August 28, 2007

Flumoxed By Protestant Churches' Fixation on Sexuality

That's the view of author and Columbia University professor Randall Balmer. He shares an ancedote in this post from the Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" section:

I continue to be flummoxed by the current fixation on homosexuality in Protestant denominations. Jesus himself said nothing about the matter, although he did affirm the Levitical proscriptions (which also, by the way, include prohibitions against the interbreeding of livestock and wearing garments made of two different kinds of fabric).

Jesus did talk about such issues as peacemaking and care for the poor and divorce. Regarding the latter, Jesus had nothing good to say, and he was pretty clear in his condemnations. Yet, curiously, that proscription against divorce has all but dropped out of view.

When I was researching "Thy Kingdom Come," I sat in on a gathering of conservative religious leaders as they were strategizing how to take control of mainline Protestant denominations. They were confident that the current struggle over the ordination of openly gay clergy and the ecclesiastical blessing same-sex unions would provide them the leverage they needed to wrest control of these denominations. For a day and a half in that Holiday Inn conference room, I heard almost nothing other than talk about sex.

Finally, toward the end of the gathering, I asked if I could pose a question. How many people in the room, I asked, had a theological objection to the ordination of women? One person out of twenty (an Episcopal woman!) raised her hand. I suggested that if this meeting had been taking place twenty or thirty years earlier they would be quoting the Bible in opposition to the ordination of women.

They were still a bit confused about my line of inquiry; I was trying to get at the historical contingency of our approaches to scripture. I guess what worries me about a gathering like this, I continued, is that if we had been meeting sixty years earlier or a hundred and sixty years earlier, when the issues of the day were, respectively, slavery and segregation, would I be sitting in this room quoting scripture to justify my support for slavery and segregation?

Long silence. “Well, this is different,” someone finally said.

Okay, I responded, how is it different?

Another long silence. “It’s just different.”

After another pause, the moderator suggested that we move on to the next report.

How many people's lives have been tragically damaged because they were "just different?"

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