Some of My Remarks Regarding
Christianity and Same-Sex Love
By: Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker
The following is a compilation of some of my remarks regarding "Christianity and same-sex love that I made on a few blogs, one of which is my own entitled, "A Christian Voice For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Rights," located at www.christianlgbtrights.org. I thought you would be interested in these remarks.
I was born and raised in New York. I remember in the early 1960's, when inter-racial marriages were illegal in many states of the union, it was not uncommon to see a black man and a white woman (and vice versa) walk down the street, holding hands, and no one would think that such a relationship was in any way "deviant" or "unseemly." Now, about 45 years later, the mind-set that thought such relationships were "deviant" has not only become ascribed to LGBT relationships, but that mind-set has even infiltrated the bastion of cosmopolitanism--New York City. We cannot underestimate, any more than we can fathom, the rapid shift toward fascism that has occurred in this country!
LGBT people are like canaries in the mine! Miners would take canaries down to the mine, so that if deadly fumes occurred, the canary would die and would, hence, be a warning to the miners to get out of that mine. Now, we must come to see that the discrimination, hate, hate-mongering, bashing, and killing of LGBT people serves as the death of "our canary," in that what is happening to them can, eventually, easily happen to any other group deemed "deviant" or "unacceptable." Such an upsurge in hate crimes in a hitherto cosmopolitan place like New York City should serve as a warning to all people in this country as to how our political, religious, and social climates have drastically devolved and, unless we speak out against such devolution, we will go from one madness to another and destroy those very things that all people of good will seek to protect: democracy, freedom, civility, and the future of our very country.
The ferociousness and venom directed at gay people bespeaks an insecurity about one's own sexuality, as well as the tremendous need for scapegoats to deal with the depression and rage that are the consequences of living in a capitalist society run amok. With fewer safety nets for people, and with many politicians capitalizing on the free floating rage that many people have, coupled with "news" organizations increasingly slanted to the "right," some of which are virtual spokespeople for the right wing in this country, increasing numbers of people can be expected to pick on what they perceive as "safe" targets to persecute. To the degree people are frustrated, it is to that degree that they frequently become aggressive. John Dollard pointed out this fact in the 1930's, and it's no less true today. When one's finances and sexuality are threatened, a potent force is likely to become unleashed; that force, that rage, is usually unleashed on those who are perceived to be the most vulnerable.
Regarding a staunch anti-gay rights pastor, one of the self-proclaimed "evangelicals" who confuse that term with blind biblical literalism to justify their pre-conceived prejudices, who was caught by an undercover cop for propositioning him, I made the following comment: Although the sex police have no business seeking to entrap or otherwise arrest people who are seeking consensual sex, the hypocrisy evident here is not all that unusual. I'm an evangelical, damn it! And I terribly resent the twisted freaks hijacking that name almost as much as I resent them hijacking the term "Christianity."
Although we wouldn't know it from who monopolizes the media, but the very limited human beings who espouse hate and condemn others, for whatever reason, are not Christians and certainly don't speak for the Prince of Peace who taught and practiced love and inclusiveness. Christianity is about grace, not about rules and regulations, do's and don'ts, that conform to the prejudices and stated behaviors of those who seek to place yokes of bondage on others. No, this guy is not an "evangelical." He may well be a repressed, self-loathing closet case who, like the rest of his ilk, is a witting or unwitting tool of the devil who wraps himself in the mantle of Christianity to hide the evil that he and others of his ilk have perpetrated on a whole host of minority groups throughout the millennia; taking advantage of the biblically illiterate to help them foment a climate of hate that has caused untold numbers of suicides, bashings, and murders of those they view as "safe" targets to persecute. This is not the Christianity that I know, nor is it the Christianity of the Bible. One can be a decent person and not be a Christian! However, every single Christian is a decent person, and if he or she is not decent, he or she is not a Christian!
Hate, in the name of God, is alive and well! Many times there is a call to actually kill gay people, with the citation of biblical references that show the ignorance of their "preachers." For example, "The listings quote Leviticus 20:13, which says, 'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads'." Now, at first glance, this verse seems very straightforward! However, if men having sex with men was the issue, the verse would undoubtedly have read, "If a man lies with a man, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." The fact that "as one lies with a woman" was included in the verse indicates that something else was referenced, as that phrase is completely unnecessary if the author was condemning men having sex with one another. It must be remembered that women were considered mere property in those days, and were seen as subordinate, weak, passive, and to be the recipients of sexual penetration. For a man to act like a woman was, therefore, seen as an "abomination." The issue here is not men having sex with one another, but a man acting like a woman! But this nuance would be lost on the likes of those who get financially and psychologically rewarded for condemning LGBT people! And, of course, many sanctimonious haters are discriminating against LGBT people in the name of "love."
The Gospel means "good news!" All of us are reckoned "free from sin," because of the finished work of Jesus. An important verse of Scripture for me, in this context, is Romans 14:23:"...whatsoever is not of faith is sin." We didn't know "sin" before the Law; the Law was our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ; Christ has freed us from the Law of sin and death! That's the good news! The legalists who pick and choose verses from the Bible to support their prejudices, their agendas, without seeing the context of those verses as they apply to the "good news," the finished work of Christ on the Cross, not only do great violence to Christianity, but betray it and the Gospel message of that good news, seeking to put people in the same bondage they are in, the very same bondage Jesus castigated the Pharisees for imposing, and for which He came to set us free. In the context of same-sex relationships, they seek to inhibit or remove faith in one's love and same-sex affection and, thereby, seek to create "sin" by having so many LGBT people question their God-given state where they are capable of loving another human being. The irony is that the Pharisees among us, are the ones who show no love, and who condemn the love shown by others, and do so in the name of God and the very good news that removes the taint of sin from all those who cling to Christ. It seems to me that even if a person "willfully" sins, that sin is forgiven, because God saved His children from the foundation of the world (e.g. Ephesians 1:4), and he doesn't save us to play hide and seek with us, or does He change His mind in this regard, as we're assured by Jesus Himself: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) Indeed, nothing takes God by surprise! So, even if we "willfully" sin, God knew about it before we even thought about it, let alone did it. That's why we're free, that's why we're liberated! God is not the author of sin, but He will frequently use our sins for His own sovereign purposes: maybe to make us more humble; maybe to make us better able to relate to the frailties and failings of others; maybe to enhance our ministries in some way by inculcating more compassion for others who struggle in this life. I don't know! The point is that we are not to chafe under the sovereign choices of God! For the "Church" to forgive murder but not "forgive" homosexuality (that virtually every respected behavioral and social scientist, psychiatrist, and psychologist says is immutable, save for very few who are confused or questioning regarding their sexuality), along with the fact that much of the organized "Church" obsesses over this issue, to the virtual exclusion of the sins of society such as poverty, war, corporate greed, etc., shows the ignorant, pathetic and moribund state of much of the organized "Church."
The online magazine, "The Turning" (Spring 2005, Vol.1, Number.4), has an interesting interview with Richard Steigman-Gall, and part of that interview states: "Almost all of the Nazis I investigated esteemed Christ, with only one important exception. Now how did they square the circle by esteeming the king of the Jews? By determining that, all along, Jesus had really been an "Aryan." It sounds obscene of course, and it is obscene. But people, when they try to understand it, think that this is another idiosyncrasy of Hitler, or his sloppy way of trying to have everything both ways." Whenever I have presented good hard biblical and other facts regarding the need for LGBT equality in all aspects of the Church and society, I have invariably come up against intransigent opposition from those homophobes who, for a variety of reasons, not only will not allow themselves to think outside their fundamentalist paradigms, but will even distort the Bible, and the plain sense of the Gospel, that they say they so highly esteem in order to continue to justify their prejudice against LGBT people. Facts are irrelevant (and even provoke anger) to people who have deeply entrenched ideologies and prejudices. If Hitler and his minions could believe that Jesus wasn't Jewish, but an "Aryan," homophobes can choose to believe anything about LGBT people to justify discrimination, and such a distortion is parallel to the distortion that Hitler and his minions had about Jesus, people, Germany, and Christianity itself.
Beyond "sex" being the focal point for so much "religious" hostilities and biblical interpretations, such egregious sins as unprovoked war, poverty, and corporate crimes are hardly, if ever, mentioned, let alone being a cause for a potential split in a denomination. What is of interest to me is why "sex" is preeminent in their psyches, so much so as to create such conflict.
Put in perspective, sound biblical hermeneutics shows no warrant for such conflicts based on sex or sexual orientation. For example, even the ancient Rabbis never considered the "sin of Sodom" one of homosexuality until Philo declared it so in the first century A.D. Moreover, much has been written to lay to rest the other "concerns" that people have regarding the Bible and same-sex relationships. So, why is sexual preference elevated above any of our other preferences? I like meat and hate vegetables; my wife loves vegetables. We could spend decades trying to figure out why we have our respective preferences when it comes to food, but why bother? It's not really important! My favorite color is red and your favorite color might be blue! So what? Why spend inordinate time, or any time, trying to figure out why I prefer red and you prefer blue? It's not really important! We know these truths when it comes to such preferences as food or color, but ignore the inconsequentiality of sexual preference, and that is the real problem, not only for the psyches of the people who do the condemning, but for the state of the Church itself. What must be investigated is why the obsession with sexual preference as opposed to other preferences that we have? I'm afraid that the results of such a study would be very unsettling for those who would invoke God's name and the Bible to justify their prejudices against those who have a same-sex preference. Why are we letting legalists and biblical literalists define the issues of the Christian life? Why are Christians not exercised over such egregious sins as older people frequently having to choose between buying food or medications, the increasing polarization of social classes in the U.S., our invasion of another country based upon false intelligence and lies, etc.?
Why do we let them define "sin" for us, given their obsession with sexuality (that tells us far more about them than it does about anything else)? We have allowed their sexual preoccupation and their need to condemn it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are financial and political, eclipse the corporate sins that cry out to God for redress. Moreover, LGBT people are constantly being used to further "religious" and political agendas. Within the realm of the RC Church that is rocked by sexual scandals; the enmeshment of the "religious" and the secular realms of society. LGBT people are being used as political footballs for the crass political and material gains of predators who think nothing of demonizing others to further their careers and their moribund ideologies. These cynical opportunists will stop at nothing to climb their way to what they think is the "top," and use LGBT people as scapegoats in their feeble attempts to divert our attention from the pedophilia and ephebophilia scandals that are quite widespread within much of the RC Church; covered up by Bishops who should be serving hard time for criminal facilitation.
Unfortunately, Christianity in the minds of many people has become identified with the condemnation of others, particularly those whose sexual orientation is disapproved by self-styled spokespeople for Christianity. Our allowing them to get away with defining themselves as spokespeople for Christianity, and their marginalizing and disparagement of those Christians who seek to remove the bonds of oppression visited upon others, and relieve the suffering of others, has resulted in Christianity losing credibility with increasing numbers of intelligent, sensitive people; making Christianity seem increasingly irrelevant to meeting the needs and aspirations of many people.
Regarding "Ex-Gay Ministries," I made the following comment: What few mention is the fact that there is a lot of money in being "ex-gay" and holding rallies and sending out literature soliciting contributions from their constituents to fight against "the homosexual agenda." Many of these people aren't making just a couple of hundred dollars a week at the "ex-gay" business. Also, they not only attest to their own sexual ignorance, but show a lot about their own sexual and/or personality dysfunctions by obsessively condemning emotions and behaviors that would be foolish if applied to such behaviors, for example, as being an "ex-left hander" or an "ex-size 8." Every single respectable mental health association has condemned as destructive the attempt to change one's sexual orientation in order to bring it into conformity to the demands of the society. What, beyond helping to foment further self-loathing among LGBT people, these "ex-gays" and their champions accomplish, is the further demonization of LGBT people, resulting in further discrimination, as seen by many state attempts to prevent adoption and other civil rights, and creating a climate where what is happening in Guatemala, and other such places, can, and in some places undoubtedly does, happen here. Beyond the ignorance, bad science, and materialistic and/or psychological venality behind much of the "ex-gay" movement, as well as the tremendous harm it does, especially to impressionable kids, the question never seems to be asked: Why would one want to change his or her sexual orientation in the first place? The "ex-gay" movement assumes that being gay is not only a choice, but that it's a disease that must be "cured." It not only makes the statement that one's sexual orientation can be changed, but that it must be changed for a person to be a fully functioning and healthy adult. This assumption is one big lie! Why would you try to convert me from being left-handed to being right- handed? Why try to make me athletic when I'm a natural couch potato? Why try to make me like you say you are? Why are any of your characteristics better than mine? Even if sexual orientation is not genetic, it's certainly neurobiological, so why would you want to change anyone's neurobiology to be in conformity with your comfort zones and your definition of "mental health?" Even if same-sex orientation is a "choice," it's no more of a free choice than is the choice to commit suicide. We each have the "free choice" to commit suicide, but for most of us it must be acknowledged that such an option is not a "meaningful or viable choice" in any sense of the term.
There is no such thing as "paranoia" when looking at the state of most of the organized "Church" and of its enmeshment with reactionary politics and public discourse. And it only promises to get worse before it gets better, if it ever does get better. As you know, the Church has always had to fight the legalists among us; even Paul had to address those who perverted the faith. However, the "enlightenment" breeding such thinkers as Martin Luther separated us from all that. However, what makes the current situation far worse than occurred in his day is the fact that we no longer have the "enlightenment" to rescue us and give us a new paradigm. We have to find that new paradigm for the Church on our own, and I'm convinced that the only way for that to happen is for us to divest ourselves of these oppressive churches, "thinkers," and denominations, and form our own worship communities, which is what I have done. We have got to continue to use what ever venues we can have access to to confront these fascists by letting people know that what they are preaching is not orthodox "Christianity," and also let people know that the Gospel is one of liberation and our not taking on yokes of bondage made by mere man for their own self-serving agendas that Jesus precisely told us to eschew. Most of what I do in my weekly column, entitled, "Christianity and Society," that appears in the Sacramento Valley Mirror, and my writings on the Internet, is geared to doing just that. Why the obsession? I can understand why someone would feel that being gay is not consistent with biblical principles. That person would be wrong, but I can understand that view, particularly since I once held it myself. However, I find it curious that someone would focus on the issues of who loves who and who sleeps with who rather than, and over and above, such issues as us initiating an unprovoked and unjustified war on Iraq, based on lies; hunger and poverty here and in the rest of the world; skyrocketing health care costs that have helped lead to about forty five million people in this country without health insurance; many elderly people having to decide whether to buy food or drugs, etc. Why not deal with these issues, these egregious corporate sins? Why focus on same-sex love?
Freud called our attention to "defense mechanisms," that enable us to cope with relationships and with our ability to make sense out of our worlds. It's "an unconscious process that protects an individual from unacceptable or painful ideas or impulses." (Random House Webster's College Dictionary) One of those defense mechanisms is "Reaction Formation." Reaction Formation is the condemning of a behavior that one struggles to repress or deny within him/herself. Many politicians and religious leaders and their followers have not only profited materially and psychologically from their anti-LGBT statements and actions, but they have also profited socially, in that they erroneously feel that no one could or would question their "heterosexual credentials," viewed by them as their very reputation, if they verbally bash, and seek to deny the rights of, LGBT people.
It may well be that those who focus so much attention on same-sex relationships, those who are so obsessed with condemning gay people and their relationships, and seek to deny basic civil rights to LGBT people and their families, may be struggling with homosexual feelings themselves; homophobes may be the most likely to be suppressing homosexual feelings than those who don't feel the seemingly overwhelming need to condemn gay people.
As I've written before, Sigmund Freud has been one of the two most important intellectual influences in my life. The other person was Pitirim Sorokin, a noted mid-twentieth century Sociologist who has not received the eminent standing in Sociology that he deserves.
Freud primarily studied "hysteria," where there are physical symptoms that have no discernible physical cause; that cause is psychological, and usually the result of childhood traumas. Freud felt that these traumas were sexual in nature, and then later on these traumas manifested themselves in the unwanted physical symptoms.
"Every hysteria is the result of a traumatic experience, one that cannot be integrated into the person's understanding of the world. The emotions appropriate to the trauma are not expressed in any direct fashion, but do not simply evaporate: They express themselves in behaviors that in a weak, vague way offer a response to the trauma. These symptoms are, in other words, meaningful. When the client can be made aware of the meanings of his or her symptoms (through hypnosis, for example) then the unexpressed emotions are released and so no longer need to express themselves as symptoms. It is analogous to lancing a boil or draining an infection." See "Sigmund Freud," By C. George Boeree (http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/freud.html for the source of this quote. _
Rabid homophobia might well be profitably considered in this light! Clearly, as I've mentioned before, if one is comfortable in his or her own skin, he or she has no need to condemn others, let alone obsessively condemn others. When those viewed as "sexual outlaws" are obsessively and vehemently condemned, one must look at the stimulus provoking that reaction, and look at what in the condemner's psyche is creating that disproportionate response to that stimulus.
Even if one disagrees concerning the "legitimacy" of homosexuality and homosexual relationships, a sexually and emotionally healthy person might voice that disagreement once or twice and then get on with his or her life. However, when one stridently condemns LGBT people, frequently making a veritable career out of that condemnation, we must look beyond even the obvious possible reasons for their condemning behavior, such as financial and/or political gains.
When one reads the statements of many rabidly homophobic people, one may well see distorted views of sexuality itself, such as even distaste for normal sexual behaviors such as masturbation and oral sex. Moreover, what makes the psyche of the rabidly homophobic so important and suspect are the specious, even irrational, justifications they frequently use to condemn LGBT people.
Clearly, preserving "sanctity of marriage" is a specious, and irrational, argument, as "marriage" isn't working in at least half the time in the U.S, and how same-sex marriage would in any way adversely affect heterosexual marriage escapes rational understanding. "Morality" is a specious argument, as these homophobic people, many of whom call themselves "Christians," virtually ignore discussions of such issues as unprovoked war and poverty, and they certainly don't deal with these issues in the context of "morality." So, when "values" or "morality" are talked about, sexuality is singled out to the virtual exclusion of anything else. "Well-being of children" is clearly a specious argument as well, because study after study has shown that children raised in same-sex households fare no worse than children raised in opposite sex households. "Traditional family values" can be seen to be a similarly specious argument, as not only are families breaking up all the time because of our high divorce rates, but the biblical concept of "family" significantly differs from what the homophobic usually characterize as a "traditional family" today. Show me one "traditional family" that's mentioned in the Bible?
No! Clearly something else is likely animating the stridently homophobic beyond material gains and specious justifications for their position. It seems to me that it is quite possible that sexual trauma and/or repression of their own innate bisexuality or fear of their own homosexual "tendencies" may be behind their strident rhetoric. "Reaction Formation," a defense mechanism whereby one vehemently condemns in others what he/she fears in him/herself, may be a manifestation of these traumas and/or inappropriate repression visited upon these people when they were young children, thereby creating in them a "fixation" on all things sexual that stimulate in them that which they seek to repress in order for them to be more comfortable with the verbal and non-verbal messages regarding sexuality and its expression that they in one way or another received as children. By this reaction, they avoid their comfort zones being invaded with images that threaten their possibly artificial and erroneous views of themselves and of their own true sexual urges that have, to one degree or another, been sealed over by layers of repression so as to be conformable to parental and societal expectations, particularly when they have been raised in a religious arena.
The overall covering of this dynamic that justifies their "righteous" anger at LGBT people, and their single-minded intensity of ridding our society of the visibility, if not the existence, of these "outlaws" (by advocating such destructive "therapies" as exist in the Ex-Gay movement), is their retreat to selected Bible verses that are interpreted to be in line with their preconceived prejudices that emanate from, and justify the need for, their own repression of the forces within them that, if allowed to erupt into consciousness, would rock their own worlds, call into question their own sexuality, and also call into question their "Christianity," as they define it. To bring to consciousness one's innate bisexuality or homosexuality is extraordinarily threatening to these people; when the strictures regarding sexuality of most of organized "Christianity" are thrown into the mix, the guilt, shame, and panic would be so intense, that self-preservation demands that this reality be repressed at all costs. Hence, the obsession and strident rhetoric against LGBT people!
It seems to me that what must be done is not try to understand why people are Gay! Far more importantly, we must try to understand why so many people are so stridently homophobic! I think by refocusing attention from the victims of oppression to the oppressors, and seeking to understand the dynamics that motivate and energize these oppressors, we will go a long way to both liberating LGBT people, liberating the oppressors, and liberating Christianity from the perversion of the Gospel of grace.
Perhaps it's because I live in a non-cosmopolitan area, but my perception is that there is very little gay activism, with much energy going to living one's life as surreptitiously and quietly as possible, and not having any political involvement at all. Even in cosmopolitan areas, much energy goes into one's social life, focusing on what I consider to be frivolous activities, with little attention paid to agitating in the political arena for full and equal LGBT rights, including the right to same-sex marriage.
It's irrelevant if even only one same-sex couple want to get married. I don't care if no same-sex couples want to get married. By denying same-sex couples the right to get married, the state is diminishing the worth of their love as well as denying same-sex couples the civil rights that they, as tax paying citizens, are entitled to enjoy. Believe me, if I had a male partner, we'd be applying for a marriage license each and every day, demanding to know why we were being denied our civil rights, and constitutionally guaranteed rights to be equal under the law.
I wrote the following email to someone who is struggling with being gay and being a Christian, and I thought you might want to read it. The bottom line is that there is absolutely no condemnation in Scripture concerning same-sex love, and it should hurt all Christians that so many people are living lives fraught with conflict over this issue.
Dear CF: In your letter you wrote, "I believe the Scripture to be infallible." Even if we are to see Scripture in that way, we can't legitimately argue that homosexuality is "against God's will." (Too many scholarly works regarding homosexuality and the Bible refute such an argument, save for prejudicial hermeneutics.) It hurts me that so many people feel that they have to renounce and/or engage in self-loathing because of who they are and who God made them to be. People don't have to choose one or the other. In fact, being gay may well be part of God's plan to enable you to better evangelize, as your heart's attitude dictates. So many people deny a core part of themselves, thinking that being a Christian and an effective witness demands that they forego acting on their God-given impulses for intimacy. Unfortunately, sooner or later, many people who deny this primal urge become embittered to the point that they realize that they have to choose between resenting themselves and resenting what they think a godly person is to be (with assorted destructive behaviors that can frequently flow from such resentment), or integrate their God-given needs for intimacy with their Christian witness. I can't answer what you or anyone else should do. In Christianity, as in life, one size doesn't fit all! You write, "I think we should all be willing to give up our rights, as Paul and countless others did and presently do abroad, for the sake of the Gospel." You're right! We are to be willing to give up our rights for the sake of the Gospel. However, being gay is not a right, it's a condition! My feeling is that we can do far more for the Gospel of Christ by being authentic and acting authentically in line with our God-given needs than by denying or fighting against those needs.
Regarding "affirming churches" frequently emphasizing gay rights: increasing numbers of LGBT Christians and others are no longer content to sit in the back of the bus, and some people's ministry, their vehicle for evangelism, is to witness to LGBT people by letting them know that not only does God love them, that there is no contradiction between biblical principles and same-sex love, but empower people to remove the yokes of bondage placed on them and others by all too many clergy and politicians, family and acquaintances, so as to live more liberating, authentic lives for God and enable other Christians to do the same. Advocacy for such rights is essential, as currently there are absolutely no federal protections afforded LGBT people; what state and local rights are afforded can be removed with the stroke of a pen. Effective witnessing for the Christian, gay or straight, may well include zealous advocacy for such rights, not only for oneself, but for others who are also made in God's image.
It's long been known by social psychology that change of attitude doesn't cause change of behavior but that change of behavior changes attitudes over time. For example, people didn't change their attitudes toward segregation until integration was forced on them and then, over time, almost everyone has come to view integration as normal and segregation as abnormal.
Similarly, it's only when by force of law that LGBT people acquire full civil rights and civil liberties that people's attitudes toward them and their relationships, including same-sex marriage, will change so that it will be inconceivable to most people in subsequent generations how people could have been so stupid and hateful to have denied LGBT people basic civil rights, and done so largely in the name of "religion" at that.
We can only mitigate homophobic rhetoric's impact on society by confronting the perpetrators of that rhetoric, be they clergy or politician, by loudly and vociferously proclaiming that we will not stand for that rhetoric, and the behavior that that rhetoric generates. This confrontation must be facilitated by such tactics as systematic boycotts of businesses that discriminate; actively lobbying to oust homophobic politicians from office; writing articles and speaking in a variety of venues and forums condemning anti-gay bias, and educate people about the realities of gay life and gay families; support gay-friendly politicians; etc. In this connection, it's remarkable how sexual habits trump virtually every other criterion when it comes to the view of one's credibility and "fitness for office." We don't throw out haters from the ministry or from political office, but when it comes to SEX, we throw them to the wolves and express our disdain. Talk about majoring in the minors! It's like Jesus says, we strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:24) All of us, particularly those of us who are people of faith, must speak out in all forums available to us to stop this madness; stop the perversion of Christianity perpetrated by the rhetoric of the hate-mongering clergy and their followers.
A few thoughts:
- There's not a dime's worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans. It's all a shell game. The fact that the democrats are spineless almost to a person is due to the fact that most are real whores who are solely interested in getting votes and will do and/or say anything to get those votes. If most of us were running against Bush in the last election, we could have done a far better job than did Kerry who, through his indecisiveness, lack of passion, inconsistent statements, and seeming lethargy (he conceded much too soon) seemed to have thrown the election;
- With the composition of the Supreme Court, Bush has already left his legacy (which, of course, contains a lot of other egregious things) that will have the consequence of retarding and even, perhaps, reversing gains made in the civil rights arena;
- Bush is not a conservative in any sense of the word, as we now have a $9 trillion debt, and fiat money that puts us at the mercy of countries such as China and India who are largely determining the value of our dollar;
- Most of the electorate love the politics of exclusion, where hate-mongering rhetoric, such as that against LGBT people and same-sex marriage, garners far more votes than does rational political and military policy;
- Most Americans are so self-absorbed and selfish that that is the reason there is no draft, as Bush and his clan have learned from the revulsion shown at the Viet Nam war that was largely defused once the draft was eliminated; 6. Even with what is now known about the problems with electronic voting machines, they are still going to be used, and there is hardly a peep coming from politicians (or the electorate) stating that we need to have paper ballots to check for election fraud.
With scenarios like this, it is unlikely we will get much of a change in tone in this country, regardless of who the next president is. Let's face it, who on the horizon is likely to have progressive, humane values? McCain? Guiliani? Clinton? And forget about the lesser of two evils! Most, if not all, of the politicians angling for president and congressional positions are either passionless chameleons or passionate haters, and are likely that way, in part, because they have a better finger on the pulse of most of the electorate than we likely have. I believe that regardless of who wins the next presidential election, we're in for more of the same. To say we're in a world of hurt, is a gross understatement, and I don't believe that Bush' successor, democrat or republican, will bring about the changes needed to recapture America from those who have hijacked it, much as has been done to "Christianity."
The results of the Pew poll of a few months ago are chilling! When Jesus says that many are called but few are chosen, and that the way to destruction is wide and there are many who go that way, and that the way to eternal life is narrow and few go that way, He wasn't joking! How anyone can pervert the Gospel of grace and love into a seeming justification of torture is remarkable to me. When we can trust secular people to be more decent and righteous than many professing "Christians," we have entered the Mengele world. Most disturbing to me are the high numbers of self-decribed Christians favoring torture: only 26 percent of Catholics oppose it in all circumstances, while only 31 percent of white Protestants rule it out entirely. If you combine those Christians who think torture is either never or only rarely acceptable, you have 42 percent of Catholics and 49 percent of white Protestants. The comparable statistic of those who are described as "secular," which I presume means agnostic or atheist, is 57 percent opposition. In other words, if you are an American Christian, you are more likely to support torture than if you are an atheist or agnostic. Christians for torture: it's a new constituency.
"The will of the people" will always be against the rights of the minority group, and one has to be a rank hypocrite not to acknowledge that fact. The dominant group always has a vested interest in the status quo (That's why they're the dominant group!), and the minority group must always fight for a place at the table. As far as I know, every single gain made by a minority group has been due to actions by the courts. For example, Brown v. Board of Education made integration in civil society possible; had we waited for the legislatures to act, we would still have segregation as an institution.
I must disagree when some encourage people to remain in homophobic churches so as to be in a position to educate and change them. Beyond the fact that they have done more to initiate and foment anti-LGBT rhetoric and the ensuing shame, self-loathing, and suicides of LGBT people, they have also, by that rhetoric and their exclusionary practices, set the climate for the bashing and killing of LGBT people . . . (they allow) many of the perpetrators of this violence to feel they are doing God a favor by their hateful actions. I feel that God is leading increasing numbers of Christians to leave these pathetic, moribund, frequently hate-filled "churches" and denominations, led by frequently ignorant and/or mendacious clergy, and calling us into a post-denominational era . . . Christians are going to form their own worship communities that preach and exemplify the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: The Gospel of Grace (God's unmerited favor to us), Faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), Love, Peace, Reconciliation, and Inclusiveness. By remaining in churches that preach and practice a religion of exclusion, and supporting them with our presence, energies, and monies, we are witting or unwitting accomplices to their perversion of the Gospel, and they are far more likely to change us than we are likely to change them!
I've had occasion to teach on the (anti-Gay) "clobber passages" (in the Bible) to fundamentalists, and regardless of the logic of my explanations of these passages, utilizing the original language, they tenaciously hung on to their prejudices. This battle is not about two sets of reasonable people sitting down and reasoning together. It's about pure, naked prejudice and hate-mongering from all too many pulpits throughout the world. (They) have to be confronted by our turning our backs on them, not in any way supporting them, and going back to the model of the early Church where people met in each other's homes, divested of edifices and careers that had to be maintained by keeping the money rolling in. Unfortunately, many clergy know that the best way to have and keep the money rolling in is to practice a religion of exclusion, and encourage an "us against them" mentality (which) encourages even more financial giving to enhance clergy careers. All too much of the organized "Church" has for far too long, by practicing the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion, led the way in discriminating against assorted minority groups, from women to Afro-Americans to LGBT people . . . change of the religious institutions in society regarding Civil Rights isues (has) never happened from within . . . when it comes to Civil Rights issues, it's been the secular society that has largely led the way to freedom and emancipation, with the religious institutions following suit once the hard-fought-for freedoms (have) been won.
It's high time we turn our backs on "traditions that make void the word of God" (Matthew 15:3), and on the institutions that embody those traditions that have the effect of historically demonizing assorted minority groups. The Church, the Ecclesia, the called-out ones, aren't restricted to inhabiting buildings! Rather, they are in disparate places and we have to seek each other out and worship together "in spirit and in truth," (embracing) each and every one of God's children. To do otherwise is not being faithful to the Gospel, or to Jesus' call on our lives, and His call for unity of His Church.
I refuse to let the perverters of the Gospel of Grace hijack "Christianity," and convert it over to their own twisted view of the world and of the Christian life. We are Christians! And the twisted freaks, no matter how large their number, are to never take that name away from us. I turn my back on most of the institutional "Church," but I'll never relinquish the label "Christian" because of haters and hate-mongers who gravitate to "religion" in order to "justify" their prejudices and hateful acts in the name of God, or "because the Bible tells me so."
Unfortunately, "sex," be it same-sex love or opposite-sex love, is viewed synonymously with "morality," and not the sins that cause the death and degradation of our fellow human beings, such as war and poverty. Where are the professing Christians, Black or White, who lament and condemn as "immoral" the fact that there are currently 45million Americans without needed health insurance? Why the single-minded obsession about condemnation regarding sexual matters, and actually believing that with all of the corporate sins that exist, God is unduly concerned with who loves who and who sleeps with who? As I mentioned elsewhere, such single-minded obsession with condemnation, allying oneself with the most rabid, right wing forces in society, and with those who have historically made it necessary for there to be Black churches in the first place, tells us far more about the intelligence, discernment, emotional makeup, spirituality, and the understanding of the Gospel of grace by those who condemn than about anything else.
One can't fully appreciate the animus, the downright hatred of so many professing Christians against those they characterize as "the other," "the stranger." We are usually not dealing with intellectually and spiritually honest people when we deal with homophobes who cloak their prejudices in faulty biblical exegeses, and refuse to live out the Gospel when it comes to LGBT people. This fact is not unlike the role of racists in the "Church" in the middle part of the last century.
When asked by another blogger if I summarily wrote off those with whom I disagreed regarding Christianity and same-sex love, I wrote the following. No, I don't write off all those who disagree with me on this issue. However, the homophobes with whom I've dealt have not been intellectually or spiritually honest, and have refused to study the Bible, read extra-biblical sources on this topic to even question why someone would voluntarily choose to become part of a despised minority group, or even listen when they're shown how their interpretation of the "clobber passages" lacks rigor and doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, they presume upon themselves the right to judge others, thereby betraying the living of the Christian life; extol as virtues legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion, and thereby don't acknowledge in word or deed the Gospel of grace. Dialogue is fine! However, it's been my experience that homophobic people don't seek dialogue, but, rather, tenaciously hang on to their prejudices, regardless of the evidence presented to them, thereby savagely hurting people, largely creating "justification" for self-injury, suicide, bashing, and murder of LGBT people.
No! I don't want to engage myself with such people, nor do I feel that the "Church" should be identified as a vehicle of God's that in any way harbors or encourages them. Such people are toxic, not only to LGBT people, but to the Church and to Christians, as they betray the Gospel, and are frequently enmeshed with the most strident, radical right wing political and social forces in society. I don't write anyone off, but since honest dialogue is neither sought nor tolerated by the prejudiced, their attitudes are not likely to change by the mere presentation of facts. Moreover, I think it's a mistake to see each side as being on an equal moral footing regarding these differences. "Inclusion" and "exclusion" are not equivalent values or debatable issues in the Christian life! Besides, only God can change their hearts!
Beyond knit picking Scripture to justify our prejudices, and seek to blindly apply ancient cultural practices and values to contemporary society, it is well to remember that Jesus' main commandments to us were to love God, our neighbor, and not to judge other people. I find it highly suspicious when there are professing Christians, or anyone else for that matter, who keep gnawing on the bone of same-sex love or attraction, and seem to virtually ignore the sins that cry out to God, such as war, poverty, and disease. Such obsessive condemnation tells us much more about the condemners than it does about anything else!
I like Peter J. Gomes' assertion in his wonderful book, The Good Book: Reading The Bible With Mind And Heart that I strongly urge people to read. He says when we read the Scriptures, we must seek to understand what the verse says, what it means, the text, the subtext, the context, what we bring to the text and what we take out of the text. Clearly, he says, that biblical principle must always trump biblical practice. There is absolutely no room in Christianity, or in any civilized society that expects to survive, for hate, demonization, verbal or physical aggression, or anything else that separates our brothers and sisters from each other and from ourselves. We are, after all, members of the same family, whether some recognize that fact or not!
I want to begin the conclusion with the following remarks to a person who calls him/herself "Anonymous," and frequently writes on assorted Christian blogs condemning same-sex love. The following is my reply to a comment he made on my blog. Anonymous: Your "legalism" is blinding you to God's call to not judge others and to love others. You "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel." Scripture is "liberating," not mere words on a page that are to be slavishly imposed, regardless of time and place. That may, ultimately, be the major place we differ: We see the Bible differently. I see the Bible as God's love letter to us, showing us how we are no longer under a Law that no one can follow, but under "GRACE." Jesus came to set us free; you and other biblical literalists seek to place the yokes of bondage on others for which Jesus condemned the Pharisees.
Anonymous: The Bible is like a finger! If I were to ask you where you live, and you pointed in a certain direction, and I kept looking at your finger, I might know what your fingerprints look like, the shape of your finger, every facet of your finger, but I would have absolutely no idea where you live. I'd have to look where your finger is pointing in order to know where you live. The same holds true of the Bible! The Bible is a finger that points us to a few of the many aspects or dimensions of God! If we keep concentrating on the Bible (regardless of how inspired it is), and don't look where the Bible is pointing, we are not seeing God! God is far greater and of far more importance than the Bible, just as where you live is of far more importance than your finger. As important as the Bible is, look to God, the One who has told us to be just, merciful, and humble (Micah 6:8), and to love our neighbors and not judge them. The love of God must trump the words of the Bible! If it doesn't, that is the definition of "Idolatry."
I received the following email that I'm printing as it was sent to me. What follows is my response to it.
I have been hereing more and more about radical christians, and equating them with fundimental Islam. I read you piecs about radical christians that spread hate, But you never sited any insodinces. Could you please provide specific facts.
Dear -----: Thank's for writing. As you say in your site, "There are those who live on the surface of truth. They never explore its depths. Paul in Romans tells us, 'They exchange the truth for the lie.' They are the politicians and newspaper columnists of the world. They say only what they want to say. They never question their beliefs." It isn't only newspaper columnists and politicians who "exchange the truth for the lie!" Unfortunately, many who profess to be "Christians" do the very same thing! Christians are to love others, not judge them! We can't call ourselves Christians if we demonize others or call on other country leaders to be assassinated, for example. Christians just don't do that! All the Bible knowledge in the world is no substitute for the Spirit of God within each believer! (Let's face it, the devil knows the Bible!) There are people who read the Bible and just assume that what they interpret one or more verses to mean is "the truth!" As you say in the above quote, they never stop to think that maybe their interpretation is wrong! These people then substitute their own interpretations for Jesus' injunctions to us to love and not judge others. To answer your question explicitly, then, it is that all those who use the Bible as a hammer, or invoke God's name to hurt others, or live lives of arrogance where they seek to demonize others and ignore the real sins of society, such as unjust war and poverty, are the "wolves in sheep's clothing," those who willfully pervert the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: the Gospel of grace (God's unmerited favor to those whom He has chosen from the foundation of the world. e.g. Ephesians 1:4)
Radical Christianity is the opposite of its perversion! Its preaching and living out the Gospel of grace, and haters and hate-mongers, those who preach and practice a false gospel of legalism and exclusion, are not "Radical Christians," they're not Christians at all!
Best wishes, Jerry.
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