Friday, March 28, 2014

Christianity in America

So this week a Christian international aid organization called World Vision surprised and delighted the compassionate among us by announcing that they would hire Christians in same-sex marriages. Over at the OneWheaton group, and all over the world, shoulders of a thousand wounded gay Christians relaxed a little.

The backlash was remarkably fast and cruel. American Christians - the Sadduccees and Pharisees, make no mistake - denounced World Vision for its heretical acceptance of sin. People were exhorted to cease donating to World Vision's work. Billy Graham's son issued a hateful message about LGBT people. World Vision reversed its decision.

OK,this week sucked. It's awful how deeply the American Christians lack basic compassion. My brother, the great gay rights activist David Mariner stepped back and took the whole thing in:

Billy Graham preached a gospel that was big enough for Republicans and Democrats alike. He was as much a spiritual guide to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as he was to Ronald Reagan. This interview, and the disdain Franklin Graham displays both for the office of the President of the United States and the President we have at the moment, is a stunning betrayal of that legacy. To understand why young people are walking away from Christianity, one only has to look at the difference between Billy Graham, and Franklin Graham as he represents himself in this interview. Graham has said that Islam is "a very evil and wicked religion" in 2001. He said that gay and lesbian people "recruit children" in this video. Young people are so much smarter than to accept this bigotry. They've grown up in a more diverse, more accepting world and the reality of their lived experience with friends who are LGBT or friends who are Muslim give them a more informed perspective. Simply put, many young people out there would rather walk away from Christianity all-together than be a part of a club that people like Franklin Graham belong to. One study indicates ONE THIRD OF MILLENIALS THAT LEFT THEIR RELIGION WALKED AWAY BECAUSE OF ANTI-GAY Policies.

I have disassociated myself from mainstream religion for thirteen years. But I still think Billy Graham himself was a great man of God. He didn't see anyone as his enemy, and it made him more Christlike than, well, everyone who takes it upon themselves to condemn World Vision. There was a statesman quality you could respect with Graham, there was a decency. There wasn't this creepy malice his son brings.

I am fortunate to be married to a man who has no time for religion at all. Discussing these things with him gives me such wonderful perspective. We were just talking about this week, this amazing week, this tumultuous life-changing week, and he shook his head because he just can't believe the lack of compassion inherent in homophobia. To him it is obvious that the Christian religion requires compassion and the condemnation of World Vision - homophobia - comes from a place without compassion.  Not to say, of course, that LGBT people deserve some extra compassion because they are problematic. NOOOOOOOO. To say instead that they deserve the same compassion we all deserve. The same rights.

But they don't get it. Not from the church. These bozos are supposed to be following Jesus! Jesus who preferred lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors (morally the worst, obviously) - preferred the people condemned by society. That's who he wanted to be with.  The religious and political institutions of the time were not to be trusted, those who called themselves righteous never ever were. The fabric of the goodness of Jesus was peacemaking and love, and sitting next to his mother at a wedding and making sure the wine didn't run out. Christianity is not about judging the actions of others and having enemies. It is about radical acceptance and inclusiveness. It is about not having any enemies. It is about healing the enemies you have wounded. It is about respecting the dictates of each person's own soul. Even if that bastard asks for your coat too.

So after a week like this I actually think that maybe I still am a Christian. Because I feel like I deserve that title more than Franklin Graham ever will. You see, just a few weeks ago I got into it with a bunch of Evangelical Christians on LinkedIn. I know what you are thinking - who gets into a heated discussion on Linked In? But someone in the Wheaton Alumni group condemned some students who had a demonstration after a chapel message from a woman who says she used to be a lesbian but now is a good obedient Christian wife. The kids just wanted to say that there were other stories, there were other ways to negotiate being LGBT and being a Christian. But this alumni wanted to condemn any other story but his own rigid intepretation of the scriptures. And it was the Pharisees and Sadduccees all over again, puffed up with their scriptural accuracy and blameless lives, utterly lacking in any love. "Woe unto you lawyers for you lay upon the people burdens hard to bear, and you lift not a finger to aid them".  Luke 11:46. This particular kind of arrogance causes Christian gay youth extreme self-hatred and awful suffering and is in my view a terrible thing.

Yet you know we will see more. And we will see women's access to birth control and abortion eroded, and we will see creepy "purity" balls where girls pledge their virginity to their heavenly father, and we will see that the old white men want their control, they want their institutions, they want to be in charge more than they want to follow Jesus. Christians who turn people away with hate instead of welcoming them with love do not, perhaps, deserve the title.

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