A quiz. On Thursday evening one of the national Dutch television stations broadcasts a quiz program that I like to watch. Two duos must answer 12 general knowledge questions. If they do not know the answers they may search in a number of digital and non-digital sources. With the initial letters of the 12 responses they must then form a word. This past week I was a little surprised when the first duo consisted of two men, who, as they were introduced, told the viewers that they were each happily married with a man. In the not too distant past such a detail would not have been permitted on national tv, but today this does not cause any problem.
A book. In the past week I read the most recent book of the American crime novelist Elizabeth George. So far, I have missed none of her books. Believing the Lie—that appeared in paperback a few months ago–once again is a real page-turner. Inspector Linley is, once more, the main character, assisted by Barbara Havers and the St. James couple. They have become ‘regulars’ in Elizabeth George’s books, but through the years the plots ands subplots of her books have become more ingenious and complex. On that score Believing the Lie does certainly not disappoint.
However, as I was reading, I realized how the world in which the inspector and his assistant must solve their crimes, is changing. I have the impression that gradually the books contain a somewhat heavier dose of sex. In addition, different aspects of our current society, that were absent in earlier books, have now become part of the story. In her last book Elizabeth George writes about the desire for motherhood of two women, with surrogacy as a possible solution. We are also confronted with a man who leaves his wife and begins a relationship with another man. The popular novelist apparently feels that these things will not negatively influence the sale of her newest book.
An interview. The famous Adventist neurosurgeon Ben Carson is more present in the media than ever before. The black doctor has become well known, because of his medical achievements, but also through his books and his appearances on Ophrah and other talk shows. He tells in his books and television appearances about his childhood and youth in a poor one-parent family, and how he overcame all the odd and became a renowned medical specialist. The 61-year old Carson will soon retire. There are persistent rumors that he may want to try for the presidency of the United States. In the past few weeks he has been more visible in the media than ever before. Many of his (conservative) political ideas seem to be popular. Perhaps the American public will quickly get used to the fact that, after a Mormon presidential candidate, a Seventh-day Adventist will try to reach the highest post in the US. This past week, however, dr. Carson had to apologize profusely because of his negative remarks on the Fox news show about homosexuality and same-sex marriages. His comments were quite ‘kosher’ when judged according to the official documents of his church, but for many viewers they were totally unacceptable.
It would not be difficult to add many more items to these three recent encounters with the phenomenon of homosexuality. And one does not have to be a prophet to predict that the topic will rise further on many agendas. The Adventist Church will need to enter into an honest and open dialogue, internally and externally. Just continuing to shout from the rooftops that all same-sex relationships are sinful, and that homosexual people must simply have the will power to live a celibate life, is not good enough. It is a point of view that will cause the church endless problems. And it is a standpoint that leaves many of its members mercilessly out in the cold.
Does this mean that the biblical ideal of a monogamous heterosexual relationship is totally outdated? I do not think so. But in our imperfect world the biblical ideal (as it was ‘from the beginning’) is out of reach for many. When I read the Bible I discover how God showed understanding when his ideal was not always achieved. (I think, for instance, about God’s attitude towards polygamy in Bible times.) The Adventist Church, to mention another example, continues to condemn divorce on biblical grounds. But at the same time it has found a way to deal with divorce in such a way that those who have seen their marriage fail, may have an other chance of marital happiness.
I do not have all the answers. But I hope my church will in the near future find a way to deal in a more charitable manner with the phenomenon of homosexuality. Of one thing we can be sure: the topic will not disappear any time soon. And if Ben Carson becomes an official presidential candidate, he will yet have to answer many questions in countless interviews about same-sex relationships. I hope his church will help him to formulate better answers than he gave in his recent Fox-news interview.