Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peter J. Gomes on the Failure of the Churches Today Vis-a-Vis Gay Human Beings

And, in a journal from 2007, I find several passages I had copied from Peter J. Gomes's book The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good about the Good News? (NY: HarperOne, 2007), as I was reading that book after its publication.  Here are two of them:

If there remains one area in which our parochial obduracy continues to obtain, however, it is in the church’s treatment of its homosexual brothers and sisters; if there is an area in which we are to be weighed and found wanting, this is it.  It is not out of ignorance alone that we behave as we do towards sexual minorities; it is out of ignorance, fear, and in certain cases, malice.  None of it is excusable: private judgment on sexual matters does not excuse our unwillingness to include in full participation in the household of faith those who engage in sex differently.  Two generations of biblical scholarship have shown that the scriptures cannot be used as a basis for our discrimination on the subject of homosexuality, so why are our churches as divided today on this subject as they were a generation ago on the subject of women, or a century ago on the subject of slavery? (p. 199).
Thus I have been disappointed, to say the least, to find that the Bible becomes the first refuge of those who are unwilling to reconsider their extrabiblical prejudices against including homosexuals in the full life and ministry of the church.  I had hoped that, as has happened with women and racial minorities, our predominantly Christian culture would recognize that God’s children, the homosexuals in our midst, cry out for compassion and acceptance.  In this decade, alas, exactly the opposite has happened.  Positions have hardened and homosexuals have been demonized, condemned to a ‘lifestyle’ rather than invited to a life in the household of faith.  It amazes me that any thoughtful homosexuals would continue to want any part of a community, religious or otherwise, that in the name of God has behaved toward them with such contempt (p. 200).

This is the kind of moral insight and moral teaching that it would make a world of difference to hear coming from the mouth of Pope Benedict or Timothy Dolan.  Instead, Benedict has remained totally silent about the kill-the-gays legislation in Uganda, though that legislation remains on the table.  And the U.S. bishops have had not a word to say about bullying of gay youth, even as the culture at large begins a significant conversation about that issue.

Parochial obduracy, demonization, contempt, malice, discrimination, as people suffering injustice cry out for compassion and acceptance: every word of condemnation of the churches that Gomes speaks in these passages applies to the Catholic church among other churches.  And this behavior completely undercuts the claim of the church to be light in the darkness, a home for those seeking a place in the world, and a sacramental sign of God's all-embracing, salvific love in the world.

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