Retiring Atonement (preferably with extreme prejudice)

Column by Rev. David M. Felten on 13 April 2023 0 Comments

Christianity is the only major religion where many followers believe the death of their founder is more important than his life.

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Why do some churches have difficulty fully embracing LGBTQ+ people of faith?


Dear Reader,

LGBTQ+ people of faith love Jesus as much as straight people, and we are not children of a lesser God. Churches' unwelcoming of us as part of the body of Christ is a pox on the universal message of hospitality to all people. The homo/transphobic spewings from pulpits as the word of God is deleterious to the LGBTQ+ worshipping communities on many levels, contributing to violence, anti- LGBTQ+ legislation, suicide, and homelessness, to name a few.

As a child of the Black Church, I commonly heard the message about LGBTQ+ people, like myself, that Christians are to "love the sinner but hate the sin." I depict this statement as a condescending and theological qualifier that says to love the "sinner" (us) but to hate the "sin" (our sexual orientation). Our connections and contributions to the larger black religious cosmos are desecrated every time homo/transphobic pronouncements go unchecked in these holy places of worship.

While the Black Church will argue that it stands on the literal "word of God" and therefore has justification to erect its homo/transphobic stance based on biblical passages, the church's argument about the "authority of Scripture" doesn't hold weight because historically the Black Church literally discarded all damning and damaging racial references. For example, the Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:18-27) and Apostle Paul's edict to enslaved people (Ephesians 6:5-8) served as the scientific and Christian legitimation for enslaving people of African ancestry.

Another reason some black churches demonize members of the LGBTQ+ community is that they do not accept sexual orientation as a civil rights minority group. Many still think the comparison between the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and black civil rights is, at best, "a stretch," and at worst, the white LGBTQ+ community "pimping" the history of black racial suffering to push a "homosexual" agenda to gain "special rights." Also, because of the persistent nature of racism in the lives of African Americans and the relatively small gains accomplished supposedly on behalf of racial equality, many African Americans see civil rights gains have come faster for white LGBTQ+ middle to upper-class Americans in several decades - from the Stonewall Riots of 1969 to the legalization of same-sex marriage - than it has for them in a lifetime.

Every church, however, has its way of making LGBTQ+ people feel unwelcome. Last month, Pope Francis told the Associated Press, during an exclusive interview, that "homosexuality is not a crime. It's a sin." The pontiff statement hurts the global LGBTQ+ community by calling homosexuality a sin, although the goal was to create a movement to decriminalize homosexuality. Nearly 70 countries have criminalized their LGBTQ+ populations.

Another example was in 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's orthodoxy office, issued a formal statement instructing its priests not to offer blessings to same-sex couples. The church's reason: God cannot bless sin. To the shock of LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies globally, Pope Francis approved the decree. His approval of the decree was a betrayal despite the many liberal-leaning LGBTQ+ optimistic pronouncements heard during his papacy. However, Francis stating that "Homosexuality is a sin" leaves in place his characterization and the church's belief of us as being "intrinsically disordered" and contrary to natural law.

Being LGBTQ+ is not a crime. Being LGBTQ+ is not a sin. However, the church's stance about us is a sin upon itself and a crime against humanity. These churches do not embrace the world — as it is today — from an engaged and committed stance that does justice.

~ Rev. Irene Monroe




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