Back in the 1990s I was happy and living in Houston. It was a time when I was going to the University of Houston, was involved in a variety of things, and haunted a variety of coffee shops and the arboretum. Excuse me, I reminisce.
I was having a discussion with a friend at the time that I really hoped a mutual friend of ours would find his voice in Christian sermons again. This individual, like many others, did the very brave thing of coming out as gay to his friends (and harder still) his family. He left a Christian community and went to experience life in the gay community. And as I was having a discussion with a friend I made the remark that the hope of Christianity lies in the gay community. This was slightly before Ellen came out on her television show.
Now the reason I say this is that Christianity has lost its soul. What should be a religion fueling ardent democracy, where a community seeks out a full voicing of its constituents, and where people are quick to ‘turn the other cheek’, where “when in doubt” the impulse is to stretch out the loaves of bread and fish as far as possible has turned into “take up arms”, background checks for any charity and doubting everyone’s integrity. What were the core principles of a New Testament of love and compassion has become enamored with Old Testament spite and jealousy.
To be clear, to be a Christian is to practice the teaching of the New Testament and the message of the Christ. Today’s Christianity has lost this way. To be fair there are those out there who do practice this, and I’ve met them. Yet they are not the voice of Christianity. They are the fringe.
The protestants were a revolt against the powers that be and the favoring of class in religion. The aristocracy could buy their way to heaven, the goalposts kept moving, the priest class held the deck and wouldn’t tell anyone what God was up to, and it was very much a power play. So came the protestants that said the Bible was the only authority in their religion, not some dude sitting in a chair, and that God spoke to each person’s heart. To be a Christian one must read the bible, practice what it taught, and open one’s self up to God.
Here we are where Six Flags Over Jesus (a term coined by a friend to describe the HUGE mega churches) and televangelists hold much power. Preachers pound on their pulpits that they know what is on God’s mind and they use an arsenal of psychological tricks to indoctrinate, scare, belittle, others into their way of thinking. It was years until I finally ridded myself of the anxiety of an eternal hellfire. Seriously, hellfire for eternity? Where is the mercy in that? Name one crime that would warrant such a thing. There is none save angering a petty God.
But pettiness describes the notions of the tribal deities of the Old Testament times. Jehovah was just that, a tribal god of one tribe among many, each with its own god. Jehovah was jealous and also connected to war (surrounded by other petty, jealous war gods) and in those days to lose to an army was to lose it all. Bye bye gene pool.
But Christianity, an offshoot of Judaism (until they began to hate each other VERY much), began to focus on different things than conquest. These were such things as compassion, mercy, love, pacifism. Christians were pacifist. It wasn’t until it was the official religion of the Roman Empire that they had the daunting job of trying to figure out how to run an empire with an army as a pacifist religion. What came out was Just War Theory (basically) where it is a sin to conduct violence… unless that violence as against an enemy of God, when it was then okay. Problem solved.
What is an enemy of God? Everyone but a Christian. Yep, Jews too. It amuses me to see to the Christian Jewish stickers on cars. There is a person who knows not their religion’s history.
So fast forward to today. I am not letting Christians off the hook today. I am not their apologist. In the name of Christianity there have been groups that have perpetuated some really horrific acts, slavery, lynchings, murders, wars, because it is what God has said. The protestants have forgotten to think for themselves and instead follow the rants of the bigoted leaders of their churches.
To be fair, there are some other Christians who worked very hard to end slavery, fight for civil rights, and end wars. These Christians were/are called ‘kooks’ and ‘anti-American’ by mainstream Christians.
So what is this about gays saving the Christian church? Glad you asked. Until now a lot of things have been about the status quo and no real impetus for someone to do some soul searching. That (insert name) war was worth it because it was (good) against (evil), after all. This (name economic system) is the right one because our country is rich and we can buy more stuff. And so on. Only those few souls who truly practiced what Martlin Luther implored them to do, that is open their heart to God instead of listening to some loud mouth, came to realize that perhaps this (insert name) war was about making money, or (insert civil rights violation) was not charitable towards another human being.
Now to the gay part. Cue the music.
I hate to break it to you Adam… but there is a little bit of Steve in you. Well, actually, not like that… or perhaps. No pun intended there. But the simple fact is that we are looking at most people are NOT heterosexual. Something like 90% are not. Also, according to some folks, only 10% are homosexual. That leaves 80% are bisexual, floating somewhere on the scale (see Kinsey). So yeah, chances are that you, me, your mom, the dude playing hockey, are all bisexual.
But this isn’t about the ins and outs of sexuality (oops, another pun), but instead of what this has to do with Christianity surviving as a religion. Why do I even care? I’m not a Christian! Well, for one, what we have now is distilled idiocy and as it goes through more copper tubing it gets distilled more and more. That it is a serious discussion to attack another country because you think God wants you to (based on some blowhard idiot telling you so) or that we ought to round up the gays and put them in concentration camps because (remember that blowhard?) said so. Also, the notion that Christianity today continues on its path of more and more hate, excluding more and more people, quicker and quicker to attack others, leads to a world that is very unfriendly and vile.
No. I am an optimist. As people start to look at the basic arguments for and against gay marriage, and it keeps staying in our attention, eventually someone with rudimentary knowledge of logic will come to the conclusion that it is plain silly to be against it and worse still to outlaw it (as this is in direct contradiction to the principles of our Constitution). Eventually we will win this fight.
Something new was in the Christian religion that was truly powerful when it stirred in the Roman Empire. It had elements of Mithraism in it, a dash of Stoicism, and is awfully similar to some other religions about compassion. Returning to these elements opens up a world of truly inspiring grace… it is no wonder many people converted. The modern person today, facing the gay debate, must do one of two things… become more dogmatic and blind to the tenets of forgiveness and compassion, or more open and accepting. This debate forces some of the long buried and accepted notions of what is right to come to the surface and once in the light they are seen for what they are. It is one thing to say ‘an eye for an eye’ until you are the one holding the gun. It is more difficult to kill (and to live with it) than many saber rattlers would imagine. As the realities of the debate come to light, that it is about human dignity compared to ‘God Hates Fags’. As the Westbororo Baptist Church is becoming more and more the fringe instead of the norm, Christians are moving more and more back to their roots of love.
It will not be easy. It will be messy and loud and painful to grow through this process. People will be hurt, offended, ostracized, attacked, cut-off from communities and families. To be cut off from one’s church may not seem too big for someone living in a city, but to someone in a small town it is huge. It is very difficult to be the lone voice speaking out against the norm of bigotry around you. But Christians have a story of carrying a cross when the world is against you, suffering for a reason, for righteousness. This debate, when you get down to it, is just that… righteousness versus bigotry, compassion versus hate, open minds versus fear. Which side would Christ truly come down on? Perhaps in all of this the core elements of Christ will once again define the Christian church and the actions of its followers.
Why am I so optimistic about this? Because most people are bisexual and overtime we’ll pick our side as the cultural barriers and hate mongering begin to lose their power. And this world could do a bit less with assholery (just made that word up) and more compassion.
Just a bit.