Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What do you believe?

This Sunday, May 30, 2010, St. Paul's kicked off Pride Month with a sermon by Tom Jackson, the President of Oasis, California -- the LGBT ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California.

"Am I going to hell for this?" Tom heard that question from a woman in labor and delivery in the hospital where he serves as chaplain. She was preparing to induce labor to end a pregnancy that would have produced a child who wouldn't survive. She was doing it to save her own health. And, she thought she was going to hell. She kept pressing Tom to tell her what he believed. Normally, a chaplain doesn't express his own beliefs, but she wouldn't let the question drop. "What do you believe?"

At St. Paul's -- and at most other Christian churches -- we believe in a loving God, not a judgmental God. If God gave his only begotten son to save us -- and to die in a particularly violent and painful way -- why would He not continue to love us through trials like the one that woman was going through?

If God loves us, and He does, why would He not love us all equally?

So often the voice of Christianity in the popular press and popular culture is the judgmental one. When a local city put together an educational program to teach children and their parents how to cope with bullying based on LGBT orientation, the only Christians who showed up to comment were ones who wanted the program canceled. So often, that viewpoint is represented in the media as the Christian view of what's the correct and incorrect way of loving.

The opposing point of view -- that we're all God's children and worthy of His love -- gets drowned out. For one thing, most of us practice what Jesus taught us and pray in private. And then, too, it's rude to tell people that their religious views are wrong. The accepting view of God isn't particularly newsworthy, anyway. "God loves us all. Pictures at 11:00" doesn't make for great drama.

What's the solution? For the short run, who knows?

In the long run, we may well have already won. All the polls show that younger people don't make the old judgments against our LGBT brothers and sisters. In fact, practitioners of the old, narrow-minded views have become particularly strident and incoherent precisely because they know they can't hold back justice.

In the meantime, what's important is that we continue to strive to be heard. We also need to let people know that everyone...everyone!...is welcome in our churches.

See you in church!

P.S. The gentlemen in the picture are Bishop Marc Andrus, Episcopal Bishop of California, and Lutheran Bishop Mark Holmerud in preparation to participate in the SF Pride Parade.

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