Let’s keep moving here. So, Pastor Barnhart continues living in Matthew 23 here with the following point:
3. Proselytizing hateful attitudes.
“For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). Franklin Graham is probably the highest-profile Christian leader connected with promoting anti-gay legislation in other countries (like Russia and Uganda), but he shares the spotlight with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and pastor Scott Lively. I am reluctant to imitate the rhetoric of anti-gay activists who gleefully declare that LGBTQ persons and their allies are hell-bound. But in the context of Jesus’ angry speech in Matthew 23, I suspect drafting laws that impose the death penalty or jail time on gay people, using the Gospel of Christ as a pretext, is the devil’s own work. How much homophobia is native and how much is imported by Christian missionaries could be debatable—but “crossing sea and land” to make new hate-filled converts is certainly part of the anti-gay agenda.
All of these three themes are applicable to anti-gay attitudes themselves. Religious exculsivism and hypocrisy are something all of the prophets rail against:
“I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6)
“…if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7)
and Paul affirms:
“…as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” (Romans 2:24).
All of these scriptures highlight the theme that religious leaders, in their pursuit of religious zealotry (often supported by the Bible), alienated people from God.
Let’s start with finding out more about me, shall we? I’m a pretty hefty guy. Like, not QUITE offensive lineman size, but not far off. And I’m not particularly “muscular” in any way, shape or fashion, though I have what a friend of mine and I call “grown man strength.” It’s like where you can lift things that are seemingly ridiculously heavy but you just know how to do it. My dad had it before me, his father had it before him, etc.
So here’s our funny story to illustrate my point here. My wife and I were doing a membership class at our old church in Monroe, and the pastor was discussing the meaning of membership. He asked us “who among you has a gym membership?” I proceeded to raise my hand. I HAD a gym membership. I had used it maybe once, but I had it. The look on his face was priceless, as I was the sole congregant with my hand raised in this meeting. He looked at me, and in the most proper British accent he could still maintain, he said “Don? Really? You have a gym membership? I mean like, really, you have a gym membership?” Were I someone of today’s society that became offended at the drop of a hat, Pastor Bareham and I would have gone at it. Instead I laughed until I was crying because I had made this British gentleman, who I had never really seen get ruffled, be almost unable to continue our meeting.
Now, what’s my point in all of this? If I were to ask you if exercise were important, you would say “of course it is! It’s the way to a healthy body!” If I asked if you exercise all of the time, you might say “Yes! I go on 5 mile runs daily and do PX90 on the weekends!” Or maybe you’re like me. Maybe you say “yes, exercise is absolutely important” but then your actions say “but not quite as important as eating bacon covered in nutella (sounds gross, but it truly is mindblowing).” My point is that whether you exercise furiously like a mad man hoping to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of your body, or whether your version of exercise is lifting pound cakes and doing 12 oz curls, there is a verifiable truth that exercise is beneficial to your body.
What Pastor Barnhart is doing here is nothing short of utterly confusing both Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy, and then determining that Orthodoxy stems from HIS perception of Orthopraxy. Let me further illustrate. For Pastor Barnhart’s mental association here to work, we have to actually decide that the Bible can’t possibly say that homosexual behavior is wrong because of Franklin Graham’s behavior. My question would be this… Even IF Franklin Graham were “gleefully” declaring that LGBTQ people are hellbound… Even IF Franklin Graham took supreme pleasure in seeing these people afflicted by God (for the record, I don’t think he does and I’m amazed that Dave Barnhart actually has the power to know beyond certainty what a person is thinking and feeling. I guess I was mistaken in believing that only God could do that), what does that CHANGE about the words of scripture? What does that do to affect God’s word?
You can see the silliness about this, right? I’m no Franklin Graham fan by any means, but his actions no more change the truth of scripture than my actions make exercise a bad idea. This kind of sophomoric argument against the non LGBTQ-affirming Christian is garbage because it asserts nothing truthful in the matter and only argues from the standpoint of “what you’re doing is mean in my eyes so it can’t be right.”
For the record, if someone is truly “gleeful” in seeing the fate of someone who is walking away from God, that person obviously doesn’t have God’s heart in mind, because we know from scripture that God is grieved by His children turning away His love and kindness. So those who are able to be “gleeful” at the idea of His children’s destruction is not of God to begin with.
That being said, twisting scripture isn’t a big win in God’s eyes either. Let’s look at where Pastor Barnhart engages in “scriptorture.”
“I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6)
Sounds like, when used by itself, really that God doesn’t care about following His law (being represented of course by the sacrifice) that what He really wants is for us to just “love one another.” To be fair, I have no doubt that God wants us to “love one another.” I also have no doubt that in this day and age, we have no idea HOW to love one another. But let’s take a look at the passage in its entirety:
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. ( Hosea 6:1-6 ESV)
God’s anger with the people burns because their love is fleeting, it goes like the morning dew. He has tried to reach them with prophets, He has continuously proclaimed judgment on them. In the end, His desire is love and the knowledge of Him. The point Jesus was trying to make in quoting this verse again was a far different point than Pastor Barnhart is trying to make. Jesus and His disciples were eating grain they had picked on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees were chastising Him for “working on the Sabbath.” Now of course, not spoken of in the story is that they had their own “versions” of working on the Sabbath. For example… healing a person? WORKING ON THE SABBATH! Pulling your OWN donkey out of a well it fell into on Sunday? Not working on the sabbath. So these guys had gamed the system so that anything they needed to do was ok, but anything done for the benefit of someone else was not. And so the point Jesus is trying to make here is not “we don’t really have any laws, just love, like a Lenny Kravitz song,” but “you guys don’t really care about the underlying reason the law is here, which is to help us be loving towards one another, you game the system and toss any actual love out of the equation.”
So in summation, the problem with Pastor Barnhart’s premise is that he is using the actions of one person in Christendom to deny the word of God. While you can think what you want of Franklin Graham, and while you can think what you want of scripture, our thoughts and actions no more change the word of the text than we can make water come out of a stone. So while Pastor Barnhart may think Franklin Graham is not a nice guy, Franklin Graham’s “not nice guyness” doesn’t change the truth of scripture in that homosexual behaviors are displeasing to God.