Sunday, June 28, 2015

Grace or No Grace: Winnowing Time in American Christianity Following Obergefell v. Hodges

No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics as homosexuality. Even after over 25 years as a Jesuit, the level of hatred around homosexuality is nearly unbelievable to me, especially when I think of all of the wonderful LGBT friends I have. 
The Catholic church must do a much better job of teaching what the Catechism says: that we should treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with "respect, sensitivity and compassion." 
But God wants more. God wants us to love. And not a twisted, crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love, but actual love. 
Love means: getting to know LGBT men and women, spending time with them, listening to them, being challenged by them, hoping the best for them, and wanting them to be a part of your lives, every bit as much as straight friends are part of your lives. 
Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.

I read this after having logged into Facebook yesterday morning to find a stream of comments on the Facebook page of a friend of mine. This is a Catholic woman who, with her husband, gives admirable witness to the Catholic faith. Both have been consistently loving to Steve and me.

She had dared to post a statement that she is celebrating the Supreme Court ruling on Friday, and celebrates the fact that LGBT citizens now enjoy rights from which they were formerly excluded.

Then all hell broke loose on her Facebook page. One message after another about floods and Sodom and Gomorrah and a mean wrathful God who (as these Catholics and evangelicals imagine) hates homosexuals — but is totally down with and copaseptic about people who wage war, oppress the poor, snatch medical coverage from those on the margins of society, etc. As I wrote on my own Facebook page, in response to what I saw happening on my friend's feed (I do my best not to start fights on the Facebook pages of others, no matter how I itch to do so, because I consider that tacky behavior and insulting to my friends):

I look at this photo, and try to understand my fellow Christians who are now predicting floods from a wrathful God, and babbling about Sodom and Gomorrah and other such jiggery pokery — and it does not compute. How do these two elderly gentlemen who love one another represent the end of Christian civilization and an abomination calling out for an angry, mean God to strike the world down? Why have those same Christians calling for their angry, mean God to strike folks down now not been calling for Him to strike down the world as we permit people to go unfed and without medical coverage, as we wage wars, as the rich oppress the poor, and as racism results in the slaughter of innocents? 

The photo I'm talking about is the one at the head of the posting, taken by Tony Gutierrez of AP of George Harris and Jack Evans of Dallas, who have been together 54 years and who married on Friday.

One of the people leaving responses to my Catholic friend who dared to tell her Facebook circle that she's celebrating what happened on Friday is a cocksure young, conservative Catholic man who is leaving her long, turgid Catholic doctrinal statements that mansplain Catholic truth to her.

I absolutely refuse to listen. I absolutely refuse to do more than pass my eyes over the words of people like this.

• Because there is no love anywhere in them or their words. 
• Because the folks delivering such sermons to fellow Catholics have not earned the right to do so. 
• Because these folks have altogether forfeited my respect, as they combat rights for people on the margins of society while they inform me they stand for good news and  Catholic truth and love. 
• Because I'm not about to listen to another turgid Catholic doctrinal sermon from a straight white Catholic man who has never examined his unmerited privilege as a straight white male. 
• Because no one should listen to turgid doctrinal statements by Catholics that do not begin and end with love.

I have concluded, as I look at much that's being written online right now, and as I follow Facebook conversations of friends, that we're now in a winnowing time in which the difference between grace and no grace will become increasingly apparent to many American Christians who remain concerned with questions about what the gospel says and means — and in which people will show their true colors and take sides in a new, critically apparent way.

I see several Facebook friends reporting in the past two days that they have had Facebook friends drop them because they supported the Supreme Court decision on Friday. Other Facebook friends of mine are reporting that they had to drop Facebook friends of theirs, including family members, because of the hate they chose to vent in the name of Jesus in response to Friday's decision. 

I think we're entering into a winnowing time in American Christianity in which the difference between grace and no grace at all will be increasingly apparent to many American Christians who have their eyes and ears open, and in which churches hellbent on offering a message of no grace at all to LGBT human beings will increasingly find themselves and their "gospel" message ignored by everyone but the true believers, who are an ever-dwindling tribe in American culture.

As they should be ignored and actively shunned, since 

Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love

is the very foundation of the Christian message and of the gospel churches preach when they're true to the good news of Jesus Christ. It's the keystone on which all other stones in the Christian doctrinal configuration depend. It's the indispensable starting point and ending point of any message that wishes to claim connection to the Christian gospel.

And it's not — by a long shot — what many American churches, including many American Catholics, have long been offering us who are LGBT. To their tremendous shame. 

As people walk away in droves precisely because of this betrayal of the gospel. 

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