The Politics of Religion
By: Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker
For many years I've been deeply concerned with, and fought against, the savage oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (hitherto referred to as LGBT) people in our society that claims to be "the land of the free." The discrepancy between our "real culture" (what, in fact, exists) and our "ideal culture" (what we say exists) is brought into sharp relief when we understand what is being done to our LGBT sisters and brothers, and the major influence in, and source of "justification" for, that oppression is most of the institutional Church.
Most of the institutional Church, through its rhetoric and actions and/or its silence and inaction in the face of the oppression of LGBT people, has provided "justification" to others to view and treat LGBT people as second-class citizens who are not allowed to live in a manner consistent with the very souls that God has given them. Indeed, the homophobia and verbal gay bashing that characterizes most of the institutional Church has caused untold harm to LGBT people, their families, and to the status of democracy and civility in our society at large.
As have some other clergy, I have written extensively on the subject of how being LGBT is in no way inconsistent with Christianity. Much of my writings on the subject can be read in the links and posts on my Blog, "A Christian Voice For Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, And Transgender Rights," located at www.christianlgbtrights.org.
A few years ago, I delivered a sermon at a friend's church, Trinity United Methodist Church, entitled "Why Every Church Must Be Open and Affirming." This is a small excerpt from that sermon that conveys just a bit of my passion about this crucial topic:
"The seemingly oracular pronouncements regarding GLBT people and their relationships by those who parade their ignorance as "Godliness" have helped lead to the suicides, bashings, and murders of countless GLBT people…
"Make no mistake, every drop of blood shed by GLBT people either through suicide, bashing, or murder, are on the hands of all those religious leaders, their followers, and their allies who spew forth their ignorance, prejudice, and hate against GLBT people and their relationships! These wolves in sheep's clothing take the Bible, God's love letter to His children, and selectively and perversely use it as a club to condemn others, and deny GLBT people full inclusion in the Church and in society.
"The tradition-bound parts of the Church have so indoctrinated people, many of whom have never even set foot in a house of worship, that many people even disown their own children when they 'come out' and divulge their sexual orientation to those whom they thought unconditionally loved and cherished them. There are many children living on the streets because their own parents trusted ignorant clergy and their followers over their God-given duty and privilege to nurture and embrace their own children!
"The Church should concentrate on the real sins that deserve our attention and that cry out to God for redress, such as invading another country on false pretenses; the working poor who can't afford medical insurance; the Supreme Court ruling that people can't sue their insurance company in state court for denying needed medical services; many elderly people having to decide whether to buy food or medicine; the gigantic rip off perpetrated by drug companies, hospitals, and the medical establishment on sick and vulnerable people. Why not focus on and address issues such as these, instead of obsessing on who loves who and who sleeps with whom? Such obsession tells us much more about the pathetic and moribund state of much of the Church than it does about the reality of the lives of GLBT people."
For too long we have allowed ignorant, sometimes hateful, clergy and others who profess to be "Christians" to define our realities for us, to define "Christianity" for others, and to foolishly equate same-sex love with "immorality." Moreover, there has become an enmeshment between most of the institutional Church, that enjoys its tax exempt status, and the most reactionary forces of the State, as witnessed by its tenacious advocacy of the status quo (done in the name of "tradition") even if that status quo causes untold harm to the poor, to people of color, and to LGBT people. Because of this debacle, Christianity has become defined in the minds of many as being coterminous with jingoism, Americanism, Capitalism, militarism, and homophobia!
There is only one Gospel to be found in Christianity: Grace (God's unmerited favor); Faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances; Love, Peace, Reconciliation, and Inclusiveness! Those who preach a false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion are preaching their own prejudices (that all too frequently reward them materially and/or psychologically), but are not preaching the Good News of the Gospel that sets captives free from yokes of bondage that other fallible human beings seek to place on them!
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 a decent person, he or she is not a Christian!
It's high time for all people of good will, and all those who are Christians in fact, to stand up and actively confront the ignorance and hate (done in the name of "love" of course), and the politics of exclusion, that emanates from the mouths and actions of those clergy and other professing Christians who are frequently given a credibility that they certainly don't deserve.
Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker writes "Christianity and Society" a weekly column that appears in the "Sacramento Valley Mirror" in California.
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