a blog about faith and life by Rev. Cindy Maddox

Posts tagged ‘gay’

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

I am embarrassed by my family.

I’ve tried not to be, tried to tolerate them, tried to be accepting of their “eccentricities.” I’ve tried to remind myself that I come from them, that I used to be like them, that we share so much history. I’ve tried to tell myself that what unites us is greater than what separates us.

It is no longer true.

I was taught that we are bound by blood. Not human blood—that’s for relatives, and I’m not talking about relatives. The blood of Jesus is what makes us family. “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God,” I used to sing, just as I was taught. I used to sing about the “Power, power, wonder-working power of the blood of the lamb.” I believed that “Jesus paid it all; all to him I owe.” And above all, I was taught that believing in the power of the blood made us family.

But the family of God has become an embarrassment.

Too many members of this “family” will gladly cut food stamps and let children starve. Too many members of this “family” will happily support racist policies. Too many members of this “family” will joyfully tell you you’re going to hell. All while claiming to believe in “the joy of the Lord.”

Here is a great (and by “great” I mean horrific) example. A website called ChristInYou.com offers “The Twenty-third Psalm: Welfare Recipient’s Version.” Read it and weep.

Society is my shepherd: I shall not work.

It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed;

It leadeth me beside the still factories.

It destroyeth my ambition.

It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics’ sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,

I will fear no evil,

For the welfare agencies are with me.

Their generosity and their staff they comfort me.

They prepareth the requisitions that filleth my table.

By mortgaging the earnings of my grandchildren

My head is filled with mirth

That my cup runneth over without effort.

Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me

All the days of my life,

And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.[1]

 

That’s right, nothing says “Christ in You” like calling hungry people “parasites.”

Then there’s the church that cut ties with a group providing housing for homeless families because one of the families had same-sex parents.[2] Apparently WWJD now stands for Who Would Jesus Deny?

And the incidents in response to Target’s inclusive restroom policy have been hideous. Watch Here and Here if you have the stomach for it. (Warning: don’t read the comments.)

Let’s not forget the Christian people at a school board meeting in South Carolina who were confronted with one lone woman standing up for the rights of transgender kids to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The Christians present chose to drown out this voice of compassion by singing none other than “Yes, Jesus loves me—the Bible tells me so.”[3]

If I sound angry, I am. And for once I’m not going to apologize for it. I am angry that the voice of Christianity is, far too often, a voice of hate. I am angry that my faith has been co-opted by bigots. I am angry that nursing home residents have to be fearful about what the visiting minister might say to them. I am angry that, according to GLAAD, 75% of religious messages in the media are from anti-LGBTQ religious leaders. I am angry that when I tell people I’m a minister, I have to immediately either swear or mention my sexual orientation so they know I’m not like them—them! Another reason to be angry: I have come to view other members of the family of God as them. I was taught not to be ashamed of the Gospel. And I’m not. But I am ashamed of those who pervert the gospel of love in the name of Christ.

So, yes, I am angry. But I am too old to believe that anger is the end. Too much of the anger in our society is self-serving. It allows people (not to mention politicians) to smear their opponents with impunity, both sides claiming their cause is righteous. I’m not interested in that very much anymore. I am interested in reclaiming Christ. I am interested in reclaiming the family of God to include all God’s children. I am interested in reclaiming my own faith and my own religious experience and my own evangelism and my own voice. I am interested in singing not “Jesus Loves Me” but “Jesus Loves You” … because I already know it and maybe you don’t.

So on June 18 I will again march with my church in the annual gay pride parade. And I will again offer apologies on behalf of the church to those who have been wounded by the church at large. And I will again be prepared to confront those who come to the parade to preach judgment. And my anger will fuel my feet but it will not scar my heart, for my heart has enough scars from prior lashings.

If you see me, my heart will be singing. I will not be able to sing “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” Instead I will sing, “We are a gentle, angry people, singing for our lives.” And I will sing, “It is well with my soul.” And I will sing, “Yes, Jesus loves you”–not to silence anyone, but to amplify the song.

 

 

[1] http://www.christinyou.com/pages/psalm23.html

[2] http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/5/18/1527889/-WWJD-Church-cut-ties-with-homeless-non-profit-after-they-tried-to-help-a-same-sex-couple-with-kids

[3] http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/watch_parents_sing_jesus_loves_me_to_silence_lone_transgender_supporter_at_school_board_meeting

 

No Holy Hate

Born LovedDear Heidi,

You have no connection to our congregation as far as I know, but today you went on our church’s Facebook page to condemn us. You said we are “dragging the name of Christ into the gutter” and “turning Jesus Christ into a sodomite” because we welcome all God’s children equally. Although I am unclear how an action we might take today would have any bearing whatsoever on the sexual practices of a man who lived 2000 years ago, I will set that aside for a moment to address your other claims.

I know you mean well, Heidi. I know you believe you are doing the work of the Lord by pointing out the (perceived) sins of others. I also know that getting into a biblical argument with you is pointless—not because I do not know my Bible, but because you apparently do not know my Jesus. My Jesus is not concerned about being dragged into the gutter; in fact, that’s where he met some of his best followers. But he is concerned about love. And he most certainly is concerned about people damaging the souls of his children by telling them God hates them.

This is why, on June 21, my church will have a booth at the Pride Portland Festival here in Maine. The sign above our booth will say: “Wounded by the church? Please come let us apologize.” That’s right, we will be apologizing to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for the way they have been treated by the church and for the horrific things said to them in God’s name. In other words, Heidi, we will be apologizing for you.

You warned us that we will be held accountable for every person we “lead to hell” with our “deceptions.” Will you also be held accountable for every teen who commits suicide because he has been told he is an abomination? Will you be held accountable for every woman who hates herself because you said God hated her? No, I don’t believe you will be . . . not because you are not responsible, but because we worship a loving and forgiving God. In fact, if you want to come to Pride, feel free to drop by our booth. I will apologize to you on behalf of the church that infused your mind with such hurtful images of God.

Hate cannot be made holy by sprinkling it with water and calling it Christian. And the resurrected Christ cannot be re-created to condemn those who you disdain.

You said we have nothing to teach the world. I think that’s something.

 

Giving Christians a Good Name

2011 was not a banner year for Christians. We saw some Christian pastors, churches, and politicians say and do some pretty un-Christ-like things. Some of them, like the pastor who burned a copy of the Koran and the deacons who physically attacked a gay couple, were soundly criticized for their actions. Others, unfortunately, have been allowed to spew their hatred in the name of God, with few voices challenging their authority.

Still, I was angered this week when I read an article by someone who agrees with me. The author was explaining why he no longer attends church, even though he believes in Christ. The bulk of the article was spent naming six churches that have done unchristian things–for example, a church in Kentucky that voted to ban interracial couples, and a church in North Carolina that removed a boy with cerebral palsy from worship because he said “Amen” too loudly. These congregations were listed as the reason the author has left the church.

I agree with the author that these are deplorable examples of “church” and have nothing to do with following Christ; however, he paints every church in America with the same brush. He claims that many sincere Christians can no longer attend church because America’s churches have hateful attitudes–not some churches or a few churches or even every church he’s ever known. “America’s churches,” the author said. And so he is leaving.

First, let me say that if we all were to leave organizations or institutions that have members of whom we are ashamed, not one of us could belong to a political party, alumni association, or even the PTA. So leaving all churches because some churches are hateful is a bit like getting a divorce because Kim Kardashian’s media event undermined the institution of marriage.

More importantly, if we were to follow the author’s example, we would be defining the church by its very worst  manifestations. My church is nothing like these churches, and frankly, I cringe whenever churches like this make the news (or youtube or Facebook) because I know some people will react like the author of that article did–they will assume that’s what churches do. They will assume that all Christians are racist, homophobic, xenophobic hate-mongers. Even if people realize these stories represent aberrations rather than the norm, they still may not know that there is an entire world of Christendom at the other end of the spectrum.

We in the mainline and progressive churches spent too many years letting our ultra conservative cousins speak for all Christians. We sat wringing our hands, complaining, “But that’s not us,” while doing nothing to challenge their right to control the message. Then we wondered why people think so poorly of Christians. Fortunately, we have done better in recent years. The United Church of Christ ran an ad campaign that highlighted the problem of exclusionary attitudes in churches. Progressive pastors of all stripes have been working hard to get on the news shows to present our views. But that message doesn’t go viral. A reasonable message of love is not “clickable.”

So we have to do better. Those of us in progressive churches have to stop trying to be all things to all people and instead be the church God calls us to be. We are not called to be the church that offends no one but the church that welcomes everyone, especially those who are not welcome elsewhere. We must not give in to those who would exclude in the name of God in order to grow our numbers or appeal to a wider market. There are plenty of churches for those who worship a judgmental God. We better be the opposite, or we have little reason to exist.

We have to do better as individuals, too. If we are to counteract the loud voices of hatred in the name of God, we must be willing to step up to the microphone ourselves, even if that mic has a small audience–like the office break room or the family reunion. Perceptions are changed because of relationships, not ad campaigns.

Yes, there are Christians out there who are giving Christians a bad name. But if people think that all churches are hateful, then it’s our fault for not showing them an alternative. We must be willing to speak up . . . or we give up the right to complain when others speak hatred in the name of our God.

Mic check, anyone?