Over last week or so, I’ve thought about the bitter arguments currently ravaging throughout the church concerning Christianity’s relationship to the LGBTQ community. The debate seems to cover all facets of life. It is an argument conducted in the “secular vs. religious” circles as well as within church denominations themselves. In the aftermath of all the carnage and heartache, it often feels like there is little hope for an amicable solution to this issue. I worry that any legislation passed in this new presidential administration regarding this issue might cause each side to rally again for another battle. Temptation lures me to think that the issues of homosexuality and trans-identity are the most daunting issue facing the church today.
However, I believe such a thought is mistaken.
The issue of church-LGBTQ relations are certainly popular, but I think there is a more dangerous problem at hand: the church, to a great extent, has lost hold of reality and thus grows more irrelevant to the world every day.
While most of society acknowledges the fact of biological evolution, our pastors continue to preach from a Young-Earth-Creationist assumption. While the poor go without decent standards of living, education, or healthcare, our pastors preach the prosperity gospel. While we the church are scapegoating homosexuals, Pakistani children are killed by drone-strikes in the name of American democracy. Our precious Gospel is distorted into a sadistic fantasy about a god who cannot forgive humanity until he viciously murders his own son. Biblical texts are distorted from their original, historic meaning and are read as if they magically will reveal exactly how the future will unfold — hoping to read current events back into ancient, prophetic literature. We proclaim to be pro-life and yet we use the Bible to support a debauched and murderous death-penalty system. We claim that all creation belongs to God, and yet many Christians still deny the hazardous affects of global warming. And finally, the church is permeated by an unjustified hyper-anthropocentrism (valuing Homo sapiens over all animals) when God cares for his creation in its entirety.
I don’t believe the greatest task facing the church is what to do with the LGBTQ community. I do, of course, think its an incredible important question, but it is not the most crucial. The essential question we need to ask ourselves is how to combine the meta-narrative of Christianity with the reality before us. We must have a fact-based and reasonable faith that can adequately engage with our given cultures.
Although it is far from perfect, I believe the Catholic Church does a decent job of facing reality. They accept evolution, global warming, and a historically-informed reading of scripture. They also have many programs focussed on helping the poor, and their liberation theology works to remind them to look after the outsiders and oppressed.
Does the Catholic Church still have problems? Absolute (i.e. the scandal with priests molesting children). But despite disagreeing with homosexuality, abortion, and divorce, Pope Francis is still seen as possessing one of the most credible of platforms. Rarely do non-Christians subject him to the same condemnation they give other Christians.
I think we could all learn from Pope Francis’ emphasis on a mercy-driven church. “The name of God is mercy” as Francis is wont to say. The importance is that when you are driven by mercy, you cannot scapegoat, and you cannot be fueled by social violence. If we could learn this virtue, we could remove ourselves from the cycle of violence currently reverberating through society. Executive orders or legislation will not save the church from this battle over LGBTQ rights. The more we scapegoat and use social violence against homosexuals, the more likely they will scapegoat and use social violence against us.
Instead, we must learn mercy, and we must take a step back to reevaluate our methods of teaching. If we are irrelevant to society and uninformed by facts, the outcome of these LGBTQ debates means nothing.
(For the sake of honesty, I will divulge my position, so readers can know from what assumption I come. I actually do not have my mind made up about whether or not churches should be “open and affirming.” I see good arguments and bad arguments from both sides of the LGBTQ war. Judgment is being suspended until I’ve conducted more research on the issue, so my decision can be as well-informed as possible. However, I do have a definite position against scapegoating. Thus, I strongly condemn Christian actions of scapegoating the LGBTQ community by calling them demonic and blaming them for the church’s failures. I also condemn the scapegoating enacted against Christians wherever that may be occurring).