It was almost a year ago that my friend Jimmers and I ventured into a class at the College of Social Work to engage a room full of undergrads in a diversity discussion about being gay in Tallahassee, Florida. I detailed the "after-class" dialogue in the entry "Dialogue About Disagreement".
This time, there was no such need for a discussion because this time all seven students who attended the class today said they either knew a gay person in their family, or had gay friends, and some even had transgendered friends. So already we were starting from a different place in the social dialogue.
Jimmers posed a question to get the group thinking about how is it that so many people can profess that they are OK with the LGBT community, and yet 61-percent of Floridians could vote to make marriage for LGBT people unconstitutional in the state. And, as you might expect, one word surfaced to explain this disconnect: religion.
Religion, and religious people, have been brainwashed, say that the Bible says it's wrong, their pastors have said it is a sin, that gay marriage would denigrate straight marriages because marriage is a religious right. (On this last one, I quickly jumped in to note that marriage, in a religious context, is an R-I-T-E, not an R-I-G-H-T... which is something civil authorities confer).
I talked about some these issues with the class, and gave my new 30-second answer to the idea that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong: "There are roughly seven passages in the Bible that supposedly address homosexuality as a sin, and yet there are thousands of passages that say everybody, including gay people, are loved." Simple math, even math that I can do, says "thousands" trumps "seven". Still, the fact that social work majors, or anybody for that matter, see "religion" as the obstacle to equality for the LGBT community should alarm people of faith... whether they are queer themselves or not. What does that say about our churches? What does that say about the ministry coming out of those churches? How long will people of faith who are of good conscience and good will towards all people be content to keep that knowledge to themselves rather than taking action to open the doors of the church and welcome people in? Oh, and any of you sporting a plastic collar who are reading this, you are not off the hook!
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that we are ALL redeemed and have been saved from living our lives in a dark void of doubt, death and despair and brought out into the light of eternal life to be lived in abundance. And all means all... not just the ones with the nice clothes, or perfect teeth, or heterosexual orientation.
So perhaps if you are someone still fishing around for what to "give up" for Lent, you might want to meditate on the idea that instead of "giving up" something... you "give in" to a practice of listening to those who have felt so battered by "religion" and discovering ways to show them that you are not a "batterer", but you are a "believer". And a believer means to be a lover of all souls, not in a sexual love... but in a friendship love. Maybe you give up "tolerance" of gay people and instead come to see us as part of your human family, and members of the Body of Christ. Maybe you start a conversation with a relative or a work mate about the importance of equal rights for everyone, or stand up to prejudice when you hear it expressed.
Because all of us who call ourselves Christian, are Christ's body in the world today. And Jesus kept trying to point us back to a God that loves unconditionally all of creation... including the gay ones.