06 September 2006

Bad Tree, Bad Fruit (Part One)

Once upon a time, there was a preacher who ran a Gay-affirming Christian blog with his wife.  One day, he posted the following text on his blog:

A few weeks ago, (my wife) and I attended a ministry leadership conference in Dallas with our pastor and close friend . . . when we checked into the hotel and picked up our itinerary, I was shocked to see the name of an arch-Conservative writer and (minister) leader listed as one of the leaders . . . as I expressed my horror that someone with these views would be part of this event’s leadership, (my wife) assumed her role as the voice of reason. She told me not to discount his teachings that were consistent with God’s word and the Holy Spirit just because he was badly off-base in (the) area (of Gay Rights). . . as it turns out, this speaker was unable to attend the conference, and was replaced by someone I did not know, so my concern from the previous day turned out to be moot . . . the topic of homosexuality never came up, so I don’t know where the individual speakers stood on GLBT issues. I do know what they said touched my heart and filled me with the Holy Spirit, and that’s all that really mattered.

I had another enlightening experience this weekend. I’m frequently reaching out to other blogs and Internet sites to attract more readership to my blog . . . I received a response from one such blogger who indicated that, while he did not share my (tolerant) views on homosexuality, he was a Christian and felt that the discussion taking place on my blog was important enough for him to write about and provide a link to mine . . . I wrote about this exchange, but not all of the readers wanted to join this dialogue. A Gay man posted the following: “Contrary to what you say here, I believe that (this man) is indeed my sworn enemy . . . as a heterosexual man, you see nothing wrong in meeting him on equal footing to discuss doctrine. Let me emphasize that the two of you are indeed meeting on equal footing, because your sexuality makes you "clean" in his eyes. Do you think he would see me in the same way? He would not! . . . I won't establish regular dialogue with anyone who thinks himself qualified to place me outside the realm of God's love. To my thinking, that would be validating someone's exaggerated opinion of himself vis-a-vis God, which would be akin to idolatry.”

I was taken aback by the depth of this man’s anger. While there is likely plenty of justification, I don’t believe anything constructive can come of it. Those who preach the true message of Christ are not our enemies. If they are truly seeking Christ and are led by the Holy Spirit, there is automatically common ground that we can share with them, regardless of their beliefs about homosexuality or other issues . . . those who are seeking don’t need anger directed toward them. They need to be taught how God loves GLBT people and, just as importantly, how the Holy Spirit fills them up. The best way to show this is to allow Christ to lift you past the hurt and anger that has built up because of the pain inflicted upon you by family, friends, and the Church.

The excerpted text you just read was taken from a blog called Gay Christian Outreach. I am the Gay man the preacher talks about, the one he characterized as being too angry. The other blogger he refers to was a raging Bible bigot, eager to spew the usual condemnation and vilification his kind always spews at LesBiGay people. Naturally, after I read this text, I felt the need to respond. This is what I said to the preacher:

What I think you're missing is that, while this fellow (you talk about) may indeed be seeking Christ, he is not being led by the Holy Spirit in his search. The Holy Spirit will never lead you to a place where ostracizing and stigmatizing your brother is justified. There can be no common ground with those who try to put themselves in God's place and mangle Scripture to suit their prejudices . . . not if the ground we're standing on is supposed to be Holy Ground.

In the past, I've said that Christianity is like a fire; it has incredible power that can be used for good or for harm. Those who believe as (this man) does are like reckless children, playing with fire and burning innocent people without knowing what they're doing. This can and will lead to tragedy! Such people need to be disciplined, so that they no longer present a danger to others. More important, they need discipline so that they no longer distort Christian doctrine.

I hate to say it . . . but I think you and (your wife) value tradition over truth to a certain extent. Just because a false doctrine has been dominant for a long time doesn't make it right! Couching it in sound doctrine doesn't make it right, either. If it wasn't right when first presented, it still isn't right five thousand years later. The Christ did not teach what Bible fundamentalists say He taught! Yes, the Savior's message can be interpreted in different ways, but it must never be distorted! We cannot become comfortable with hatred being preached in the name of God.

Hurt and anger can be very useful emotions . . . when channeled in the right direction, they can be used to teach, to call attention to a problem, and to open a pathway to healing. A doctor doesn't allow a boil go untreated; he lances it, lets the poison drain out, and then applies disinfectant and bandages. You want to put the bandages on before the illness is treated! A patient can die that way! The heterosexist boil on the face of the Christian church must be lanced. It will cause a great deal of pain. That's unavoidable, but remember that healing must come eventually.

For two people who identify themselves as Gay allies, you and your wife seem shockingly naïve about LesBiGay anger. Let me try to make you understand a little better: Not long ago, I tried to bring the Christ's true message of love and salvation to a group of "queers." They describe themselves that way in an attempt to steel themselves against the kind of derogatory names they're called on a regular basis. That's (a whole other) issue . . . no sooner had I mentioned the name of Jesus Christ than they attacked me tooth and claw! They told me they didn't need a Savior. They called me a bizarre wacko, coming among them with superstitious bullsh*t. They accused me of being an "ex-Gay" activist in disguise.

Did I let my pride take over? Did I accuse them of being unreasonable? No, I didn't. I understand this reaction . . . I've been in their shoes, many times. I've been ostracized, vilified, threatened, beaten, and most recently, denounced by a Fundamentalist minister at my own father's funeral.

I've had to fight with all my being to repel the sense of shame and doom that society presses on Gay people! I've watched people be crushed to death beneath centuries' worth of hateful doctrine. If you manage to survive running the gauntlet of relentless heterosexism, then a hot temper, a surly attitude, a low tolerance for condescension . . . these are the least you can expect to come away with.

You will never be able to grasp the intensity of everything that folks like me go through, but you and your wife need to try harder to understand. You really, really do! Otherwise, your attempts to bring people together in Christian love will fail miserably, and you'll be left wondering why.

I regretted reading that homosexual issues were not addressed at that church conference you attended. Those issues are too important, too relevant to ever be ignored at such a gathering. The boil on the face of the Church is festering! It threatens to poison the entire body. However painful it may turn out to be, that boil needs to be treated. Ignoring it won't make it better!

Maybe I'm shockingly naïve, too. Maybe I'm too trusting when I see a website whose host claims to be an advocate for LesBiGay issues. Some heterosexual folk sincerely do want to advocate for us, but they can't manage it because they're still dealing with their own issues. They've never really explored the full extent of their feelings about Gay people. They've never asked themselves if they really believe God condemns homosexuality.

They've never tried to put themselves in the shoes of a Gay person, either. They think the problem of religious heterosexism can be nicely smoothed over by evoking the Holy Spirit's name, joining adversaries' hands together, and singing inspirational songs. Then everybody goes back to what they were doing before, and if what some of them were doing before was genocidal to LGBT folk, well, that's just fine and dandy!

Forget about it! That kum bah yah yang doesn't qualify as Christian advocacy in my book. This clergyman and his wife don't realize it, but they are enablers. Their head-in-the-sand approach to combating religious bigotry enables hatemongers to keep on preaching their hate! Clearly, they both love God. Clearly, they value their relationship with the Church. They want to keep divisive issues from disturbing the serenity they find there. They have good motives. They just don't have a good grasp of Christianity! The Savior said . . .

MATTHEW 7: 15-21
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits! Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire! Thus, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven.

The well-meaning preacher and his wife seem to have forgotten this teaching. They think good fruit can come from bad trees! If they don't open their eyes soon and see these rotten trees for what they are, I fear they'll end up watching their beloved Church go up in smoke amidst the thorny branches when God hurls them into the fire that burns forever.

LUKE 12: 51-53
(Jesus Christ said) "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the Earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided father against son, and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

"Bad Tree, Bad Fruit" continues with Part Two.