I made it all the way through the Easter season biting my tongue. I hoped against hope that the miracle of a resurrected Christ would somehow touch the hearts and spirits of the super-religious as they chanted their ugly hate-filled rhetoric at the rest of the world. I so wanted this season to be a turning point, an awakening of the Church, a self-determined humbling of the religious elite. But posts like the recent Dobson rant remind me of something I was taught many years ago–God rarely does what we can do ourselves. In other words, I don’t get to lose 50 pounds because I pray hard, unless I also develop better eating and exercising habits. And, the Church will not be known by its love unless I (and a whole bunch of others) do the work of loving more loudly than the haters hate.
How dare I, right? I mean, isn’t James Dobson the poster boy for Great Christian Dads?! I must be confused as well as a hypocrite. Well, sorry to break it to you (although I’m not really; I’m actually kind of angry) but, I mean to imply exactly what the statement above implies. The voices of James Dobson and everyone like him need to be drowned out. His microphone needs to be turned off and the world needs to know that he and those who agree with him do NOT speak for the whole Church and, in my opinion, do NOT speak for God, at least not the loving Father who sent His Son so we could find our way back to Him! NOT the God the religious right of the day nailed to a cross two thousand years ago! NOT the God who broke down barriers between Greek and Jew, slave and free, male and female. NOT the God who reprimanded His disciples for barring children from His blessing by saying, “Let them come.” NOT the God I find when I read the good news of the gospels.
How dare James Dobson! or anyone else who claims to represent Christ, threaten Civil War if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage? What country does he think he’s living in? The United States is not a theocracy and it certainly isn’t governed by his brand of Christianity. The Bill of Rights guarantees that no law shall be enacted that would establish one set of religious beliefs over another set of religious beliefs. No one, including the people bringing suit, will be allowed to force a pastor to marry them or demand they be allowed to marry in a specific fellowship hall. Pastors will NOT be arrested or fined and their places of worship will not be stormed or forcefully shut down. Sadly, the religiously self-righteous will still be allowed to spew their hate-filled biases and deny others access to God through their doors.
While thankfully we have reversed our traditional teaching with regard to blaming ALL the Jews for nailing Jesus to the cross, (A thorough explanation of this topic by David Gushee can be found here.), we also understand He was put there, at least in part, by the Jewish law experts of His day. The Pharisees tried repeatedly to trap Jesus with their knowledge of tradition and the Law but Jesus would not be trapped. Instead, He went right on breaking bread with the man who climbed a tree, prostitutes, fishermen, a man who’d been dead and was brought back to life, that man’s sisters, children, tax collectors, and everyone else who opened their doors to Him. I might find it ironic if it weren’t actually so tragic, how often modern day preachers blast the Pharisees for their legalism and denial of Christ but then turn around and prescribe to their followers their own set of standards for entering the Kingdom.
As I suggested in a 2010 post, found here, the Church bears a significant burden not only for the harm we’ve done directly to LGBT people by our vile name calling, bullying, and rejection but also for denying them access to the protected, covenant relationships of marriage. Paul compares God’s relationship with His creation to marriage not because God needed marriage to make babies but because Paul wants the Church to understand God’s fidelity with, commitment to, and and love for His Bride. As strange as the idea may seem to us today, Paul’s words to the Ephesians were as a revelation about what marriage should look like as well as what God’s relationship with the Church should look like. In Paul’s day, women were considered property and in his letter to Ephesus Paul suggests there should be mutual submission between husbands and wives since wives were to submit and husbands were to love sacrificially–the way Christ loves the Church. While most Christians would never suggest women should be seen as property it has frankly taken us a long time to get to this point. Thus, I’m saddened but not actually surprised that embracing monogamous same-sex relationship as equally valid to monogamous opposite-sex relationships has been difficult.
That being said, the Church must continue to move forward. I will pray that no one’s faith is crushed in the process but I also promise not to quit until the voices like James Dobson and Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul are changed. Their rhetoric not only harms LGBT people by telling lies and spreading fear it causes division and confusion within the Church by labeling what is evil good and what is good evil. It is time for the followers of Christ to reclaim our title. It is time we behave like little Christs and become known by our love.