Most parents who have homosexual children are upset because of the suffering their children have to go through living in a homophobic world. What they don't need is for the Church to come along and to lay a guilt trip on top of them and say "And your children are homosexual because of you. If you would have been the right kind of parent, this would have never happened." That kind of thinking is common in the evangelical Church and the book attacks on solid sociological, psychological, biological grounds.
Well, beyond that, they seem to offer an absolute solution to the problem. They are saying, "We can change every gay. We can change every lesbian." I have heard enough of the brothers and sisters give testimonies of having changed their sexual orientation to doubt them.I believe them. But that's rare: people who stand up and say, "I was gay but Jesus came into my life and now I'm not homosexual anymore." But the overwhelming proportion of the gay community that love Jesus, that go to church, that are deeply committed in spiritual things, try to change and can't change. And the Church acts as though they are just stubborn and unwilling, when in reality they can't change. To propose that every gay with proper counseling and proper prayer can change their orientation is to create a mentality where parents are angry with their children, saying, "You are a gay person because you don't want to change and you're hurting your mother and your father and your family and you're embarrassing us all." These young people cannot change. What they are begging for, and what we as Church people have a responsibility to give them, is loving affirmation as they are. That does not mean that we support same-gender eroticism. What do you wish evangelicals might accept in terms of salvation for non-Christians? We ought to get out of the judging business. We should leave it up to God to determine who belongs in one arena or another when it comes to eternity. What we are obligated to do is to tell people about Jesus and that's what I do. I try to do it every day of my life. I don't know of any other way of salvation, excerpt through Jesus Christ. Now, if you were going to ask me, "Are only Christians going to get to heaven?" I can't answer that question, because I can only speak from the Christian perspective, from my own convictions and from my own experience. I do not claim to be able to read the mind of God and when evangelicals make these statements, I have some very serious concerns. For instance, they say unless a person accepts Jesus as his personal savior or her personal savior, that person is doomed forever to live apart from God. Well, what about the many, many children every year who die in infancy or the many children who die almost in childbirth and what about people who are suffering from intellectual disabilities? Is there not some grace from God towards such people? Are evangelical brothers and sisters of mine really suggesting that these people will burn in hell forever? And I would have to say what about all the people in the Old Testament days? They didn't have a chance to accept Jesus.
I don't know how far the grace of God does expand and I'm sure that what the 25th chapter of Matthew says is correct--that there will be a lot of surprises on Judgment Day as to who receives eternal life and who doesn't. But in the book I try to make the case that we have to stop our exclusivistic, judgmental mentality. Let us preach Christ, let us be faithful to proclaiming the Gospel, but let's leave judgment in the hands of God.
I didn't say anything that was relativistic. I am just saying that when we don't know what we're talking about, we shouldn't make absolute statements. And we don't know how God will judge in the end. We do not know the mind of God. As for mainline churches declining, my own particular analysis is that they're declining because they have been so concerned about social justice issues that they forgot to put a major emphasis on bringing people into a close, personal, transforming relationship with God. The Pentecostal churches, the evangelical churches, attract people who are hungry to know God, not just as a theology, not just as a moral teacher, not just as a social justice advocate, but as someone who can invade them, possess them, transform them from within, strengthen them for their everyday struggles, enable them to overcome the guilt they feel for things in the past. Mainline churches have not sufficiently nurtured that kind of Christianity. They believe in it, they articulate it, it's not where they put enough emphasis. They are not putting enough emphasis on getting people into a personal, I use the word mystical, transforming relationship with Christ. I think that Christianity has two emphases. One is a social emphasis to impart the values of the kingdom of God in society-to relieve the sufferings of the poor, to stand up for the oppressed, to be a voice for those who have no voice. The other emphasis is to bring people into a personal, transforming relationship with Christ, where they feel the joy and the love of God in their lives. That they manifest what the fifth chapter of Galatians calls "the fruit of the Spirit." Fundamentalism has emphasized the latter, mainline churches have emphasized the former. We cannot neglect the one for the other.