Monday, October 4, 2010

An Indecent Religion?

An Unitarian Universalist minister, a retired United Methodist Minister, and a professor of religious studies get together. Sounds like the setup for a bad joke, right? Well, it's not really. These are the three people who wrote an opinion piece in The State newspaper on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 titled, "Jones, Summers, Evans: An indecent religion." That might not sound so bad, except the subject(s) being railed against are those Christians who would dare to say that homosexuality is a sin in today's culture.  In the article, they complain about stereotyping while doing it themselves. Let's look at how the article starts off:
Thousands of straight and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people from across South Carolina and the Southeast celebrated SC Pride Day on Sept. 4 in downtown Columbia. It was a joyful celebration of the diversity of the human family with a parade down Main Street, a festival in Finlay Park, rainbow flags and banners, colorful costumes and families with children and pets on picnic blankets in the warm afternoon sun.

The diversity of the human family? Really? You exposed children to these images(not all are offensive, but a few are)? The next three paragraphs are quite telling on where these authors are headed in this article:

Not everyone was feeling joyful, however. Along the parade route, some protestors shouted angry words and carried rejecting signs laced with biblical quotations.

They represented a fundamentalist strand of religion that is found not only in Christianity but in other religions as well. Whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, fundamentalists share at least one thing in common: relegating women and gays to second-class citizenship.

In South Carolina, this anti-gay version of Christianity is strongly represented by the Palmetto Family Council, a subsidiary of the Focus on the Family media empire founded by the religious right guru James Dobson. Because the Gay Pride Festival receives city and county grants like other events that attract tourists and bring business to our city, Palmetto Family Council president Oran Smith complained that the public expenditures amount to a public endorsement of what he calls the “gay lifestyle.”

So, here we go with the stereotyping. It seems that their biggest beef is with the Palmetto Family Council and Oran Smith, not necessarily with these "fundamentalist Christians" as they so-called them. Their definition of "fundamentalist Christian" needs work, first of all. By definition, a fundamentalist Christian is one who believes in the fundamentals of the Christian faith as defined in the Bible. Jesus died for our sins and he rose from the dead on the third day to conquer death. His death and resurrection provide the substitutionary atonement for our sins, so that if we believe in Him, we might have eternal life. That is fundamentalism, at it's core. According to these authors, it's apparently anyone who speaks against homosexuality. Oh yeah, and we relegate women to second-class citizenship, as well. Where do they come up with this stuff? As a point of disclosure, I did have the opportunity to meet Oran Smith once, and he's a pretty nice guy. As to the point of the public funding of this gay pride parade, including the use of government workers to close off streets and redirect traffic, it is akin to a government endorsement of religion. Had this been a religious parade, there would have been all sorts of outcry by the very same people calling those against the gay pride parade, fundamentalists. On another note, I do not necessarily endorse what the sign holders were doing. I believe there are much more effective ways at ministering the Gospel of repentance to those who are in sin.

Another point which seems to be made quite in ignorance is this:
When the phrase “gay lifestyle” is used, there is always an underlying assumption that homosexuality is a choice. Sexual orientation, whether straight or gay, is a biological given. This is a matter of fact, and the major professional organizations in medicine, psychiatry, psychology and many others have indicated that this issue needs no further debate.

They seemed to have missed the fact that there is no proven science that homosexuality is biologically given. Can they point to actual scientific evidence on this? I have seen none. In fact, the mapping of the human genome itself dispelled the notion that there is a "gay gene." None was found. They're spouting the same tired argument thread that the Darwinists do in trying to prove we came from apes. There is no concrete scientific evidence on this. When you have some concrete evidence on this, join the conversation. Otherwise, you just sound ignorant.

Another paragraph that made me chuckle:
But many in the religious right are notorious for disregarding the facts that they don’t like — believing for instance that abstinence-only education is effective at preventing teen pregnancy, that human activity is not responsible for global warming or that evolution is “just a theory.” This group may not like the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people or the fact that young people have sex or that all life has evolved from earlier, simpler forms of life, but liking or disliking the facts doesn’t change them.

While abstinence-only education may have been taught wrongly over the years or the studies have been limited in scope, the fact remains that remaining abstinent does prevent pregnancy. Human activity has not been proven to be responsible for global warming. That much is true. Many of the advocates for that line of thinking have been proven to be frauds. Haven't these guys been paying attention. And it has yet to be proven that evolution is a fact. Do you have an example of a living ape-man? It's not the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people that we don't like. it's the sin we don't like. Now maybe we have not been good at pulling the planks out of our eyes. Divorce, for example. We should be preaching against divorce as strongly as we preach against homosexuality. Divorce is just as destructive and is just as much a sin. That's a topic for another day, however.

The final part of the article says this and this is where they really do not understand Jesus at all:

Sadly, the Gay Pride Festival was described as being “indecent” by the Palmetto Family Council president. What exactly is meant here? That festival attendees are engaging in sex acts at Finlay Park? Many homophobic groups and individuals seem to be preoccupied with the sexual activity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Indeed, the religious right as a whole seems to be inordinately engrossed with sexual issues, from homosexuality and abortion to sex education and pornography. With the overwhelming problems of poverty, unemployment and hunger in our society, this continual fixation on sexual matters promotes a blindness to the complex social problems that surround us.

What is “indecent” is when people distort the religion of Jesus and his ethic of love into a political ideology of fear, narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Jesus taught and practiced an unconditional love and compassion that accepts people as they are and affirms their worth and dignity as human beings. Yet homophobic Christians preach a love with strings attached. They say, “We will love and accept you if you will change and be like us.” It’s easy to love a mirror image of yourself. The test of love is accepting and respecting someone who is different from you.

It has become popular in our day for people to wear their religion on their sleeve, literally, in the form of bracelets with the letters WWJD. What would Jesus do indeed?

Well, if you look at the pictures I linked to earlier, a few seem to be offensive. Men dressing as women is against God's word (Deuteronomy 22:5).  Are we preoccupied with sexual issues? It might not be us that are preoccupied with it when we're not the ones attempting to criminalize speaking out against homosexuality. Homosexuals have effectually won lawsuits against photographers for not wanting to shoot a gay "wedding" and churches for not allow gay "weddings" on certain pieces of property. With the advent of homosexual "marriage" potentially being legalized nationwide, one wonders if churches as a whole will be targeted, especially since ministers do have to get a state license to perform ceremonies. Churches should not be put in that position of having to choose to perform weddings for either heterosexual couples or homosexual couples. 

These authors missed the point of Jesus' words. Did he love people unconditionally? Sure. Did he openly advocate sin? No. But that is what they are asking us to do. Let's affirm homosexual people for who they are. That's what Jesus did, right? Wrong. He told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more (John 8:11). Justification is the opposite of condemnation and that is exactly what Jesus did. He justified her. Declared her righteous. Why? Because I believe that she had a repentant heart. Jesus unconditional love caused her to repent of her sin and to go and sin no more. Now, there is some question about whether that story really happened or not, since it's not in the earliest manuscripts. That's not the point. I know of no one who wears WWJD anymore, so, that's a non-sequitor. What I do know is this. Jesus is doing something. That is, He is saving sinners. Sinners like me. I can love and respect a homosexual, but that does not mean I have condone their sin of homosexuality. I should hope that these authors go back and read what they wrote and see how much of a strawman they wrote, based on their own presuppositions and stereotypes. It's not about a conversation with them, apparently. Let's have a real conversation about homosexuality. Not one that wants to paint all those opposed to homosexuality as bigots and homophobes.