“Bob” needs a barber so bad.
I woke up this morning to another e-mail from a Christian critic of Gay people. It wasn’t awful like some of them can be; I guess that makes him a moderate. I could accept several of his sentences, but not the overall tone; when I called him on that he ran away. But it’s worth looking at, because we hear these kinds of things all the time. It deserves some analysis.
First some context; I don’t know the man. He wrote to me because of the prayer website I operate here. He read an old essay of mine on that website, “On the Gay Issue: Pray,” written as an open letter to Bob Duncan, former Bishop of Pittsburgh, during the height of his anti-Gay schism in the Episcopal Church (which appears to be petering out lately). The essay contends that no one in the Church, Straight or Gay, is capable of discerning God’s will in the matter without praying first, in case our assumptions are wrong; that sexuality is so fraught with baggage, so overlaid with various agendas (arising in our own bodies) that none of us has the mental capacity to apply pure Reason to the questions, whether we analyze scripture or science or politics or the media or anything else.
In other words, “God, what if I’m wrong?”
I commend this question in prayer to Gay people and Straight people alike, all over the spectrum of beliefs.
It’s good for Gay people to pray this question, because God has an answer for us that’s Good News indeed.
But it’s also good—necessary—for non-Gay people to pray this way, whether they’re liberal or conservative. God gives the same answer to them that s/he gives to us.
But anti-Gay people never pray that way! They seem to think they couldn’t possibly be wrong.
That’s what I attack in the essay. They seem to think they can analyze scripture and come up with the right answer. But they’re wrong. We have to pray about it. People’s lives are at stake here. The Church’s future is at stake. And your brain isn’t big enough to know what to do if you don’t ask God first, in case you might be wrong.
(Hat tip Jonathan Hagger, faithful priest in the Church of England, whose whole website is designed to get people to think, question and pray.)
There have been times I’ve gotten e-mails from people who appreciated my little essay.
There have been other times a bigot’s responded in attack mode. But this guy today wasn’t like that. Here’s what he wrote.
I just wanted to send you a quick note. I was surfing the internet looking for information on the daily office when I discovered your site. Thank you for making this information available. I sincerely appreciate your efforts. I also read your open letter to Bob and felt moved to send a quick comment.
The problem for me with the gay question, as you call it – is that I don’t see it as a problem really. I think God accepts and loves us all regardless of who we are. And that is enough for me. What some gay men and women seem to be seeking is man’s approval and affirmation and not God’s. I do not consider my sexuality to be my identity and it is certainly not something that defines my faith. If my actions are sinful, I will repent of that. I do truly believe that most sexual activity is sinful – because most sexual activity is selfish and self pleasing in nature. But, where it is truly an expression of love (and only the individual and God can truly know whether the act is based in love), how can it be considered sinful? If God is love, than so is it’s expression. God will teach me what is sin and what is not and inform or convict me likewise – not man or a man’s current definition of what sin is.
The political nature of sexuality in the church seems to be more about the sin of personal pride than of any particular sin related to a specific act. When I enter my church physically or in communion by prayer, I do so as an asexual man – humbly and not by any other label – and where I have sinned – and we are all sinful (gay and straight alike) – I repent of those sins. I do not enter as a category of sin nor do I announce it to others or seek special recognition for it as a class or feel specifically set aside or marked by it, etc. All sin is disgraceful in the eye of God. I have repented of mine, and I am confident in my faith that it is forgiven, That is enough for me.
Sorry if I have rambled or offended. I truly think God loves us all gay and straight. I think none of us, not one – are worthy of it. I truly abhor all politics and hate it when those who are political use Jesus or God in a political way. I only want to love God with all my heart and soul and my neighbor as myself (whether my neighbor is gay or straight).
Peace and Love and many thanks for your site,
Notice he’s on a first-name basis with “Bob,” the schmismatic cleric in Pittsburgh who’s now gotten a promotion to archbishop from his new anti-Gay church.
I take it this e-mail came from one of “Bob’s” followers. But don’t hold that against him; look at what he says.
Here’s what I wrote back.
On the surface I have no problem with what you write.
Yet over and over again you criticize Gay people in this note, while claiming you have nothing against them.
Apparently the big sin to you is announcing one’s sexual orientation, which Straight people do all the time as a matter of course, every day, throughout their lives.
The next sin is seeking to stop violence against Gay people, including that perpetrated by the Church. This becomes “the political nature of sexuality” to you. But it’s not. It’s about replacing violence with justice.
I’ve seen the violence, I’ve had it used on me, I’ve seen it against hundreds of other Gay people, it’s a fact of life nearly everywhere in the country, nearly everywhere in the world – yet here you are moaning about pride, politics, “seeking man’s approval and affirmation” by being honest and organizing against violence.
Two young guys in Malawi are probably going to die in prison because they held an engagement party. Maybe they’re lucky they weren’t stoned to death by crowds of Christians. Russians in California – Orthodox Christian Russians – bring weapons to human rights marches and often use them. Russians in Russia beat Gay people’s heads in while the police stand around and watch. Eric Rudolph, that heroic American “patriot,” sets off nail bombs at a Lesbian bar in Atlanta when he’s not trying to blow up the Olympics. Yet your big insight is that you don’t consider your sexuality to be your identity, so you accuse other people of over-identifying.
It isn’t about pride or individual sin, it’s about a thousand forms of violence and economic discrimination committed by Christians who think they’re loving God by hurting us.
The only way to end that violence is by coming out, just like Straight people do, and organizing to get Christians to stop the violence.
You don’t know what sin is, (name), after all the prophets have tried to teach you. You’re worrying about people’s individual sex acts instead of justice for the poor and oppressed.
I’ll give you this, you’re halfway there, but you’ve got a long way to go. You haven’t even stopped oppressing people yourself yet.
But thanks for writing. As long as you don’t pick up a rock I trust you.
I thought that was a reasonable, reasoned response. I wasn’t angry when I wrote it. (I sometimes am angry when I answer haters.) I’m very aware when I’m writing on behalf of dailyoffice.org that I’m representing more than myself, one little blogger with views. I’m a commissioned evangelist, by authority of Presiding Bishop John Maury Allin. I publish prayers with 461 years of authority behind them in the Book of Common Prayer. I’m just a layman, not a priest, and I don’t speak for God (no one does, not even the pope), but I receive many e-mails from people spilling their guts in worshipful joy or horrible pain. I have a responsibility to do my best with these e-mails. I often pray during the writing of them.
I thought I did okay with this guy. But here’s what he wrote back. It’s just inane. But it’s even got some sweet touches, which I appreciate.
Wow. I guess at some point this becomes an us vs. them sort of thing. I didn’t declare my sexuality and I won’t. I am not on a side here. I really don’t see it that way which I guess is where your hostility is coming from. If you are not for me in total — then you are against me, etc. I totally remove it from the equation. I do agree the world is a violent place and no one can deny any of the violence that has occurred or do anything but condemn it. And I do. The rest is really just one long personal attack and I forgive you for that. I still stand by what I wrote. And I promise I don’t carry rocks.
I apologize for upsetting you. That wasn’t my intention. And I won’t proceed any further. You won’t hear again from me. Thanks again for you web site. It’s a good thing.
I was hoping he’d actually respond to the substance. But no, he decided I’m hostile and it’s all one long personal attack.
What can you do with a person like this? Nothing. Except send him back to “Bob,” I guess, and hope for the best.
Here are my takeaways for what they’re worth.
• They really don’t like Gay people coming out. This just drives them insane.
• They’re obsessed with personal morality, especially sexual morality. They pay no attention whatever to corporate morality, national morality, the Church’s collective morality. It’s all about what you do with your private parts.
• That personal focus derives from an utterly selfish quest for personal salvation; “forget anyone else, I want into heaven!” And oh, do the Protestants cater to that. Every fundamentalist/Pentecostal huckster in the world sets himself up as heaven’s gatekeeper. They find a ready market in capitalist consumer America.
• But the prophets were concerned about Israel’s morality, the nation’s righteousness, the national whoredom, the national oppression of the poor and defenseless.
Jeremiah, you might as well have saved your breath.
Oil spill in the Gulf? Crackheads and meth-heads in the Minerals and Mining Service? Goldman Sachs? You hear not a word about them from the personal salvation crowd. It’s all about doing the nasty to them.
• They’ve somehow allowed sex to become the sole criterion for who gets into heaven and who doesn’t. Bernie Madoff would make it but Leonardo Ricardo would not.
• This is why they can’t possibly understand the scripture or science of sexual orientation without praying. God has no other means to reach them but prayer—because they never admit, “Of course, I could be wrong.”
No eyes to see, no ears to hear; I didn’t invent this stuff. My correspondent fled.
Well, it happened to Jesus too, especially with the Rich Young Man. There’s nothing you can do sometimes; the RYM was hoping for an entrance pass to heaven, having obeyed the law in every respect, but Jesus didn’t give it to him. “If you’re so perfect, sell all you own, give it to the poor and follow me.” And the RYM went sadly away, because he was very, very rich—and not about to do what Jesus required.
• How we use money, not how we use sex, is at the top of St. Peter’s Questionnaire at the pearly gates.
How we use money is both a personal question and a national, international one. The world isn’t looking too good these days. The Gulf spill happened because BP and other oil companies bought off the MMS, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the Republican Party. Sorry, pelicans and fishermen.
The first disciples kept all their goods in common, but we don’t do that. Monastics are the only ones who do anymore. Some monasteries are rather wealthy but others struggle.
• Yet I agree with my correspondent that most sex acts are selfish and therefore sinful—though I’d add that it’s because the Church doesn’t teach the difference between having sex and making love.
The Church isn’t allowed to teach that, people would get all upset. Teaching would invite questions, and people don’t want questions; they don’t want the old morality to be wrong, even as they’re busy violating it every chance they get.
Defend marriage—from whom? The Straight people? I’d go for that!
“Bob” and his friends do not, and they are never wrong. “Why, it sez so right there, page 492!”
LGBT people have the great gift, and the great burden, of having to ask whether they are wrong and the patriarchy’s right. This can lead to decades of soul searching, out of which arose my essay.
But God will cut through the crap if you ask him; “I love you just the way you are.”
Go and sin no more. Make love, don’t have sex.
And be very, very careful with what you do, individually and collectively, with your money.
He hath showed strength with his arm, *
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, *
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
The government in the United States, “the system,” is set up to make some people rich at the expense of others—just like apartheid in South Africa. It’s immoral, but all “Bob” and his cronies care about is who’s diddling whom. You can’t build a church on that, folks; it will collapse.
They’re always going to diddle whoever they want to, regardless of hypocritical pronouncements. God knows all about diddling; she set it up, it propagates the species and makes Gay people, and beyond that it bores her. She’s got bigger things to worry about.
We’d better worry about the same things she does. Because someday we’ll all have to meet our Maker, and “I repented of my diddling” might not get you in. But “I made peace, I fed the poor, I voted out the oppressors” is doing the Lord’s work, and she likes that.++
Filed under: gay |