassed to say is that we are learning. One of the embarrassments that I have to bear is that I have written on some of these issues now for nearly thirty years, and at a couple of points, I have to say I got that wrong, and we've got to go back and correct it, correct it by scripture. Now early in this controversy, I felt it quite necessary in order to make clear the gospel, to deny anything like a sexual orientation. Speaking at an event for the National Association of Evangelicals, twenty-something years ago, I made that point. I repent of that. I believe that a Biblical, theological understanding, a robust Biblical theology would point to us that human sexual affective profiles, who we are sexually, is far more deeply rooted than just the will, if that were so easy. But Genesis 3 explains that, helps us to understand that this complex of same-sex challenges coming to us is something that's deeply rooted in the Biblical story itself, and something we need to take with far greater seriousness than we've taken in the past."
His repentance notwithstanding, it soon became clear that Mohler was still clinging to a right-wing understanding of sex, relationships, and reproduction. At the 31:48 mark, he claimed that divorce, cohabitation, and contraception have contributed far more to the alleged "subversion of marriage" than same-sex marriage.
"We come to understand that rupture in the universe, that rip in creation of human sin and sexual sin in particular, we come to understand that now we are seeing the flowering of virtually all this simultaneously. We need to admit it didn't start with same-sex marriage. We need to admit it didn't start with same-sex relationships. It didn't start with those who are advocates for normalization of homosexuality in various forms. It didn't start with the transgender movement. It started with heterosexual sin. It started with the heterosexual subversion of marriage ... 

If you were to rewind history to the beginning of the 20th century, not one Christian denomination of any sort had anything but absolute theological opposition to contraception, and it was the Anglican church that was the first to break on that in the  early pre-war period between World War I and World War II. And quickly things happened and a lot of it happened without much forethought whatsoever ... 

And then came the divorce revolution. The divorce revolution has done far more harm to marriage than same-sex marriage will ever do. Long before the proponents of same-sex marriage showed up, heterosexuals showed how to destroy marriage by making it a tentative, hypothetical union for so long as it may last, turning it merely into a contract to be treated as any other contract, as a consumer good to be continued so long as it brings both parties mutual benefit. And then cohabitation. I mean, now we're looking at the fact that the census bureau tells us that the first intimate relationship, the first residential relationship for most adults is cohabitation ... The inevitable social pathologies that come from that are just massive."
Americans are increasingly rejecting these rigid beliefs, and as a result, fundamentalist Christianity no longer holds the power over society that it once did. Mohler grieved for this loss of power, complaining that his ilk no longer had the credibility and dominance they once did. At the 38:15 mark, he encouraged listeners to recognize the current state of affairs.
"We are accustomed to ministry from the topside of the culture, not from the underside. We are accustomed to speaking from a position of strength and respect and credibility, and now we're going to be facing the reality that we are already, in much of America, speaking from a position of a loss of credibility, speaking from the underside, speaking from the wrong side of the moral equation ... This is something all of us now have to face, because if we're involved in Christian ministry now, this is what's staring us, right now, in the face, this moral revolution."
For all Mohler's talk about learning, repenting, and living as "gospel people", his beliefs about sexuality remain stagnant. Despite his soft words, he still looked askance at LGBTQ status, divorce, cohabitation, and contraception, much like other Religious Right voices. Indeed, his talk seemed more focused on coping with the growing acceptance of these things than on cultivating a more enlightened understanding of Christian sexuality. Having listened to the first of the ERLC conference talks, I'm not optimistic about what the other talks will offer.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Advocate: Southern Baptist Conference Wrap-Up: Shifting Rhetoric, Maintaining Anti-LGBT Beliefs

Religion Dispatches: LGBT Christians Respond to Southern Baptists’ Call For Kindness, Understanding

Think Progress: How The Southern Baptists Are Still Completely Failing Transgender People

Think Progress: Three Days In Nashville Talking To Southern Baptists About Homosexuality