Sunday, December 2, 2007

I See Gay People

As you can probably tell, I have largely grown quite tired of the Anglican soap opera--the attention of this blog, and even my Sunday posts on The Lead, are elsewhere. Today in church, however, it struck me once again that my perspective on the GLBT issues that divide the communion is very much informed by my own experience, and that of those who have a different view is similarly informed by their own experience.

In reading the comments of the various conservative Anglican blogs, it is pretty clear to me that when the commentators there think "gay" or "lesbian" they imagine some scene out of the 1980s San Francisco bath scene or some of the more flamboyant participants in various Gay Pride marches.

My experience has been radically different, and the image in my mind is very different. Trinity Cathedral has, for many years, been an inclusive church. While I am sure that we have many faults as a community, we are a diverse bunch with a large number of openly gay and lesbian members who are integral to this thriving faith community. When I think about GLBT people, I think of particular members of the Trinity Community. I think of a lesbian couple in a long term committed relationship that are raising two wonderful adopted boys from Haiti. I remember how very helpful they were when my wife and I were going through the adoption process and how supportive they have continued to be as we try to raise an African-American child.

And I think of a longtime gay member of our Church, who must devote more time to our church than he does to his real job--he sings in the choir, serves on Chapter and is always in charge when it comes time for a feast. And I think of countless others--including two of our deacons who are are truly devoting a life of service.

I ask myself: can the lives these people are living really be sinful? Would Jesus really condemn them? Are they doing any harm? My experience leads me to come to the conclusion that no, the committed relationships that I see are positive, not sinful. What is sinful is that we have put burdens in their way. For example, a GLBT couple cannot take advantage of the tax benefits of marriage, and thus have less funds to raise a child. And a child raised in such a family is assumed by the law to have only one parent. Thus, if there is a separation, that child will not benefit from the "best interest of the child" standard used to evaluate visitation and custody--and child support.

And let's be clear--what we are talking about in the great Anglican debate is not acceptance of the stereotypical promiscuous San Francisco bath scene of the 1980s, but instead acceptance of the very real life of committed partners, parent and Christians that I see at Trinity every Sunday. These are, after all, the committed relationships whose blessing is really at issue.

Paul makes it very clear in his letters what he thinks about homosexuality. But Paul, as great a Saint that he was, was a fallible human who was as subject to the cultural norms as we are. We no longer accept his views on the normalcy of slavery, and I would suggest that we be as sceptical of his views on same sex relationships--especially since he was likely not exposed to the type of healthy relationships that I see at Trinity. Instead, he saw only the coercive and unhealthy relationships common in the Greek world. And he saw threat from the use of sexual rituals by competing faiths.

I try to imagine what Jesus would have say about all this. It seems to me that he would rebuke Paul, like he repeatedly rebuked Peter, for not seeing the full picture. Jesus, after all, called into question many cultural norms of his time. He would see the love of these relationships, and ask that we judge them by their fruits.

4 comments:

Peter Carey said...

beautiful!!

your post resonates with my experience; thank you for this post .... very much!

Peter

Phoenix said...

While I have no doubt that there are some gay and lesbian people that are far more helpful and encouraging than most Christians in the church, their lifestyle is still biblically sinful. Slavery in the Old and New testaments was never directly criticized, whereas homosexuality was directly condemned by Paul. There was never a judgment on slavery, whether good or bad, and so it is acknowledged to be based on historical context no longer active today. However, If we are to accept that the Bible is truth, then we would have to accept that homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9. If the bible is not inerrant, then how can we know which parts are true and which to discard? Also, Christianity holds that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, so Paul's sinfulness, arrogance, and bias would not have been written into the Bible. I don't want to sound like a gay-basher like so many Christians are; I don't hate gay people, and I wish that the church would stop hating them as well, but still I believe that it is biblically sinful. What do you think in response to this?

Chuck Blanchard said...

Phoenix:

Thanks for your comment. Just a few comments in response. First, I come from a Christian tradition (anglican) that does not accept the bible as inerrant, although we do believe that it is the inspired Word of God (note the use of the singular word instead of words). Under this tradition, we use other sources of authority--including tradition, reason and experience to evaluate norms.

Second, I would venture that there are parts of the Bible that most believers who say the Bible is inerrant would reject. For example, there is a consitent theme in the Bible against charging interest on loans, and yet most still beleivers in an inerrant Bible still have mortgages and many are bankers who charge interest as a way of making a living. And, of course, divorce is another great example.

Third, I would be interested in your view as to what you think the harm is of the type of committed relationships I speak of. Why do you think Paul called it a sin? And if Paul did not know of these types of relationships (and I do not think he did), how can we be sure that they are a sin even assuming that the Bible is inerrant? To put it another way, since the Bible was written for all ages, how dod you know that God was intendeding to condemn the same sex relationships prevalent in First and Second centry Greece as opposed the committed same sex relationships we see in the 21st Century.

God bless you this Advent Season.

WSJM said...

Chuck -- this is a very good piece. Many thanks. It points out very clearly what we are really talking about (and your experience in the church is much like mine) -- and how utterly unrelated are the comments we see from some "evengelical" folks.

I'm sorry that Phoenix has such a blindered view of the Scriptures. The idea that committed, faithful same-sex relationships are "biblically sinful" is utterly unconvincing to me (after all, nowhere in the Bible, including St. Paul, is there any knowledge of the concept of "homosexuality" -- and whatever St. Paul is talking about in Romans 1:26-27, I simply don't see it in the gay and lesbian couples I know. Au contraire... And certainly 1 Corinthians 6:9 is irrelevant to this issue).

As you very well point out, "By their fruits we shall know them."

One of the advantages of the Anglican (and many other Christian) traditions of a scriptural lectionary, and particularly the lectionary for the Daily Office, is that it doesn't take very long to discover that the text of the Bible is hardly inerrant! The notion that all scripture was written for our instruction needs to be understood with a little more sophistication. The Fathers understood this well.

Again, thanks for a good piece.