The GOP/ Evangelical Quiet Revolution on Gay Rights

The Washington Post has a useful analysis of what it calls The GOP’s quiet evolution on gay rights. This has obvious and fundamental importance for gay politics and (marriage equality in particular) in the US. It has wider significance because it is also mirrored in a parallel quiet revolution towards queer inclusion in the Christian churches – a movement that is now becoming visible in some traditionally conservative denominations, as well as the more liberal Mainline Protestants.

In the Evangelical churches, this has sometimes been seen in the emergence of some prominent straight allies speaking up for inclusion on theological grounds, or a handful of openly gay pastors and welcoming churches  – but these remain rare (for now). On the other, there are also some who do not specifically advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian Christians, but are actively promoting a greater degree of dialogue and understanding, a toning down of the rhetoric and virulent homophobia. (This is a trend that I believe to be occurring also in the Catholic and Mormon Churches). Both of these trends are welcome. One of the second group is Philip Yancey, said to be one of the world’s most successful evangelical authors:

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Gay Activists Focus on Faith: No Monopoly for the “Religious Police”

Far too often, faith and LGBT sexuality are seen as polar opposites, necessarily in opposition. The result is that some people of faith see it as their religious duty to promote prejudice or even violence and murder, with tragic results as in Uganda (but also in countless hate crime murders in Western countries, too). Conversely, too many people in the queer community simply dismiss all religious belief and practice as inherently bigoted, incapable of offering anything in their lives. Both positions are fatally flawed.

I liked this video by a young Australian gay Christian, who points out (quite correctly) that the “moral police” do not have a monopoly on faith.

In the video, he makes clear that as a gay man of faith he is vehemently opposed to “Christian political parties trying to be the moral police over the rest of society.”

“I believe it’s a very poor representation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the community, to the gay and lesbian community, to Sydney city in general, and especially to the Christian Church… the church is much bigger than them and their bigoted and limited ideas and understanding,” Grebart blasted Maddon’s actions in drumming up a “battlecry” protest against the Mardi Gras parade.

If Christians (and people of other faiths) need to treat sexual minorities with greater respect and inclusion, then the converse also holds. Gay activists need to recognize the influence that faith exerts in some people’s political thinking – and engage with religious communities on their own terms. A conference of activists in Minneapolis is doing just that:

Gay Activist Conference In Minn. Has Faith Focus

Whenever Nicole Garcia visited gay-friendly churches with large numbers of Hispanic people in the congregation, she would check the brochures and other materials geared toward gay churchgoers and their families and usually find a common theme.

“Typically what I’d see are materials written for white families and translated into Spanish,” said Garcia, a Denver-based transgender activist who works with several gay-friendly faith groups. “That’s appreciated, but you have to understand that you’re talking about a totally different set of issues in many cases.”

On Wednesday, Garcia and several hundred other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists who work within multiple faith communities will gather in Minneapolis as part of the much larger National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual conference. Garcia will lead a Latino working group, one of several such groups aimed at a greater diversity in gay religious activism — an arena that convention co-organizer the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel said “has been largely defined by white folks.”

In recent years, gay activists have won some major battles within several traditionally white, middle-class denominations. Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church now allow openly gay clergy, and several other Protestant denominations have been moving in that direction.

-Read more at NPR

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No Room at the Inn: The False Divide of Gay v Christian

The recent award of damages to a same-sex couple who were denied accommodation by Christian hoteliers, continues to draw extensive coverage and comment in the British press. On the one hand, it seems that the B&B/hotel hosts are now receiving extensive hate-mail and nuisance calls and other harassment, including numerous attempted bookings by other gay couples threatening to launch follow-up legal actions if their bookings are denied. (The place is currently closed for the off-season, so no bookings are being accepted for anyone. Mrs Bull has not indicated what she will do if these bookings continue in the summer). Such harassment is clearly despicable and uncalled-for.

On the other, this harassment has led to her being portrayed in some quarters as a Christian martyr, standing up for her religious convictions. This is patent nonsense. If her religious convictions lead her to disapprove of lesbian sex, she need not engage in it. Religious freedom does not extend to the freedom to impose her religious beliefs on her guests. Presumable she also disapproves of masturbation. Does she have signs in her rooms warning that jerking off in the bath is forbidden?

She claims that she is not discriminating against gays in particular, but only against unmarried couples. This too is hogwash. In British law, here guests are married –  except that the technical legal term for their union (unjustly) is “civil partnership”, not marriage.

But the most serious complaint against their action, for a couple claiming to be acting from Christian belief, is that is totally contrary to the Christian Gospels, and the practice of Jesus Christ himself.

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Discrimination: Homophobia, or a Christian Duty?

In the eyes of the British courts, the answer is clear:discrimination against lesbian or gay people is against the law, and religious freedom is not a justification for denying equal treatment to all.

In a British example, one married couple who run a Cornish B&B refused to allow another married couple who had booked accommodation to share a double bed, insisting that their religious convictions did not permit them to accept unmarried couples. Their would-be guests,  Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, are both male, and so technically are “civil partners”, not conventionally married. In the eyes of the law however, there is no distinction, as the judge made clear to the defendants, Peter and Hazelmary Bull. He said that he fully accepted the sincerity of their beliefs, but that the law did not permit them to discriminate, and awarded Hall and Preddy £1800 damages each. Expect howls of outrage from the religious right, who will complain once again that Christians are being discriminated against, and that religion is being marginalised in this “secular” society.

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Christ into Christianity: Essential Self-Giving

There are many aspects to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. However you view the Christian story though, one feature has got to be pre-eminent: the self-sacrifice on the cross and the associated resurrection. It follows then that this comprehensive self-giving is one essential characteristic of the followers of Christ, the Christians. The CDF states, entirely without substantiation, that as gay men and lesbians, we lack this “essential self-giving” that is a mark of Christianity.

When I came across this assertion in “Homosexualitatis Problema”, I was puzzled. Other than self-giving in sex for procreation, I could not see any sense of self-giving that necessarily excluded gay men and lesbians. Research and anecdotal evidence in fact, is the exact opposite gay men typically are far better represented in the altruistic service professions of nursing, teaching, social work, librarianship and the priesthood itself than straight men – and markedly under-represented in the self-centred, greed-based professions of finance and business. Puzzled by the CDF claim, I wrote to several priests and former priests with greater knowledge of the Gospels than I, to see if I have missed something in the Gospels that might justify the CDF statement. I have already reported James Alison’s response (which I repeat below). I also liked the response of the priest who calls himself “Bart” on these pages, for its citing of the Gospel texts that elaborate on the meaning of “self-giving”  – and its demonstration that these simply do not apply in the way that the CDF intends:

 

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Oz Priest, on the Christian Case for Gay Marriage

“Fr Dave” is yet another Australian arguing strongly in favour of legal recognition. His argument is that it the Christian thing to do: same sex marriage, like any other, contributes broadly to social stability, and provides a stable environment for raising children. (For those who dispute this on the grounds that children need a mother and a father, see the observation by cartoonist David Horsey, at Seattle PI:

Today, a couple of inebriated knuckleheads who happen to be boy and girl can impulsively get hitched any day of the week at a chapel in Las Vegas. A straight man or woman who has repeatedly failed at marriage can try, try again. The moral fiber of America will only be enhanced when two men or two women who have faithfully shared their lives for decades are finally allowed to do the same.

But back to Fr Dave, in Australia:

Why every Christian should be in favour of gay marriage.

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For a Queer Christmas – Send Gay / Lesbian Cards.

Advent begins this week, and with it the season for shopping.

For all Christians, this time of year can be difficult, with tension to negotiated, between Advent as a solemn season of preparation for the important Christian festival of Christmas, and the purely secular festive season leading up to the winter solstice, which marks the mid-point of winter’s darkness and gloom.

For Christian sexual minorities (including the many straight singles and childless couples) there is an additional difficulty – the relentless emphasis in both church and stores on children and family. Kittredge Cherry at Jesus in Love Blog has come up with an ingenious way to counter this. Send your friends gay or lesbian themed Nativity cards. Love, after all, makes a family.

(I like Kitt’s use of the term “Nativity” card – the word “Christmas” has been as much distorted and misused as the festival.)

Read her original post at Jesus in Love Blog, where she makes an important point: we must remember that in the traditional Nativity story, the biological details of the birth are extraordinary. Is the idea of a same sex couple procreating any more extraordinary than the Virgin birth?

To that, I would add the observation by the Catholic theologians Salzmann & Lawler, in “The Sexual Person”: procreation refers not only to the physical production of an infant, but also the the subsequent care and nurturing of the child.  Procreation by same-sex couples is not nearly as far-fetched as some people would have us believe.

Order your nativity cards from the Jesus in Love Card Shop.

 

A Catholic Case For Blessing Civil Unions

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Gay Marriage: The Fallacy of the Church’s Argument Against.


Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 2): Why Can’t They Just Keep Quiet About It?

At Boundless Salvation,  Jason Davies-Kildea, took as his second extract from Fr Owen O’Sullivan’s paper on Gay Inclusion a section headed “Why Can’t they Just Keep Quiet?”.

This is a short passage, and an apparently reasonable question – which hides some big and important questions. Fr O’Sullivan’s brief response is summarised even more  briefly in his first two sentences of the passage:

Homosexuality is not a problem; the denial of it is, especially if one denies it to oneself. Good human relationships (or good health) can never be founded on the basis of suppression or denial of the truth.

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“Catholics For Equality” on Gay Bullycide

Catholics for Equality and Catholics for Marriage Equality
Issue Joint Statement to LGBT Youth

WASHINGTON – Catholics for Equality and Catholics for Marriage Equality, with all people of good will, lament the multiple tragic deaths of gay youths. As Catholics, we confess that our personal indifference and institutional church prejudices have contributed to the morbid despair of these and many other LGBT youth.

Our response moving forward must be both personal and political. We must personally include and affirm LGBT youth in our homes, churches, neighborhoods and schools.

Catholics for Equality and Catholics for Marriage Equality pledge active political support for The Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2010 (SSIA). The SSIA would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (part of the No Child Left Behind Act) to require schools and districtsreceiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

LGBT suicide is not primarily a psychological issue, related to individual failure to cope, adapt, or access adequate services. It is a social issue. It reflects our collective failure as a society and a Church to affirm, nurture, and provide safe place for vulnerable persons to grow in truth and love.

Our message to LGBT Catholic youth is fourfold:

  1. The problems that drive you to despair are not your fault. Regardless of your struggles and thoughts of suicide, you remain the beloved child of God. That love never changes.
  2. Know that we love and cherish you as our own flesh and blood, united in one Body in the Lord. We are family. In family there is no other. You are not alone, and will never be abandoned. You may feel isolated, and wonder if there is hope. Believe that your LGBT and allied Catholic family are here for you. Many in it have been where you are. Let our love for you help you through the challenges you face.
  3. What must change are social attitudes, and our capacity as Church to understand, care and advocate for you. We have failed you. We have allowed anti-gay bishops to issue a steady stream of anti-gay pronouncements; to promote an anti-gay agenda in our parishes through literature, DVDs, petitions and political campaigns. Our silence has led you to believe that we agree with Church hierarchy. We do not. We recognize and respect your intrinsic human dignity.Our confessions: We have not treated you with sensitivity, as the Catechism teaches. We have sinned in our indifferent attitude to LGBT-affirming ministries, which should be made available in every parish, so that you would never for a moment have to think that you were the only one, or that there was no place for you in the Church of Jesus Christ. Please forgive us.
  4. We ask you to consider that “it does get better”. We pledge to you our personal support as Christians who share the baptismal gifts of faith, hope, and unfailing love. We pledge to you our political advocacy to make the promises of The Safe Schools Act of 2010 your reality.No matter what you are going through now, things will get better. God is not a bully. God loves you, and will continue to supply all of the graces you need to live an abundant life in Christ Jesus.

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Queer Inclusion in Church: Evangelicals Ask, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Church debate on full inclusion for lesbian, gay and trans Christians has become commonplace in the US mainline Protestant denominations, and in some European churches. A few denominations already ordain openly gay or lesbian pastors in commited, monogamous relationships, or are engaged in regular debates on moving towards that goal. Others already provide for either full church weddings for same-sex couples (where local laws allow it), or accept church blessings.  Among these denominations, it is becoming ever clearer that full inclusion, for both marriage and ordination regulations, will soon become widely accepted, if not (yet) universal.

It is less well-known, but is slowly becoming evident, that a similar process has also begun in other more surprising denominations.

Toby Huckaby’s address on gay inclusion to a Catholic college is just one sign of the increasing debate in the Catholic Church, as is the number of bishops who have followed Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna in quietly asking for a rethink, or at least a more compassionate approach – and are not being repudiated.  A recent panel discussion in Utah is another indicator that churchmen and women are questioning the old assumption across a wide front. A report on this broadly based rethink at CNN has drawn my attention to yet more evidence that this new open-mindedness is also having an impact elsewhere, in some evangelical circles:

In Denver, an evangelical Christian pastor has split with his former church and started his own evangelical church that fully welcomes gays as worshipers and leaders.

The Rev. Mark Tidd says he does not see a discrepancy between the Bible and accepting members of the homosexual community.

“There’s times when we change how we approach scripture because we observe how God is making God’s self known in creation,” he said.  “We don’t consider it a sin to be gay and we don’t consider it a sin if you are gay and seek a relationship which is the only natural one you can have which would be someone of the same gender.”

Video: Colorado candidates debate same-sex marriage issue

Lisa Crane and her husband Ryan left their more traditional evangelical church for Tidd’s church, and have no plans to go back.

“Do we ever worry like, ‘Oh God am I wrong about this?’ and ‘Am I going to get to heaven and God is going to be like – No, you weren’t supposed to let the gays serve communion!'” Lisa said.

“You know, I don’t think so. That doesn’t jibe with the Jesus that we learned about from the Bible”

-Read the full report

My answer to the “WWJD” question is simple: there is no need to consider what Jesus “would” have done. Just look at what in fact he did do.  His ministry was deeply characterised by His conspicuous outreach to the oppressed and marginalized of all kinds, whom he accepted on fully equal terms with all other disciples. He also quite deliberately agreed to cure the Centurion’s “servant”, and even to enter the Centurion’s home, even though there would have been at the very least a popular assumption that in keeping with common Roman military custom, the Centurion would have had a sexual relationship with this servant.