In a 2013 essay, Thabiti Anyabwile wrote regarding same-sex marriage, “Turns out that being civil about indecency actually hurts the traditional cause.” His point was that polite discourse about abominable behavior plays a role in normalizing such behavior. It is not difficult to see why that would be the case. Polite discourse minimizes and, over time, neutralizes the instinct of moral revulsion. While moral revulsion alone is not enough to sustain ethical practice over time, it is an important community-shaping element. Healthy communities express moral revulsion at that which is truly abominable, and the healthy effect of such revulsion is a natural deterrent toward said behavior within the community. People who are socialized into being appalled at what is appalling to God have the blessing of a moral compass shaped according to truth. Anyabwile’s “gag reflex” argument highlights an important component of the effects of our discourse about sin. It is entirely possible to speak of sin in a way that is technically correct, while still lacking entirely in true moral fiber, leading to the further erosion of social norms and the withering away of a protective moral revulsion.
I love the word “community,” but I hate to see it bastardized into such phrases as “the ________ community” (fill in the blank: white, black, gay, female, non-binary, Christian, minority, etc.). Whenever you put a modifier in front of “community” to define it as a demographic, you have actually changed the meaning of the term. A true community is a local establishment of households who share physical spaces and community traditions. They are invested in local history and institutions. They have flesh-and-blood interactions with one another. They eat together, do business together, send their children to school together, go to town hall meetings together, worship together, attend local public library events together, and thousands of other activities that are entailed in living one’s life locally. A city or town is itself a large community that is further subdivided into communities that exist at smaller levels: districts, neighborhoods, schools, churches, etc.
My point here is simply this: there is no such thing as a “community” of people who are grouped together on the basis of a demographic indicator (skin color, sexual orientation, sexual identity, etc.). The moment we speak of “the gay community,” for example, as a way of linking together gay people across 3.8 million square miles between our national borders, we are speaking of people who do not share common spaces and institutions, who do not (and cannot) have interactions with one another, and who therefore cannot in any meaningful sense constitute a community.
Scroll to bottom for an update – Ed.
On January 26th of 2019 J.D. Greear preached a sermon titled “How the Fall Affects Us All” at the church he pastors, Summit Church of North Carolina. In that sermon Greear made multiple points addressing homosexual attraction and how the church should relate to those who experience same sex attraction that raised major questions about how the sitting President of our church’s denomination understands sexual and civic issues connected with the topic of sexuality.