Tag Archive: Social Justice


Part of the Solution

For those of you in the Midwest, remember the billboard series (I think the Roman Catholic Church paid for them) that were brief memos from God? You know the , brief inspirational ones. They were cute and a great way to reach the masses as they were stuck in their daily commute.

But how would you like it if you received this one from God:

Dear Lost Soul,

I hate you. I hate everything about you. I made a mistake and made you wrong. You are junk and unworthy of my love. I have a reputation to uphold, and this isn’t working for me, so I shall be distancing myself from you and will taking no responsibility for any of your flaws. I have instructed my son who is in charge of terrestrial relations as well as my staff to do the same. I’m sorry, but it is just standard procedure to sever all ties with defects.

Best of luck making it through life alone,

God

I think we can all admit that would be a very hard memo to handle. Hyperbole, no doubt and it truly contradicts everything the Gospel proclaims.

But for many GLBTQ teens, this is how they view life. They have been mocked, ridiculed, and rejected from so many facets of life, that it seems that even God hates them with the Church leading the charge. Imagine what a burden that would be–to think that even Christ rejects you.

It happens all the time in church-sanctioned discrimination and homophobia. And I’m not talking about the whackjob extreme fringe that carries signs that say, “God Hates Fags.” I’m talking about mainstream religion that either bangs home the You Were Made Wrong Gospel of Biblical Authority (or as I have blogged about in the past the I’m Right-You’re Wrong. I’m big-You’re Small approach to biblical bullying.)

It either outright rejects the GLBTQ community, proclaiming it immoral and stratifies it as something far worse than any other sin, it places caveats on sexual identity, creating bogus psychological diagnoses on it (aka the faux diagnosis of Same Sex Attraction) that can be,  at best.  cured with enough prayer and reeducation (read: enough guilt, bullying  and self-loathing) or suppressed into the isolation of forced celibacy.

Even this week, a mainstream religious organization made the news for making such proclamations. This weekend Boyd Packer, president of the LDS (ie, mormon) Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (ie, the highest echelon of Mormon leadership) hammered that home this past week at the LDS’ Semi-Annual conference in Salt Lake City, a conference attended by 100,000 in person. It may be easy to say pffft and blow it off as the Mormon’s odd views on marriage. But his message was televised to millions of Mormons around the world, and translated into 92 languages. In his message he states that homosexuality is something that is NOT inborn.

To justify his assertion, he said, “Why would our heavenly father do that to anyone?”

Packer adheres to the party line that one can Pray the Gay Away. He dismisses any other schools of thought as something sinister that is inspired by none other than the devil himself.

What a great message to send a suffering teen: God didn’t make you that way. You made a choice to be a deviant. In fact Satan is the one helping you make that bad choice.

Luckily the Human Rights Campaign was quick to respond. HRC president Joe Solomonese said yesterday:

When a faith leader tells gay people that they are a mistake because God would never have made them that way and they don’t deserve love, it sends a very powerful message that violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable. It also emotionally devastates those who are LGBT or may be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identify. His words were not only inaccurate, they were also dangerous.

But it isn’t just the Mormons that espouse this church-sanctioned bullying. Mainstream Lutherans do it as well.  Unlike the ELCA that has actively decided to cast a wider net of inclusiveness, the Missouri Synod is still very much in the church-sanctioned bullying camp. In fact in 1992, the LCMS drafted a resolution to develop a plan of Ministering to Homosexuals and Their Families  and in it cities their document Human Sexuality,  A Theological Perspective which allows very little room for discussion by proclaiming:

Whatever the causes of such a condition may be, . . . homosexual orientation is profoundly ‘unnatural’ without implying that such a person’s sexual orientation is a matter of conscious, deliberate choice. However, this fact cannot be used by the homosexual as an excuse to justify homosexual behavior. As a sinful human being, the homosexual is accountable to God for homosexual thoughts, words and deeds.” (Human Sexuality, A Theological Perspective, p. 35)

Of course, the Missouri Synod appears to be doing it out of Christian Love. (Here’s the part of the essay where you need to picture me making air quotes and rolling my eyes.) The policy talks about bearing each other’s burdens and hating the sin, not the sinner (more rolling the eyes, by the way.) But it places caveats on forgiveness. It sets forth a list of demands and paves the way for bullying. The plan includes the following:

… 2. to confront the individual with his/her sinfulness, and call him/her to repentance;  3. to help the individual recognize that God can rescue individuals from homosexual orientation and practice; 4. to assure him/her of forgiveness in Christ, contingent upon sincere repentance and faith in Christ, and to assure him/her of the love and acceptance of the church; 5. to assist the individual to rely on Christ’s love and strength to abstain from homophile behavior;…

It’s nothing more than another exercise in I’m Right, You’re Wrong. I’m Big, You’re Small.  But it goes one step further and includes the threat, And if you want God to love you, you have to do what I say.

So let’s go back to what Packer said,  Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?  But let’s turn it back on him. And ask a parallel question.

In this day and age of intolerance and bullying, where laws (eg, Calfornia’s Proposition 8) are specifically written for the sole purpose of taking human rights away, and where churchs continue to bang home the message that God hates you, why would anyone actively chose to be GLBTQ?

I mean, seriously, why would anyone want to seek out harassment, threats of beatings or death, family shunning, rejection from church or a mantra heard over and over again that they were made wrong?

It’s time to really put aside man-made constructs that it’s a “choice” and a sin that one can chose not to pursue. It’s time to close the Bible to cudgel verses uses to marginalize and promote  heteronormative privlege.

How many more deaths either from hate-related violence or suicide need to happen before people realize that practices are Unchristian and Inhumane. How many more GLBTQ teens need to feel that there is no where to turn because everyone–including God–has turned their backs on them? How many need to endure extra hurdles on a path to salvation that the heteronormative culture does not need to jump?  How many times do they need to be “confronted” by leaders telling them that they are Wrong?

We can chose to hide behind Scripture and use it as an excuse to discriminate. But as the old cliche says, when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you. We can chose to allow bullying to continue and turn a blind eye to the next child that throws himself off a bridge. We can chose to hide behind religion to mask our own fears and insecurities.

Or we can chose to be better than that.

Unlike sexual identity, THOSE are choices each and everyone of can make.

There is meme that is currently circulating around the internet which really does bring home the message of bearing each others burdens:

I am the girl kicked out of her home because I confided in my mother that I am a lesbian.
I am the man who died alone in the hospital because they would not let my partner of twenty-seven years into the room.

I am the person who is afraid of telling his loving Christian parents he loves another male.

I am the prostitute working the streets because nobody will hire a transsexual woman.

I am the sister who holds her gay brother tight through the painful, tear-filled nights.

We are the parents who buried our daughter long before her time.

I am the foster child who wakes up with nightmares of being taken away from the two fathers who are the only loving family I have ever had. I wish they could adopt me.

I am one of the lucky ones, I guess. I survived the attack that left me in a coma for three weeks, and in another year I will probably be able to walk again.

I am not one of the lucky ones. I killed myself just weeks before graduating high school. It was simply too much to bear.

We are the couple who had the realtor hang up on us when she found out we wanted to rent a one-bedroom for two men.

I am the person who never knows which bathroom I should use if I want to avoid getting the management called on me.

I am the mother who is not allowed to even visit the children I bore, nursed, and raised. The court says I am an unfit mother because I now live with another woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who found the support system grow suddenly cold and distant when they found out my abusive partner is also a woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who has no support system to turn to because I am male.

I am the father who has never hugged his son because I grew up afraid to show affection to other men.

I am the home-economics teacher who always wanted to teach gym until someone told me that only lesbians do that.

I am the man who died when the paramedics stopped treating me as soon as they realized I was transsexual.

I am the person who feels guilty because I think I could be a much better person if I did not have to always deal with society hating me.

I am the man who stopped attending church, not because I don’t believe, but because they closed their doors to my kind.

I am the person who has to hide what this world needs most, love.

 

Until we realize that THIS is bearing another’s burdens and we practice hospitality and acceptance without pseudoscience, fear-driven dogma and clobber verses, then we are nothing more than the problem

If you would have asked me ten years ago if I would be blogging about religion, I would have laughed. I was raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran. My family was only tangentially involved with the church. My dad is agnostic at best on a good day and somewhere just left of Bill Maher on a bad one. My mom raised us to be silent and not heard in church, and until recently the idea of standing in front of congregation–let alone publicly disagreeing with the clergy–would have been the quickest way for me to faint and/or vomit.

When I was a kid, I realized that the Missouri Synod wasn’t for me. When I was about eleven, I remember sitting quietly and trying not to fight with my younger brother during a sermon that a guest pastor was giving. What started as a sermon on morality quickly turned into an anti-choice tirade where women were nothing more than whores. I can still remember my mother standing up during the middle of the sermon, and with a not-so quiet proclamation, said, “Come on kids, we are leaving!” I can still feel every eye in the church boring down on my back as she marched us out.  I didn’t really understand what my mother was standing up for at the time, but looking back, it has forged my views on women’s rights as well as religion. Women couldn’t vote in the LCMS until some time in the mid-eighties when I was in middle school. Their roles are still diminished to this day. Women cannot preach from the pulpit, and the older I have grown, the more that has bothered me.

By the time I had graduated from Valparaiso University in the early Nineties, I was Lutheran in name alone. I could not stomach being a member of a religion where women were second class citizens.

Jump ahead more than ten years, I was a wife and physician with a baby on the way. My parents had already made the leap to the ELCA. It was an organization that also resonated with me. It was progressive. It embraced women equally. It valued social justice,not just proselytizing. (I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot of problems with forcing religion on anyone, especially at the expense of others’ heritage and culture, but that post is for another day.) It was something I wanted my daughters to experience.

The 2009 Churchwide Assembly is something that has received a lot of attention both within the ELCA and from those who revel in the angst it has created for some. For me I was thrilled to embrace a policy that broke down the barriers of discrimination. I was thrilled to be part of a church that welcomed all regardless of race, gender, nor sexual identity. Of course not everyone was thrilled about it, my pastors included.

It didn’t take long before the half-truths and psuedoscience started getting flung around left and right. The synod would force us to call a gay pastors, those gays would molest everyone in Sunday school, being gay is a choice and can be cured with enough prayer and counseling (and self-loathing.)

That was only the beginning. The same-sex issue was just the tip of the iceberg. Our pastors wanted out and starting throwing anything against the wall to see what would stick. Suddenly everything was wrong with the ELCA. The ELCA doesn’t do this, The ELCA doesn’t do that. It’s not good enough. It’s too liberal. It’s unchurched. It’s amoral. There’s too much hierarchy. It’s theologians know nothing about the Bible. It doesn’t teach the bible.

In December we had the first of two votes to leave the ELCA. Like other congregations, the proposal had to pass by a 2/3 majority in order to move forward to a second vote. Needless to say, the first vote passed by about 10 votes and my congregation will be voting a second time on April 11. Since then those of us who have wanted to remain with the ELCA have been vilified, our voices silenced, our information suppressed. It’s hard to have your voice heard when you don’t have the pulpit.

So this is why I have started this blog. My posts won’t be as general as this one. But I want to journal the path that I and fellow congregants are experiencing. Whether we sway the vote and try move toward healing or if we are starting from the ground up. I want our story to be heard.