The Episcopal Church has opened its doors to same-sex marriage, thus acknowledging the rights and personhood of the LGBTQ community. Some dioceses, however, are still fiddling with the locks. The Church’s official website indicates, “As with all spiritual journeys, everyone walks at their own pace. Some Episcopal congregations are actively involved in LGBTQ ministry and their arms are open wide; others are more reserved, but their doors are still open to all; some are still wrestling with their beliefs and feelings.”
Of the Episcopal Church’s statement, author Kate Cohen opines, “Let’s pretend that instead of talking about LGBTQ people, the church was talking about congregations ‘wrestling with their beliefs and feelings’ about Black people. Would our spirit of patient forbearance extend to that?
Ms. Cohen further points out that just a handful of generations past, many American Christian institutions defended slavery, quoting Ephesians 6:5: “Slaves, obey your masters.” A little while later, they condemned integration and interracial marriage, asserting, on behalf of God, that His command was for the races to be separated. “Homophobic policies are no different,” she says, “except in that, apparently, people are still more accepting of them.”
“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Pope Francis told the Associated Press in a statement that made global headlines. He added, however, that it IS a sin. The Catholic Church will continue to condemn, not condone, same-sex marriages and frown upon the adoption of children by same-sex couples. But from now on, all condemnation and exclusion will be done with love and dignity. Homosexuality is a crime in 67 countries—punishable in some by extreme measures. The pope rightly decries this. Many of those countries, however, trace the footprints of the criminalization of gay conduct to the doorstep of the Vatican.
Headlines, too, greeted the Church of England’s apology for its treatment of the LGBTQ community: “For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry.” The statement carried with it the assurance that the Church will continue not to recognize same-sex marriages, etc.
Have we reached a new era of openness or a more fashionable lace-gloved bigotry? The tone of voice is still there, but the rejection, exclusion and prejudice remain. Which is the more disingenuous—the velvet words of loving, faith-based hate or the old-style hit-’em-where-it-hurts pulse-pounding Bible-thumping bigotry now spreading through the heartland? A sampling:
“They should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head! That’s what God teaches. That’s what the Bible says.”—Dillon Awes, Pastor, Stedfast Baptist Church.
[Gay people should be] “shot in the back of the head. Or the front of the head. I don’t really care. Multiple times in the head.”—Cameron Hall, New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher.
[On the “Pulse” nightclub massacre] “The good news is there are 50 less pedophiles in the world.” – Steven Anderson, Pastor, Faithful Word Baptist Church.
“It’d be better for a millstone to be cast about their neck and for them to be drowned in the sea. That’s what I hope they all do. Kill themselves. . .The government should convict them of the crime of sodomy, and put them to death… Stone ‘em with stones, with a little explosion behind it, and you can have… multiple stones going at them that have been melted down into a bullet, a projectile. I’m not gonna do it. But if the government does it? Hey, that’s something to praise. That’s something to give our consent to. Because why? Because it’s biblical. That’s why. Because it’s right.” – Deven Rogers, New IFB preacher.
Hard to stomach? From human beings supposedly beating the drums for the Holy Spirit and brotherhood and peace on earth? The growing New Fundamentalist Independent Baptist movement, condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for its bigoted, antisemitic, anti-LGBTQ, thoroughly despicable rhetoric, may simply be expressing what’s in the hearts of many. Their annual Red Hot Preaching Conferences attract larger crowds yearly, with thousands streaming the hate online.
Whether soaked with saccharine or reeking of blood, prejudice is still prejudice.
Bravo to those houses of worship—of all faiths—who recognize no inequality in the souls entering their sanctuary.
Bravo to the honest people—the majority of us—who try to tune out the hate and, when it does enter, are appalled by it.
And bravo, most of all, to those on the front lines of the fight—those who refuse to be silenced, who—bloody but unbowed—set the example for the rest of us.