Sunday, September 20, 2009


I have not posted here in some time, so I'm not sure if anyone is out there reading this. Still, I apologize for my absence. I have no excuse but to say that summer was busy, that with time it seems comes more responsibilities and distractions.

I am writing this evening because I am aware of a heavy sense of discouragement in myself.

You see, some time ago, my wife became upset with the Catholic church's teachings on women and decided to seek out a more progressive institution. She eventually found a relatively small ELCA church with a kindly pastor and decided that it was (from all we could tell) the most progressive church in town.

As most of you are most assuredly aware, the ELCA recently had a national meeting wherein matters relating to gay pastors serving openly were discussed. As I understand it, this national meeting passed a historic vote, allowing congregations to accept openly gay pastors if they chose to do so. I remember my wife and I cheering the news.

Now, mind you, I cannot say that I have been an active member of her church. I haven't formally left the Catholic church, and I haven't attended church of any kind regularly in some time now. Still, I felt a deep sense of discouragement when my wife attended a meeting of the congregation that ridiculed the ELCA's actions as unfaithful, that planned a likely separation from the ELCA, that threatened to withhold funds from the ELCA.

By my wife's report, there were about 50 people at that meeting and 47 spoke. All who spoke were in favor of denouncing the ELCA.

I guess my discouragement is in part that there simply is no church in our area that practices a faith I could find compelling.

But more of my discouragement comes from...look, I happen to personally know at least four of the people who were at the meeting (in addition to my wife). These are people that I like and respect. I am discouraged by their prejudice, by their fear, by their clinging to their fears and prejudice and pretending that it is the Word of God that tells them they must do so.

I am discouraged because at this moment, Christianity itself seems mostly to be about confirming pre-existing prejudices rather than confronting them. It seems to be about moving back the clock, about a search for certainty rather than an openness to Truth in all it's complexities and ambiguities. (And I know that this isn't true, or at least isn't what Christianity should be about at it's core.)

I am discouraged because at this moment humanity seems so small, petty, even vindictive.

I hope to wake up tomorrow and recognize my shared humanity with those I find so discouraging this evening. I hope to see how others may find me at times to be petty, small, or vindictive. I hope to grow in compassion through this exercise, to open my heart and to be less judgmental of them. I am aware that in some ways my feelings of judgment are perhaps an indication of my own flaws.

Still...tonight I find myself thinking of those I know who are gay, lesbian, or transgendered. I think of their stories, of the emotional damage done to them by churches, by society, by people (dare I even say people of good will?) who perpetuated beliefs that they were sinful for who they love.

I had been hoping that society was starting to move beyond such beliefs. Tonight, for this moment, I am discouraged.


bigboid said...

Nope. We loyal readers are still here! I do have to admit I have been remiss when it comes to posting on my blog, as well. You'd think I'd be writing much more, given my current state of unemployedness (ha!), but it just hasn't been there for me.

I hear you when it comes to people turning their backs on gays in the name of God. One of my good friends in Columbus had one of the most beautiful conversion experiences when he accepted Christ into his life. Later, when he came out of the closet, he was shunned from the church. Did that make his conversion any less true? I don't think so.

The problem is that Paul was the author of the majority of the NT. As such, he is widely interpreted as rightly divining and transcribing the inspired Word of God. He flat-out says that homosexuality is wrong and an abomination in God's sight. Ah, but was this directly from God? Was it Paul's own bias? Or was Paul just trying to stop a practice in the Gentiles he was trying to convert in order to ensure the new Christian church would grow as rapidly as possible? For most Christians, it's heresy to even begin to question Paul's writings.

And yet, if you read the teachings of Jesus, son of God, He never says that homosexuality is bad. Jesus often spent time teaching or talking with people whom the Pharisees thought were beneath God's word. Jesus tells us to love one another, and it's pretty clear that, even though we are to still abide by God's commandments, the overarching priority when it comes to living under the New Covenant established by Jesus is to treat others as we wish to be treated.

So, does it make sense for Christians to shun gays and exclude them from our churches? For many people, it does, based on the writings of Paul. But I can see why many faiths now allow for openly gay ministers to serve their congregations, controversial though it may be.

This doesn't do anything to help you out, I know, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Katherine E. said...

Hi Steve
Like you and bigbold, I've been lax in posting, too. Facebook takes some blame, but mostly it's just busyness. Anyway, YES, you still have loyal readers. We may have to wait awhile, but what you write is always a gem.

I'm with you completely on this issue. It's heartbreaking that so much of Christ's Body on this Earth remains mired in mean-spirited smallness.

You may know this already, but there are over 600 Open & Affirming churches in the United Church of Christ, in case you might have one close by (it's liturgy might not satisfy you, though). I serve one of the 600, and gratitude overflows whenever I glance at our ONA statement. Maybe our website will cheer you up!! And we're in Texas, to boot! (a cause for celebration--
a light in a dark land -- AND a reason that speaks to my
deep empathy with your sense of discouragement).

Again thanks, Steve, for your thoughtful and beautifully written reflection.

Magdalene6127 said...

Hi Steve,

I just wanted to say, first of all, thanks for this post. As you may know, it matters to me personally.

But secondly, I wanted to say your voice is missed, and I hope that all is well in your life and your world, and that your discouragement with the little corner of the body of Christ where you are might give way to hope that the moral arc of the universe is bending towards justice anyway.


Mags/ Cecilia