Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Quote for Day: "Christianity's Long, Shameful History of Teaching That Gays and Lesbians Are Abhorrent Sinners Is Coming Home to Roost in a Costly Global Way"

Bill Tammeus (who, in addition to being one of the best religion journalists in the U.S. is a Presbyterian elder) compares the struggle of the United Methodist church to welcome and love LGBTQ human beings with the similar struggle of the Catholic church. In both cases, he notes, the "global" dimension of the church is used as a kind of brake on welcoming and loving LGBTQ people, as adherents in the global South (egged on, I'd note, by right-wing political and religious leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere) use the "bible says" argument to veto a welcoming, loving response to LGBTQ people in their global churches. Ironically, this is the very same argument used a half century ago by white Christians in the U.S. to veto a welcoming, loving response to people of color seeking civil rights.

Bill writes, 

To interpret Scripture so as to find a warrant for oppressing LGBTQ people strikes me as a serious misuse of the Bible and counter to those two greatest commandments. The Bible, as I've argued elsewhere, shouldn't be used as a weapon in the homosexuality debate because it has essentially nothing to say on the subject. 
The views of Christians in the global South must, of course, be respected. There must not be any arrogance from the West about how we're the enlightened ones with all the wisdom. At the same time, we should be true to our well-researched conclusion that the church should be open to LGBTQ people without restrictions once they've been baptized.
So that's the divide. The Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ members and others have made the choice in favor of LGBTQ inclusion, though it took far too long and we should have been leading instead of following. Now American Methodists and Catholics will have to decide how to proceed. 
My guess is that changing Methodist or Catholic teaching and doctrine right now will be nearly impossible. So those who favor LGBTQ inclusion will have to figure out whether they can remain in a church that stands against such people and, if not, how they will separate themselves from such a church in a way that will cause the least amount of pain. 
Christianity's long, shameful history of teaching that gays and lesbians are abhorrent sinners is coming home to roost in a costly global way. This may not end well or even peaceably.

I suppose the question those of us who care about the future of Christianity and its brand, and about LGBTQ people and their humanity, need to ask is, Can a church be a fundamentally good, healing institution when it does all sorts of good and healing things while having a tiny little blind spot in its eye when it comes to the humanity of LGBTQ people? 

Paul Ryan has just declared that, though his party's presumptive nominee for the U.S. presidency espouses "textbook racism," he intends to keep on supporting said party's presumptive nominee. (Paul Ryan is a Catholic for whom the previous leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops Cardinal Timothy Dolan went to bat a few years ago, when Ryan's lack of fidelity to Catholic social teaching was under critical fire.)

The Donald's a textbook racist. But otherwise he's a nice fellow with lots to offer. Just has that tiny blind spot.

Or: We proclaim the good news of God's love for the entire world in Jesus Christ. But we can't quite bring ourselves to include LGBTQ people in the word "entire," or to imagine that God creates and loves these people whose humanity is opaque to us.

Otherwise, we're a great church, full of love, compassion, healing force around the planet. 

As Bill Tammeus notes, these transparently invidious arguments, which have carried the day for far too long with far too many good Catholics and good Methodists — including, notably, some of the best and brightest peace-and-justice Catholics in the U.S. — are now coming home to roost. More and more adherents of these churches are contesting the claim of their church to own the Christian brand at all  when their church refuses to welcome and love LGBTQ human beings.

And in my view, this is as it should be. If it's not about love, then what on earth is it about?

As Bill notes in a comment here, you can read more of his work at his blog.

The photo of Bill Tammeus is from his "Faith Matters" blog.

No comments: