Human Beings, not Theological Propositions or Biblical Truths

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One of the reasons I am a follower of Jesus of Nazareth is because everything we know about him tells us his primary concern was people. He was passionate about “doing the will of my Father” –and that “will” always leaned toward forgiveness and acceptance of, and love for people. He had standards, the most rigorous of which was to leave the business of judging to God and occupy himself with the business of loving.

The decisions, counter-decisions, turnabouts and rhetoric that have flowed this past week with regard to World Vision (hereafter “WV”) leave us wondering: What’s it all for? We care for the children who hunger and thirst; but those needs are trumped by the determination of some people to treat the LGBTQA community like a commodity to be proof texted. When WV decided to allow same sex couples who are legally married to be employees, parts of the Christian World went into paroxysms. Christians removed support, blamed homosexuals for the suffering of the poor, drew lines in the sand. “Farewells” sounded more like “Good riddance”. Some used the WV decision as a legitimate excuse for hurling threats and passing judgment.

Blogger Rachel Held Evans said it well: “I’m always careful not to equate opposition to gay marriage with hate,” she writes. “But the singling out and scapegoating of gay and lesbian people that’s happening here is deeply troubling to me. When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong.”[1]

Nefarious indeed.

One definition of “racism” is “prejudice + systemic power”.  We all have our prejudices. As we mature we can grow and soften our tendency to judge others based on skin color, religious affiliation, etc. But when individual prejudices are used to create policies that favor one group of people over another, we end up with an “ism”. Racism, sexism, ageism – these are but several of the many “isms” that have acquired “systemic power” in the form of policies and laws, in which persons are denied employment, or equal pay for equal work, or seating in a restaurant.

The benefit – or “privilege” that people experience is the ability to live and move about without fear. White people don’t fear that they are stopped by the police, or pulled over in the security line at the airport, or have their ID checked simply because they are “white”; but people of color live with that fear all the time. [2]

The growing concern is that members of the LGBTQA community experience prejudice that manifests itself systemically. The slope between “hating the sin but loving the sinner” has leaned heavily toward hate – Period. The evidence for this is in the fact that some conservative groups, acknowledging that children would suffer and die as they withdrew their support for WV, blamed homosexuals for their decision. It is more important that they NOT work alongside a gay person than it is that a child is given bread and water.

Blaming homosexuals for children’s suffering carries with it sentiments frighteningly similar to the rationale that supported the holocaust and that brutalized Africans brought to this country for slave labor.

The essence of the problem facing WV now is that it bowed to financial pressure rather than spiritual conviction. We have to look hard at the connection between WV’s reversal and systemic power structures that legitimize prejudicial behaviors that oppress persons who are LGBTQA. There are places in the world – geographically determined as well as theologically defined – where gay persons are being imprisoned, tortured, and even executed for no reason other than that they are homosexual. In such places, fear and hate are played out systemically. In this country, persons who are gay, or legally married to a same-sex spouse, will have to check with the policies of some Christian organizations to determine their eligibility for employment, based solely on their gender preference.

Those who say they hate the sin but love the sinner bear the greater burden to demonstrate the reality of that love. The reaction to WV’s initial decision and quick reversal by some Christian groups begins to look an awful lot like hate masquerading as righteousness.

With Rachel Held Evans, I too believe it is possible for a person to sincerely hold a theological position regarding how human beings express their sexuality. But those individual positions must never be allowed to legitimize laws, policies, or any system of government that excludes, demonizes, blames or persecutes one group of human beings. We must stand against any such system which would limit opportunities – for employment, safety, recreation – for one group while insuring them for the rest of us.

Christians, whatever your theological opinion or biblical convictions, all human beings are created in the image of God – so we say. So we believe as followers of Jesus. So we must show the world.


[2] A recent report from the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights reveals that “Black students are suspended at three times the rate of white students. Minority children with disabilities fair worst of all; the race effect is amplified when disability comes into the picture. More than one in four minority boys with a disability — and nearly one in five minority girls — receive an out-of-school suspension. Students with disabilities make up 12 percent of the student population, but 25 percent of those are either arrested or have their disciplinary cases referred to the police.”A New York Times Editorial (March 26) Full Editorial here. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/opinion/giving-up-on-4-year-olds.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0

 

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.