“What must I do to obtain eternal life?”
“Love God with all your heart, all your strength and all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
But [the lawyer] wanting to justify himself asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
So begins the 2,000-year-old story of the Good Samaritan, that old Sunday School chestnut that children usually hear, if they hear it at all these days, at church before the age of 12. The tale describes how the name-sake of the tale, a despised foreigner and heretic, helped a man who had been set upon by robbers and had been left broken, bleeding and penniless with no one to help him. An essential part of the story is for the complacently smug religious because the foreign heretic only had the chance to help because the man had already been left for dead by two others who represented the religious leadership elite of the day; they ignored the practical matter of the man’s plight. They pass him by–all because of the best of theological purity. (At above left is Sicard’s The Good Samaritan which sits n the Tuileries Gardens, Paris.) Jesus finishes up the lesson by asking the lawyer,
“‘Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’
He answered, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
In the last few weeks the media has been full of stories similar to that above; the victims have been homosexuals. Schools have reported a number of adolescent male suicide victims, harassed and bullied to death by peers who have mostly been influenced by America’s Christian culture.
One such victim was Justin Aaberg (at left) who came out when he was 13 years old; by 15 he hanged himself in his room in July 2010. The more liberal churches of America have opened up the clergy to gay church members–to the consternation of the conservatives. The conservative churches have upheld what they honestly believe to be the Biblical standard. For example, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., (at left) who serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world, writes an extremely caring piece about how the church must love homosexuals as a group in his October 4 blog, and then he defends the flag of his orthodoxy,
“The homosexual community will argue that these boys were oppressed by the fact that so many believe that homosexuality is sinful. They respond with calls for the acceptance and normalization of homosexuality. Their logic is easy to understand. If the stigma attached to homosexuality were to disappear, persons who are convinced that they are homosexual in sexual orientation, along with those who are confused, would be free from bullying, the threat of exposure, and injury to their parents and loved ones.
Of course, Christians committed to biblical truth will recognize this as a demand to lie to sinners about their sin. The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness.”
He says “if the stigma were to disappear…persons would be free from bullying, the threat of exposure and injury to their parents and loved ones.” He fails to add “to themselves of course” perhaps because he doesn’t want to consider his culpability in the rampant suicides of homosexual youths. In other words he is saying that his style of preaching about homosexuality is directly and inextricably linked to the hated of, bullying of and deaths of homosexuals.
He’s right of course. This is an example of what Christopher Hitchens, in “God is not Great,” means when he says (erroneously I believe) that religion is “both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression.” Hitchens is wrong because, as even he notes elsewhere in his book, “other nonreligious organizations have committed similar crimes, or even worse ones.” In other words, the dangerous repression is a human behavior, we hardly need religion to be hateful.
But isn’t there a middle path shown by the example of the Good Samaritan? He didn’t seem to need to come to a theological agreement with the man he helped. Wouldn’t the church be well served to AT LEAST stand up for equal civil rights for homosexual members of the body politic? Isn’t the attitude of the conservative church today more than a bit like that of the historic European church’s centuries old attitude toward Jews…and the Anabaptist forebearers of Dr. Mohler? Isn’t there something to be learned from this shameful part of our history as a church?
We don’t have to change our theology in order to put an end to stigma, hate and bloodshed. And the liberal wing of the Church is hardly better with its vanilla pronouncements and lack of political action. The Sexual Futurist Community calls upon all churches to speak out for the civil rights of all Americans, including the homosexual community in regard to military service, civil union and civil marriage. There is no Biblical compromise involved in pulling for the civil rights of Jews…or Catholics…or Muslims…or blacks…or homosexuals. What is your faith tradition doing about this? If you are an outsider of the world of faith what is your take on the Good Samaritan argument here? And who is your neighbor? Come reason with us.