Talks

“Anointed – or just Annoyed?”

Dr. Ralph Blair’s Keynote at the GCN Conference in Seattle, Washington, January 4-7, 2007

At first, they were impressed – a bit surprised, but impressed. But when the guest preacher began to “reinterpret” Scripture, they were confused.  As he went on, they were shocked.  Finally, they were furious.  They knew their Bible.  And, for starters, they knew he’d stopped short in his reading.  They’d wanted to hear that part about God’s vengeance on the gentiles, the goyim, those filthy outsiders.  But he didn’t read that part.  He’d stopped just short of that part. And then things got worse.  He defended the faith of some of the outsiders and he denounced unfaithfulness in insiders. Who did he think he was? What authority did he have to speak this way?  But when he hinted by whose authority he was speaking in assumed Messianic identity, they were outraged.  They got themselves so outraged, they wanted to kill him – literally.  And they tried to kill him.  But somehow, he slipped away.

That was a long time ago, at the synagogue of the Nazarenes.  The guest preacher was a son of the congregation.  But he was also the Son of God!  His name was Yeshua – Jesus – because the angel had told Joseph: “He will save his people from their sins”.  Well he wasn’t going to save them, if they had any say in it!

The Bible reading was from a Messianic passage from Isaiah.  And, by convention, Yeshua read it out loud: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom to people in bondage, sight to those who are blind, release to the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18,19; Isaiah 61:1,2)

He stopped just short of that lip-smacking part about God’s alleged vengeance against the goyimRead more →

Keeping Faith with the Faith of Our Fathers

Introductory Lecture for the Jonathan Edwards / John Wesley

Tercentenary Preaching Festival of Evangelicals Concerned

Ocean Grove, New Jersey September 26, 2003

The evangelical movement sailed forth in the fervor for the gospel of Christ in 18th century “Great Awakenings” on both shores of that ocean out there. As it’s been said, “Evangelicalism emerged precisely on the trailing edge of Christendom and the leading edge of modernity.” (D. Bruce Hindmarch) Between the demise of the world of ecclesiastical power and the rise of Enlightenment power, the renewed power of the gospel broke forth.

Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley and his circuit riding preachers had their work cut out for them. The religious landscape of Colonial America was anything but the stereotype of white steeple devotion to Christ. And it was no better in England. Most Colonial Americans did not go to church. Eighty-five percent were unaffiliated with any church. (Robert C. Fuller) By contrast, today, only around 35% of Americans are unaffiliated with organized religion. Edwards and Wesley and the Wesleyans faced what we do today: people who are, as they say today, “spiritual but not religious.” Early Americans engaged in magic and occult practices – astrology, divination, fortune telling – as so many do these days. They were “spiritual but not Read more →

On Evangelical Faith and Homosexuality

A Lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary
March 21, 2003

What’s so immediately evident is this: Of all Christians, Evangelicals have perhaps the most difficulty integrating any expression of homosexuality with Christian faith. But here’s what’s not so immediately evident: Of all Christians, Evangelicals should have the least difficulty integrating at least some expression of homosexuality with Christian faith.

Why do so many Evangelicals have such difficulty? Perhaps it’s because they tend to take neither sin nor the evangel as seriously as they say they do? They would not have such difficulty if they but took sin and the evangel as seriously as they ought.

Evangelicals say that sin is so horrible that it cost Jesus his life on the cross. And it is so horrible. And it did cost Jesus his life. Jesus went to the cross to atone for the horror of this Read more →

The Best Parent and Friend of Lesbians and Gays

Dr. Ralph Blair’s Remarks to Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, September 8, 2002

Turning to the Bible in a discussion of homosexuality, we don’t have to begin with those few verses that are misused to abuse homosexuals. (You may read my analysis of those verses in The Bible is an Empty Closet.) Instead, we can begin at the beginning.

For Christians, it all started when the Trinity of Love we Christians know as the Triune God said: “Let us make human beings in our image.” [Gen. 1:26] That’s when we were given the gift of life and life together – life with God and life with one another. So, as a Bible scholar puts it, “The Trinitarian sociality of God is the basis for true creaturely sociality. The desire we have for union … — whether the union of solidarity, or of friendship, or of intimacy, or of sexual intercourse – is a desire which expresses the divine nature within us.” [Stephen Barton] That Divine Team who is the Trinity creates us for teamwork, too. And the gift of desire for a teamed togetherness is given to homosexuals no less than to heterosexuals.
Read more →

The Matchless Match: How to Achieve Sexual Intimacy

A Workshop Presentation for the Western ConnECtion2002 at Chapman University in Orange, California, July 26, 2002

Half a hundred summer connECtions have come and gone since that first one in 1980. My keynote address that summer was entitled: “Getting Close: Steps Toward Intimacy.” I said: “I am going to begin with a neglected passage from Ecclesiastes 4.” And I read this Scripture: “Then I looked again at all the injustice that goes on in this world. The oppressed were crying, and no one would help them. No one would help them because their oppressors had power on their side. … Here is one who lives alone. This person has no children, no sister or brother, yet this person is always working, never satisfied with the income. For whom is this person working so hard and denying self any pleasure? This is useless, too – and a miserable way to live. Two are better-off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help the person up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself? Two can resist an attack that would defeat one alone.” [Ecclesiastes 1:1 and 4:8-12]

Those old lines are poignant. And even with the intervening millennia and all the cultural changes from the ancient Middle East to the advent of Western romance from the Middle Ages Read more →

The Bond that Breaks the Boundaries

An expanded version of a lecture by Dr. Ralph Blair to Courage Trust at the Anglican Church of St. James the Less, Pimlico, London, November 2, 2001

When it comes to the subject of gay and lesbian evangelical Christians, most evangelical Christians agree with most gays and lesbians. Just as Grape-Nuts is neither grapes nor nuts and Christian Science is neither Christian nor science and Therapeutic Touch is neither therapeutic nor touch, to most evangelicals and to most gay people, a gay evangelical Christian is neither truly gay nor truly Christian. For most people, you cannot be both an openly evangelical Christian and an openly gay man or lesbian.

EVANGELICAL AND GAY/LESBIAN DIVERSITY

Actually there are all sorts of evangelicals – from the all-out-of-sorts kind to those who aren’t. And there are all sorts of gay men and lesbians – from the all-out-of-sorts kind to those who aren’t.

According to an evangelical history professor: “Once past a shared commitment to a supernatural gospel, evangelicals are all over the place theologically.” [Mark Noll] The president of Southern Baptist Seminary joins a church historian at Westminster Seminary to declare that “No single evangelical tradition exists.” [Albert Mohler, Jr. and D. G. Hart] A Regent College Read more →

I Love To Tell The Story

Ralph Blair’s opening remarks at Philadelphia’s Pridefest, 1998.

Emmylou Harris and Robert Duvall sing a duet on the CD of “The Apostle.” It’s a mid-nineteenth century hymn written by an English woman. Here’s some of what she wrote: “I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love … because I know ‘tis true [and] some have never heard the old, old story/Of Jesus and His love.” Jesus and His love. They’re very simple words. And yet it was Jesus and His love that gave her life its most profound meaning. It was in being thus loved that she worked with other Christians for the abolition of slavery.

I remember this hymn from my childhood. Its theme formed my own self-identity, my understanding of my deepest self, long before I ever identified as gay or understood what that could mean.

“Jesus and His love” means I am loved. It also means that I’m to love, too. One way that I try to express that love is to work on behalf of other gay men and lesbians. I’ve been doing that Read more →

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