Truth* Academy Instructor Series: Robert Gagnon


On April 1-2, 2011, Mission America and Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) will be cosponsoring the second Truth* Academy in Columbus, Ohio. I thought it might be helpful to see what tone and substance attendees can expect from each of the instructors before the conference begins. You can find all of my Truth* Academy posts at this link.

Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Presbyterian and very conservative Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has called his session at Truth* Academy “Christian Theology and Homosexuality: Why God Has Not Changed His Mind.”

Gagnon has written books and articles that are daunting in length (the man needs an editor, that’s for sure), but when you really dig deep, everything he writes comes from viewing the Bible through one interpretive lens: Boys rule and girls drool.

Gagnon often goes back to the creation story in Genesis 2: 18-24 to prove this point, extrapolating that masculine and feminine traits and roles are viewed by God as unwaveringly distinct. Men are awesome because they were created first, and women were just (yes, just) created to help men. What they don’t tell you is that if you read Genesis 2 closely, people with vaginas were pretty much a last ditch effort after Adam rejected all the animals.

There’s a problem with this line of thinking, though. The creation story in Genesis 1 and 2 is a myth. It’s a nice myth, as creation myths go, but that’s all it is, and it’s written from a staunchly patriarchal world view. (And I say that as a Christian.)

Extrapolating further, Gagnon drew a stunning and absurd conclusion in 2008 in an article directed at Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin. He said… Well, I’ll let Kincaid tell you.

You may have heard of Matthew 7:1-6. You may even have thought it was about acceptance and tolerance and withholding judgment of others. Well not according to Gagnon:

Jesus’ saying about not giving what is “holy” to the “dogs” (Matt 7:6), an apparent allusion to Deuteronomic law (Deut 23:17-18) and texts in 1-2 Kings that indict the qedeshim, self-designated “holy ones” identified as “dogs” for their attempt to erase their masculinity by serving as the passive-receptive partners in man-male intercourse.

I kid you not! Robert Gagnon believes the text on not judging is really a condemnation of bottom boys.

But I guess the good news is that Jesus loves tops.

Again, this all comes through an interpretive lens that demands that stereotypical masculinity be more highly valued than stereotypical femininity and that falsely equates masculinity with dominance during sex.

Gagnon also makes the common mistake of treating homosexuality as a specific physical act rather than a trait that includes psychological, physiological, romantic, and spiritual elements. By reducing it to “You’re doing sex wrong,” Gagnon effectively devalues and dismisses the witness of gay people, leading his audience to view us as broken creatures bent on self-destruction.

If you’re interested in a more complete refutation of Dr. Gagnon’s theories, Jack Bartlett Rogers, Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary and Moderator of the 213th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has a pretty good one in his book Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church, Chapter 5, “What The Bible Says And Doesn’t Say About Homosexuality,” beginning at page 77 (second edition).

Unfortunately, Dr. Gagnon doesn’t limit his faulty logic to his church. On September 7, 2004, Dr. Gagnon wrote the following in an article (it’s really more of a press release) on the dangers of a hate crime law that would protect LGBT people:

A “hate crime” bill does not reduce violent crime. It rather establishes homosexual and bisexual behavior as valued practices that society wants to promote. It opens up the possibility of criminal prosecution of persons who speak out publicly against the harmful effects of promoting homosexual practice.

By establishing the valued character of “sexual orientation” diversity, it provides a legal stepping stone for other homosex-promoting legislation (including workplace and school promotion of homosexual practice, civil unions, gay marriage), further threatening the civil liberties of any opposed to homosexual propaganda and indoctrination. It also ignores the fact that orientations toward sex with children and with multiple sex partners are “sexual orientations.”

His whole statement is hogwash, though I do think it would be awesome if being gay were more highly valued in society. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the most absurd lie in that last sentence I quoted. It jumped out at me because we’ve heard it before, most memorably in 2009 when Representatives Steve King and Louis Gohmert floated it in Congress.

But again, it’s a lie. The federal law that governs such things makes it clear as day when it says, “As used in this section, the term ‘sexual orientation’ means consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality.”

It really bothers me when someone who claims to be a scholar lies so easily.