Monday, May 3, 2010

Longing for the Light

Karen Waters has just started a newspaper called "the Triangle" that will be an LGBT resource for the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area. Karen has invited me to be a contributor to the paper. Here is my article from the May edition.

A recent Facebook encounter with an old college friend left me angry and depressed. This friend, let’s call him Doug, saw on my profile that I support same-sex marriage and have a pastoral counseling practice that is focused on LGBT clients. Doug was not happy to discover this about me.

He wondered if I had thought about the extreme judgment from God I was sure to encounter for supporting sinful behavior. In response, I sent him a Bible study I have led many times that takes issue with the Religious Right’s assumptions about what the scriptures say concerning homosexuality. It was on after that. Lots of judgment from Doug. Lots of barely contained snide remarks from me. Needless to say, we won’t be swapping pictures at the next reunion.

Having been a teenage evangelist and come out of the extreme fundamentalism that Doug still claims as his spiritual home, I shouldn’t have been surprised by this maddening conversation. I have many former friends and colleagues who pray for my lost soul. More power to them. Maybe if they are spending their time praying for me it gives them less opportunity to spread their bigotry.

What got me with Doug, though, is that he is a medical doctor who practices family medicine. He claimed to have treated “hundreds of homosexual people” in his years and was more convinced than ever that homosexuality has its “origins in sin.” Sheesh. I wonder what they are teaching in medical school these days?

All of this left me in a stew about the state of the Church when it comes to issues of human sexuality. If educated doctors still view their gay patients through the lens of “chosen sin,” and the Catholic Church still keeps confusing the abuse of children with sexual orientation, it makes you wonder if people of faith anywhere are open to the humanity and beauty of their LGBT neighbors.

When I came out of my funk I remembered that we live in just such a place. Right here in the Triangle there are many religious individuals and institutions openly supportive of their LGBT sisters and brothers.

Several years ago, when I was still pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, I got together with some other clergy to see if we could put a public face on a more progressive vision of Christianity. The result was a Web site called progressivechurches.org where almost twenty churches went on record as being welcoming and affirming of people regardless of “sexual identity.”

I also recalled that in 2004, when I and five others formed the North Carolina Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality, we went around the state to see how many clergy would sign on to a statement in support of same-sex marriage. To our delight, more than 200 religious leaders penned their name to the document.

What does this mean? At the very least it means that even in the South, where conservative religious viewpoints continue to suppress the civil rights of LGBT people, the hegemony of hate is showing cracks. More and more progressive people of faith are finding their voice and advocating for change in the Church. The tide is starting to turn.

My friend Doug will continue to pray for me to see the light and turn from my wicked ways. The thing is, I saw the light years ago when I recognized that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folk are blessed and beautiful just as they are. May that light of love and acceptance spread to every dark corner of the Church.

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About Me

former pastor who is now a pastoral counselor and consultant (mckinneycounseling.org); married with two teenagers; progressive in my politics and theology