I was first introduced to the concept of a gay person in an eighth grade religion class. The discussion was wide ranging but something my teacher said seemed to come out of left field. “I am insulted that they [gay people] would use the rainbow as their symbol,” she said. “It’s a symbol of God’s covenant with man not for them to exploit.”
This was said by the leader of the class, an obstinate over zealous Catholic who pushed her faith onto others with ease. I smiled and went back to reading my book, a common staple when I bothered to show up to her class. It wasn’t like that statement was going to stick with me for a while.
But it did. Even now, a little more than eight years since I heard it, the phrase still echos back in my head. The reprise seems to be called up whenever Christianity is in the news. Leaders of churches come on TV explaining that gays cause hurricanes, that God is angry with them and that they will suffer for eternity in the fires of hell.
Now I will try to do my penance for the LGBT community and explain why Christianity is still a valid way of looking at the world despite the views of some members.
As I grew, the Catholic religion has always had a strong hold in my life. Not the zany, over the top, crazies you see often on TV or quoted by CNN, but more moderate priests, brothers and deacons who have helped shape my life for the better. I will use my 15 years of experience in Catholic education and 19 forced religion classes to make sense of it all. So come along with me for a Christmas column that will hopefully open a few eyes and hearts.
Christianity, at its core, is a religion of acceptance. And I have lost part of my audience already to talking about the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition or the Reformation and how “accepting” Christians were then. Hold on, I’m getting there. Religion, and Christians in general, started some of the bloodiest conflicts in world history over the Bible and their interpretation of it.
Interpretation is the key word in the whole argument. The New Testament is originally in Aramaic, transcribed in Greek and then translated to Latin where it is then re-translated into over 2000 languages for modern use. Already the alleged “Word of God” has been partially lost in translation. Factor in humans and their biases and desire to maintain control and you can twist the word of God into anything you need.
And that is really where most “God-fearing men” lose me. In the New Testament, the focal point of Jesus of Nazareth would actually shock most conservative Christians. He associates with the undesirables of society, shuns the wealthy and deals with the possible corruption of Jewish doctrine. All of these actions could be considered quite liberal by ecumenical standards. He did not feel constrained by the reactions of others to what was being done, nor was he restricted by the then norms of society.
Perhaps that is where the church has lost its way. By alienating itself from the LGBT and casting them off as sinners, the clergy themselves turn their backs on the very foundation of their beliefs.To this end it really is a shame that some LGBT individuals raised Christian turn their backs on the Church. Because, in reality, their problem lies with the organization itself and not with the lessons.
True Christianity is not about being divisive, fear mongering or alienation. It is about kindness, forgiveness, loving thy neighbor however they may be, and living life with a positive moral code. There really is not any reason to oppose these values. And while there may be some who wish the LGBT harm within the church they clearly have not read their own holy book. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” says Matthew 7:1-5 (English Standard Version) is hardly the most eloquent passage. It is not even the most accurate Bible passage about the subject. Yet in this context, it flows perfectly.
Now I will leave you with a simple prayer for the time of struggle that the LGBT faces. It is a prayer for all faiths and has helped me through some trying times. “Lord help me to remember, that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I together cannot overcome.” Merry Christmas, happy holidays and God bless.