In the wake of that decision, many churches have struggled to find peace with the assembly’s actions, questioning themselves and their faith, as well as their place in the greater ELCA community. Many have openly dissolved their relationship with the ELCA, choosing to affiliate with other denominations. Others have left the church altogether, confused, hurt, or offended by the direction the ELCA chose to take not two years ago.
Now, we deal with the aftermath.
I am, without doubt or hesitation, on the liberal end of Christian theology and continue to parse the nuances of each teaching as it is handed down from teachers, ministers, and scholars. Part of the richness of that earnest consideration comes from a childhood rooted in Catholic teaching–a canon of dogma and doctrine that I was forced to question in later years after I came out as a homosexual.
Since I began honestly and prayerfully examining the teachings of the Christian church as a whole–from its most conservative proclamations to profoundly liberal assertions–I have naturally continued my examination of self as an openly gay Christian.
Many of my writings deal with this very issue, and any consequential issues that arose because of the inherent conflicts between affirmed homosexuality and Christian teaching. For the most part, my observations began and ended with my faith, wrapped around my sexuality. It was logical to do so, as my faith was primary, and my sexuality was secondary to myself and my life.
More recently, however, I have begun turning towards the perspective of the homosexual in a predominantly Christian society. In attempting to be both honest and fair, I have written many an article on the responsibilities of the faithful and the LGBT community–and where, as a member of both, my responsibilities overlap.
In the grander picture, however, I have begun to question the age-old explanation for the LGBT community’s distance from Christianity: persecution. Yes, persecution is a part of the church’s history–and, unfortunately, continues to be. Though, I am happy to say it is ebbing. At the same time, however, I feel that historical justifications for LGBT individuals’ aggressive distance from the church are weak. There is one particular theological problem that arises on closer examination that I think is worth discussing.
It boils down to this: humility. One of Christianity’s most powerful calls to its faithful is the call to humility. This is not, of course, to be confused with humiliation, or to be seen as some sort of oppression. Christianity is not calling individuals to be humbled at the foot of religion, but at the feet of Christ. It is asking us to be honest with ourselves about our innate sinfulness and tendency to screw things up. It does not say we are completely incapable of doing good deeds and loving one another; it simply says that we are flawed individuals who need help–a help that comes in its fullest, purest, most essential form in Christ and God.
The true humiliation the LGBT community has known for centuries has prompted an understandable pendulum swing in the direction of aversion. What established powers–both secular and religious–succeeded in doing by oppressing the sexuality of these individuals has now become a loud revolution. The LGBT community has found a powerfully loud voice for itself–and rightfully so.
So what do you suppose the response would be if this same community–told to keep their mouths shut and their lives cloistered for generations–was then told, in a newer, more accepting age, to be humble? We say rightly that humility is part of a true Christian life, but it’s a hard call to listen to–for anyone, let alone those who have been forcibly pushed down since the church’s inception.
I do not have a solution to this very difficult struggle, except to say that time itself may present a healing power that words in the here and now could not. It is silly for the church to pretend that humility–practiced throughout its history or not–is not necessary for those who suffered. The fact is, humility is part of being a Christian. And yet, it is reasonable that those cast out should throw back such a responsibility in the face of the church, claiming that the time to be out and proud is now. No humility, no humbling oneself. It is time to shout.
But there is indeed a way to be proud, to shout out in affirmation of one’s God-made self, and still be humble. Fair or not, the injustices perpetrated by the Christian church do not justify dismissal of Christ’s call: be loving, be meek, forgive.
It is worth remembering–for all of us–that Christ was the one who gave us this command, not religion and not the church.