Your indulgence is begged, readers. I know that you come here mostly for the NSFW pictures and the occasional narrative of yet another of my HQT sessions, but this entry will contain neither. I have a somewhat more serious matter to discuss. [I will note, however, that yesterday I got a pretty good blowjob from a cute married guy, and I fully intend to tell that story. Tomorrow. Or just scroll down for pictures of hunky football players.]
I was over at Scott-O-Rama, and in the course of some discussion about how much Senator Clinton loves the gays (and she does), a commenter mentioned that the local news had been talking about an outing campaign in a DC church. So I googled, and I found this article. In brief, one of the women in the choir at the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church got so fed up with the large number of queers in the tenor section that she emailed the minister and a segment of the congregation about the so-called problem. And she named names. The minister, Bishop Alfred Owens, a notorious homophobe, responded not by telling her to shut her pie hole, but by calling a meeting with the choir and offering to help any interested member stop being gay.
[Apparently this congregation has its own ex-gay specialist on staff, and he helps members stop being gay through a combination of support groups, individual counseling, and prayer. In other words, hang out with a bunch of other 'mos, meet with the head ex-gay, and spend a lot of time on your knees. How could it fail? Call me skeptical, but I'm doubting the efficacy of such programs. On the other hand, it does suggest certain career possibilities should I ever decide to leave the heady world of public accountancy.]
I could go into a long diatribe about how far Christianity now stands from its textual and historical roots and about how homophobic many Christian denominations now are, but we all know that already, don't we? I do feel some mild distaste for the meddlesome tattletale and the douchebag minister, but they are who they are, and their denomination views their behavior as appropriate and possibly even helpful. My real disgust is reserved for the gay congregants who subject themselves to this sort of behavior by staying in the church.
Disgust should not be confused with dislike or hatred. I've only hated a few people in my life, and they've been people who seriously hurt me or someone I loved. I have immense pity for someone who grows up in a religious tradition only to find that it rejects who they are. But if you stay in such a church -- particularly when it's a church that any sane person can see will never change its position on homosexuality, no matter how much you try to work from the inside -- that thinks you're evil and that actively oppresses you, then you have to shoulder the blame for your continuing oppression.
It's not like these gay congregants are battered wives who have no place else to go. There are churches in DC, even African American churches, that would be thrilled to have these men in their pews and in their choir. [Good tenors are really not that easy to find. For the record, none of the tenors in my choir is gay. For a couple of years, I was pretty sure that one of them was, but then he got married and started having children. He could be married and still be gay, obviously, but he's really not very attractive, so I think he must be a breeder, after all.] I understand that the church in the African American community is a different sort of organization than, say, my church. It's a political and social backbone as well as a religious and ethical organization. So I can see how it would suck to have to leave, but to stay in a group that doesn't value you displays an almost total lack of self-worth.
The rationalization for staying in a place that despises you can't be theological. If you're a Christian, I acknowledge that I don't believe in your God or your savior, but I'm pretty well versed in the supposed words of both. I'm pretty sure that nothing in the New Testament (not even the writings of Paul, a dogmatic hard ass if ever there was one) that requires you to belong to a particular church in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Let's look, by way of example, at a well-known parable from chapter 10 of The Gospel According to Luke (in the King James Version, since that's what I like best and am most familiar with):
25And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
So, basically, you have to love God and treat your neighbor well. You don't have to attend a particular church. By the way, if you're keeping score, the role of the priest in the parable is being played by Bishop Opens, and the role of the Levite is being played by the female choir member who did the outing. It's not clear that there's a good Samaritan here, but then, the outed congregants didn't fall among thieves and get beat up. [They may have been stripped of their raiments, but probably only willingly.] They don't need to be carried to the inn. They just need to stand up and walk away.
The fact is that there are all kinds of religions and churches out there. You can find a church that's predominantly gay or a church that's mostly straight but embraces gays. You can even find a church that welcomes gays and that shares your particular beliefs. I suppose that if you believe that being gay is incompatible with being Christian, you're pretty much stuck, but there are plenty of churches out there that don't share that belief and that will be more than happy to make you feel welcome and help you see the light, even while they stick to other tenets of a more fundamentalist Christianity that I, for example, would find unthinkable. Even if you believe that the main job of a church is to save your soul, surely you also understand that a vital element of any religion is to nurture its adherents while they're among the living. Surely all of us deserve at least that much from our chosen spiritual homes.