Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is This America?

FORT LAUDERDALE - A gay man was beaten outside a popular 24-hour restaurant Saturday morning by a man who shouted anti-gay obscenities at him, authorities said.

Melbourne Brunner, 37, was eating with his partner at the Floridian restaurant, at 1410 E. Las Olas Blvd., around 3 a.m. when a man walked by their table and started shouting at the two men, said Sgt. Frank Sousa, spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. Sousa said the man continued to verbally abuse the two men and made a violent motion with his hands, claiming, "this is how I break (gay people's) necks."

He said Brunner and his partner left the restaurant, but as Brunner tried to get into his car, the man blocked him and punched him in the face several times. Brunner fell and struck his head on the ground, Sousa said. He said the man then threatened to kill Brunner's partner, who attempted to get the man's license plate. (Read More)

Some have argued (including me) that the attitudes of the church create an atmosphere for this violence. Those who claim that it is "biblical" to deny freedoms and protections to our citizens and to deny full membership of the church and the blessing of relationships need to answer for this violence.

I think it is time NOT to be "biblical."

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. Lev. 20:13

The 'liberal' interpretation is this:

"If a man sits at a lunch counter with a male, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be beaten by a thug of the church; their blood is upon them."

Their blood is upon us.

This is a "litany" I created from the statements of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Authoritative Interpretation. This is a policy the General Assembly could overturn this summer.

We believe…

“…that homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity. This we affirm, despite the fact that some of its forms may be deeply rooted in an individual’s personality structure.”

We believe…

“In many cases homosexuality is more a sign of the brokenness of God’s world than of willful rebellion. In other cases homosexual behavior is freely chosen or learned in environments where normal development is thwarted.”

We believe…

“Even where the homosexual orientation has not been consciously sought or chosen, it is neither a gift from God nor a state nor a condition like race; it is a result of our living in a fallen world.”

We believe…

“As we examine the whole framework of teaching bearing upon our sexuality from Genesis onward, we find that homosexuality is a contradiction of God’s wise and beautiful pattern for human sexual relationships revealed in Scripture and affirmed in God’s ongoing will for our life in the Spirit of Christ.”

We believe…

“Homosexual persons who will strive toward God’s revealed will in this area of their lives, and make use of all the resources of grace, can receive God’s power to transform their desires or arrest their active expression.”

We believe…

“…the New Testament declares that all homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian faith and life.”

We believe…

“On the basis of our understanding that the practice of homosexuality is sin, we are concerned that homosexual believers and the observing world should not be left in doubt about the church’s mind on this issue during any further period of study.”


It is time for the PCUSA to take a stand and make a change. Our policies are not only mistaken, but harmful.

Thanks Scott. Be safe.


21 comments:

  1. John,

    Where is the evidence that these horrific crimes are committed by the thugs of the church? None of our mainline churches would ever condone or in anyway encourage this kind of horrific violence. We speak out against it. Churches like the Phelp's clan maybe the exception.

    There maybe exceptions, but my personal view is that these crimes are committed by thugs who are willing to seize on any excuse. My guess is this man in Florida probably has a rap sheet as long as your arm, and incidences of other assaults, either that or mental health issues.

    We do need some stiff "hate crimes," legislation, and folks being persecuted to the fullest extent of the law, in some cases up to, and including the death penalty for some of these despicable acts.

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  2. "Benjamin Matthew Williams, the 31-year-old white supremacist accused of murdering a gay couple outside this Northern California town in July, is now admitting that he slipped into the men’s home while they were sleeping and shot them to death in their bed.

    He did it, he said, because they were gay and God told him to.

    When asked if he had killed the pair, Williams answered, “Absolutely.”

    …”The defense that he has is a religious defense, and he is saying the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong and they should be killed and the blood is on their heads,” O’Connor said. “But as a practical matter I don’t think the judge is going to allow that defense, as opposed to one using the laws of the state of California.”

    or

    "One of two men accused of killing an Alabama man because he was gay said God told him to admit to the crime, authorities said.

    Steven Mullins, 25, and Charles Butler Jr., 21, have been charged with murder in the February 19 slaying of 39-year-old Billy Jack Gaither. Sheriff's investigators in Coosa County, southeast of Birmingham, say Mullins and Butler beat Gaither to death with an ax handle, then set his body ablaze on a pyre of old tires."

    or

    "One notorious incident of gay-bashing occurred on September 22, 2000. Ronald Gay entered a gay bar in Roanoke, Virginia and opened fire on the patrons, killing Danny Overstreet and injuring six others. Ronald said he was angry over what his name now meant, and deeply upset that three of his sons had changed their surname. He claimed that he had been told by God to find and kill lesbians and gay men, describing himself as a "Christian Soldier working for my Lord"

    I don't think John is saying that these folks were Presbyterians who committed these crimes because the PCUSA told them to. He is, I believe, saying that our prevarication on these issues makes it sound like we don't necessarily disagree with Phelps and his clan. And let's not begin to imagine Phelps is the only guy out there with these attitudes. How about this guy:

    "The Rev. Ken Hutcherson, everybody's favorite anti-gay crusadin' Christian, went off the deep end in a recent sermon, telling his flock at Antioch Bible Church that 'God hates soft men' and 'God hates effeminate men.' He continued, 'If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I'd rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end.'"

    The mainline's reaction to these sorts of events and statements has been tepid, at best, when they even bother to respond.

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  3. This was told to me by an alum of Columbia Seminary here in the Metro Atlanta area. There was a professor at Columbia who used to take his students down to the train tracks in Decatur, Georgia. As a train would roll by, he'd point at the caboose and say "that's the church".

    His point that was, tragically, when it came to the big social justice movements (abolition, women's suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement), the mainline church (particularly predominantly-white mainline churches) tended to follow rather than lead. When it comes to "working with others for justice, freedom and peace" (BSOF), the Church needs to be out in front, not prevaricating on the sidelines or hoping to blend in with the crowd.

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  4. You're right the church needs to be right out there in front. We should show the love of Jesus Christ in everything.

    You know, I think there are so many folks that have just become culturally assimilated into institutionalized religion apart from a relationship with Jesus.

    It's heartbreaking to think that anyone would feel that God was telling them to assault and murder people.

    We all need to be so careful in our own lives not to say or do anything that might hinder the gospel, or drive people away from faith in the Lord.

    I need all the help I can get. :)

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  5. Right on, John. Way too many people have been hurt by assholes who think homosexuality is an "abomination". I have a friend who's gay, and another friend who insists that if he ever sees the first friend again he'll beat him up. I recently broke the news to the second friend that I think Paul included his own opinions in his letters, and this is one of them. He was truly horrified. What do you say to a person like that??

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  6. "We all need to be so careful in our own lives not to say or do anything that might hinder the gospel, or drive people away from faith in the Lord."

    Indeed, and all of this is why evangelizing to LGBT people is such an uphill battle. No matter how vocal the mainline has tried to be against anti-gay rhetoric, (even with their wishy-washy statements) the media isn't really interested in covering that. So, it appears to many folks that Christianity is monolithic and hates all things queer. Because of this, as I've said many times, for me, anyway, it's actually easier to come out as gay among the Christians I know, than it has been to come out as Christian among the gay people I know.

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  7. You know, I think there are so many folks that have just become culturally assimilated into institutionalized religion apart from a relationship with Jesus.

    Yes and no. My personal opinion is that a strain of anti-intellectualism runs through the American evangelical and Pentecostal movements. It's almost a radical rejection of the idea of Church in favor of billions of individuals having relationships with Jesus who just happen to hang out together. The refrain is "just read the Bible" and everything will fall into place. Most people don't recognize how they are actually being manipulated into a very specific doctrinal position. Note how James Dobson, Ph.D., paints himself as an anti-intellectual when it comes to religious subjects. The "learned expert" on child rearing becomes a simple country preacher who derides intellectuals when he talks about the Bible.

    The Protestant Reformation was itself a rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church and its perceived abuses of power. This extended to Luther's "priesthood of all believers" (which is a very important but frequently misunderstood doctrine). However, both the Lutheran and Calvinist streams of the Reformed faith (not to mention the Episcopalian and Methodists streams of Anglicanism) still emphasized the importance and interconnectedness of Church.

    By transforming Church from an institution of Christ into a social club for people who believe in Christ, Christians then become self-taught scholars, reading into the Bible whatever prejudices they brought with them. I have my issues with the Roman Catholic Church, but a lot of those white faces you see in pictures of the Selma-Montgomery marches are above a dog collar or under a habit.

    Notice how often conservative evangelicals say "Christianity is not a religion; it's a personal relationship with Christ"? It's a VERY recent phenomenon within Christianity and a dangerous one IMO, as it threatens the very concept of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

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  8. Right-Wing Churches absolutely do propagate this kind of ignorant, sociopathic behavior. This is Taliban, pure Taliban.
    And people have accused me of "vitriolic speech" by calling them exactly that? TALIBAN is what they are. That makes them the enemy of all who believe in Jesus.

    These Pigs call themselves "Christians"? I'm still waiting for anyone, anywhere to show me where Jesus condemned any specific sexuality.

    These people are following the Torah, not the New Testament. They are not Christians.

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  9. I know a lot of Jews who think these people don't even follow the Torah.

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  10. Having done an exhaustive study of the scriptures relating to homosexuality a few years back, I found myself wondering...why the hell are so many putative Christians obsessed with this? Making the exclusion of homosexuals and covenanted same sex couples the linchpin...or is that "lynchpin"...of your theology is just insane.

    I posted the study as a running blog series...it begins here:

    http://weblog.xanga.com/Beloved_Spear/496946311/dr-strangelove.html

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  11. The obvious truth here is that the 3 am attacker is a thug who has probably not been to a church, any church, in a long time. The Ft. Lauderdale area has a large gay community who moved here because they are not bothered and are actually courted as good customers by local businesses.

    I am disappointed to see this used to take a "cheap shot" at other Christians who don't fully agree with the role of gays in the church.

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  12. Point One:

    1) Second-class citizens (those who are seen in some way as inferior to others) are more likely to be victims of violence.

    2) The church because of its discriminatory policies fosters second-class status in church and in culture, thereby increasing an atmosphere of violence against these people.

    It is not a cheap shot. It is the truth. If it weren't for the church and for Christians, the United States would be a safer place for gays.

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  13. You see, Jim, this isn't about "the role of The Gay in the church" as you attempt to frame it.
    According to the Taliban, it's about the role of The Gay on earth.
    The attacks on homos, both physical and verbal, are not limited to the confines of a church. They are reflected in the efforts of Fascist lawmakers, that are financially supported by national church bodies to, to legislate away The Gay.

    First of all, if one considers the Old Testament anything more than a history lesson and an essay on how NOT to act in modern society, one misses the truth Jesus Himself taught us about how to act toward each other.

    Second, I'm still waiting for someone to show me where Jesus mentioned homos at any time.

    Two questions for the Right:

    1)Is your neighbor Gay?

    2)Do you love him/her as you do yourself?

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  14. Beloved Spear...

    I have a two part answer for you.

    1) "why the hell are so many putative Christians obsessed with this?"

    Many of them are internally confused. Many of them are actually Gay themselves. Born that way just like anyone else.
    From their childhood they've been raised to be ashamed and angry at these feelings. They hide them and resist their natural way. This often leads to psychological damage in the future.
    These people see in others a part of themselves they've been conditioned to hate. Since they cannot attack themselves, the attack others.

    Take Fred Phelps for instance. There's no telling what his daddy might have done to him as a child. The same holds true for many in the Christian religion.

    2) It's human nature to need something or someone to hate and in the process, feel justified to one's peers.
    The goon in the story got to hurt someone and at the same time, knows he'll be congratulated by his fellow Taliban. To a simple, shallow mind, it's acceptable to go to jail or whatever to please one's peers.
    Kinda like the mentality displayed by gang members and suicide bombers.

    And it gets even more complex as it goes along.

    It's good that you try to understand them. Their fear of the unknown, and your lack thereof, is why you're you and they're not. ;)

    What the hell did I just say? Ah well, you get the point.

    :P

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  15. ((Alan,)) that's so sad. But, thank God for your witness. As far as I'm concerned you and Fly are two of God's gifts to the church.

    Fly, I can see your point. I am partly speaking from my own experience. I was part of the institutional church, and very active for awhile before actually coming to faith in Christ. For me, the difference was like night and day. Everyone's different though.

    Chris, maybe you could have your friends check out the website, "Evangelicals Concerned," and especially look at their Bible study. It could help alot.

    I personally don't think that Paul was even addressing the issue of sexual orientation at all, let alone speaking of gay people who love the Lord involved in faithful, covenanted relationships.

    Pax.

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  16. "I am disappointed to see this used to take a "cheap shot" at other Christians who don't fully agree with the role of gays in the church."

    Unfortunately it isn't a cheap shot. Those events happened. And, of course, the people responsible are the people who committed the crimes.

    However, one cannot on the one hand deny a group of people their basic human rights and on the other hand then say that attitude doesn't make it easier for weak people to see that as an excuse. After all, LGBT people aren't the same as "normal" people, even the church says so.

    I have always believed that the only way you deny a group of people the ability to live their lives, get married, raise a family, and live in peace is if you fundamentally believe they're not really human, or at least not as human as "normal people." Those that hold such views clearly have a hard time admitting that they hold those attitudes, but that doesn't mean that they don't. One cannot hold such attitudes and flee from the responsibility that espousing them has on society.

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  17. "One cannot hold such attitudes and flee from the responsibility that espousing them has on society."

    oops... That made no sense.

    One cannot hold such attitudes and flee from the responsibility for the effects that espousing them has on society.

    That makes slightly more sense...kinda. :)

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  18. I understand what you mean, Grace. However, you're describing a fairly recent theological phenomenon.

    The institutional church is important. It was instituted by Christ himself, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is even described as the "bride" of Christ. Because it is ultimately a church full of sinners, it is imperfect. More imperfect at some times than others. But we Presbyterians (and Lutherans as well) believe in ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, secundu verbum Dei. That is, "the Church reformed, ever being reformed, after the Word of God."

    I actually find the Church, when it is being Church, to be incredibly powerful spiritually. At times, that feeling of connection with all believers in every time and place is palpable. And of course, at the head of all this is none other than Jesus Christ himself.

    Church can be a powerful force for good. It has been used too often as a club (intentional double-entendre), and we need to take it back. To coin a phrase, we need "to unmask idolatries in church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom and peace."

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  19. John, the more I think about it, the more tempted I am by your position regarding the resolution of this. At some point, the Church has to make a stand for justice. If that makes us unpopular with those who refuse to let go of the idols of their prejudices, then so be it. It wasn't for lack of trying on our part.

    I am so sick of being a political issue.

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  20. I suppose the difference might be between not condoning and actively speaking out against it. I forgot where I read it, but someone was speaking of the racial integration, and how there were some who stood with the african-american students, some who made lives miserable for those students, and most who stood by silently, watching. Those silent observers were seen as part of the oppressors, not those fighting against racism.

    So while we could tell someone it's wrong to kill or discrimante against a homosexual -- if that's the limit of our actions, does that then put us into the camp of the silent observers?

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  21. I think you're thinking of this quote....

    "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." Martin Luther King Jr.

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