02 August 2006

Loved In The Worst Way

I'm a minister of the Gospel in Tasmania, Australia. I work quite a lot of my time with homosexuals (sic); as a matter of fact, my own son is homosexual. Now, that helps me understand a lot more about how to treat these people. Now, I love homosexual people and Lesbians (sic), and we get on very well . . . there are some twelve couples in our church. Now, they respect the house of God; they don't hold hands, they don't kiss, and all those sorts of things that people hate about them. They really are good people. They know that I welcome them into the fellowship. They also know that we do not condone what they do . . . we as Christians have got to have a love for them as well as any other person . . . we all know some are born like it, and some have chosen to become like it. Now, it says in Leviticus 18:22: "You shall not lie with a male as one who lies with a female; it is an abomination." Homosexuality is clearly forbidden, as in 1 Corinthians 6:9. In Paul's teachings, he did not want Christianity to become confused with sects that permitted such things.

This is a comment I received several weeks ago. I don't post bigoted messages, and I had no intention of posting this one; but it has haunted me ever since I first saw it, and I finally decided that it needed to be dealt with.

It really is a textbook example of things that plague Lesbians and Gay men: Heterosexism, bigotry, malicious interpretation of Bible scripture, condescension, snobbery, ignorance, disrespect, and the appalling use of Christianity as a weapon of guilt and psychological torture. All waiting to be experienced at a church near you; you certainly don't have to travel as far as Tasmania to encounter this kind of brazen inhumanity!

I wonder how it feels to have self-esteem so low that I would attend a church that treated me bad, like those poor dozen couples the minister so "lovingly" talks about? No . . . I take that back. I don't want to know how it feels! Just thinking about it turns my stomach.

When I shared this comment with my friend, Kansas City columnist Chuck Tackett, he remarked: "The Bible was written by men. It has some good advice, (but) if you are going to be a so-called Christian, you can't pick and choose the (Biblical) taboos you are not comfortable with and ignore the rest."

I agree with Chuck, but I would take his analysis further. You can't pick and choose anything from the Bible unless you understand what you're reading! There are far too many people who don't understand, and an alarming number of them have the nerve to call themselves ministers of the Gospel . . . so many, in fact, that it ought to be a criminal offense!

I've discussed the infamous passages from the book of Leviticus before: Those prohibitions were imposed on the ancient Israelites as punishment for lack of faith. Levitican law doesn't apply to Christians! Neither does it apply to anyone else in the modern world, for that matter.

As for that citation from First Corinthians, it isn't a Divine condemnation! It's merely a tirade from the Apostle Paul against behavior he considered sinful. As I discussed in my post titled "The First Tortured Homosexual Christian", Paul was a complicated and troubled man. Yet, despite his well-known abhorrence of homosexual acts, he isn't even talking about them in that passage!

The allusion to homosexuality was imposed on the text long ago by scurrilous translators; it has since been corrected. Modern Bible scholars believe masturbation is the behavior Paul was actually referring to. (Preacher man, what did your hands touch this morning before they touched the Bible?) Even if he had been talking about homosexual acts, Christians don't follow the teachings of the Apostle Paul! They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Christ did not condemn LesBiGay people or their sexuality.

What should happen to so-called Gospel messengers who ignore the Christ's message of salvation and instead comb Scripture for verses that seem to support their deep-seated prejudices? They should lose the right to call themselves messengers of the Christ! The message they carry is anything but Christian, and not fit to hear.

In my post titled "My Conversion", I told the story of how I temporarily lost my faith when anti-Gay sermons began coming from the pulpit of my church. I left soon afterward. However, not every Gay person leaves a church when that kind of thing happens. Some of them stay and suffer silently. Raised to think of Christianity as something that condemns them, many Lesbian and Gay Christians actually seek out churches that hate who they are!

Churches that welcome LGBT faithful as long as they consent to be bathed in shame and scorn every Sunday morning! Churches where the Christian greetings "brother" and "sister" ring hollow when directed at LGBT members. Churches that are divided into "good Christians" and "not-so-good Christians" based on sexual orientation. Churches with the potential to turn into outraged mobs if homosexual life partners so much as touch one another's hand during services!

How can God reside in churches like this? He cannot! I've said it before, and it's worth saying a million times: God and Satan do not reside in the same house! Intolerance and ostracism are the tools of Satan. Don't look for God's presence anywhere work is being done with such tools! God's tools are loving guidance and unconditional forgiveness. Also, know that the Lord will never ask you to suffer ignorance in His house; the God I worship celebrates wisdom and enlightenment.

In churches all over the world, Lesbians and Gay men are treated like minimum wage banquet servers whose hard work is unappreciated and whose presence in the banquet hall is either deliberately ignored or barely tolerated. We do not have to endure an "eat in the kitchen, away from the guests" kind of Christianity! We are meant to sit at God's banquet table with the rest of humanity.

No one could possibly be more welcome at the Lord's table than we are, because He gifted us at birth with the Divine androgyny that reflects His Heavenly kingdom. Despite the high degree of hostility our presence generates, we are indeed present at His banquet table, in multitudes! We are nuns. We are priests and bishops. We are ushers and deacons. We are church mothers, musicians, singers, altar girls and boys, assistant pastors and often, even pastors.

A church that has no Gay people in it (if such a thing could possibly exist) is a church that God has not blessed; and a church that excludes and/or denigrates Gay people is a church that doesn't deserve God's blessing!

Jesus Christ told His apostles:

LUKE 9:5
"Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving . . . shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them!"

Excellent advice! Don't degrade yourself by attending a church that hates you! Don't make your church home where a minister would be so heartless as to think of his own Gay son as "born like it" and his natural sexuality "an abomination." You're better off reading the Gospels by yourself at home!

Don't believe a heterosexist minister who claims to "love" you. What kind of love is it that leaves you emotionally battered, spiritually bruised, and filled with shame? Never settle for love you can only get in the worst way. Insist on love given in the best way, the way Jesus Christ gives it to those He in His wisdom called "eunuchs from birth." For the Christ was also quoted as saying:

LUKE 6:22,23
"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in Heaven."

This teaching applies to all who are persecuted in Jesus Christ's name, but I believe it has a most pertinent meaning for LesBiGay persons. Reflecting on how viciously we've been targeted over the centuries, it's hard to imagine He was talking about anybody else!

Tomorrow, I'll be at the table when company comes.
Nobody'll dare say to me,"Eat in the kitchen," then . . .
They'll see how beautiful I am, and be ashamed . . .
(excerpt from the Langston Hughes poem "I, Too, Sing America", written in 1925)