David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Gay, Good or God?

Brandon Sun, May 6, 2013 - David McConkey

I have been quite dismayed by one particular idea that has been presented as part of the discussion about bullying in our society.

I have been greatly moved by the overall discussion. Like many others, I have been engaged by media reports and letters to the editor. And by conversations at home, in the workplace and at other gatherings. 
 
The one idea I find so disconcerting? That homosexuality is just a lifestyle choice. And that it is an unnatural and immoral choice.

This idea was certainly the prevailing one in Canada – 50 years ago. And back then, in the 1960s, this view was held by the people and the establishment. Homosexual acts were against the law. Condemning verses in the Bible were found. Homosexuality was a mental disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association and its bible, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

But the picture had changed by the early 1970s. The law changed. Psychiatric knowledge changed. And our society changed as more gay people came out of the closet and told their stories. 

We have had 40 years to change – to understand that being gay is just as normal and natural for some as being straight is for others. But most churches have not changed.
 
I do not blame the regular members of these churches. Especially folks who live in more closed-minded and isolated places where they perhaps never meet gay people. And where gay people, who frequently encounter hatred and discrimination, still stay in the shadows or even move away.

But I do blame theologians, pastors and church leaders. They have had the time and resources to study the facts. They should know the science. And they should know the Bible, and how obscure passages can be used to justify almost anything.

And they should know the people. They have had decades to listen to the voices of gay people themselves. But they have not listened. Even to their own church members and fellow clergy who are gay.  
 
Why do many churches cling to old-fashioned ideas? One reason is simply institutional inertia. Another is that churches assume that their members are more conservative and reluctant to change than they probably are.

And I think there is yet another reason. Church leaders are making a cynical and shameful ploy to appeal to their base support in order to keep up their membership. There is an easy allure to building up oneself by preaching hatred of others.

In the short term, this has looked like a winning strategy. The churches that are most anti-gay – like Roman Catholic, Mormon, or evangelical Protestant – are thriving. Meanwhile, the one church that is the most welcoming of gay people – The United Church of Canada – is fading away.

But I think that this approach will be self-defeating in the long term. The younger generation is much more empathetic than we older people are. If young people are forced to choose between being Christian or being compassionate, I bet they will choose to be compassionate. 

But aside from the big picture, I am most concerned about the individual people. I am thinking of a teenager in Manitoba today. A teenager who approaches a parent or teacher, and says, “There is something I want to tell you – I am gay.”
 
Now, imagine that conversation taking place at home. A home where the parent is a good person, but belongs to a church that condemns homosexuality.

Or, imagine that conversation taking place in the religious school that I mentioned in an earlier column. The administration in that school plans to allow a gay-straight alliance, but will use it to preach the church belief that practising homosexuality is a sin.

That parent or teacher is faced with a big decision. They can choose to follow their religious belief. Or they can choose to act as good people. Choosing religious belief leads to rejection, estrangement, even suicide. Choosing to act as a good person leads to acceptance of reality and acceptance of other people.

We can only hope they will make the right choice.

* * * *
See also:  

Churches in the News 

Empathy Key to Preventing Bullying

Book Looks at Islamic World

Live Well, Do Good

Citizen Active

 



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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
204-726-9440
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