By Terry Moran, PFLAG Hamilton-Bitterroot Chapter President
This fall a successful Pacific Northwest Regional PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Conference was hosted in Hamilton. I continue to be haunted by a troubling statement from a gay conference attendee. In the context of a presentation on religious issues he remarked: “I miss church, it meant so much to me in my youth.” It is apparent not only this person but large numbers of the LGBT community are alienated from organized religion. I write to discuss some of the issues that I hope might enable more of us in our religious communities to reach out in an inclusive manner to welcome and celebrate all of God’s creation including the LGBT community. It is a sad commentary on the state of contemporary Christianity and other faith traditions that for so many of our prescious people, in their time of greatest spiritual need, the posture of religion is that of condemnation and rejection. I believe this is a critical issue for faith communities as a credible spiritual body. Time and again I have witnessed how this judgemental attitude is directly responsible for the spiritual decay and alienation of far too many gay people and I believe it is in direct contradiction to Christ’s “Greatest Commandment.”
As the mother of a gay daughter it is my experience and conviction that her affectional orientation is innate. The stories from other parents and from the LGBT community refute Christian and other faith communities’s fundamentalist stance that being gay is a “lifestyle choice.” A person’s affectional orientation is no more a choice than the color of one’s skin. I ask heterosexuals, “Do you think you choose to be attracted to the opposite sex? Of course not! And with the current prejudice and discrimination against gays why would anyone choose to be gay? I acknowledge there may be an element of mystery in understanding a different affectional orientation. But we easily recognize and accept heterosexual relationships have mystery within them as well. Many times we are mystified by the responses and behaviors of our heterosexual partners. Furthermore, there are many other occurrences in this world which are mysteries as to why God created them or allowed them to occur.
I wish to share some Christian reasons for supporting full-inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the Church. Some people respond with a simple, “God doesn’t creat junk.” Many are grounded in the “message” intent of Scripture and know being a Christian means living with Christ’s heart and mind and, doing what Jesus did as they follow him.
Other individuls and churches rely on the scriptural references in the Gospels which state: “The entire law is summed up with in a single command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians instructs we are to be led and guided to rightousness by the Spirit. Thus the pivotal determinant for many people and churches is their witness of the “Fruits of the Spirit” (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) arising from LGBT people and their actions. They have embraced them because of their goodness. Like many other people, I have witnessed the “Fruits of the Spirit” arising from many gay people. I know with my whole being who my daughter is and who many other gay people are.
I would also stress what I believe is the inconsistency of those who condemn homosexuality based on a “literal” interpretation of the bible. It is important to remember for the first 19 centuries of Christianity, the church did not have a fundamentalist interpretation. In focusing on isolated verses, there is a danger of missing Christ’s overarching message of love and compassion. It seems different Bible verses are “cherry picked” to support a particular viewpoint. It is easy to accept as literal truth the passages which we agree with and overlook the ones which don’t support our conditioned beliefs. Some examples of the inconsistency of “selective” literalism are offered for your consideration.
Foremost, Christ makes no mention of homosexuality. But he does “literally” and specifically condemn divorce. So why don’t fundamentalists spew condemnations of divorced people? Is it because 50% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce, and their churches and coffers would be significantly affected? As a minority group the LGBT community, is an easy and safe target. Some other ignored biblical passages include the strictures against greed and wealth, the literal instructions for tithing, and Jesus’s hallmark messages of justice, care for the poor and the downtrodden. Is it easier to focus on the “perceived” sins of other people rather than on our own?
Some fundamentalists might suggest that in advocating for the LGBT community, my soul is in danger. I respond that those who take pride in pushing people away from God’s love and contribute to their spiritual despair have at least as much to worry about. I’ll risk putting aside condemnation and judgement and strive to step out in compassion, mercy and love.
Although PFLAG is a secular organization, as a leader I am committed to PFLAG and its mission of support, education and advocacy for equality because of my Christian faith. I do not wish to give the impression that all churches are not accepting of LGBT people, indeed, many churches (www.welcomingchurches.org.) are affirming of the gay community
See www.PFLAG Hamilton Bitterroot.org for information and meeting times.