Love one another. – Jesus Christ
Hello, darlings!- Dame Edna Everage
A few years back, a former member of my church contacted me to say he was very depressed and that he'd been praying for an answer to his depression.
Sometime prior, he had left the church circles he had grown up around because he had not been able to correlate his faith with his sexuality. Now he asked if he could return and go back to being in the worship team or just be part of the congregation. He even stated that he would clean the floors of the church building; he simply wanted to return.
I told him, "Mate, I would love to have you back here. You know my wife and I think the world of you and there's nothing more we'd like to see." I did say that I couldn't promise a return to the worship team but that I would ask the senior minister if that would be okay.
Well, it wasn't okay. I wasn't surprised to be told that he could attend church but that a person actively living in a gay lifestyle couldn't be leading others in worship. When I explained to this man the situation he seemed to accept it but I felt his pain even as I told him.
Even though he told me he would be happy to be in church regardless, that was not to be the case. He left and though I've tried to get a hold of him I have not seen him again. Ever since then I have wondered to myself what I would have done had I been in charge of the church at the time.
This account is quite personal to me and emotive because I genuinely love that young man. It's about a gay man who was welcome at church but whose lifestyle wasn't. It highlights the tension Christians experience between the teachings they adhere to which they have seen help so many and the pain the standards they hold to can bring to an individual.
Believers don't want to hurt others and most of them do what they can to bring hope and healing. But they also don't want to compromise the teachings of the Bible. Though the world will tell us different we still believe its message will transform lives and bring hope where there is no hope. So, what the hell do we do?
Well. I know what some Christians do. To release themselves from this tension they find loopholes in Scripture.
You might hear someone say, "Jesus never preached against sadomasochism so it must be okay." Well Jesus never said anything about slitting a child's throat but we would all agree he most likely be against it. Another might say, "When St Paul denounces homosexuality he is referring to those who choose to be gay rather than those who are born that way." Now that's a better argument. If that is indeed the case, it would solve some problems and make life simpler for the Christian in today's society. But is that an honest reading of scripture?
Joe Paprocki of the Loyola Press states it well. "Paul's references to homosexual acts were not particularly controversial to early Christians who knew that the holiness code of Leviticus forbade homosexual acts (Leviticus 20:13). Paul was merely reaffirming that which was held by faithful Jews and early Christians." I've been studying the Bible since the 1980s both theologically and devotionally. Maybe I'm a total doofus but I have never ever come to the conclusion that it is even remotely scriptural for men or women to have sex with others of their own gender. In my opinion, those theologians who do are just not being good at their craft or are caving in to outside and inner pressure.
I was fascinated to read that last year gay theologian David Berger rose to the defense of four cardinals who were rebuked after asking for clarity from Pope Francis on his seemingly loose views on marriage. Berger recognised that Christians are facing a new challenge. "The situation never before existed in this kind of dimension," he wrote on his website. "They [the Cardinals] are hushed up in order to implement plans that contradict the Church's teaching on marriage while the secular media applauds." He then added, "The Church was not founded by Christ as a wellness centre. I prefer a Church that scolds me than a Church which mendaciously says yes to me and teaches me the Zeitgeist while making itself laughable and superfluous." Here is a gay man with theological training throwing his weight behind priests who uphold the traditional church view of marriage. Wow. The tension is real, people.
I recently re read a comment about gay marriage I posted here on this forum some years back. It looked harsh and reactionary. In particular, I was hard on the Greens, their then leader and their agenda. I also suggested that the real motives gays were after equal rights in marriage was that possibly they were after the financial breaks straight families receive. Yeah. It was cold. I tried to remind myself that it was written at a time when gay marriage was a new proposal and my head was not quite around the concept. But, in truth, I don't enjoy reading it again. At the back of those comments was an inability to handle the tension.
I have no desire to reject anyone or make them feel ostracized from God. I am a church man and I believe it is a place of healing and real answers. I care about people and have worked hard to assist individuals since the 1980s without prejudice. I also grew up with Cold Chisel's "I'm standing on the outside looking in…"and it rings through my ears to this day. I want to be true to the Bible but not hurt a soul. Can you feel my dilemma? I bloody well can.
Even Jesus walked in that tension. Reading the gospels, we see him standing by the Law of the Old Testament but at the same time empowering every individual who came to him for hope. Ironically, those he rebuked the harshest were in fact, religious people. I know in my heart of hearts that there's no way Jesus would go against the Scriptures. But at the same time I also know there's no way he would shame or reject the individual under any circumstance.
No one wants to be rejected. Christians or gays. Or gay Christians. I currently work with people of LGBT background. I have found a release of the pressure I have described because my job is not to give my view on anything but to listen to them without prejudice or judgment. As a result, I have made friendships and I doubt anyone would feel any rejection when I'm with them. But in a way, I've got it easy. The question remains: how can we biblical believers be true to scripture and still welcome LGBT people into church without shunning them? If Jesus walked the earth today, he would show believers the way clearly. Instead, today's Christian can only go by accounts written from a time when people of gay and transgender background were not in society's forefront as to how Jesus treated people in general. He left behind a church to be the salt of the earth. Today we leave a lot to be desired.
So, I have no easy pat answers. But I do know that Jesus told us, "Love one another". Perhaps we can start there.