10 OCTOBER --- LETTER TO THIS EDITOR
Today is Wednesday, October 10, and we have a new letter to this editor. It follows in the train of the recent letters; and so I am pleased to relay it now.
I hold this truth to be self-evident: "God is love." I believe this to be the greatest declaration of God's eternal nature. If thanksgiving is the best way to honor creation and all of God's blessings, then it is incumbent upon us to include all persons without regard to accidents of birth: race, religion, and yes, sexual preference. When we exclude homosexuals from full participation in the Church, we are twisting the command to love others---all others.
I will use the term homosexual to characterize these persons rather than other terms which seem inflammatory. Freud coined this term because it was value neutral and non-judgmental.
Some believe that the church is a hospital for those who need the healing love of God. Others believe that a person must be holy to walk through the doors. There is truth in both, but humility must come first, else we have no reason to become the church. But I believe holiness is a direct result of humility and trust in God's loving kindness for all he has made. "It is he who hath made us, and not we ourselves."
It is self-evident that homosexual persons are a persecuted minority. They have been excluded from full participation in the church, murdered in purges, crucified on barbed-wire, clubbed, imprisoned, arrested, bullied to take drugs to counter their natural sexual drives, and put through "conversion therapy." That the church does not defend these persons is one more cog in the grinding wheel of a sad history.
To consider them perverts is to sin against God and neighbor. It is a perverse attitude full-worthy of life-long repentance. Christ himself taught us that the despised and persecuted would be received first into the Kingdom. Those trusting in ego aggrandizement through wealth, power, prestige, fatuous rectitude, have fitted themselves well for hell. (Hell: a state of alienated; dividing the Body of Christ, cut off from others, and therefore, from God.)
Since time immemorial, the majority persecutes that which it does not understand. Perhaps lack of empathy, not fear, is the root of all evil?
Now, some have said about homosexuals, "We love the sinner but we hate the sin." This is a fatuous canard, for if sexuality is inherent in human nature (whether straight or gay) to hate the "sin" of homosexuality, is, ipso facto, to hate the sinner.
The parables amply illustrate a Kingdom which belongs to the persecuted and despised. These are the ones Jesus died on the cross to save. But by discriminating against homosexual persons, we violate the preeminent command to love.
No doubt some will quote Leviticus as a counter:
From Leviticus 20:
"Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death...
If a man commits adultery with another man's wife both the adulterer and the adultress are to be put to death...
If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
Consider if you will:
Cursing parents: death.
Committing adultery: death.
Same sex intercourse: death.
So, it seems homosexual relations are to receive the same punishment as the cursing of parents. Why have we broken the Lord's law by not executing smart-mouthed children and adulterers? I suspect it would be because there would be too few left to swing the axe.
Further, homosexual relations in Levitical days did not result in the offspring which were needed to keep the nation thriving. To withdraw before ejaculation was prohibited for that reason. Hardly a problem now in a world of eight billion people.
Consider further if you will: the genuine letters of St. Paul were written before the gospels. He condemns homosexuality, even to the point of declaring such persons will not enter the Kingdom. If I must choose between the two, surely the gospels containing Jesus' teachings will be of the first consideration. To believe that Jesus would condemn is an argument from silence. Given the welcoming nature of the Kingdom, it seems more likely they would be allowed as no more sinful than the rest of us who rely on God's compassion for wholeness.
Consider Paul, a Jew of Jews, who set aside the requirement for circumcision for Gentiles. Let that sink in. If Paul released that time-honored necessity, who are we to be overly concerned about ancient prohibitions about sexual preferences?
Paul could not but condemn homosexual relations because he seems to lack, at least in his letters, any understanding of the long-held Greek and Roman cultural practice of "mentorship" whereby an older mentor, educated as a boy as a son in the ways of his culture. Sexual relations were a part of this bonding, but it was a loving, exclusive relationship of learning (art, music, martial arts, philosophy, religion) until the young man was old enough to serve in the army.
Further, the practice of mentorship was not gender specific, but rather class specific. It was frowned on in that culture to have sexual relations with a person of either sex who was not of a person's social class. It was a class, not a gender, issue. If Paul could forgo the necessity of circumcision, the problem of gender relations can hardly be considered of equal importance.
This was not a "perversion" but a culturally accepted norm. For this reason, Paul's admonishment, though congruent with his own Jewish upbringing, was nonetheless an attitude of what we call today cultural imperialism that acts which, taken together, have destroyed entire civilizations. Christ was not an imperialist, but his descendants have been.
Besides, what is such a practice compared to the command from Christ to love one's neighbor? The Parable of the Man who Fell Among Thieves makes it plain that anyone in need is our neighbor, and by implication, the one we despise, as a Samaritan, may well be Christ.
Though we have become a fact-denying culture, it is well-known among zoologists that about ten percent of mammalian populations copulate with those of their sex.
There are many who believe that so called conversion therapy will correct something which I, along with some who are expert in this field, treats something that does not need to be cured. But in a time when people who know things are denigrated because their careful research and training does not support the ill-informed opinions of well-meaning people, what can be expected?
So-called conversion therapy conveys the message that children are not normal and shameful in their being at their core. It is no wonder many, far above the average for their age, kill themselves. And if not choosing death, they suffer from a warped sense of self, often resulting in self-destructive behavior.
If someone is to be held accountable for the situation, it should not be the victims. If humanity is made in the image of God, should not God be held responsible? Unless, perhaps, some think such of the persecuted: Jews, Poles, Russians, those with birth defects, and homosexuals. There are echoes of Nazi racism here. Recently a certain bakery would not serve a homosexual couple and could discriminate against them. If the past is any indicator, we might ask what group will be excluded next?
Of course, we have not descended to such horrors yet, but recent events and the racism evident in the leadership of and in the body politic should give us pause.
But as followers of Christ, it would seem wise to err on the side of caution and patience. Do no harm. Leave the children alone to grow into their gender. This may involve them in some experimentation, which, if we are honest, has gone on for generations, among both men and women. And it will continue to be so. Experimentation does not mean certainty.
And lastly, why would anyone in their right mind choose to be homosexual when they are so roundly marginalized from the culture and excluded from full membership in God's church?
No doubt, some one will bring up the verse, "You shall be holy as I, the Lord your God, am holy." This verse, often misinterpreted, has little to do with being pure or moral, or following the rules. H.L. Menken once described such persons to be "Puritans who suspect that somewhere, someone may be happy."
It is the refuge of the cowardly to live by the rules at the expense of the total (and frightening) freedom that is ours in Christ. We are no longer children, but grown-ups.
Rightly does St. Paul counsel us to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." The radical freedom God provides doesn't always play by the rules. And that's a good thing, for "If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand upright before you."
To be holy means to love God with the totality of one's being and act toward others with the same regard. Holiness is a state of trust in the promises and love of God; such trust is what sets us apart. Besides, if we were to become holy, how would we know? Anyone who considers him or herself pure and holy---sanctified---surely is not so; not yet, anyway.
That's why homosexuals hold the high ground in this debate, and why the judgment of the culture is so ignorant, and church is so cruel.
If there was ever a class of people that needed to be saved from themselves it is those who judge homosexuals to be less than full members of the Kingdom of God and deny them the full measure of acceptance. It is for these that the Kingdom belongs.
So, let's get on to something more useful than trying to figure out who is out and who is in and get on with modeling the peace and justice of Jesus Christ.
How we love others, all others, will be the true sign for us that God lives "in, with and under" us---and a sign to those we wish to embrace in Christ's name.
Thank you, writer, for contributing this thoughtful and well-written letter. It leaves us with much to ponder.
Reader, join the conversation. Your words are just as important as anyone's. Send your thoughts to the email address above. I will leave off your name if you wish. We all need to hear from you.