How are the internet and religion connected? 9-18-17
The moving wisdom of a funeral director: 9-20-17

The persistent errors of anti-gay thinking: 9-19-17

The first significant piece I wrote about LGBTQ people was in 1993 for The Kansas City Star, and had to do with the debate at the time over the "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy about gays in the military.

Nashville-notFrom that time until now, I have grown increasingly baffled by the rigidity of the opposition to treating LGBTQ folks with respect as full citizens of both our nation and of our religious bodies.

Oh, I know that anti-gay stances often are rooted in a long-time misreading of the Bible (see my essay on that subject here) and that it's really hard to get people to acknowledge that they've been misunderstanding the Bible in significant ways. After all, you know, for a lot of people every word in the Bible is historically, scientifically and in all other ways accurate and true. Which is quite a low view of scripture, if you ask me, in that it misses its rich depth, its metaphorical language, its subtleties, the history of how it came together.

Still, religious people should be the leaders in liberating people from bad ideas and squelched lives. Which means people of faith should be way out in front of the culture on treating gays and lesbians respectfully and doing what the great world religions call their followers to do -- love other people.

Instead, religion has been slow to move on this issue. Why, it took until 2011 for my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) to approve the ordination of otherwise-qualified gays and lesbians to ministry. And that was only after fighting with each other for decades.

The shock in all this was the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. It was a wonderful surprise, but if you had asked me in 1993 when I wrote the piece I mentioned earlier when same-sex marriage would be legal everywhere I might have said 2093.

Andrew Sullivan, a gay man who writes regularly for New York (not the New Yorker) Magazine, published this essay a few days ago bemoaning the slowness of certain Christians to get this issue right.

He begins by noting that recently "a group of Evangelical theologians, pastors, and leaders put out what they called the Nashville Statement on sexual morality." It's a terrible statement that continues to view homosexuality as a sin though it says not a word about real sexual immorality.

The statement, Sullivan writes, "does more than condemn the sexual behaviors of gay and transgender people. It erases our self-understanding entirely. Money quote: 'We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.' It is not just what we do that these Evangelical leaders object to; it is who we are."

The issue of how to understand LGBTQ people, Sullivan says, correctly, "is a litmus test for whether Christianity really is about love, and whether the Gospels (which have nothing to say about homosexuality) should even get a hearing. I can date my own niece’s and nephew’s rejection of Christianity to the day the priest urged them to oppose equal rights for their uncle. That’s why Evangelicalism is dying so quickly among the young."

What bewilders both Sullivan and me is that the signers of the Nashville Statement, as he writes, "just signed one of the longest suicide notes in history. Because what they’re saying is not merely callous. It is manifestly untrue."

Some day well into the future, after many more gay people have been injured in various ways by the thinking represented in the Nashville Statement, I think Christians will recognize that many of them got this wrong in the same way that their ancestors got it wrong when they supported slavery on the basis of the Bible. But why can't that day come today?

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OUR IGNORANCE CAN LEAD TO BIGOTRY

Almost 20 percent of Americans don't believe that Muslim citizens of the U.S. have the same First Amendment rights as everyone else, a new survey shows. More evidence that ignorance about basic civics leads to religious prejudice. Sad.

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