Gil, this was indeed a “nice reminder” that hateful words towards gays and lesbians are un-Christian. It is a step in the right direction, and I appreciate its implied repudiation of the extreme rhetoric that so often emanates from the religious right. However, I am more interested in how this recommitment to a spirit of Christian love translates into action. Let’s talk policy. Is it “loving” to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians who wish to live in committed relationships? Is it “loving” to oppose the passage of anti-discrimination laws in the 30 states that still lack them? Is it “loving” to oppose school programs (like GLSEN) that aim to address anti-gay bullying and suicide among gay youth? Is it loving to suggest, however obliquely, that gays and lesbians are disordered, that we have less than a full life, or that we will be denied eternal life? The last two sentences spoken by the bearer of this message of love contain the seeds of its own contradiction: “There’s a world dying out there. And I would rather be right, than offer them life.” What I am hearing from this man is that I, a homosexual, am either dying or in some kind of spiritually moribund state, and that he, a heterosexual Christian, can offer me life—a more fulfilled life in the here and now or eternal life, I guess. He seems to assume that because I am homosexual, I cannot be a Christian. And I cannot have a full and rich life. And that I may not go to Heaven. (Does this mean I go to the other place?)What do you think gay and lesbian Christians think when they hear this? Just put yourself in their place. Try to imagine. You’re a member of a church that welcomes gays and lesbians, you’re happy in your relationship with your partner, you are active in your community, perhaps you are raising a child, and you’ve worked hard all your life to overcome all the obstacles that have been thrown in your way, including unjust laws that discriminate against you. But you’ve survived and you have a deep sense of inner contentment about the meaning and direction of your life. And then you hear this message from someone of a less welcoming faith, telling you that you are “dying” in some sense, with all that that implies (defects, diseases, disorders, etc.), and that you do not have a fulfilling life because you belong to a certain class of people, none of whom have fulfilling lives, ipso facto. And to top things off, you won’t have eternal life either until you come around to their worldview and maybe join their church. How would you react to that? As for me, I say, “Ugh. Take that message back and work on it some more.”Love means putting ourselves in the other’s place and understanding how our words sound to them.Love without action is just piety. Loving others means helping them better their lives, or at the very least not blocking their own efforts at every step of the way.
Gil, my next-door neighbor just sent me this article from The Washington Post with the comment that the Catholic Church seems determined to drive people away. I would just add that this story perfectly illustrates what I was just talking about (love in action, in my previous comment). The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington D.C. is so committed to discrimination that it is willing discontinue social support for nearly 70,000 people:The Archdiocese's UltimatumBy David Waters, The Washington Post, 11/12/09In a surprisingly bold and seemingly unbiblical move, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is threatening to discontinue its social support for nearly 70,000 people -- including a third of Washington's homeless -- because of its opposition to a proposed same-sex marriage bill.Under the proposed bill, according to a story by Post reporters Tim Craig and Michelle Boorstein, religious organizations would not be required to perform same-sex weddings, "but they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians."Apparently, the archdiocese is concerned that it could be forced, for example, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, open adoptions to same-sex couples, or rent a church hall to gay and lesbian groups. "If the city requires this, we can't do it," Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."And withdrawing support for the poor and the hungry isn't a problem?It gets complicated anytime church and state work together to provide services for people, especially when a mix of public and private funds and facilities is involved. In this case, for example, the church manages a number of city-owned homeless shelters.The use of public funds and facilities should be governed by secular laws and regulations, including anti-discrimination laws. But churches and other non-profit religious organizations are exempt from many such laws, because of church-state separation.The Church should have every right to oppose any piece of legislation and to use its funds and facilities as it sees fit. On the other hand, if any church is going to accept government funding for any purpose, shouldn't it be required to abide by government rules?But the larger question is this: Is the Church really going to ignore the gospel imperative to feed, clothe, shelter and care for the disadvantaged -- in this case 70,000 -- because it might have to provide better benefits to a few of its own workers? I don't think that's what Jesus meant by "going the extra mile."As DC council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) put it: "Are they really going to harm people because they have a philosophical disagreement with us on one issue?"
Surprise from Salt Lake City: Last week, for the first time, the Mormon church endorsed city laws that would prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing and employment. Read the story here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091112/ap_on_re/us_rel_mormons_gaysSaid one blogger, “Hurrah for the Mormon Church for this! They have now left the middle ages and are living in the 1950s. It’s a baby step, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.”Meanwhile, as news from Washington D.C. confirms (see comment just above), the Catholic church is as entrenched as ever on this issue. As the actor Stephen Fry recently said, 100 years from now the Church will be offering half-baked apologies for things it is doing right now. Support of unjust and discriminatory laws will forever tarnish the Church’s reputation, all the more so because it was so slow to change when change was so clearly called for. Let no one say that the Church is only resisting “moral relativism.” The Church has changed its position time and time again over the centuries.“The Church thought that slavery was perfectly fine. Absolutely okay. And then they didn’t. What is the point of the Church if they say, ‘Well, we couldn’t know that because nobody else did.’ Then what are you for?” –Stephen Fry“Why is the church always a taillight rather than a headlight?” ---Martin Luther King, Jr.
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