Shuck and Jive

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Meaning of Life, Part 36

In 2001, Presbyterians asked the forgiveness of African Americans for slavery and segregation. The 213th General Assembly said, "We acknowledge, however, our church's common complicity in the institution of slavery and its oppressive inequities that linger to this day." Two hundred thirteen years is a long time to wait for an apology. Think of how much good it would have done for our church and our nation to apologize immediately after emancipation--to immediately begin the hard emotional task of healing our churches and communities.

How long will we wait before we apologize for the sin of homophobia, "the irrational fear of and contempt for homosexual persons"? If we believe the church has committed an injustice, we can drag our feet and engage in begrudging half measures for decades. Or we can turn and face our mistakes, deal constructively with them now, and move forward together again as one church family.

What often makes official apologies, like the recent Southern Baptist and the Presbyterian apologies, seem hollow is that they are offered by people who themselves did not commit the original offense to people who did not suffer from the original discrimination. How much more appropriate and effective would be an apology offered now to people who are homosexual, by people who, even passively and unintentionally, have been participants in their oppression. p. 107

--Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church


  1. I wonder if there would be peace in the denomination if we would acknowledge the sin of homophobia, and acknowledge the sin of homosexuality, as two seperate issues.

    We are called to love each other and build each other up, while keeping God's law. That to me is at least a starting point.

  2. Is the sin of heterosexuality a third issue or is it on par with the sin of homosexuality?

  3. I wish there was a "like" option on comments here, like on facebook, because your response to Mary E deserves one, John.

  4. The fact is I am looking for something...some kind of middle ground. All I stated is what people that oppose your ideas are thinking.

    John your statement, “Is the sin of heterosexuality a third issue” what does that mean, I don’t see your point. Maybe because there is no statement condemning heterosexuality in the bible is why I don’t understand.

    I read your blog, because I want to understand you side of this issue. There must be something…some point that is eluding me, that prevents me from understanding. I keep reading in hopes of finding it.

    Just a point to mention. I have read Jack Rogers writings. My problem is that is he wants you to start with the premise that homosexuality is not a sin then starts. If you believe that is wrong then eveything that follows is wrong as well.

  5. The middle ground, as far as I can see, Mary, is that of withholding judgment rather than withholding rights.

  6. Hey Mary E, I am glad you are here and seeking to understand a viewpoint that is not necessarily yours. I think that is awesome.

    I know there are people who have similar views to yours and who at the same time believe (and act on this belief) that gay and lesbian people should be treated equally and receive all the ecclesiastical and civil rights and responsibilities that their hetero compatriots receive.

    Personally, I think and I base my views on my own common sense, reason, interactions with others, religious conviction, as well as information from scientific observations.

    Some folks have brown eyes, others gray.

    Some folks are hetero, others gay.

    Life's a variety, aint' that swell,

    I like that better than, "You're going to hell."

  7. Mary E,

    Pedophilia was known and named in biblical times, spoken of fondly by Greek poets and philosophers, but never called a sin in the bible.

    That I can recall, there is not one word that condemns pedophilia in the bible.

    Yet I think we would agree it is a sin. And a crime.

    We would also strongly condemn a grown man who would have sex with a 14 year old girl, even if he kidnapped her and forced her to marry him first.

    We would certainly consider that to be a sin.

    But the Bible not only does not call it a sin, it even recommends it (see John's sermon today and Deut 21:10-14). I can see it now, US service men (and women) coming back from Iraq with war brides (and grooms!) they captured in fair combat.

    Even the Holy Spirit is said to have had relations with a young virgin out of wedlock. Don't you find that even a little shocking?

    Slavery was not condemned in the bible, but does anybody doubt it is a sin? If anything it was condoned and held up as a wonderful metaphor for apostleship. Would a sinful practice be ascribed to Jesus Christ, that he had slaves?

    Not even the most right wing conservativists rely on the bible for deciding what is sin. They decide what is sin first, then see if they can make the bible support their opinion - or bigotry - as the case may be.

    Christians have never relied on lists of sins to know what is a sin and what is not. We rely on the teachings of Jesus who summarized the Law as loving your neighbor as yourself.

    Culture and society define the details.

    As far as looking for peace, I have come to the conclusion there is no middle ground between the new religion of the right wing conservativists and Christianity. They want a return to medieval days and medieval values.

    But I think their bigotry and idolatry cannot be tolerated in any way.

    There was a time between the wars when the free world thought there could be a middle ground with the right wing totalitarian regimes that were popping up around the world. The people of the free world wanted peace. There was the famous incident right before Germany invaded Poland, of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain coming back from a meeting with Hitler promising "peace in our time".

    There can never be peace with right wing extremists. They will never allow it. You either do it their way, or you fight them down.

  8. I don’t think sin itself, will make anyone go to hell, if that were the case since we all sin we would all be going to hell. Name calling like right wing extremist is not getting us any where, I all that might fit some it is not a one size fits all accurate name. The bible does not condone slavery and I don’t see the comparison of slavery and being apostleship.

    What is wrong with relying on the bible for interpretation?

    3. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a Church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament. 6.103
    4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require. 6.104
    5. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation. 6.105
    6. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience… 6.106

    I add this to from the Westminster Confession of Faith to explain that it is not all about the New Testament. As it says in 6.105 “Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation.”

  9. "You're going to hell" is what is said to gay people every day. It starts because of the false belief that homosexuality is a sin.

    No matter how much cutting and pasting is done from the Westminster Confession, no matter how much fancy theological twisting, or creative biblical interpretation, the result is the same.

    "You, gay person, are not worth as much as me, a straight person."

    That leads to discrimination and violence.

    The church owes a whole lotta people a big freaking apology.

  10. Mary E.

    Not name calling. Just a statement of where on the left right continuum a person lies.

    I take a global perspective. All of the US has turned to the right. People who live in Canada, for example, and who think of themselves as conservative right, come to the US and find out they are far to the left.

    It's a question of perspective.

    The frightening thing in America today is that right wing extremism is now seen as normal, or just simply right wing. They are buying guns and bullets like a war is coming and openly threatening to use them when they show up at political rallies to complain about the government extending health care to all Americans. They seem to believe God is on their side, and right wing religious leaders agree.

    It is a shocking turn of events.

    As far as slave and apostleship, perhaps you are more familiar with the synonymous term "bond-servant".

    e.g. Romans 1:1, Gal 1:10 and many others.

    Some translations leave off the word "bond" giving the illusion of "maid" or "employee".

    As to taking a stand on slavery, Paul is pretty clear that even though to Christ there is no slave or free, male or female, (I'm sure he would have added "gay or straight"), he does not encourage slaves to free themselves from the yoke of slavery. To the contrary, as in Eph 6:5-6 he encourages slaves to be "good" slaves.

    Maybe not a full fledged endorsement, but not exactly a condemnation. Why do you think the institution of slavery persisted for almost two thousand years after Christ?

    It is very hard to use the Bible consistently to correctly define what is sin and what is not.

    Like I said, I'd end up endorsing kidnapping Iraqi girls for forced marriage and turning a blind eye to slavery and pedophilia, while refusing to believe that people born with same gender sexual attraction could enter the Kingdom of God.

    (What that has to do with marriage and ordination I don't know. "Ordination" does not exist in the Bible but we do it anyway, why can't we have gay marriage?)

    I don't know what you are trying to get at with your quote of the Westminster. What did I miss?

    John, now there is a concept. The Church making an apology. Maybe instead of so many confessions we should start writing some apologies.

    The Belhar Confession seems like a good start. (Besides, Busybody Church Lady hates it, so it must be a good thing.)

  11. The issue in the PCUSA, Mary, is whether LGBT people are of the same worth as heterosexual people. On this, the PCUSA is schizophrenic.

    For example, we freely invite anyone who proclaims Christ to come to his table.

    But ordination? It isn't a sacrament. It's not even necessary, nor expected. But while heterosexuals in the PCUSA are nice enough to allow LGBT people to take communion, for some illogical reason we draw the line at ordination. Apparently LGBT people can't serve communion even though they can take communion.

    How about our other sacrament: baptism? Well in that case we don't even require a person to proclaim Christ is Lord to be baptized because we baptize infants, gay or straight. But ordination? Nope, you can be baptized, but you can't administer baptisms if you're an LGBT person.

    Sacraments, we'd think those would be pretty important, right? And yet, we let basically anyone partake of them, but only straight people are good enough to administer them.

    Can anyone explain that to me?!

    Or how about marriage? Contrary to what most Presbyterians think, it is *not* a sacrament. For heterosexuals there are almost no requirements to be married by a PCUSA minister in a PCUSA church. In fact, we all know that many churches serve as nothing more than wedding chapels with ministers acting as no more than Las Vegas wedding officiants. They have little or no interest in actually supporting or nurturing the happy couple. The only requirement is that they can pay the fee for the minister and the use of space.

    But not LGBT people. While many ministers regularly conduct ceremonies for straight couples who will likely never enter that church again in their lives, they're not supposed to conduct a ceremony for faithful members of their own congregation who happen to be LGB or T.

    Does that make any sense at all?

    The middle ground is obvious: freedom of conscience. Don't want to hire an LGBT person as minister? Then don't. Don't want to allow LGBT people to get married in your church? Then don't. But don't restrict other churches from making other decisions about these activities that aren't even sacraments.

    The middle ground is very Presbyterian. The problem is that many on the wrong side of these issues have gotten so caught up in their own beliefs about these issues they've forgotten what it means to actually be Presbyterian. That's a pretty good definition of the homophobia that exists in the PCUSA.

  12. First I have to say a big thank you to you John, as well as Jodie and Allen. It is your openness and candidness that I true appreciate.

    Question about what you said. "You're going to hell" is what is said to gay people every day. It starts because of the false belief that homosexuality is a sin. Do people in your Presbytery say that to your face? I can see any smuck, would say that but you actually have people in your Presbytery and say that.

    Jodie, I think I know where you were going with the Belhar Confession. The one thing I don’t like about it is that it does not address sin. The Belhar Confession addresses social issues without a real direction. But please tell me what you interpret as important in it.

    I didn’t understand, that someone is less of a person because of being gay, it makes no sense. I think that there are others who disagree with you, that don’t think that you are some how a lesser person? Don’t get me wrong, there are those who do, but not everybody. Alan, I don’t believe that being an Elder or getting married is part of a sacrament. As far as marriage is concerned I think that is a covenant agreement between (give me some lea way) man and a woman and most important God. It is between a couple and God. The Elder part, I might lean as a covenant relationship, but it is kind of a stretch.

    As far as being Presbyterian, I have been one since birth. To me I find great comfort in the Bible, as well, as the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions. They are all crucial part of being Presbyterian, they give me guidance. If you can give me direction in how you see me as being, “ off track” I would welcome your opinion.

  13. Mary,

    As far as being told to one's face that they are going to hell because they are gay, yes, it happens. I hear people in this area all the time telling me that their preacher is saying this from the pulpit to a sanctuary full of people - assuming that 1) they all agree, and 2) none of them are gay. Who would come out in such an environment and say they are gay? Yes, the preacher is saying it to their face. He just doesn't realize it. And I would say that it happens in every presbytery, including yours.

    When I read the comments that people make on web sites and blogs that post letters about GLBT folks in this area, I feel like I am being punched in the stomach. The blatant disregard for people's feelings and for people themselves is nothing short of inhumane.

    It seems you're stuck on the idea that homosexuality is a "sin" and you want people here to accept that notion. Like having that agreed upon would somehow resolve the conflict within the church. But that's not the conflict. The conflict is that some within the church feel they are being persecuted or denied their religious freedom by NOT denying others theirs. How do we resolve such a conflict and keep the church intact? Only by continuing to deny the rights of GLBT folks, at all levels. That is unacceptable.

  14. Mary,

    Some schmuck like a teenager's father is pretty typical. Where did the schmuck hear it? Church, mostly.

    It isn't about me. People usually don't tell me I am going to hell to my face. Besides, I am not gay, just a heretic.

    I don't care what people think about me. I have position and resources. I chose this fight. I am fighting on behalf of those who didn't choose it.

    I would guess that my Presbyterian clergy colleagues are a bit more discreet than to do overt gay bashing from the pulpit.

    The overt "going to hell" gay-bashing is mostly from the less sophisticated churches. But common nonetheless.

    Presbyterian gay bashing is more nuanced and scholarly, such as this here:

    "Adult-committed homosexual practice is, according to Scripture, at least as bad as—and probably worse than—adult-consensual adultery and adult-committed incest and polyamory."


    "A denomination renders itself illegitimate when, through enactment, it willfully ordains homosexually active persons and blesses homosexual unions."

    If that doesn't say to my gay congregants, "You're going to hell" I don't know what would.

    Mary, we can certainly banter this back and forth and I am happy to do so.

    But I would recommend to you (and to anyone else who has tuned in) to purchase a copy of this book:

    Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America

    The stories in this book explain why I and many others do this ministry.

    Prejudice that is theologically sophisticated, discreet, and polite is perhaps the most diabolical.

    It provides intellectual sanction for the elite to refrain from action on behalf of the marginalized.

    It took 30 years for the PCUSA to rid itself of a discriminatory policy.

    Even though the sentences are complete with nouns, verbs, and prepositional phrases, and even though the spelling is precise and the grammar is impeccable, it is diabolical.

    When an official church document says:

    “…the New Testament declares that all homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian faith and life...”

    What does that mean to a teenager looking for guidance from the church in regards to his or her sexuality?

    "You are incompatible."

    That is about a nice a way of saying, "You're going to hell" as I can think of.

    But it is the same thing.

  15. Thank you for your patience with me in helping me to understand. If I have any more questions I will address them to you personally, and again Thank You and God Bless.

  16. Mary, thank you! I appreciate your visiting and commenting. You can email me privately at johnashuck AT embarqmail DOT com.