Boze Herrington, who blogs at Sketches by Boze devoted a recent evening to live-tweeting a homophobic talk by Michael L. Brown at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri. Curious, I pulled up the talk in the IHOP archives, and found a talk brimming with homophobia.
Michael Brown is the founder of the FIRE School of Ministry, host of the Line of Fire radio show, and a commentator at Charisma Magazine. Brown has a long history of making anti-LGBTQ statements, such as framing LGBTQ issues as unhealthy for children, insisting that God can "transform and liberate" gays and lesbians, and expressing outrage over the Supreme Court's ruling on DOMA and Proposition 8.
For his anti-LGBTQ outreach in Peru this spring, Brown was given a dishonorable mention in Human Rights Campaign's new report, Export of Hate. Brown responded by penning a commentary piece for Charisma Magazine, in which he accused LGBTQ rights advocates of trying to "censor opposing viewpoints", "malign conservative Christians", and "incite fear and loathing" toward his brethren.
In his September 12th talk entitled "Can You Be Gay and a Christian?", Brown spoke of love while sharing a message of intolerance and judgment. Even though he implored listeners to cultivate compassion, his stance on LGBTQ persons was decidedly unloving.
"We need hearts of compassion but backbones of steel" with regard to homosexuality, Brown began, insisting that his anti-gay stance was actually a loving, compassionate one at the 2:10 mark.
"Can you be gay and Christian? It's the most recent book that I wrote, and I wrote it with much pain. I wrote it at times with a heavy heart because as much as we can be misunderstood and as much as we can be accused of being hateful, I'm moved and motivated by love ... for God and love for my neighbor."At the 3:48 mark, Brown told a story in which a friend allegedly saw a vision of a serpent around a gay man's neck, thereby depicting homosexuality as a dangerous spiritual pathology.
"One of my friends who is not prone to visions went to a fundraising event for a large gay activist organization. He and his brother paid to be there, to sit at the table, to watch and observe, to see how this organization operated ... As he was sitting at the dinner table with a gay couple and some others, he suddenly saw a vision of this man ... And he saw a snake wrapped around the man's neck. And he said, 'That snake is going to kill him! I've got to cut the snake off.' But he realized that if he wasn't careful, he would kill him in trying to get the snake off. We must address these areas with the same sensitivity and precision."Brown insisted that Christians such as himself care about those who are "struggling" with homosexuality and do not seek to push them away. However, at the 5:08 mark, he also warned listeners that the "gay activist agenda" was threatening American freedoms and had to be resisted.
"There is a gay activist agenda knocking on our door. It has become the principle threat to freedom of religion, speech, and conscience in America, and it must be resisted."He contended that he felt "love and concern" for gays while condemning LGBTQ rights at the 5:50 mark. He saw no contradiction in these two statements, baffled that others would label him a homophobe.
"I will still be hated by people because of resisting the agenda, because of standing against the redefinition of marriage, because of standing against the normalizing of homosexuality. I will still be called bigoted and homophobic, but God knows, and those who will get close to me understand that there is a heart of genuine love and concern."Brown was troubled by the existence of gay Christians. He found it easy to disparage gay pride parade antics as "perverse" and "horrific", but found devout gay Christians and their allies to be a much pricklier subject. He discussed his radio interview with Rev. Frank Schaefer, the Methodist pastor who was defrocked but later reinstated after presiding over the wedding of his gay son. According to Brown, Schaefer explained how his love for his gay son shaped his attitudes toward LGBTQ rights. An appalled Brown argued that critical thinking is absent among such people. Brown cited Matthew 10:37, telling listeners that Jesus preached that whoever loved their father, mother, or children more than him was unworthy. "Even those who claim to be followers of Jesus often are not able to really receive what scripture says, and instead they'll just say 'love is love'," he said at the 9:21 mark.
What are you saying here? I thought. That people should ostracize their loved ones for being gay? That obedience to dogma trumps basic decency? If that's the foundation of your faith, I want no part of it.
Brown openly disapproved of pro-LGBTQ Christians. Despite the rise of liberal churches and pro-LGBTQ Christian responses, "no new data to change what we've always understood what the Bible to say," he insisted. "The only thing that has changed is the culture." At the 22:32 mark, he criticized open and affirming churches as part of a "soft, spineless" Christianity spreading across the faith community.
"The fundamental error of "gay" Christians is that they interpret the Bible through the lens of their sexuality. We must interpret our sexuality through the lens of the Bible ... This is part of a much bigger problem in the contemporary church of America. It's part of a soft, spineless, compromising gospel that has been preached from our pulpits and on their air around America and around the world, exported from America around the world for a whole generation now, and are bearing the fruit of this compromised gospel.""The Bible is a heterosexual book," Brown asserted, arguing that God's plan for heterosexual marriage and family was emblazoned throughout scripture. At the 12:10 mark, he had this to say.
"The Bible is a heterosexual book. I do not mean that if you struggle with same-sex attraction, you won't find help and hope and life here. What I mean is that what God ordained for the human race and the only thing he ordained for the human race is heterosexual marriage and heterosexual family."According to the Bible, a "unique complementarity" exists between men and women, in which wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives, Brown argued. At the 15:17 mark, he mocked same-sex relationships because they do not fit neatly into his patriarchal paradigm.
"Let's say you're two men reading the Bible, and you say you're a committed couple and you're "married". Well, I don't mean this to be sarcastic, I don't mean this to be mocking, but which one is the husband, and which one is the wife?"Brown insisted that all forms of marriage in the Bible, even polygamy, considered the male-female pair to be normative. The irony of citing polygamy escaped him, as he refused to consider how notions of marriage changed in the Bible and across eras and cultures. At the 16:07 mark, he had this to say.
"Even polygamy, which was an accommodation and never God's ideal for the human race, even that was male plus female. So in that sense, the Bible's a heterosexual book, and it's interesting that there is not a single positive statement, even a hint of a positive statement in any way, shape, size or form regarding homosexual relationships in the Bible."The use of the Bible to condemn homosexuality is correct, but the misuse of the Bible to justify oppression of African Americans and women was wrong, he claimed. The hypocrisy of condemning misogyny shortly after defending wifely submission was lost on him, it seemed.
How convenient. Using the Bible to oppress others is wrong, except when you agree with the oppression, I thought.
With regard to the use of the Bible to justify American slavery, Brown insisted that the Bible does not exalt slavery, and that Hebrew laws about slavery were "humanitarian" for their time (despite multiple Biblical passages in which slavery was neither frowned upon nor humane). No passage in the Bible dehumanizes people due to their skin color or sanctions segregation, he said (despite multiple Biblical passages favoring one ethnic group over another and condoning ethnic cleansing).
Brown frowned upon the Bible being misused to oppress women, pointing to Biblical content that speak well of women, such as Proverbs 31, Jesus' travels with women, and the women who witnessed Jesus' resurrection. However, Brown added that there is a "certain role for male headship" in the home, government, and ministry and "a clear authority in structure in scripture". Unfortunately, Brown refused to recognize male domination and exclusion of women from leadership roles as inherently oppressive to women.
Revealingly, he ignored passages in the Bible that condone honor killing, rape during armed conflict, and sexual abuse of female slaves, not to mention passages that denounce women as inferior, scorn womankind as wicked, and use sexual humiliation of women as a metaphor for divine righteousness. In arguing against the use of scripture to defend oppression, Brown ignored passages that approve of oppression.
Cherry-picking much, Michael? I thought.
Of course, for his argument to sound compelling, Brown needed to ignore the ugly passage of the Bible. He needed to convince his audience that racism and (overt) misogyny are unbiblical, because if modern people were to acknowledge and reject racist and sexist passages, what would stop them from rejecting homophobic passages?
Every scriptural passage on homosexuality is "categorically negative", Brown told listeners. For example, Leviticus 18:22 forbids male-male sex, calling it an abomination. Brown insisted that he was not advocating for the death penalty for gays, but then added that homosexuality was a moral violation that was severely punished in Israel's theocracy. The Bible's ban on homosexuality, like the command against murder, is a universal moral principle, in contrast to other Old Testament laws meant to keep Israel separate from other nations at the time, he argued.
"There is a tremendous temptation to rationalize," Brown said with regard to queer theology, accusing pro-LGBTQ theologians of trying to rationalize sin. At the 44:47 mark, Brown claimed that Jesus' radical inclusion was not the same thing as endorsement of sin, rejecting what he called the "affirmational inclusion" of pro-LGBTQ advocates.
"There are some who say, 'You don't understand. Jesus was inclusive. You are being exclusionary. You are putting some people out. You are saying there's some second-class citizens. Jesus practiced inclusion. Jesus hung out with the tax-collectors who were notorious for corruption. He hunt out with the tax collectors and prostitutes.' True. But did he teach the tax collectors how to steal more money? Did he say 'Hey, here's some helpful tips to extort more money'? Did he tell the prostitutes, 'If you're nicer to the guys, you'll make more money'? No no. Jesus practiced what I call transformational inclusion. He reached out to everybody where they were ... and he changes us. He did not practice affirmational inclusion."Brown told the audience that God was calling gays "not to heterosexuality but to holiness", a line also used by "ex-gay" activists. At the 1:02:40 mark, Brown claimed that gay people could become heterosexual through God's power or counseling, despite considerable evidence that sexual orientation change efforts are ineffective and dubious.
"Many have experienced change in their sexual desires, and many have gone from homosexual to heterosexual, some through supernatural encounters with God, some through counseling, some over a period of time, graduate change or inner healing comes, and others have not been changed."In conclusion, Brown's IHOP talk repeated the same anti-gay arguments that fundamentalists have been making for years: homosexuality is sinful, homosexuality is condemned by scripture, the LGBTQ movement is a dangerous boogeyman, homophobia is different from racism or sexism, gays can become straight, ad nauseum. Most shockingly, Brown maintains that these hateful messages are loving, ignoring the many unloving ways that homophobia harms LGBTQ people. This fundamental dishonesty places a loving mask over hateful words.
Sadly, Michael Brown is only the latest speaker at IHOP to promote homophobia. Observers are paying attention, however, and they will continue to criticize IHOP for its messages.
To listen to Michael Brown's September 12th talk at IHOP, click here or here. To listen to the question and answer session that followed, click here or here.