Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tell me something I don't already know

Back in late November I wrote a letter to the Michigan Christian Advocate in rebuttal to an opinion piece printed in the December issue. The writer was annoyed that the First United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo had declared themselves to be a Reconciling Congregation, one that is friendly to gays. For this letter I used my real name and church, though I didn't say I was gay.

My letter was printed in the January issue. I've gotten praise from several people, including from an unexpected man at church this morning. Thanks to you all.

I found an envelope in my church mailbox today. I opened it when I got home. Inside was a letter and a pamphlet. The letter was a rebuttal to my letter to the Advocate. Since I can't reply to the author I'll reply here. The letter and the pamphlet repeated all of the Fundie positions on homosexuality. I didn't read anything new. The letter included the usual stuff. Gays die young (the study was discredited and its author was thrown out of various psychological societies, but that doesn't prevent Fundies from dragging out his work when it suits their purposes). God never approves of homosexuality in the bible (he said that several times in various ways and underlined each time). Sin must always be opposed (well, no, God told us to love and to not judge).

The writer began by saying this wasn't just him speaking. He then described the number of books and articles in his library (thousands). No doubt every last one of them espoused the anti-gay side. The size of his library doesn't impress me (in the same way the claim that the definition of marriage is 5000 years old doesn't impress me). I kept wondering if he had ever met a gay couple in a loving relationship. Probably not. He gives off such a nasty vibe that I'm sure they stay away from his church.

I was a bit surprised that he signed the letter. However, he did not provide a return address (coward) and a Google search did not bring up his church (so how will net-savvy youth find his church?). Since he wrote only to me (and not the Advocate) and didn't provide a way to respond, I'll let the matter drop. I wasn't going to change his mind any more than he was going to change mine. Perhaps I should be claim a small victory that he wrote to me and not the Advocate. Perhaps he doesn't want his words out there for public debate.

The pamphlet was more of the same. It's title is When Passions are Confused; Understanding Homosexuality by Jeff Olson of RBC Ministries in Grand Rapids, MI. I can tell the contents just from the title. It does the usual Fundie view of the problem. Gays are regularly associated with alcohol, drugs, depression, and suicidal tendencies. I note it is careful to avoid confusing correlation with causation, though the average reader will miss the distinction. It doesn't say that these associations are caused by church condemnation and family rejection, not by homosexuality itself.

The pamphlet refutes the standard "myths" of homosexuality: We're born that way. Homosexuality is harmless (that same short lifetime study), especially to the spirit. The sin of Sodom has nothing to do with homosexuality (so why did God threaten to wipe out Sodom before the incident described in Genesis 19?). Biblical references to homosexual behavior do not refer to homosexuality as we know it today (lots of quoting of translations using the word "homosexual" though the concept wasn't known in biblical times). Homosexuals can't change (it refers to a mistranslated verse).

The standard causes of homosexuality are trotted out: bad parenting, is a misfit among same-sex peers, sexual abuse, a way to get the love and acceptance that didn't come from parents or peers, a way to express deep seated rage.

The pamphlet is honest in one way: as therapy progresses feelings for people of the same sex may not disappear. Note that little word "may" because the chances of gay feelings not disappearing are about 99.5%. But if you're a really good boy and pray really hard you might manage to become sexless. Sheesh. My recycle bin could use some more paper.

I closed the original letter with by saying because the United Methodist rejects gays the denomination membership is shrinking. My letter writer agrees that it is shrinking but says I have the cause wrong. He wrote:
People left when true Christianity (John Wesley wouldn't recognize the United Methodist Church today) was abandoned for perversions, abortion, evolution, and for having unsaved ministers in the pulpits who never preach and teach the truth.

I'll agree that gays, abortion, and evolution are reasons why the membership is shrinking. But again, I disagree with the writer. Young people got annoyed with the church insisting on outmoded dogma when the real message of Christianity -- loving the less fortunate and building community -- is ignored.

It doesn't take long to figure out what he means by an "unsaved" pastor. It's one who doesn't believe like he does.

I bought a button at the gay conference I attended last summer. It has a picture of John Wesley with a bit of rainbow color to his clerical collar. It has old John saying, "Dude, where's my church?" Be careful of attributing words to Mr. Wesley (or to God, for that matter).

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