by Mark Sandlin
Lots of people claim to be “following Jesus” and then they do stuff like this. Sure, people who follow Jesus do these things all the time but you can't say you are doing them because you are trying to follow Jesus' example.
(Clearly, this is not a complete list but it's a good place to start).
10) Exclude people because they practice another religion.
Jesus was constantly including people and he did it with a radical disregard for their religion. We do not have a single recorded incident of Jesus asking for a person's religious affiliation before being willing to speak with them or break bread with them. We do have several records of Jesus seeking out those who happen to practice faith differently from him. There was even this one time when he used a hated Samaritan as an example of how we are supposed to take care of each other.
9) Exclude people for what they look like, how they were born or things beyond their control.
I may have mentioned this already but Jesus was constantly including people. Jesus had this rebel streak in him that actually sought out folks who didn't “fit in.” People who were different, people who were marginalized, people who were made to feel unwanted in one way or another held a special place in the heart, life and actions of Jesus. I suspect he did it because he understood they weren't actually different at all. Touch the lepers (the “untouchables”). Do it.
8) Withhold healthcare from people.
Did you ever play the game “Follow the Leader"? If you don't do what the leader does, you are out. Following means you should imitate as closely as possible. When people who were sick needed care, Jesus gave it to them. If we are following Jesus, we will imitate him as closely as possible. No, we can't repeat the miracles he did but I've seen modern medicine do things that are about as close to a miracle as I expect to get.
7) Exclude people.
Last time. Promise. Jesus was constantly including people. It's a little concept called love. He was pretty big on it.
6) Let people go hungry.
When Jesus said, “feed my sheep,” it was about more than just a spiritual feeding. As a matter of fact, if Gandhi was right (and I suspect he was), you can't have one without the other: “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” There is not a food shortage in the world -- there is enough for everyone. There is not a problem with having a distribution system capable of handling it; I can eat lobster from Maine while looking over the Pacific ocean. The problem is that we aren't very good at sharing.
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?"
Today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day
. The fact that we even have to have this day is a sad statement about how committed we are as the Body of Christ to justice and to equality. It is also a sad statement about the hate and fear-mongering that continues throughout The Church. There are still untold numbers of people who must pass for someone they are not, out of fear for how they will be treated.
Yes, we live in a nation where, for some people, being the people God created them to be must be feared and hidden... “In God we trust,” indeed. Justice is blind? From what I've seen, it is not nearly blind enough.
In terms of seeking equal rights for our gay brothers and sisters, we have been traveling in the right direction for some time now, but we have been traveling too slowly, to begrudgingly and by asking too many to hide too much of the reflection of God that is uniquely revealed in them. Justice delayed, certainly is justice denied. And as Dr. King reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Today I ask my minister friends and my straight friends to stand with me on this National Coming Out Day. Stand with me and our homosexual brothers and sisters who were made equally in the image of God and should be treated equal in this great nation of ours. I ask you to come out for equality.
Fear can be overcome with knowledge. So let's let those who have had to pretend to be someone they are not for so long know
that not only does God love them, but we love them – that not only does God stand with them, but we stand with them.
Equality is not up for biblical questioning my friends. We are all created equally in God's image. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
So I ask you to step up and speak out. Share the HRC
logo on your FB page, on your Twitter page. Post quotes about equality, loudly claim your love for all of God's children and demand that they ALL be treated with the same grace, dignity, respect and rights that are afforded to you.“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
In light of the hate crimes that continue to make news, crimes directed at homosexuals or anyone who others might believe to be gay or to be a lesbian, I have to make a statement about it's relationship with The Church.
But first, let me start with an apology. If any of you are uncomfortable about hearing about homosexuality and words like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in discussion of the church, then I am sorry. I am sorry, that we ministers have done such a poor job of addressing the topic. We have been afraid to talk about the pink elephant in the room. Instead of talking about the way we Christians have committed sometimes subtle (and sometimes blatant) hate crimes against gays and lesbians, we talk in vague code about inclusiveness, open door policies and the Christian call to love the sinner. We have done a grave and unjust service to the life of the church and to our homosexual brothers and sisters.
We have let our fear control our faith, rather than letting our faith control our fear. We have let our fear override our God, rather than letting our God override our fear – the very God whose messengers tell us over and over again in the Bible, “Do not be afraid.”
An article by John Fisher, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, entitled, “The Separation of Church and Hate” talks about how the larger population has started to associate hate with the church. In part it is also about how we have put more trust in ourselves than in God. There is no better example of hatred in the church than in the way some churches have handled the issue of homosexuality.
The article reminds us, The Church, what Jesus had to say about hate: “Hate has no place being connected in any way to a follower of Christ. Jesus went as far as to equate hatred in the heart with murdering someone. And of course, John wrote that God is love, and it is impossible to claim to love God while hating anyone.”
When I was presented before the Presbytery as a Candidate for ordination, a group of people who are considering forming their own Presbytery because of their condemnation of homosexuality, stood up and asked me, and the others being presented that day, questions about, among other things, our sex lives. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife), my parents, many of the members of the church I would soon be serving as a Minister of Word and Sacrament were there that day. In front of everyone, including the other ministers who would soon be my colleagues, I was reduced to answering a question about my sex life. I have nothing to hide, but somehow it felt degrading and belittling. Their fear reduced a calling that I had been working toward for years down to a question about sex rather than questions about faith.
It happened at another Presbytery meeting. One minister, in order to save his wife the embarrassment of being asked about her sex life from a male stranger, stood up first and asked his own wife in front of hundreds of people if she had practiced fidelity in their 15 years of marriage – if he hadn’t asked they would have. Now you might think that would have driven the point home of how their fear (and possibly hatred) had pushed them to the point of absurdity, but it didn’t. A few minutes later a man stepped forward to ask the first Mexican woman ever presented for ordination in the Presbyterian Church in the US or in Mexico, with her children in the room, about - her sex life.
Some of these very people want to leave the church. The church leadership is trying to foster dialogue (using vague language that doesn’t actually address the core issue of homosexuality) in hope of convincing them to stay…I say…let them leave. I believe it might actually be the most loving thing we can do. In part, that is because I am for the separation of church…and hate.
Maybe this is a watershed moment in the life of the church. Maybe God is transplanting God’s church to the riverside. After years of barren discussions in the wilderness of disagreements over homosexuality, after years of the church digging its roots in deep to search out a common ground but coming up dry, after years of seeking relief from the internal struggle…maybe, just maybe, God is now doing a little gardening.
Transplanting each group in a place where it can be nourished. Transplanting each group in a place where it can get to doing God’s real work – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, visiting the imprisoned – instead of focusing so much on something that biblically matters so little.