Messianic Jews and the LGBT community

Michael Brown is a very interesting teacher on Jewish issues, and his books and teachings have been very helpful to many Messianic Jews, myself included. His comments on the Messianic movement are often insightful if sometimes lacking nuance, and his video and audio presentations on theology are challenging and even refreshing.

It is along theological lines that I have primarily encountered Dr Brown, to whom I have approached on occasion for blog comments. I greatly many of his admire his Messianic teachings. Nevertheless, some of his politics might require a certain balancing.

Outside of Messianic circles, Dr Brown has become better known as a campaigner on what is described in the USA as ‘family issues’, with a focus on issues surrounding homosexuality.

Dr Brown is likely sincere and passionate in all he does, believing fervently in all his causes, so I can’t imagine it’s easy to campaign politically for family values in the USA, and the potential pitfalls must be myriad. Still, the political dimension to Dr Brown’s campaigning flags up a couple of question, which I feel merit further discussion and analysis.

This is after reading Michael Brown’s latest piece for Townhall, which claims that homosexuality cannot be avoided even when watching sport – even though Jason Collins is the first openly gay sports professional in American history. I do like Michael Brown’s theology writings about many aspects of the Tanakh, but I feel I need to say something about his approach on a controversial issue for believers.

Michael Brown was part of a group called Truth4Time with Scott Lively. A disturbing interview between Brown and Lively is documented on CanyonWalker.

Lively infamously pushed the Ugandan kill-the-gays bill, and wrote a book blaming homosexuality for the Holocaust, called The Pink Swastika. Despite the fact that the Nazis actively killed gay people, Lively seeks to draw a correlation between homosexuality and Nazism, which has been criticised for its revisionist tendencies by the SPL Center and by the evangelical academic Warren Throckmorton.

For the record I think it was unfair and somewhat barmy of the SPL Center to list Dr Brown on the same page as David Duke, as somehow forming part of the same ‘Radical Right.’ As if a Zionist Jew and a Nazi antisemite would be in the same movement! The content of the SPLC critique of Dr Brown however, highlights comments he made linking homosexuality with paedophilia, which itself seems rather harsh and unfair on gay people.

Dr Brown also interviewed the anti-gay activist Martin Ssempa, the transcript of which is available online. Ssempa is one of the key Ugandan supporters of the bill to kill gay people, and shows his church gay porn to incite them to hate homosexuals. Somewhat disconcertingly, Dr Brown suggests that Ssempa genuinely does “care” about gays, on Dr Throckmorton’s blog.

I’ll be honest. I think it’s a major concern when a prominent Messianic Jew who professes expertise on the subject of homosexuality, defends an activist who wants to kill gays. And also that he should be aligned politically with a revisionist historian who exploits the Shoah for aggressive politics.

I think there’s a huge difference between saying God has standards of behaviour for our sexual conduct, deeming everything sexual aside from the marriage bed between one man and one woman as a sin, and politically campaigning alongside those who blame gays for the Holocaust whilst also lobbying for Africans deemed as gay aggressors by a corrupt government to be hung.

The worst thing about this, is then Messianic Jews are perceived to be against gay people, because of hostile political views. This can alienate LGBT, Left and Liberal Jews particularly, and make them think that believing in Yeshua is a political statement and a judgement against them as individuals. Even if not the intended message, this is what many sexual-minority Jewish people are picking up when they hear about this wing of Messianic Jewish campaigning for family values, and I think it needs to be said that there are Messianic Jews who wish to foster better relations with LGBT Jews. I know of one Messianic Jewish pastor who led a service for a community of LGBT Jews; both groups feeling ostracised from the wider community.

That is not to mention the many Messianic Jews who also have homosexual feelings or have sexual identities which they are working hard to make sense of, and align with their faith convictions.

Bear in mind we also want to give a compassionate witness towards Jewish people who are gay, they are no more sinners than the rest of us. We need to factor in how they would react too to negative publicity about our speakers. Let the only offence be the gospel, not our politics or our aggression

To make my point clearer: let’s do a thought experiment.

Imagine if all the homosexuals stopped having gay sex, gay thoughts, gay relationships, gay self-identity, and teaching gay perspectives in schools and societies.

Now we are left with a world which is heterosexual in its entirety. Everyone is straight.

We still have a society which encourages fornication, adulterous relationships (portrayed in Hollywood and on soaps as something salacious and fun), and deliberately confuses sexual experimentation with liberation.

Half the adverts on TV have someone looking seductively into the camera holding a perfume or a beer or a crisp packet or a car, to convince us to buy it.

You go into schools today and you can hear how the kids are obsessed with sexting, porn culture, body parts and fluids, and it seems to barely register as a problem with the educational authorities. It feels as if no-one wants to admit this is happening or confront it.

We would still have this culture where women are objectified and treated as if their worth and value is bound up in how she looks or who she dates. And although it is improving, you can see from the way women are portrayed in newspapers and advertisements, the way women continue to experience discrimination in the work place, and from many other sources, how pervasive these problems are, and the extent to which her role in society can be shaped by unfair male expectations.

We would still have rape.

We would still have some men (or “lads”) saying that women deserve to be raped for the length of their skirts.

We would still have abortions, often the consequence of women who have rushed into a sexual relationship that they shouldn’t have, or were pressured into, and now feel they have no way out.

My point is, society is unlikely to improve morally, even if every believer were actively committed to combatting gay marriage, I don’t think it is either the best approach nor the most effective way to convey the key message of our faith in Moshiach – especially given the history of homosexuals, they are likely to react as a minority group to perceived discrimination and aggression.

And even if all these other issues were to instantly clear up should homosexuality disappear, we would still sadly have lust occurring within our own minds, which Messiah Yeshua equated with adultery – a sin deserving of death.

Some believers would not confront homosexuality per se, but only gay marriage. With divorce statistics very high, domestic violence, extra-marital affairs, partners denying each other or fighting with each other in front of their children, I would say that marriage itself as an institution would be in a poor state anyway, even if no gays wanted to marry.

I’m not saying we can’t identify sin as sin.

But neither do I believe there is a gay agenda determined to undermine believers.

We ourselves undermine Moshiach in our thoughts, and we would continue to do so were homosexuality not to exist.

Lust is a sin with many destructive outworkings, and I think if we over-focus on homosexuality which is just one of its many effects – which if we are honest does not directly affect us so much as some of the other things I have mentioned – we can miss a greater point that only Yeshua’s grace and healing can protect us from our own sin.

I recommend to fellow believers we have a radical rethink about the way we approach sexual politics and gender politics.

As a wider body of believers, I often feel we manage not to send out a united message on key issues such as racism, the resurrection, atonement and salvation, but do make itself loud and clear about homosexuality and marriage-as-an-institution. Surely something has to change if we want to be taken seriously.

If we are too aggressive in our public views, we will be met with an aggressive reaction, which we absolutely don’t want.

Messianic Jews must become known primarily by our love for all created in God’s image, before we begin commenting on the sins of others.

Whilst Dr Brown’s politics are not my cup of tea, it is nevertheless worth encouraging Dr Brown in his apologetic work and his towards many of his theological topics. But this issue is worth raising at this time, and may we all learn to be more sensitive and faithful, and above all, loving.

42 thoughts on “Messianic Jews and the LGBT community

  1. I recently learned about a new documentary by an Oscar winning director called God Loves Uganda. It’s about the bill to kill gay people. It profiles both Lou Engle and Mike Bickle who have also have strong ties to many in Messianic Judaism. Lou Engle was also profiled on the film, Jesus Camp. It seems Dr. Brown, like Lou Engle, feels called to make Homosexuality and it’s “agenda” a primary feature of his ministry. Somehow homosexuals and gay marriage are perceived to be major threats to Western society (even though it is estimated only 1% of marriages would be “gay”). I find myself scratching my head and wondering how this furthers the cause of both Messianic Jews and the church. As Greg Boyd notes, we are more known for what we are against than what we should be for – God’s radical love and shalom.

    • Thanks Glenn for this information and comment, which probably deserves to be a post by itself. I’ll have a look into it too. I agree, shalom

  2. This is a fantastic article.

    I too share a sense of sadness regarding Michael Brown prodigiously focussing on “them”, i.e. gays, lesbians, trans-gender, etc. as the zenith of all things wrong in society.

    This opens a much wider question, given a recent posting, Passover “denies the finished work of Christ on the Cross”?(April 22, 2013) where it would seem there are many who take the ceremonial law and state it is done away with — but not the moral law… I would suggest that if Yeshua is the DVAR ADONAI (i.e. the Word made flesh) then in his work of atonement there is no distinction in the fulfillment of the law… and we have to have a better answer to this issue than spiritual mind-flipping as is evident.

    Indeed we all have sinned and fallen short (of the Glory of God), me, you, Michael Brown and possibly some gay people too.

  3. …and may I add to my previous reply that it is with a great sense of shame that many Messianics would even deign to think and/or treat LGBT people in a manner that would have us/them screaming of injustice and prejudice – were Messianics to be treated with such hatred

      • It is striking Gefilte, as a retired Catholic politician recently pointed out, that the UK gov officially sanctions countries where homosexuals are persecuted, but doesn’t seem to register much less act on considerably more severe mistreatment of Christians, for their faith. The same bias has also been witnessed in asylum policy.

        • Which I would suggest is unreasonable bias, the lack of which is not a sine qua non for those who would say we shouldn’t speak out against the unreasonable focus on the LGBT community.

        • Charles I agree there should be better support for the rights of Christians worldwide too. This is a huge issue hypocritically ignored by many politicians. But also slightly tangential to Gefilte’s point perhaps.

  4. I have long thought that there was an unfair discrimination against ‘gay’ sins while turning convenient blind eyes to ‘straight’ sins. If there is going to be a campaign for spiritual purity then it must be ‘across the board’.
    That, however, is a different issue of thinking that “God is love” and “Love is god” are interchangeable truisms. The GCN (Gay Christian Network) in the USA is split, on the issue of permitted activity, into ‘A-siders’ and ‘B-siders’ with the latter taking a more conservative hermeneutic on what one does with one’s body. Therefore Brown may not be wrong in his theology but should pay careful attention to the context of preached Biblical truths and also with whom he associates himself.
    Being anti-homosexual does not make a person holier. Believers’ bodies may no longer be their own possession but they will be moving in a world where liberated homosexual people exist and who also need the opportunity to meet Jesus without extra barriers being put in their way.
    However there needs to be clear Christian teaching on homosexuality, possibly focussing on a legitimate hamartophobia while promoting a legitimate model of same-gender intimacy yet not allowing a dehumanising homophobia to short-cut the necessary dialogue.
    There is an equal and opposite ‘danger’ of allowing sin, if that’s what it is, to creep in under the radar. As we all know, sin is anti-Life and anti-God.
    As for “The PInk Swastika”, it is a very interesting read with interesting data but is structured in such a one-dimensional way that it is hard not to read it without thinking of it as having an underlying homophobic tenor. A pity, as much of the data could be useful for a historical understanding of post-Weimar values.

    Happy to enter into further dialogue with anyone who cares for it.

  5. I disagree strongly, Jo. I haven’t corresponded with Michael Brown on this, but anyone who read his seminal and far reaching work ‘A queer thing happended to America’, which I strongly commend, can’t fail to notice the depth of his concern and understanding of the nuances and divisions of the gay community, with extensive, contextual quotes from his detractors. His words of Biblical reproof are sharp and just, his compassion and patience in the face of vitriolic criticisms is very evident. He would oppose Ugandan execution as he does Holocaust denial and anti-Zionism.
    Practising homosexuals are not Messianic, they are still lost and under Divine judgement, but ‘such were some of you, but you were are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’ Yes, holiness in sexual matters is a necssary seal of the genuiness of the new birth, across the board, including here. ‘Let noone deceive you with vain words for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience.’
    Incidentally if you read his work you’ll see just why he explains that many pro-gay arguments work just as well for consensual paedophilia and are used by paedophiles, and of course many ‘famous gays’ of the past were pederasts. He also appreciates just how shocking and unwelcome this reasoning is to most gay people.

  6. Joseph, I enjoyed this post and found your comments to be quite concerning, honest and caring. As a result I did a little searching on my own, and there is a web site for Messianics who have LGBT leanings or orientation, it is BNai HaKeshet in Alberta canada. I wish there were “safe havens” on line where people could admit their struggles with whatever sin if nothing else to simply be acknowledged and told they will be thought of as they find answers. Sometimes it is a hour by hour struggle to live out the Shema knowing what is inside one’s self, and all one notices are others’ outside.

  7. Joseph, a friend just sent me this link, and I was shocked to see such an ugly and distorted misrepresentation of my views, even if you did not intend to be dishonest. If you are interested in knowing the truth of my views, I will be happy to write an article for you that sets the record straight. For the moment, I encourage you to search online for the article “The Gay Protest that Encountered the Love of God.”

    I wish you God’s grace.

  8. “The worst thing about this, is then Messianic Jews are perceived to be against gay people, because of hostile political views. This can alienate LGBT, Left and Liberal Jews particularly, and make them think that believing in Yeshua is a political statement and a judgement against them as individuals. Even if not the intended message, this is what many sexual-minority Jewish people are picking up when they hear about this wing of Messianic Jewish campaigning for family values, and I think it needs to be said that there are Messianic Jews who wish to foster better relations with LGBT Jews.”
    I find this statement to be razor sharp and true to my experience. I wonder how people like Dr. Brown, who I also have the greatest respect for as perhaps the best Messianic Jewish apologetics teacher today, would disagree with your statement above Joseph.

  9. Glenn and others, this article spreads serious misinformation and ill will, and I’m shocked that Joseph didn’t ask me for my views rather than post what amounts to lashon hara — again, even if it was not intentional. (I assume Joseph meant well; he just listened to wrong sources and failed to contact me directly for clarification.)

    Again, to find out where I actually stand, here’s the link to the article I referenced above: http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/34055-the-gay-protest-that-encountered-the-love-of-god. I encourage everyone to read it ASAP, since it tells a wonderful story.

    That being said sooner Rosh Pina pulls this article (or revises it), the better, lest people believe divisive falsehoods. And to be clear, I haven’t the least problem with people differing with me on issues and publicly sharing those views. So be it! But when they misrepresent me — in particular, using hostile, anti-gospel sources to document their views — that causes unnecessary division and harm.

    The other day, I noticed a post here which falsely claimed that I judged the motives of other Messianic Jews, which is patently false, but if I spent my time correcting mistatements about me on the internet, that would be all I did day and night. This, however, was too egregious and misleading to ignore — for the sake of the truth and for the sake of Yeshua’s name.

    • Hi dr brown many thanks for your reply. I really love your theological writings which I have admired for years. I would be very distressed to have misrepresented you in any sense, and would like to publish any rebuttal especially if corrections are in order. I blogged this as I understood events not dishonestly. I really pray for peace between us as we discuss these issues.

      • Yes, Joseph, I never thought you were dishonest, and I will write a corrective article ASAP. My concern was poor methodology — especially some of the sources used — and failure to ask me directly about my views on these controversial subjects, but I hold nothing against you, and my biggest concern was unnecessary division and strife with our community. I wish you God’s grace!

    • Dr. Michael Brown, did you consult anyone before publishing your manifold articles on this subject? Did you run your ideas and/or articles and/or radio/TV appearances by all the people who might think differently? I would think not.

      In resorting to what ostensibly is an accusation of falsehoods and tacit character smears is essentially an attempt [on your part] to silence what you perceive to be opposition.

      Sadly in the Messianic community (and the wider Evangelical Christian movement) there seems to be the rather bad habit of interpreting any stance in contradistinction to the norm (read here a certain right-wing interpretation of the gospel) as being ah-hominem attacks and worse … proof of ones heterodoxy.

      I would certainly hope that you, Dr Brown, can do better than that polarising stance.

      • Gefilte — what a bizarre, error-filled post. To the contrary, I constantly reach out to those I differ with you and listen to their side of things as much as possible. And I always invite them to join me on the air to share their differences. And the fact is Joseph’s article was filled with falsehoods, and he had the integrity to print my rebuttal. (I don’t believe he intentionally printed falsehoods; he simply failed to do proper research.)

        As for the polarizing stance, first what I’m accused of in the article is false, so there’s no polarizing stance. Second, whoever stands for the truth, starting with Yeshua Himself, will be polarizing. See Luke 2:34-35.

        I wish you God’s grace AND truth!

        • Again with respect Dr. Michael Brown, you are not the arbiter of truth here.

          The tenor and style of your response to any of the postings which appear to challenge you are to shoot back that either you are distressed or that it is ‘bizarre’ and ‘error-filled’.

          There really is no need to go on the defence and consequently lash-out at those who would seek a more moderate response than what yours appears to be.

          Truth does win out.

  10. Joseph, I like the spirit of your article, but of course I look forward to Dr. Brown’s response.
    I do think that America, at least, is at a critical juncture, as the Supreme Court may be on the brink of redefining marriage for the rest of the nation. If this happens, it could indeed seriously undermine freedom of speech and religious practice in the U.S. In addition, such a precedent would make the institution of marriage less safe for children than it currently is, (“Before We Accept Gay Marriage, Could I Get an Answer?” http://www.artandlifenotes.wordpress.com .) Civic Law does impact the well-being of a nation, and if we have the opportunity to do so, we should attempt to influence outcomes. This must be done with compassion, but it must be done. Opposing the “marriage equality” movement needn’t and shouldn’t be hateful or anti-gay at all. True, the world will get darker, but to let the darkness come when one could light a lamp is a disservice to those who may still be seeking the light.

  11. Gev and Joseph, I sent in my major corrections to this article in the form of my own article, as requested, a couple of hours ago, but didn’t receive confirmation that you received it. Please be kind enough to let me know that you did get it. God’s grace to both of you!

  12. I am encouraged by Dr. Brown’s work in this area of gay political activisim. It is not my cup of tea either BUT I did not realize how this activism can affect individual freedoms of religious belief in America and even in Israel (ie Yad Shmona lawsuit from lesbians in the past year) until Dr. Brown’s work in this area. I am proud that he is a Messianic Jew and has been given such a broad scope of ministry which he does with love, integrity and respect. Those who don’t see that haven’t listened to his radio shows to have first hand witness of that. I think Messianic Jews should be more concerned with the circus that goes on within the Messianic Jewish movement and working on the integrity of witness there, then worrying about ‘taming’ Dr. Brown’s work with gay activism.

  13. I enjoyed this post by Joseph not so much for what apparently was misinformation, but for pointing out that we as believers and human beings are laden with things that are offensive and displeasing to God, and by His grace and mercy we are all given umteen chances. I too respect and credit Dr. Michael L Brown for my journey taking a turn for the better with reading,”Go And Sin No More”, especially chapter 7 where a set of questions are posed for one to answer before God and them-self. Dr. Brown is blessed with an ability to cut to the quick that is needed in our day and time in my opinion. I am spending time in the Psalms to help myself to realize the sustaining power of God to say no to lusts that would ultimately be self-destructive. Also, before God, ask His help in those life events that ware one down and make it more inevitable to seek some sort of gratification to cope. I pray that for you who read this post and stand with you as your brother in Messiah, sharing the bread of God’s grace and mercy with you! I have been an introvert much of my life and so be it, but over the long-run am seeing God take that quality and use it for its glory. In my youth it was a trait I could barely stand. This is all to say I love this site and Gev and Joseph, and thank you for information that helps us as Messianic Jew and Gentile to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Yeshua. with respect and regards, David Russell

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