Thursday, September 15, 2005

Coming Out

Nobody says it better than Bill Moyers, and he was at it again recently in a speech at Union Seminary in New York. His warnings about the dangers of theocracy were echoing in my mind when I received a call from a local congregation wanting to use space in the building of the church I serve. We're close to public transportation rail lines, so it's not unusual for groups to ask and we often accommodate such requests. But this time the request was for a room for a support group for men and women "seeking a way out of homosexuality."
I'll confess that I stopped seeking further information right there. After all, in a More Light Presbyterian congregation that is welcoming, affirming and empowering of individuals regardless of sexual orientation, one that hosts "coming out" support groups for people discerning their own sexual identity, anything resembling the "ex-gay" movement is incongruent with our mission. The request to use our space may have been motivated by deeply held values of compassion and concern. It came from a main-line Protestant church that would surely eschew the label of fundamentalism. Nevertheless, I can't help thinking that such a request is also deeply intertwined with the very thing about which mowers warns.
As he put it, "
This is the crux of the matter: To these fundamentalist radicals there is only one legitimate religion and only one particular brand of that religion that is right; all others who call on God are immoral or wrong. They believe the Bible to be literally true and that they alone know what it means."
The problem, of course, is that the witness of scripture is multivalent and overdetermined. Just as there are conservative scholars who insist on a quasi-literalist reading of the handful of passages sometimes interpreted as relating to homosexuality there are many others who insist that such readings are, at best, inaccurate and, at worst, based more on contemporary prejudice than Biblical scholarship.
For my money, the best brief and readable such progressive critique remains the one authored more than 20 years ago by Walter Wink.
As Wink insists, "The Bible only knows a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, culture, or period."
Any program that attempts to push, pull, prod or persuade a gay man or a lesbian woman that their sexuality is deviant and unholy -- rather than a part of the incredible variety of God's good creation -- misses the mark of the love ethic.

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