What is the proper response of the United Methodist Church to the general situation described in this story from the New York Times?
At around 4 on a Saturday morning, a time when most of the gay bars in New York have closed and locked their doors, a steady stream of young and middle-aged men, almost all shirtless and some stripped down to their boxer briefs, have found their way down a dark stairwell and into a maze of basement rooms, where the décor can best be described as fallout-shelter chic.
They have come to Paddles, an after-hours sex club in Chelsea, not yet ready to end their evening. They prowl the long cinder-block hallway, exchanging knowing glances. A husky, bearded man in his 40s lounges on a corrugated black rubber bench, admiring a chorus line of smooth-chested 20-somethings, their flesh glowing under a pink neon sign and black lights. A man in a metal-studded black leather chest harness strides toward a back room, the hookup room, where a circle of men, skin glistening with sweat, hover around a swing, watching.
Before you jump on me, I am not saying this is 100% of the behavior for those with same-sex attraction. And I’d be happy to ask the same questions about heterosexual hook-up culture or the normalization of extreme pornography. Indeed, if you’d rather read those stories and post about them, please do. (I will warn you that the pornography story is graphic.)
What I’m trying to get my head around is how the church responds to what is considered normal sexual behavior in our culture. I’m trying to establish whether we have any common ground in our understanding of Christian sexual ethics by pointing to what looks like a clear-cut case and seeing if I am correct that it is clear-cut to United Methodists.
Do we agree that this kind of culture is not in keeping with God’s will for humanity? Do we want to encourage the men in the story I quoted above to change their hearts and lives?
The obvious answer is “yes,” right?
Our Social Principles would say that obvious answer is “yes.” Wouldn’t they?
Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience would, too, yes?
We all agree, don’t we?
If your congregation had its church building just up the block from Paddles sex club, what would you do?