Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Bully Pulpit

Yes, over three months have passed since my last entry. Life has say the least. I won't go into details here, or at least for now, but let me say that a week long vacation/business trip (v/k for me; work for Peter) perfectly symbolized our life by having half of it wiped out. We lost two days because of a very odd episode involving me fainting (more on that in a later post) and three days because Peter was bitten/stung by some unknown insect that luckily found me not as tasty. Poor Peter has continued to struggle with the fallout from the bite for ten days now and it's still not over for him yet. A symbolic, if not restful, vacation.

What has prompted me to post now, however, falls perfectly in line with my previous post. (Hi, anyone out there still??)

Not ere a month since the reverend Ted Haggard's disclosure of "sexual immorality," another evangelical has come out of the closet, also in Colorado, a bastion of the religious right. The Denver Post reported on December 11th that the Rev. Paul Barnes, the minister of a 2100 member church, has resigned because he continues to struggle with homosexualilty. Barnes is a 54 year old man, married with two daughters in their twenties. Barnes said in a videotaped segment that he had struggled with being gay since the age of three.

Barnes apparently still rejects the idea that people are born this way and is searching for childhood influences on how he became gay. I'm not sure what could possibly influence someone at the age of three to become gay; I don't remember anything really before I was in kindergarten, but clearly Barnes isn't ready to accept that perhaps God made him that way. Tragically he recounts one childhood incident where his father talked about what he would do if a "fag" approached him. Barnes recounts how this impacted him; how he wondered what his father would think of him.

It's unfortunate that Barnes cannot see that it wasn't childhood circumstances that made him gay, but instead childhood circumstances that caused him to hate himself. Although Ted Haggard did not recount a similar conversation in his letter to his church, he did mention that "there's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all my adult life." Somebody told him that his life was repulsive and I honestly don't think it was God.

Initially, I was very angry with Haggard and happy to see another anti-gay hypocrite brought down. That was not the right response. Soulforce correctly models the proper Christian attitude of forgiveness and compassion. And, honestly, when I read Haggard's letter, my anger melted away. His letter is filled with sadness; it's easy to see how much he hates himself and how much he thinks he is unworthy of respect and love. I suspect Barnes feels the same way. That any human feels that way is intensely sad. I'm afraid that being under the control of the hate spewing and fact-distorting supervision of James Dobson will not help Haggard feel differently about himself any time soon. I hope he can come to realize that his life is not over and that he, as a gay human being, is worthy of God's love and acceptance.

Societal and religious discrimination and homophobia are the real culprits here. The failure of the average church-goer to understand what God's Word really says about gay people and the purposeful use of distorted facts and scripture for personal and political gain by religious and political leaders are the factors that cause people to have less meaningful, less fulfilled lives. They promote a culture that damages and harms people, children, youth, and adults alike.

Evangelical culture actually encourages people to act very un-Christian. Evangelicals become obsessed with rules and regulations; they are the modern pharisees and sadducees that Jesus reprimanded time and time again. They are concerned with who is and isn't going to Heaven through obeying The Rules rather than focusing on service, love, sacrifice, and compassion. These were the values of Christ, whom I cannot believe would endorse the repeated aggressive attempts of modern Evangelicals to enact legislation that denies gays and lesbians even basic civil protections.

Evangelical culture promotes followers who will send you e-mail, such as I recently received, telling you that you are "full of confusion" and despite comparing you to pedophiles and practioners of bestiality insist that they are still "not writing to you to make you feel condemned or unloved or even unaccepted." My e-mailer seems far more confused than I am. I suspect that my admirer finds me confused becaause I readily express that there are mysteries of faith that I don't and can't understand. That I unashamedly admit that I find myself conflicted sometimes in matters of faith. Evangelicals like certainty: right and wrong clearly defined. There is no place for honest reactions, doubt, or thinking that maybe our finite minds cannot fully understand the infinite mind of God. Like many Evangelicals, my writer readily pronounced me as not being a Christian, as if Jesus had called her up to let give her the inside scoop. She pretends to know my heart and mind; something I thought only God could do. But passing judgment is a favorite past-time of Evangelicals, who prefer to gloss over verses such as "judge not lest ye also be judged" but love verses that seem to suit their purposes.

Ah, but I digress from my original purpose, which is to highlight how the misuse of scripture, religion, and homophobia have created a pressure cooker that is starting to crack. It's been leaking for almost a decade now, but I think this one is finally getting ready to blow. I wish it didn't take people having to undergo such traumatic events. I hope that a brighter dawn emerges from the storm we are all in.

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