Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homophobic Christians Attack Lutheran Ministers

Newspaper websites frequently allow comments on news articles and I comment regularly on both national and local websites to try to get a voice of reason and compassion into conversations that are most often illiterate and hate-filled tirades, usually by Christian fundamentalists, who seem to rant without reason and blame it on their Christian outlook and their literalistic interpretation of the bible. A recent news article announced that a particular Lutheran denomination planned to remove a restriction against ordaining gay clergy, and that of course got homophobic Christians riled up enough to make their usual ill-considered and mean-spirited comments.

One writer, a small town politician and outspoken layman in a “Bible church” attacked my comments about the unchristian and uncivil nature of the verbal barrage they unleashed on the Lutherans, by questioning my “right” to speak on the subject of religious values and for my “foolishness” in trying to defend a church that “sinned” by allowing homosexuals to be “preachers” – So, I decided to take him on with some comment of my own.

Mr. Barber said: “It never ceases to amaze me how atheist, agnostics, secular humanists and the lot of you are such experts on religion.”

I am surprised at your statement for two reasons: first, because so far as I understand you are not an expert in religion, having no particular background or training; and second, because a number of people who regularly comment on this website do have a background in religion and philosophy far exceeding yours. In your list above you forgot to include “Christian humanist” but it is obvious that you intended to include me because you mentioned a particular phrase I used.

So I guess I should let you know that even though I am a non-theistic humanist, I have a background in religion, with advanced degrees in theology and philosophy and I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. So do you think maybe I am qualified to comment? [If you want details of my background you can check my website at ].

You said: “Where the strife lies is when you all try to dictate the mind of God in each of our lives.”

I don’t think any of us knows “the mind of god” assuming there is such a thing, but it is not clear to me where you are going with that thought. Whatever is in the mind of god, it is unlikely to be hateful. You believe that god is homophobic, like you. It seems to me that I have been arguing that it is not up to you, or those who think like you, to try to tell homosexual Lutheran ministers that their sexual orientation is “sinful” – if you believe that it is sinful for you, abstain from what you believe is sinful behavior, but have the grace and the humility not to try to push your views on others. It is pretty clear that most Christians believe that homosexuality is an ingrained biological sexual orientation to which moral judgments do not apply. That is certainly true of many Christian denominations, including the Lutherans that are the subject of this article.
Mr. Barber had quoted a biblical verse as justification for his anti-gay views. I had countered with a verse from the same chapter that spoke about sharing your bounty with those in need, and observed that he objected to helping those in need so why was he concerned about the anti-gay passage? He responded: “[When the bible] speaks of sharing your bounty [it] means "your bounty" not the collective government’s bounty.”

I have to disagree with you, at least in part. The “you” here is the collective “you” that was addressed to Israel by its god. It was intended to apply to the whole people collectively and has always been interpreted that way. Of course it was not addressed to Americans, but by analogy it simply makes sense to say that god intends for our society (just as for Israelite society) to take care of its poor. Of course you must realize that our government is the collective “we” as in “we the people.” If you believe some portions of the bible apply to our society today, then you cannot arbitrarily say this directive does not apply to our society. To come to that interpretation you have to be reading scripture through Republican-tinted glasses, and conforming your biblical interpretation to your political philosophy.
“As each of us grows in the Lord things such as homosexuality will eventually be placed in prospective to our growth spiritually.”

[I think he meant that if I were a real Christian growing in the Lord I would understand that god rejects homosexual behavior, but I intentionally misread him, and commented…] So, if that is true, and since you believe that god made us the way he wanted us to be, because he made some people biologically homosexual [either he intended it, or it was an accident], don’t you believe that as you grow in perspective and in grace and love that your sin of homophobia should give way to acceptance and affirmation?

Usually there is not much point in responding with logic to people who have ingrained emotional attitudes that affect their beliefs that are probably not subject to change, but sometimes I do it anyway, and I think it is because I like to mess with their heads by approaching them in terms of their own belief system, no matter how na├»ve, simplistic and ignorant it is. It frustrates them, and it amuses me. I’m a really bad person at heart.

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