An open letter to the Church

I want a church that gets upset and riled up about homelessness instead of homosexuality. I want a church that makes sure people have a place to sleep, instead of caring who they sleep with.

Homosexuality isn’t the church’s concern.  Helping people is. 

So many churches don’t want to include gay people, for fear of losing their members.  They don’t want to upset them. Have you ever wondered why?

I like that Jesus was totally fine with upsetting the status quo. He pointed out people’s hypocrisy all the time. He was fine with having just a few people who “got” him. Part of that is because he wasn’t interested in money at all.

So many churches would fold if they started telling the truth and insisting their members not be bigots. So they say the “nice” thing instead of the right thing, out of fear. But perfect love casts out fear – as long as it is love of God and not of money.

“Thoughts and prayers” have never been enough. Jesus acted. He was hands-on when it came time to help people. The church is called to do much more than “love Jesus” – we are called to take his place in healing and reconciling.

I wonder how much of the decision of the United Methodist Church to not allow gay people to be ordained was influenced by what happened when the Episcopal Church installed an openly gay bishop. That divided the church and lots of people left.

I like to ask people to quote from anything Jesus said about homosexuality – – – and they can’t answer, because he didn’t say anything about it. He said a lot about loving and serving people, and a lot about not judging, and nothing about homosexuality. That indicates what our focus should and shouldn’t be on.

How about when everybody is housed, and nobody is hungry or addicted or imprisoned – then we can discuss who has sex with who. (Translation, we will never have that discussion, because the poor will always be with us). Our job is to show love, period.

Speaking up.

I overheard two regulars talking in the library today. They are both white men over 50. To be honest, only one was talking – the other was listening.

He was talking about the police officer who pulled a gun on unarmed teenagers at the pool party. He was sympathizing with the police officer, saying that he had attended two suicides that morning – and went into graphic detail about one of them. I was considering telling him to be mindful of where he was at that point alone. Small children do not need to hear brutal details like this. Heck – I don’t need to hear them.

But what made me speak up was that he kept going on about the officer, and the kids, saying that they were wild and unparented.

I leaned in and said “That still does not give him the right to pull a gun on unarmed teenagers.”

He agreed – but as I was walking away he then said to his companion that he would have shot them.

I continued to walk away. There are only so many battles to be had.

A few minutes later he caught up with me at the front desk. So many people think of us as a sympathetic ear there. We have to listen – right? Public servant, and all. We are trapped behind the desk. We can’t defend ourselves.

He said that so many of these kids weren’t being raised by parents, but by their grandparents. He is generalizing, and stereotyping. He doesn’t know these kids or what their home life is like.

I repeated – that still does not give him the right to pull a gun on them.

He said “You know what I would have done? I would have pulled a billy club on them!”

I said “That is unfortunate.” and walked away from the desk. He is unreasonable and it isn’t worth continuing the discussion with someone who speaks like this.

Note that in front of me he changed what he would have done from shooting them to striking them with a billy club.

As I was walking away, he again repeated that the officer had attended two suicides that morning. I did not respond.

Whether that is true or not – does seeing someone kill himself give another person a right to kill?

To be silent to injustice is to condone it. Will he change because of what I said? Doubtful. But that wasn’t the point. It would be great if he changed, but if I didn’t speak up I would have been part of the problem. I don’t feel qualified to have long debates on any hot topics. I do better with writing than speaking. But I had to – because to me, his words were the same as hitting someone in the face. I have to speak up, or the violence will continue. The poison that he was spewing would spread. I cannot allow this to happen in front of me.

Perspective – “Lifestyle choice”

If only the people who are up in arms about homosexuality would get a sense of perspective. How are the actions of two mutually consenting adults affecting them?

If they want to get upset, they should get upset at people who murder or rape or steal. These are “lifestyle choices” that have victims. There is an aggressor and a victim – the action between the participants is not mutual or agreed upon by both of them.

Being a murderer or a rapist or a thief is a choice. People choose to do these things. This is how they live their lives – taking from others, using others. They make themselves feel better by making other people feel worse. It isn’t an accident – it is intentional. Thus, acting like this is indeed a lifestyle choice.

The upset straight people should get upset at them instead of gay people. March against them. Protest against them. Make life harder for them. But they should leave people alone who aren’t harming them or anyone else.

In fact, it is a “lifestyle choice” to harass, belittle, and attack innocent people who are different from you. Don’t complain about gay people’s “lifestyle choice” by using your own.

Straight people have a choice too – to live their own lives in the way that they are led to, either by conviction or the rules of their faith or denomination. This means they must live their own lives, and make their own decisions about their own lives. They don’t get the right to make these decisions for others – for the same reason they don’t want others to make these decisions for them.

Gay people don’t want others to be gay, and don’t want to affect or change their ability to marry. They are not forcing how they live on others – they are not trying to turn others into them. But they also don’t want others to force their lifestyle on them.

They want to live their own lives, the same as anyone. They want to live and love in safety and freedom, the same as anyone.

I knew a guy who complained about gay people being able to marry, saying that “The gay lifestyle is all about whoring around and being promiscuous.” I pointed out that the very fact that so many gay people wanted to get married, to settle down with one partner, is the very opposite of whoring around and being promiscuous. He had no reply to this.

God is Love

I used to be a bigot against gay people. Oh, sure I had gay friends. I was nice to all the gay customers at work. But, deep down, I was a bigot. That is the true name for it. I think it is important to be honest.

Plenty of people aren’t honest with themselves. They won’t admit that they are bigots. Plenty of people will say that they don’t judge gay people, but they just don’t approve of their lifestyle. They will use that “love the sinner, hate the sin” line. They will quote chapter and verse in the Old Testament section of the Bible where it says that homosexual behavior is an “abomination.” They will quote chapter and verse from a letter of the apostle Paul saying something similar.

I had been out of the Episcopal Church for a long time – I’d been out of church in general. When I returned a few years ago I learned about the schism that had been caused after the election of an openly gay, partnered gay man as a Bishop. This was in New Hampshire. Plenty of people left the church. They would rather leave the church than be a part of something they felt was wrong. I respect their right to do that. It is important to have choices and to be able to stand up for what you believe. I admit that I was a bit wary when I rejoined the church. This Bishop was not over my diocese, but I still thought about it. What if it happened here? And to be a Bishop, you have to be a priest first. What would I think if the priest in my church was gay?

Then I thought well, there’s the whole idea of sin in general. How much sin can any priest be a part of and I’m still OK with that? What if a priest is having an affair? What if a priest is an alcoholic? What is an acceptable level of sin? Are some sins bigger than others? And does it make it worse if the sin is openly admitted, and not even thought of as a sin?

Sure, I knew the line from Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (NIV) and also Ecclesiastes 7:20 ”Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (NIV) So that’s easy. We all sin. Everyone is a sinner. And sin is sin – there is no greater sin or lesser sin. It is an impurity, a “missing the mark.” It is any time you fail to act in the way that you know to be best.

Then I started to think about all the rules that went away when Jesus came. Things that were a big deal before him became non-issues. There are 613 commandments that Orthodox Jewish people must follow. The Ten Commandments are just a start. Everything changed with Jesus. After Jesus, men no longer had to cover their heads or have beards. It was totally OK to eat bacon. You could eat beef and cheese together. It was OK to mix wool and linen fibers when creating a garment.

Jesus boiled down everything to just two rules. He stripped it all away and made it a lot easier to follow. Matthew 22:37-40 tells us when He was asked what is the greatest commandment, “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)

These words really got into me. They changed how I view sin. They changed how I view my relationship with my neighbor.

As Christians, we follow Christ. The rules of the Old Testament no longer apply. The opinions of Paul that are in the Epistles are only useful if they support what Jesus said.

What did Jesus say about homosexuality? Nothing. What did He say about judging others? Lots.

What did Jesus say we are to do? Show love. Love God, and love our neighbors. It is all about love.

Thus, being homosexual is not a sin. It is not in violation of either rule.

Thus, being judgmental against homosexuals is a sin. Saying that how they live is sinful is in fact, a sin. Making or allowing rules or laws to exist that are against them so that they are not equal members of society, is sinful.

I am pro gay rights BECAUSE I am a Christian.

Thanks be to God.