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By Their Own Hand…Or Ours?

by Rev. Ronald Sparks, Pastor at  The Community Church of California City, UCC 

Five young men dead…each by his own hand.  Young, gay, they had been “bullied,” subjected to harassment and discrimination by their peers.

     My heart is heavy.

     The statistics of gay-bashing are staggering:  9 of 10 Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) young people experience dehumanizing, demoralizing treatment daily.  And they are 30% more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.

     What are we and the church doing about it?  What can we do?

     Progressive churches and clergy have long sought to be conciliatory and civil in their attempts to enlighten those whose teachings help perpetuate this hostile environment, efforts which have all-too-often fallen on deaf ears.   Both biblical scholarship and clinical evidence relating to this area of human sexuality are rejected in favor of a literal interpretative viewpoint in which seven Bible texts, viewed outside their cultural and creedal contexts, are mistranslated and misapplied.

     Biblical literalism lent support and standing to slavery, laws prohibiting marriage between the races and other such discriminatory and destructive societal behavior.  Even today its adherents deny women equality under the rubric of “that is what the scriptures say and teach.” 

     An example of this myopic literal interpretation and rejection of rationality can be seen in the statement of the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest Protestant denominations (63 million members), who last year stated, “It is becoming clear that modern clinical understandings of human sexuality indicate that sexual orientation (both heterosexual and homosexual) is not chosen,” then added, “but we will consider being homosexual a sin anyway.” 

     Common sense and decency dictate that we view scripture in the redeeming light of revealed knowledge (God hasn’t finished speaking to us) and rational understanding.   As good stewards of the UCC faith and traditions, we must do our part to faithfully challenge non-inclusiveness with the God we know—one who is not only all-knowing but also all-loving.

     Common sense and decency dictate that we view scripture in the redeeming light of revealed knowledge (God hasn’t finished speaking to us) and rational understanding.  

     Jesus commanded us to “know the truth as that truth would set us free.”    It is, unfortunately, easier to label someone wrong than to discover the truth for oneself.   It is all-too-easy, as well, to perpetrate and perpetuate the myths and lies which hurt and harm people different from us; to manipulate scripture to support our prejudices; to proclaim “This is God’s command and we are God’s Agents.”

     Let us, instead, be wise in understanding that “not everyone who proclaims to speak and act under the authority of Scripture or Scripture’s God, is truly “talking the walk and walking the talk.”  Let us not assume that everything that “marches under the Christian banner” is necessarily Christian.  Our standard should be “What would Jesus have us do?”  We must ask ourselves, “Is this consistent with the love, justice. equality and inclusion preached and practiced by Jesus?” or, better yet, “Does this fall in line with “The Golden Rule?” – excellent standards for discernment and direction.

     I don’t ask anyone to accept my point of view or my interpretations, only that they continue to investigate and “read the literature” (both biblical and clinical), to be open to new thoughts and approaches, to engage in dialogue with people from many faith traditions and beliefs and to make informed decisions.  If it saves even one young life from being wasted, it will be time well spent.

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1 An interesting sidelight:  “Unchristian”, a recent Barna Study (A Conservative/Evangelical Group) indicates that young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are leaving the church in large numbers.  One of the major reasons given is the discrimination of the church against homosexual People.

2 I recommend  What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Dr. Daniel Helminiak.  It  deals with the often mistranslated and misapplied “texts of terror” so often mistranslated and misapplied used against our GLBT brothers and sisters, placing them within their proper cultural settings.

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