Tuesday, November 20, 2007



I believe that the Church should use its pastoral and teaching functions to minister Jesus' admonitions to us and to representatives of the State to love other people, do them no harm, and never tire of doing good, as the Apostle Paul enjoins us to do (Galatians 6:9); seek to apply Jesus' teachings to contemporary issues and concerns.

However, the Church's influence in matters of the State has not only been an abject failure when it comes to applying Jesus' life, ministry, and teachings to contemporary issues, but it has all too often been diametrically opposed to Jesus' teachings in secular matters (and often in religious matters as well) and has helped enable the State to roll over the most vulnerable in society by justifying both the status quo and by mouthing the shibboleths of those in power who share its bureaucratic and political concerns to remain in power and continue exercising control over others.

The institutional Church has become enmeshed with the State and beholden to the State for assorted reasons, not the least of which is its tax-exempt status! Denominational and church leaders certainly don't want to bite the hand that feeds them, so the myth of separation of Church and State certainly rings hollow!

It is only when the Church, in fact, speaks truth to power; fights for, and insists upon, full and equal civil rights for all of God's children; speaks out for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, and the downhearted (For one recent and an egregious attempt at "unity" at the expense of "justice" and the relief of oppression, see here.); fights people's natural inclination to be aggressive to their fellow human beings, and who, out of their selfishness and greed, literally and figuratively rape others, the land, and their environment, that the Church will deserve the respect it should have by being both the repository of faith as well as the vehicle to authentically teach and live out Jesus' life, work, and teachings in the public square.

The following state of affairs of some of the Episcopal churches seeking to align themselves with the homophobic elements of the Anglican Communion, as seen in this article, despite at least one very highly credible voice condemning the rampant homophobia that has infected the Anglican Communion, depicts one Denomination's struggle, representative of the "struggle" of most of the institutionalized Church, that is hurtling the institutional Church toward irrelevance and increasing loss of credibility (For a recent example, see here.), not only for those who are Christians in fact, but also for increasing numbers of intelligent, sensitive, decent non-Christians who are becoming sick and tired of having the Church be seen as being coterminous with homophobia, judgmentalism, exclusion, and hostility, all the while also justifying the homophobia that runs rampant in secular society; providing a significant basis of homophobia's perceived justification.

It is, therefore, a profound tragedy that a presumed minister of the Gospel and an institutional Church leader can be designated "bigot of the year" by anyone or any group in Britain, or anywhere else for that matter!

"In a night of mixed awards, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, the 104th Bishop of Hereford, was named bigot of the year by Stonewall. An employment tribunal in Cardiff in April heard how youth worker John Reaney, 42, was left feeling humiliated after a two-hour interview during which the bishop grilled him about a previous gay relationship. The tribunal decided Mr Reaney had been a victim of unfair dismissal and awarded damages against the Church of England." [For the full article, see here.]

Most of the institutional Church in the U.S. is against legal sanctioning of full and equal civil rights for LGBT people because its homophobic clergy will no longer be able to discriminate against them with impunity! Moreover, these homophobic clergy are frightened that after their homophobic rants, there might be some wack job who will then, after hearing those rants, go out and assault or murder a Gay person and the clergyperson will then be held liable for civil, and perhaps criminal, damages and prosecution.

Clergy who publicly defame LGBT people must be held civilly and, if appropriate, criminally liable for their words and acts of discrimination! There is absolutely no reason why clergy should be given a pass to condemn others and, after helping to create and reinforce a climate of hate, wash their hands, much as did Pontius Pilate, and say that the consequences of their hateful speech and actions are none of their concern, and for which they should be held immune.

Nonsense! The fight for LGBT rights must begin with the homophobic churches and homophobic clergy who vent their prejudices in the name of God, thereby giving those prejudices a biblical justification which they don't deserve, and who contravene the very admonitions Jesus gives His followers!

If organized, orchestrated activism is to occur, it should begin by being directed against homophobic churches and clergy, for it is they that largely provide "justification" for political, social, and individual acts of hate and discrimination directed against God's LGBT children! Boycotts, picketing, letters to the editor of local, regional, and national newspapers, and other such coordinated activism must begin and continue until homophobic clergy and churches come to the point where they either manifest Jesus' teachings, or close up shop, which all too many of them should do!

It did my heart good to read in this article that "The tribunal decided Mr Reaney had been a victim of unfair dismissal and awarded damages against the Church of England." We have got to come to the point in the U.S. where the equivalent occurs and where no clergy or other "religious" representative can discriminate against anyone with impunity!

Most of the institutional Church feels comfortable being enmeshed with the State? Good! Hopefully, one day soon it will be forced to live up, under penalty of secular law, to the mandate of "equality for all" that is part and parcel of what we say the U.S. is supposed to embrace!

For this state of affairs to occur, meaningful activism directed against homophobic churches and clergy is one of the first, and most important, places to start!
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Justice MH said...

@Jerry: I see this time we're on opposite sides of thinking on this issue, but it's no biggie you can't agree on everything.

I feel that separation of church and state is not a myth, and there's much evidence from our founding fathers to back it up.

I also feel that the church should stay out of civil affairs. We have a democracy. We don't need religion waving a bible telling people what to do like dictators.

The religious right would love to strip the first amendment, and other resrictions so they can impose their literalist interpretations of the bible on all of us.

If it wasn't for the U.S consititution[u.s supreme court] then women, african americans, and gays would not be where they are today. Nancy Polosie would not be House Speaker. Women would not have high job positions today. African Americans would not have a voice in Congress, good jobs, or freedom and ownership of their bodies. Gays would be arrested for having sex[intimacy] in the privacy of their homes, job[some states, hate crimes[some states], and etc.

AS a African American gay young man I fully support the separation of church and state. I have had many debates and arguments about this. I understand we have different thinking on this. But I feel the Church and the bible have NO place governing a nation especially the land of the free aka America!

The post was well put, but I disagree!

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Justice MH. Actually, we're on the same page on this issue. Like you, I certainly don't want the institutional Church to have any kind of impact on the State regarding any matter that I can think of. My point is that the institutional Church and the State are currently enmeshed with each other; since the institutional Church is loaded with reactionary forces, it is a handmaiden to the State, and what civil rights that have been won have not come from the institutional Church. Indeed, the institutional Church has historically been the last to go along with matters pertaining to civil rights!

It is precisely because the institutional Church is enmeshed with the State that civil rights are retarded, or prevented, for LGBT people, as it provides the "justification" for viewing being Gay as a sin, as being immoral, etc. When I use the word, "Church," I'm referring to the ecclesia, "the called out ones," who take seriously Jesus' command to us to love others, and be agents of His grace in this world. Therefore, I do want His Church, as opposed to the institutional Church, to have an impact on society, speak truth to power, and address contemporary issues and problems, manifesting and encouraging love of, and respect for, others.

Politicians and the courts, when they have supported minority group rights only did so when that minority group and its allies actively fought for those rights! Politicians and the judiciary usually don't vote out of the goodness of their hearts!

In my opinion, it is only when Jesus' called out ones, and all decent people in society, engage in meaningful activism to "set the captives free" that we will move civility and democracy that much more forward; LGBT civil rights will only occur when there is meaningful grassroots activism, encouraged, aided and abetted by Jesus' Church as well as by all decent people who feel revulsion when others are persecuted and oppressed.

I don't think we disagree at all!

Justice MH said...

@Jerry: Ok I now understand where you're coming from!

But I have to say isn't it sad a religion like Christianity is the last group to support civil rights for minority groups. It's like the church has to learn through trial and error.

The Pope[John Paul] feels he's infallable, but he was begging God years ago to forgive the church for all the horrible things they have done. The bible[oh lawrd], should we view this book as a whole, a good book? So many has been oppress with their fallibe bible interpretations.

So, I see where you were coming from, but it's sad Christianity is last to fight for minority group. Also, religion contributes to the oppression. For Christianity, what would Jesus say and do if was to walk the earth again? I doubt he would want the religious right part of his ministry.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Justice MH: "Christianity" is of Jesus! And the term "Christian" is to be reserved for those who follow Him and His Gospel of grace, faith, love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness.

All those who demonize others; who seek to prevent others' acquisition of full and equal civil and sacramental rights; who are handmaidens to the most reactionary forces in secular society; who spread misinformation and downright lies by their preaching a false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion, are not Christians, despite what they call themselves.

For, if we do refer to them as "Christians," the very term "Christian" has lost all meaning! Regarding "infallibility," only God is infallible!

Christians place our faith in God, and must stand up against those clergy and others who besmirch God and His Word by imposing their own twisted mind-sets and/or ignorance and/or their own hate-filled hearts onto others, thereby falsely equating their prejudices, ignorance, and mendacity with godliness.

And we are never to let them get away with that blasphemy!