So a while back I posted a link with some commentary on my Facebook wall. The link was an article describing how President Trump told a group of congresswomen to go back to where they came from. I felt pretty strongly about this language and shared my thoughts. What followed in the comments caught me off guard because I was subsequently attacked not because of my initial comment, but because of my theological stance on issues of marriage and sexuality as a Pastor, something seemingly unrelated.
Typically I don’t engage too much in these conversations online because I don’t have the time and don’t feel like they get very far. This time around I took the bait and soon found out that many people were following the discussion, so I felt obligated to respond thoughtfully. As the conversation progressed it became clear that we were not going to come to any sort of resolution, so after a while I explained that I was done. While I may have at times been sassy, I also felt that I was mostly respectful. At the end of it I was just sad that this person couldn’t see how hurtful their views and tactics were.
So that’s where I thought it ended. Social feeds are pretty amnesic and algorithms move on to the next thing with great expediency.
Except this person then found our church’s instagram and posted another reactive comment on a picture in which we were offering apologies, free water, and love at Oakland Pride. Among the attacks, this person called me a hateful false teacher.
For a moment I thought I should respond again, but then I realized that it wouldn’t make a difference. Responding would only take my time and energy away from my work, my community, and my family.
But here is the thing, I feel like this person, or others like them, will likely pop up from time to time. In my opinion it’s pretty cowardly to send attacks like these from the convenience of your device without any relational context for the consequences or without any understanding for why we see things so differently (especially when I challenged this person to a public debate that could be made a fundraiser).
So what I’ve decided to do is post on my blog the initial conversation with this person as a reference point for whenever comments like these are made on social media. Instead of responding each time, I’ll just link this. I’m always happy to meet with people in person to share why I believe what I believe, but my experience is that life-and-death conversations like these are pretty much impossible to have online.
So without further ado, here is the initial conversation. I’ve left off comments made by other people with the exception of two that play a part in the broader discussion, just FYI. Also I’m just calling the individual who I’m talking about ‘person’:
Chris Scott (initial post): Clearly the President feels threatened by women who hold power, call out his morally vacant administration, and don’t look like the folks he grew up with in privilege. Narcissism is reactive and predictable, and underneath it all, a coping mechanism for a wounded and insecure soul. Praying for this man’s heart to be healed in a way that he’ll be able to love his neighbor as himself. (Article link here)
Also, keep kicking butt ladies.
*Update: I’ll be deleting new comments to this thread as of 7/20. For an explanation on why read the comments.
Person: Unless I’m missing something, this seems quite out of context considering the entire tweet from Trump was about these women helping their home countries resolve their problems as an example to the US, not a blanket “go back to the country you came from”.
Chris Scott: I appreciate your question and openness to missing something. Yes, the words the President chose to use communicated clearly racist meaning. Even the most biased and charitable take on those tweets acknowledges this. Sometimes our ideological rigidity prevents us from understanding how things come across to others. In this case these tweets were racist, immature, ignorant, and yet another example of a broken human being lashing out instead of developing character, humility, or concern for facts.
Person: Thanks for sharing your opinion Chris.
(this is where I should probably have left it, but was feeling a bit salty that day;) )
Chris Scott: you’re welcome, words are important, especially in areas like the one you work in. Hopefully you’re not dismissing the severity and reality of the president’s divisiveness as just my “opinion”. These are deeply experienced facts for many.
Person: Speaking of opinions, calling the presidents administration “morally vacant” is an interesting judgement coming from a pastor who marries gay men. In my opinion, “moral vacancy” is ignoring the word of God when it’s culturally convenient; a truth congruent whether you are a pastor or the president.
Chris Scott: well that’s a shallow and defensive deflection from the actual topic. Shifting from the discussion towards a personal attack on me is an easy way to avoid facing the points being made. Online, such reactions are tantamount to concessions. So I’ll take it as such.
I’d be happy to link up and share how my theology has been shaped by the Spirit/study/experience/tradition, how I’ve only grown more deeply in love and dependent on the Bible, how a same sex wedding I officiated was the most redemptive,sacred, holy, and Christian wedding I’ve ever done, and how rigid views of things like marriage are not only incongruent with scripture, but also the source of higher suicide rates and alienation from sacred community for countless people. *oh and how my stance on such issues cost me financially and socially. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Person: Chris I disagree with your assessment of my “deflection”. You specifically called the presidents administration “morally vacant” and I was drawing a direct connection to your own “moral vacancy”.
I’m concerned for you and your inability to pull specs of sawdust from any eyes while the log in your own has left you completely blind.
Jesus had harsh words for the church in Thyatira, “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”
Revelation 2:20 NIV
You tolerate sexual immorality in a way that not only offends God, but leads others to believe they honor him in doing so. Calling a sexual, covenantal union between two men “Holy and Christian” is nothing less than blasphemous.
Chris you need to repent and remove the log from your eye to see clearly enough to teach the Bible accurately. Ear tickling the culture with lies and leading them into immorality not only communicates with satanic syllables, it results in harsh judgement.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
James 3:1 NIV
These conversations aren’t fun and the reason I’m addressing this publicly is because you are leading others astray. This is bigger than you Chris. You have influence and you’re allowing the culture to influence you. As a Christ follower we need to change the culture to reflect the Kingdom, not make the Kingdom look like the sinful culture Jesus came to save it from.
For anyone who cares to know what God’s word actually says on this topic:
Person 2: https://www.openbible.info/topics/tattoos (Person has tattoos)
Chris: Again, no actual response to my critique of President Trumps racist and xenophobic rhetoric. No response to the posts of others or the facts presented. Instead I get a self-righteous comment filled with assumptions and personal attacks on an issue unrelated. That’s called deflection my friend.
I’m a bit struck by your usage of Jesus’ speck/log teaching here since you’re the one calling me “morally vacant, a blasphemer, ear tickling culture with lies, using satanic syllables, leading people astray, etc”. I’m reminded of the old idiom, “the pot calling the kettle black”.
I sincerely hope and pray you can overcome your approach to religion and come to know the God of the cross who’s arms are open with grace towards all. Seriously it’s pretty great.
You’re always welcome at Oak Life Church, a Christ centered community filled with all the people you probably think don’t get in.
When it comes to what the Bible says about marriage, I’d be happy to discuss in a public forum. Maybe we can schedule a debate and make it a fundraiser 😉
Just so you know, I really think facebook is a mostly terrible mechanism for discussions like these. I tend not to engage in them, not because I’m afraid to be public with my theology or views, but because they 1) are ineffective, 2) almost never any amount of reconciliation or deeper understanding between sides, and 3) take way too much time (I should be hanging with my family). I know, I’m the one who posted originally….
To be honest Matt, the way you hold yourself online pains me. You come across as incredibly judgmental and self-righteous. We don’t really know each other, but the couple times I’ve talked to you in person, you’ve been friendly and respectful. That’s not what I see on the zuckerberg universe. I know you probably think I’m a heretic and you clearly don’t respect my opinion, but you should do some self inventory on your presence on facebook. Maybe post the question, “Friends, how do I come across on facebook?” Just an idea.
I’m a big believer in embodied (incarnational) relationships. I think that’s what it’s all about. Facebook is disembodied. It pulls us towards darkness, judgment, tribalism, and is like crack for our egos. From my perspective, it’s one of the examples of what Paul was referencing when he wrote about “powers and principalities of darkness”.
I’m fully guilty of engaging in this system in ways that might not be the most reconciliatory, so I’m speaking here as a co-struggler. If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t have responded to you the way I did in FB if we were in person. In person, I think our conversation would be very different (at least it would be on my end).
All that to be said, I think I’m done with this one. Hope you have a good night and that your heart will be softened.
Person: if you’re willing to attribute “holiness”, an attribute of God’s purity, perfection, and righteousness to sin that he condemns (calling a gay marriage the holiest thing you have ever seen), you don’t know God, are deceived, deluded, and clearly confused. Debating delusional people is a fruitless waste of time. I pray the Holy Spirit convicts your heart of sin and leads you to repentance. Calling people to repent was something Jesus did regularly btw, I won’t apologize for following my savior. You also called this marriage, “redemptive”. The most redemptive thing we can do as pastors is help people see their need for Jesus, encourage them to repent and help them discover the redemptive reconciliation found in Christ alone. There is grace for you Chris, but it requires repentance.
I hope you can humble yourself enough to receive it.
Until then, enjoy your family and may God have mercy.
Person 3: Person, I understand that you’re feeling upset. I also sometimes feel fear and anger when someone is skeptical about specific ideas I have about how God works. However, I would like to tell you a little bit more about your friend Chris. I was raised atheist. He converted me to Christianity. I’m now a born-again evangelical. When you say, “The most redemptive thing we can do as pastors is help people see their need for Jesus, encourage them to repent and help them discover the redemptive reconciliation found in Christ alone,” I would like to testify that this is exactly the role Chris Scott has played in my life. What you think pastors should be focusing on, is something he is definitely doing. The two of you are on the same team: why are you biting at each other? Matthew, would you come have coffee with Chris and I sometime? I don’t think I can understand why you believe the things you believe by reading a Facebook thread. And understanding people is important to me.
Person: Person 3, I praise God that you gave your life to Christ. That’s amazing!
Nothing better than experiencing Gods love and grace for ourselves.
My concern still stands.
For the record, I have met with Chris in person, for lunch in Oakland at a Thai restaurant. I think he’s a nice guy. We actually met to discuss this exact issue. I heard his testimony and his reason for supporting what God’s word condemns. We left cordially.
However, Jesus most frequently called out the hypocrisy of religious leaders. It wasn’t the tax collectors and prostitutes, although Jesus did call them to repent, leave their life of sin to follow him, it was the teachers of religion that Jesus rebuked. They taught things that kept people from the truth. This is why I’ve decided to post. The hypocrisy of calling out the “moral vacancy” of others while being morally vacant is the definition of hypocrisy. Jesus didn’t stand for this and neither will I.
I’m not the guy with a billboard at Pride. I have many gay friends, family members, and coworkers. Before coming to Christ, I worked at a gay bar in Guerneville. I love the gay community, but I love them enough to share God’s word with them in a way that helps them know the God that died to save them, to help them repent and receive the forgiveness and grace that leads to a transformed, sanctified life.
Good works cant cover bad doctrine.
The fear of man is a snare.
Again, praise God for your salvation! But beware of false teachers.
Chris Scott: Hey Matt, just so you know I did in fact take time to reflect and consider your invitation towards repentance. After prayer, some conversation, and reflection on scripture I do feel that there are some areas of repentance worth sharing. In my original post I made speculative comments on our presidents underlying personal motivations (threatened by female leadership of color). Since I can’t fully know that, I’ll concede that it wasn’t the most loving comment. It was based out of my shock at his racist rhetoric.
I do in fact stand behind my comment that the presidency is morally vacant. Without getting into too many details on his moral vacancy (racist rhetoric, name calling, economic policies that preclude the poor and vulnerable, rampant self promotion, blatant pandering to white evangelicals, a deep history of womanizing which he hasn’t ever publicly addressed, vilifying races and religious traditions for political gain, and more), I feel comfortable with my original assessment. That said, like you and me, this is a broken man in need of grace. But when it comes to how much a presidents actions can affect the lives of many, I reserve the right to get angry from time to time and call it out.
I do not sense God leading me to repent with regards to my position on marriage and sexuality, which again was not the original subject of this thread and I’m not sure why you insisted on returning to… To make a moral equivalency between Mr Trump and myself (you saying I’m morally vacant) for a theological disagreement seems like a stretch. Do you feel the same way about Catholics who revere Mary? I guess it goes in the list of other personal attacks lobbed at me in this discussion: “morally vacant, a blasphemer, ear tickling culture with lies, using satanic syllables, leading people astray, not knowing God, deceived, deluded, and clearly confused, not humble enough to receive grace, a hypocrite, and a false teacher.”
I can only speculate why you were/are so reactive and defensive, but like I mentioned earlier, I hope you do some self reflection around the most Christ-like way to engage folks online. It appears to me ( I could be wrong here) but that you both enjoy that kind of approach to discussion and feel it is an expression of your faith to defend your views and attack others. I don’t think you’re as effective as you might feel, in fact you might be pushing people away. Just my opinion here, as a pastor. In my experience befriending people instead of telling them where we think they are wrong is a much better pastoral approach.
I stand behind my comments about marriage: “how my theology has been shaped by the Spirit/study/experience/tradition, how I’ve only grown more deeply in love and dependent on the Bible, how a same sex wedding I officiated was the most redemptive,sacred, holy, and Christian wedding I’ve ever done, and how rigid views of things like marriage are not only incongruent with scripture, but also the source of higher suicide rates and alienation from sacred community for countless people. *oh and how my stance on such issues cost me financially and socially.”
I know you think I’m delusional for these perspectives, but I’m not. Just because you don’t agree, doesn’t make me delusional. God has led me to these convictions and I’m sorry if that doesn’t fit into your theology. Thankfully God is bigger than our theology. On this point I have two things to say.
First, I hope you can broaden your exegetical lens. A few times you referenced “Gods word” as if it is an absolutely clear and literal voice all of the time. This is selling the Bible short and missing out on its richness, beauty, complication, invitations, and what it says about itself (that Jesus is the Word of God – John 1). For example, most people are somewhat picky-choosy when it comes to their literal interpretation as seen in places like 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which basically says that women shouldn’t speak and that they are saved through childbearing. Now I’m not sure where you stand on the women in ministry issue, but I would guess that you probably don’t think that women must have kids to be right with God. Most people start to develop a hermeneutic that honors the text and holds contextual issues in tension with what the rest of the Bible says. This is literally one of hundreds of instances where the text is more ambiguous than a western-literal interpretation allows. This includes the 7ish “clobber passages” that are often used to exclude gay folks. At the very least they are also ambiguous, at the very most (where I land) they do not apply to our modern understanding of love, sexuality, consent, etc. I’ll link an article below. I bring this up to invite you to broaden your appreciation for the Bible instead of limiting it. A great starter into this discussion is “The Bible Tells Me So” by Peter Enns.
Secondly, I hope you can come to see the broader scriptural trajectory as one that moves humanity towards inclusion. There was a time when letting uncircumcised gentiles into the community was perceived as heretical, but through the leading of the holy spirit, God broke down the boundaries. You can check Acts 10 for that. God spoke to Peter to go against his own tradition for the sake of inclusion. I believe the same trajectory is still being birthed in us today- one towards inclusion. My experience attests to this conviction as I’ve watched LGBT+ folks find healing, hope, home, and salvation when given the space to be loved and join the body of Christ. It’s been one of the most surprising gifts of my life to pastor some of these folks. They teach me about Jesus in ways you can’t even imagine.
Ultimately I’m saddened by our conversation here, which I’m sure is partly my fault. Why am I saddened? For a couple reasons. First, I’m saddened by the way my friends who are in the LGBT+ will take your comments and the way you see God. You have no idea how hard many have worked to undo religious trauma and abuse. The stories as so numerous and painful. You might not think your views are hurting people, but they are. Thankfully God loves them more than you or I can possibly know. Second, I’m saddened because I’m harboring some judgment towards you. I’m worried that the next time I see you, I’ll remember the things you said to me online. You might feel the same way about me, and if I caused some of that, I’m sorry. Facebook is a bad proxy for actual relationships. It’s way to easy to see people as their political perspective, faith opinion, etc.
Ok, I’m getting close to finishing what else I wanted to say….
You’re always welcome to come see for yourself and worship alongside some gay Christians, hear the stories, see their faith – as long as you come humble and receptive to learning and expanding your view of Gods heart.
And if you’d like to meet up with Person 3 or myself, I’d be happy to have a real life conversation. And if you’d ever like to schedule a public debate with a delusional pastor about marriage/the Bible/sex, I’m your guy. We really could make it a fundraiser, just saying…
From here on out I’m going to be deleting further comments. Why?
1) I don’t have time to respond (I know I started this the origianl discussion- I’m sorry). But if you’d like to continue, I’d suggest taking us up on the offer to meet or the debate.
2) It’s my page and I get to have the last word 🙂
3) I’m sensitive to how your language and rigid theology comes across to my community. They’ve heard it all before and it’s easy to come by.
4) To give you space to process and reflect before reacting or defending.
Ok, that’s all I got. My son is napping so I think I have a minute before he wakes. Wishing you and your fam the best, oh and congrats on the soon to be!
The word homosexuality in the Bible: