The Norman Transcript

March 6, 2014

Church: A stepping stone?

By Cap Kaylor
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — In the weeks before Christmas something remarkable happened in Norman.

A small coalition of Christian churches — the Quakers, St. Stephens Methodist, United Church of Norman UCC and First Presbyterian Church in Norman — co-sponsored an ad in The Transcript that simply read, “Not all Christians are anti-gay. As Christians we welcome, honor and affirm LGBT persons and their families.”

But those two sentences were noticed and talked about around the world, from Australia to California. Such is the power of modern media. Behind those two sentences lay months of visits, networking, appeals to clergy, requests to parish councils and vestries. In the end, four churches, out of a dozen approached, signed on to that simple welcome.

The experience of trying to get Christian pastors to speak a word of welcome to LGBT persons has made me realize why so many gay and lesbian people feel such profound alienation from the church. Surveys among LGBT persons indicate a widespread experience of rejection and hostility at the hands of Christians, and a sense that the church is not the place of healing, compassion and welcome but uniquely the single greatest threat to their physical safety and civil rights. And can we blame them?

Christian leaders are sanctioning violence against gay people around the world. Nigeria’s Catholic Archbishop recently praised as “courageous and wise” that country’s draconian new anti-gay laws which, among other things, makes holding hands with a person of the same gender a crime. And anyone who attempts, officiates or attends a marriage between persons of the same sex will be jailed. Words do indeed have consequences.

After the Archbishop’s statement this week, mobs roamed the Nigerian Capital pulling suspected gay persons from their homes and beating them with impunity while the police joined in.

Groups of babushka clad grandmothers prowl the streets in Russia with vigilantes and stone persons perceived to be gay with rocks daily brought to the Orthodox churches to be blessed by priests. These things, and worse, are happening around the world. They are happening here.

A few weeks ago, a bill passed the Kansas House giving legal cover to any government official or business owner who refuses to provide services to individuals “perceived” as gay if homosexuality offends their religious sensibilities. The Episcopalian bishops were the only ones to stand up against this Kansas Apartheid.

Violence is not just a matter of stoning, beating, jailing and torture. Silence also is violence. Cowardice is violence. Ducking for cover behind “I’m personally tolerant but my congregation just isn’t comfortable with explicitly welcoming gays” also is violence.

Faith is not a club that we are entitled to use to bash, judge, bully or threaten others into heaven with. Christians have radically misunderstood the gospel if they think that one more law, one more pogrom, one more war, one more shunning or in other words, one more twist of whatever arm you’ve got a hold of will finally usher in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus never said a word about gay people. On the other hand, he had a lot to say about people who believed themselves to be morally superior to others. I think he would have agreed with St. Augustine who wrote, “There are those whom the Church has that God has not. And there are those whom God has that the church has not.”

If we ever do get to heaven I’m sure more than a few of us will be very surprised, indeed, by the folks we find there — and the folks we don’t.

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