So color me confused. At the moment, CNN is hailing this article -- "Does Phil Robertson get the Bible wrong?" -- as the "best, fairest, article on Christians and homosexuality you'll ever read. Fact."
Robertson, 67, ... paraphrases a Bible passage from the New Testament: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.”
That's a pretty close citation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which is a letter from Paul, often called the father of Christianity theology, to a fledging Christian community in Corinth, Greece. Here's what Paul's passage says, as rendered in the New International Version, by far the most popular translation among evangelicals and conservative Christians such as Robertson:
"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
Evangelicals, who make up about a quarter of the U.S. population, tend to take that passage at face value.
Uh, and among traditional Christians, precisely who doesn't take that passage seriously when it comes to talking about the reality of sin in this fallen world? Catholics? The Eastern Orthodox? Most of the world's Lutherans and Anglicans? Pentecostal believers (the fastest growing flock in worldwide Christianity)?
Pretty quickly, CNN sets this up as a rather typical battle between a country-fried preacher (or two) and a real biblical scholar. Yes, that is ONE biblical scholar, from one seminary. The hero of the piece is introduced in this manner:
But other Bible experts said the Scripture Robertson cited isn't quite clear about homosexuality.
"A lot of people misread this text because it's so complicated," said O. Wesley Allen Jr., an associate professor at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
Now, what pray tell is the theological orientation of this seminary?
It is part of one of the world's most doctrinally liberal denominations, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) -- a flock that has long taken progressive stands on every imaginable moral and social issue. It is true, however, that as a very congregational body many of its congregations remain quite traditional when it comes to theology.
Now, having a liberal Christian academic voice in this piece is absolutely necessary as part of a balanced, fair-minded approach to the issue. Bravo. As expected, Allen's views are completely consistent with a liberal Protestant view of moral theology and scripture.
The same is true of another voice introduced later in the piece, who voices the article's central theme:
"The Bible may be divinely inspired, but its authors were human and saw, as St. Paul puts it, through a glass darkly," said Jim Naughton, a Christian gay rights activist and communications consultant. "On the subject of homosexuality, the Bible doesn’t mean what Phil Robertson thinks it means."
Now, if this is the "best, fairest, article on Christians and homosexuality you'll ever read," then there must be a solid block of material representing the other side of this debate, a scholar or two representing the rest of the world's Christians. Correct?
Well, there is that St. Paul fellow, who is quoted. And then there is this:
The list of sins is likely based on rumors that Paul heard about Corinth, says Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania who has studied the Bible's teachings on homosexuality. Bible scholars call it a "vice list," and it appears several times in Scripture.
That's it. One paragraph of material from a psychology professor at one Christian college.
That's it, when it comes to producing a balanced, accurate piece of journalism on this hot-button moral, social, cultural, political and theological issue?
I have read through this CNN article at least three times. Did I miss something in this best-ever news analysis piece? Was something crucial edited out of it?