Thursday, October 7, 2010

For the sake of justice and in honor of Matthew Shepard...

I typically avoid arguments on Facebook walls, but tonight I entered the fray.

My childhood friend--her dad was our Lutheran pastor when I was a child--lives in a small, very conservative town. She now attends a fundamentalist church.

Although I typically stay away from most political/religious issues on Facebook (I tend to leave that to my blog), I have been posting videos and articles about the recent spate of suicides prompted by homophobic bullying and the increased vitriol by politicians and religious leaders against gays and lesbians. And my friend has been deeply affected by these messages.

Today she sent me a message, telling me that a young man in her community attempted suicide twice while trying to come to terms with the fact that he was gay. It went against everything he has ever held dear spiritually. Several Christian friends told him he was going to hell. (I too know someone who was raised in a conservative Christian family and fought against himself for years before finally coming out of the closet.) My friend said she was going to take a stand because her heart was breaking. She said that that people were questioning her faith and shaking their heads. And she invited me to share my thoughts on the issue on her Facebook wall.

I know that we are somewhat insulated living in Oregon--although prejudice is everywhere, Portland is more gay friendly than many communities. I don't typically have to get in arguments with people about my beliefs.

I posted an initial comment on my friend's wall, expressing my view that Jesus was drawn to anyone who was oppressed...and what would Jesus have done if he were here right now? Another woman echoed my sentiments. And then another woman began going on about showing compassion, not judging, but that we have to "love the sinner and hate the sin..." and "Christianity is not a democracy but an autocracy," and the bible is the truth, blah, blah, blah.

I couldn't help it. I was polite, I believe, but I wrote: "When people hear that saying 'love the sinner and hate the sin,' it makes them feel deeply unwelcome and judged. Who are we as mere humans to stand in judgment? That can only be left up to God. If the Bible is to be read as the complete truth, do you also believe in polygamy, slavery, and spousal abuse? Men having complete dominion over women? I'd rather focus on the life and unconditional love of Jesus Christ than an autocratic, wrathful, hateful God ('hate the sin'). By saying 'hate the sin,' that is a judgment."

I hope I don't start a Facebook crusade.

Recently John Shore (I've posted about him before--atheist turned Christian) has been really sticking his neck out in this heated debate. He's completely jumped into the shark-infested waters with posts such as "My God Cares About Hearts, Not Crotches."

The Catholic church in Minnesota refuses communion to women wearing rainbow buttons, claiming that the "eucharist is too be sacred to be used as a protest." Hello? Who is turning it into a protest?

During this difficult time of mourning for all these young people's lives lost, a high-ranking leader in the Mormon church has chosen this time to spout more hate and intolerance. Fortunately, the people are rising up.

I do believe that positive things can rise up out of tragedy and loss...and in this case, I am hoping that all this anti-gay rhetoric (so much of it sadly spoken in the distorted name of Christianity) results in a backlash of sorts. I hope it drives more people to stand up against hate.

This video is a beautiful tribute to Matthew Shepard, who was attacked on this day in 1998. As my sister's friend so eloquently wrote on Facebook, "Being a Mother of three young children, I ache for his parents. In my mind, I imagine Jesus finding Matthew, untying him, cradling him, and crying."

Let us all take a stand.

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