Monday, July 23, 2012

Hate, sexuality, and the Church

Tony left this comment on my blog this weekend:
I just started reading your blog too.

I don't see, or maybe I just don't recognize recognize the "hate" from Christians toward the homosexual community. In fact, I see the opposite. Many mainline, large, wealthly demoninations experience huge membership loss, criticism, and financial costs in order to support homosexual rights and inclusion. Even the largest (by numbers) Roman Catholic Church has been reaching out since I was in college (and that was before you were born! - ugh)

I do see in many non-Christian values countries the public execution and torture of homosuexuals, threats, and imprisionment.

Can you point out some examples to a middleclass guy that works for a Fourtune 500 company?
Thanks for reading and commenting, Tony.

I'd like to first address a couple of your side comments, and then we'll get to the actual question you asked.

First, just so you know, "homosexual" is rather an outdated term.  

"Gay" is more appropriate, "LGBTQ" more inclusive.  "Homosexual" is still in use in some places, especially within the church (always a bit slow to move on things like this), but it's not usually the preferred term by LGBTQ people.

The "mainline, large, wealthy denominations" are not experiencing "huge membership loss, criticism, and financial costs" when they "support homosexual inclusion."

I'm not convinced by either data or experience that mainline Protestant churches are losing members and money because of the full inclusion of LGBTQ people.

Data from the Pew Research Forum on Religion and Public Life and the General Social Surveys through the National Opinion Research Center put the first sign of mainline Protestant downturn in the early 1990s.  

At that point, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was still a decade away from its first official study on sexuality ("Journey Together Faithfully," 2002) and nearly two decades away from the official churchwide position that individual churches will not be censured if they choose to call someone in a "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship" (2009) to serve as their pastor.

The United Methodist Church is presently "in decline", even though the policy has been (since 1972) and still is that "homosexual practice" is "incompatible with Christian teaching."  

Tom Ehrich, Episcopal priest, dates mainline Protestant decline to 1965.

In addition, support for equal rights for LGBTQ persons is growing.  If acceptance of LGBTQ people determines a church's population, we should see increases in liberal mainline Protestant churches, not decreases.

On top of that, there is little consensus among churches within mainline Protestant denominations.  Episcopalians continue to struggle with the ordination of gay and lesbian people, as evidenced by the recent debate over the Anglican Covenant.  Presbyterian polity allows for the ordaination gay clergy but does not recognize same-sex couples as married.  The United Church of Christ has a constitution that doesn't require congregations to agree with all of the statements of the national office, so significant diversity exists within the UCC as far as ordination and marriage.  

If only the congregations that fully welcomed and included LGBTQ people were dying, we might have good data -- but that's not the case.  Congregations on both sides (if we reduce this to "liberal" and "conservative") are losing members.

So no -- I don't believe that mainline Protestant churches are losing members and money simply because of the full inclusion of LGBTQ people.  I think the decline in the mainline Protestant church is multifaceted, and lots of people have lots of different opinions about where the roots lie.  But, short answer (since this isn't the question you asked, anyway!):  no.  That's not what's going on.

In addition, I think you and I may be operating from different concepts of "reaching out."  You wrote:  "Even the largest (by numbers) Roman Catholic Church has been reaching out since I was in college."

I'm not certain what you're referring to here, because this is the Roman Catholic Church's official position on homosexuality, as stated in the Catechism (1997 edition):

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

The RCC's official ministry for people with same-sex attraction is Courage, which teaches chastity.

There's a constitutional amendment on Minnesota state ballots this year to define marriage as one man and one woman.  We who oppose this measure have raised $3.1 million this calendar year to defeat it.  Those who support it have raised $588,000.  $400,000 (almost 70%) of that came from the Minnesota Catholic Conference Defense Fund.

Now, you could be referring to the work of individual groups, congregations, persons, etc.  That's fair; there are plenty of Catholics who are fully welcoming to LGBTQ people.  Still, to say "The RCC is reaching out to homosexuals" on that evidence alone would be like saying "The RCC is open to non-natural birth control."  Sure, within the church, there's a diversity of practice as far as birth control, but the official position is not so diverse.

You also said, "I do see in many non-Christian values countries the public execution and torture of homosuexuals, threats, and imprisionment."

I think what you are saying is that you see in countries without Christian values that there is public execution, torture, threats, imprisonment.

I'm honestly at a loss at what countries you're referring to here.  There are countries in Europe that are considered "post-Christian" -- Norway, Sweden, England, France, and the Netherlands come to mind most quickly -- but in almost every country that is "post-Christian", there is far more equality and acceptance for LGBTQ than there is here.

There is significant persecution of LGBTQ people in African countries, and in the Middle East.  You may have heard of the country's Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009 and 2010, by which all homosexual acts were declared criminal and deserving of life imprisonment or the death sentence.

Interestingly, this bill came into circulation shortly after a three-day conference on "curing" homosexuality was led by three American evangelical Christians.

But, having said all this, finally on to your question:  I don't see, or maybe I just don't recognize recognize the "hate" from Christians toward the homosexual community. ... Can you point out some examples to a middleclass guy that works for a Fourtune 500 company?

Sure can.
- Chick-Fil-A 's opposition to same-sex marriage (and political contributions to organizations that oppose it) because of their company's "biblical values"  has just come to light recently.

Lots of churches and leaders were really upset about President Obama's statement in support of same-sex marriage.  Obama's statement prompted Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C. to preach to his congregation that gay and lesbian people should be confined within a large electrified fence, with food dropped in.  "In a few years, they'll die out."
- One of my good friends said:  "The comments section on nearly every news article about gay marriage is always full of some of the worst Christian polemic."  Here's one such article, with said comments.  Here's a YouTube video of Rachel Maddow talking about Rick Warren and Obama, with similar comments.

- Speaking of Rachel Maddow, the above video goes into an interview with him (because he was scheduled to do Obama's inaugural kick-off).  Bishop Robinson continues to receive death threats and is choosing to retire early, in 2013, as a result of them.  His book In the Eye of the Storm addresses this issue.  Here's a clip of Jon Stewart talking about the ordination back in 2003... including statements from the opposition, and from then-President George W. Bush.

- Exodus International is one of the biggest organizations that used to help Christian gays become Christian ex-gays.  They've recently shifted their focus from "curing" homosexuality to abstaining from it.  So...yay?

 Sipa Press/Rex Features
- One Million Moms is an organization (with 48,000 likes on Facebook) of moms protesting things like gay couples in JCPenney ads, the rainbow Oreo ad, television shows with LGBTQ characters, and so forth, while celebrating Chick-Fil-A's commitments:  "Thank YOU Chick-fil-a for taking a stand! We support you and stand with you! Click on link to read article with direct quotes from the Chick-fil-a President that states they support traditional marriages, families, and Biblical principles."

- One Million Moms is a branch of the American Family Association, which is a Christian organization that wants to stop the spread of the "radical homosexual agenda," guided by these principles:

1.  The scripture declares that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful. It is a sin grievous to God and repulsive to Christians because it rejects God's design for mankind as heterosexual beings.
2.  Though there may be many influences in a person's life, the root of homosexuality is a sinful heart. Therefore, homosexuals have only one hope of being reconciled to God and rejecting their sinful behavior - faith in Jesus Christ alone. AFA seeks to use every opportunity to promote and encourage the efforts of ex-homosexual ministries and organizations.
3.  It is the duty of individual Christians and Christ's Church corporately to bring the gospel to homosexuals and to speak out against the acceptance of sin in our culture.
4.  We oppose the homosexual movement's efforts to convince our society that their behavior is normal because we fear the judgement of God on our nation.
(and so forth.)

- Have you heard of Focus on the Family?

Truth in Action just recently asserted the following about the shooting in Aurora:
Jackson: I think the sources of this is multifaceted but you can put it all I think under the heading of rebellion to God, a rejection of the God of the Bible. I think along with an education system that has produced our lawyers, our politicians, more teachers, more professors, all of that sort of thing, is our churches, mainline churches. We’ve been dealing Teddy and I know the AFA Journal has been dealing with denominations that no longer believe in the God of the Bible, they no longer believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they teach that God is OK with homosexuality, this is just increasing more and more. It is mankind shaking its fist at the authority of God.
James: And God will not be silent when he’s mocked, and we need to remember that.
Jackson: We are seeing his judgment. You know, some people talk about ‘God’s judgment must be just around the corner,’ we are seeing it.
Here are some more of their statements on LGBTQ people.

- LGBTQ people face discrimination daily: in the workplace, in housing, in adoption processes, in hospital visits, and other such legal recognitions of our existence.  Here's a really neat infographic from the Guardian to show you what I mean.  It's not entirely surprising that the more religious states, like those in the Bible Belt, have fewer legal provisions for us.

- I asked friends on Facebook if they had any personal accounts to add to this.  One acquaintance sent the following as a private message (because she has family on Facebook):

My uncle has recently been emailing me statements about my homosexuality and relationship with my partner of two years. He goes so far as to say that I am discounting the entire Bible and living a life of sin.  Another uncle has told me that I cannot be a "child of God" if I am in a same-gendered relationship. Keep in mind that these are family members who I have been close to for nearly 25 years. I have to wonder, if family members are willing to sever their ties on such Biblical basis, what about people who don't even know me? Might their hate run even deeper, since there is no personal connection?
And here's my personal experience.

Now -- maybe you don't see these examples as hate.  As I've indicated, plenty of Christians don't.  They think they're saving LGBTQ people by telling them their sexual orientation and gender identities are sinful.  Your own blog links to some pages critiquing the ELCA, for its 2009 vote along with other stances it has taken.

If that's your stance, then perhaps we have other things to talk about.

I've got time, as you can see.

Let me know.

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