Where Are The Religious Leaders?
November 27th, 2012
With Uganda poised to pass what would become one of the most draconian anti-gay laws in the world, human rights advocates, LGBT activists, and diplomats from around the globe are lobbying members of the Ugandan government to set aside the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. But there is one set of voices that is conspicuously silent: church leaders. So far, the only religious voices to speak up about it are those who favor its passage, including Scott Lively and the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer. The Family “Research” Council’s Tony Perkins, while not addressing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill directly, praised Uganda over the weekend as “a modern example of a nation prospered by God.” (Perkins had previously lied about what the bill would do if enacted and lobbied Congress against a resolution condemning the bill.)
So far, those are among the few religious leaders speaking up about the bill, all of them supporting it directly or indirectly. And so far, major religious leaders against the bill have been conspicuous by their silence. The HRC called on them to speak up in a press release last week:
“American faith leaders know that calling for the death penalty – or even calling for imprisonment of - an entire community is not in line with Christian values,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “American Christian faith leaders with ties to Uganda, like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, must reach out to their influential Ugandan friends to ensure that the human rights of Ugandans are not put up to a vote.”
American Christian faith leaders have been active in Uganda for decades and have significant ties to Ugandan political leaders and faith leaders. Such influential American faith leaders, including Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and voices from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, have a moral obligation to urge their Ugandan friends and allies to condemn the bill. Many of these American faith leaders have shown a commitment to fighting the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Uganda and know passage of this bill would curtail these efforts. Public statements and private conversations by these American faith leaders, if they are done immediately, could save the lives of thousands of Ugandans.
Rick Warren last addressed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in late 2009, when he condemned the bill. Three years is an eternity in politics, and he has been silent since then. Silence will only mean that Scott Lively and Tony Perkins is speaking for them.
The “sin question” problem
September 21st, 2012
The ophthalmologist’s assistant brought in his next patent, a lovely young woman wearing a t-shirt reading “curves are beautiful”. And it was an appropriate phrase; she had curves a plenty and they were indeed beautiful. She was perhaps 20 pounds over “ideal”, but every ounce was exactly where it should be and her glowing taut skin and firm musculature (along with her bottle of carrot juice) illustrated that this was a woman who took care of herself.
“So Doctor”, she said, “is it bad for my health to be overweight?”
Taken aback, the doctor groped for a response. He thought about his lunch with it’s processed flour bread and sodium-intense ham and gave what he thought was a safe answer. “Well, there are many things that aren’t ideal, but the important thing is that you strive to live a healthy life. After all, none of us are perfect.”
“No, Doctor, I want to know if my being twenty pounds overweight is bad for my health.”
Again he tried for diplomacy. “Every body is different. If you’re asking if I think you’re fat, the answer is no. You look very good at the weight you are at and as long as you are taking care of yourself I wouldn’t worry.”
“But is it bad for my health to be overweight?”
A little frantic now he replied, “I really don’t know how your body processes food or the amount of stress that would result from trying to lose a few pounds. I can’t tell you that losing twenty pounds would improve your health or life expectancy. That’s not my specialty. I’m an eye doctor.”
“But doctor, you’re a physician. You have a degree and medical books. What do the books say? Is it bad for my health to be overweight.”
Finally the doctor sighed, “Yes, the medical books say that being overweight should be avoided. So while I think you shouldn’t worry about it, I guess my answer has to technically be yes, being overweight is not ideal for your health.”
The woman shot back in her chair with a look of shock on her face as though he’s slapped her. “You’re calling me UNHEALTHY!!!”
I think some times our community does this with people of faith.
We run into someone who has no problem with gay people, who supports civil rights for couples, and who strives to be supportive, and we say, “So pastor, is homosexuality a sin?”
A sin? Well, that’s difficult to answer.
Sin is a very vague term that covers everything from mass murder to being less than cheerful as you give to a homeless person. It means, basically, any imperfection. “Missing the mark”. A held grudge. The thrill of rushing to the phone to tell the latest about your friend.
In Christian theology, as expressed by the words attributed to Christ, failing to love the people you come into contact with as much as you love yourself is sin. And it’s constant. And we all do it everyday.
But there’s another aspect to consider. There are a number of things in Scripture that were forbidden a few thousand years ago. For many of them it’s obvious why they are there: murder, theft, lying – these all treat our neighbor with contempt. Others may not have made a lot of sense at the time, but scientific discovery has, in retrospect, suggested had a practical purpose: dietary laws, crop rotation, and perhaps even circumcision. And then there were those which seem to have been a matter of cultural identity and religious adherence: rules about pagan gods and practices.
Some of those prohibitions fit easily into modern ethics. Others were specifically exempted and ended by the Christian fathers. And a good many things that may have worked in ancient cultures, like matters of gender, outgrew their relevance and no longer fit with the themes of Christian faith.
And then there are a lot of gray area sins, the “sin for me, but maybe not for thee” type. There are a lot of Christians who see alcohol as harmful to the body and an inhibitor of responsible behavior. They see damaged lives and broken dreams and say, “that stuff is evil and drinking it is sin”. But they aren’t going to call you a sinner if you have a beer.
So “is homosexuality a sin?” is a tougher question than might appear on the face of it and does not lend itself to “yes” or “no” answers. Or, if one is thoughtful and consistent about one’s faith, it ought not.
And “sin” is not the only troublesome word there. “Homosexuality” means, of course, the quality of finding one’s innate attracts on a sexual and emotional level to be towards persons of the same sex. But in these questions, there is always the component of sexual behavior. Few are ever asking “pastor is it sin to be attracted but never act on it?” And even issues about identity or “pride” come in.
A few decades ago when “gay people” were those weird men in San Francisco that you saw on the news parading down the street in a jock strap once a year, it wasn’t difficult for most evangelical Christians to tick the “lays with a man like a woman” box and say with confidence that, “yep, homosexuality is sin”. And by “sin” they meant, this is a biggie, it’ll send you to hell with the murderers and pedophiles.
But with increased visibility, “homosexuality” is also now Susan and Janet who show up for service every Sunday with their two kids and who can be counted on to always be there for the weekly food bank. “Homosexuality” is the church organist who is single and probably not “laying with” anybody, but enjoys his Saturday nights performing as Glamour de’Velvet. And what about young Joey who you are fairly sure really is “laying with a man like a woman” with his best friend; but you’ve known this kid since the day he was born and you know that he is a good kid.
“Is homosexuality a sin?”
For an increasing number of pastors, they don’t know how to answer that. They aren’t theologian dicing the ancient texts for context and cultural comparison, they just want to preach the good news of forgiveness and help people live better lives. But they are the ones who gets the question and an answer is expected.
For example, Joel Osteen went on CNN this week to promote his new book. Osteen is one who doesn’t give much time to preaching sin; he’s more interested in “lifting people up” and encouraging them to live happier lives. Personally, I’m not big on the “think positive thoughts” type of preachers, but he has the largest congregation in the nation so evidently a lot of people are.
Now there is nothing in Osteen’s book about homosexuality. There’s nothing in his sermons about homosexuality. But listen to this exchange:
This was a no-win situation for Osteen. And, of course, he didn’t win. People don’t want uncertainty, they want answers. And, most often, they want the answers to be what they already believe. They want you to take sides – their side, specifically.
Conservatives called him out for failing to rail against abomination. Albert Mohler had this to say:
Viewers of CNN saw a display of confusion, evasion, and equivocation coming from one presented as a Christian pastor. What they were really seeing is the total theological bankruptcy of the word of faith movement and the gospel of positive thinking. Osteen cannot, or at least will not, speak even the simplest word of biblical conviction. He states his intention to stay in his “lane” of glib affirmation.
Osteen’s admission that his own sexual orientation is not a choice while still deriding homosexuality as a sin that his 43,000 weekly congregants can choose to rectify is hardly surprising. He has repeated the claim — that gays can change their orientation — before several times.
Televangelist icons have a long history of offensive and homophobic remarks that undermine their message of inclusion and acceptance within the christian faith.
It’s funny, in a way.
I get why religious conservatives want to know everyone’s position. It’s to know whether he’s a man of God or a heretic to denounce. If you care deeply about doctrine, you keep track of who endorses or disavows your particular collection.
But sometimes its the people in our community who don’t adhere to Christian faith or believe that there is such a thing as a “sin” that some deity will punish you for who are the most insistent on getting the question answered. And I have to think, why do you care?
Like the curvaceous lady in the doctor’s office; why was it so important that her eye doctor weigh in? Was it an angry bitter disillusioned (but wafer-thin) mother who spent her childhood telling her “You’re fat! No one will want you and you’ll never get anywhere being so fat!”? Is that the voice that she’s trying to silence?
In the real world, I know a lot of us heard the voice of Christian certainty tell us over and over, “You’re a sinner! No one will want you and you’ll never get anywhere being a faggot, being a dyke, being some gender freak! God has no use for sinners like you!” And (though fewer in number) those shrill accusatory voices are still out there yelling their abuse in harmony with the voices in our memories.
Okay. So Joel Osteen thinks that “homosexuality is sin”. He doesn’t understand it, doesn’t know what to do with it, and so he doesn’t preach it, it’s not his “lane”. I doubt he even knows what he means by that, whether he means orientation or behavior or identity. Clearly he didn’t go on the program with the goal of condemning anyone.
But yet we demand, “Joel, is homosexuality a sin? What does the book say?”
So he flails about trying to give an answer that makes sense, when this is clearly an area that he just isn’t comfortable and no answer is going to work.
I wonder why we do that? I really don’t know.
Soulforce Founder Mel White’s Open Letter to American Pastors on Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
February 3rd, 2010
Soulforce founder Mel White, Interim Executive Director Bill Carpenter, and Board Chair Chuck Phelan have released this open letter to Jan and Paul Crouch and other American Evangelical pastors who broadcast in Uganda, calling on them to denounce the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament.
An Open Letter from Soulforce to Jan and Paul Crouch, founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the Evangelical Christian broadcasters who are featured on Lighthouse Television, TBN’s affiliate in Uganda, including: Matthew Crouch, Joyce Meyer, Andrew Wommack, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Franklin Graham:
By now you are well aware of the anti-homosexual bill pending before the Parliament of Uganda. We urge you to denounce this bill. Use your personal friendships with President and Mrs. Museveni, with MP David Bahati (your Christian colleague who proposed this bill), and with Stephen Langa, (the Ugandan Christian organizer behind the bill) to take a public and passionate stand against it.
The media are blaming the visit to Uganda by three of your colleagues for this despicable and truly un-Christian law. In fact, for years you have used your Lighthouse Television programs, your radio broadcasts, and your massive public meetings to warn Ugandans of the so called “threat homosexuals pose to Bible-based values and the traditional African Family.”
In no small part you are already responsible for the current call by Ugandan leaders to enforce the old law condemning lesbian and gay Ugandans to up to 14 years in prison. This new law increases that sentence to life imprisonment and even death by hanging. Denounce this new bill or the blood of lesbian and gay Ugandans will be on your hands.
It isn’t just the “liberal media” who are condemning the bill. In mid-November, Exodus International, the ministry that promises to assist homosexuals in overcoming homosexuality, warned, “If homosexual behavior and knowledge of such behavior is criminalized and prosecuted, as proposed in this bill, church and ministry leaders will be unable to assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue.” While Soulforce does not agree with Exodus that lesbian and gay people need to be “cured,” we wholeheartedly agree with their position on this hateful bill.
Warren Throckmorton, a member of the Clinical Advisory Board of the American Association of Christian Counselors warned that this legislation would make their mission “to extend the love and compassion of Christ to all” a difficult if not impossible task.
Your colleague, mega-church pastor Rick Warren, in a very public video appeal to his fellow clergy in Uganda, gives five reasons why Ugandan Christians should not support the bill: (1) it is “unjust, extreme and un-Christian; (2) it would “force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities; (3) “…it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting… homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported; (4) “All life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God… It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others…” And (5) “the freedom to make moral choices, and our right to free expression, are gifts endowed by God.” Warren reminds the clergy that Uganda is a democratic country “…and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up.” Warren concludes by urging them “to speak out against the proposed law.”
The People of Soulforce urge you to take Rick Warren seriously. It is very possible that your silence on this matter will convince the people of Uganda that it is God’s will to condemn homosexuals to life imprisonment or even death by hanging. Your powerful media voices have made you superstars to Ugandans. We implore you to use your power to denounce this bill. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this time the Christian community became known for love and justice rather than fulfilling the stereotype of the “liberal media” as ‘hate-filled bigots?
You often ask others, “What would Jesus do?” This is the perfect time to ask yourselves that question.
The People of Soulforce
Mel White, Founder
Bill Carpenter, Interim Executive Director
Chuck Phelan, Board Chair
ADDENDUM: EXAMPLES OF OTHERS WHO CONDEMN THE BILL
This bill has been condemned by leaders of Western nations including the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, and Great Britain and the President of the United States. The European Parliament passed a resolution against the bill and threatened to cut financial aid to Uganda if it is enacted. They described the bill as “state-legislated genocide.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urge Uganda to shelve the bill and decriminalize homosexuality.
The 16,000 members of the HIV Clinicians Society of South Africa and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS warned that excluding marginalised groups would compromise efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Uganda where 5.4% of the adult population is infected with HIV.
The Sunday Times in South Africa warned Uganda that it is in danger of being “dragged back to the dark and evil days of Idi Amin.”
The New York Times stated unequivocally “that such barbarism (in the bill) is intolerable and will make Uganda an international pariah.”
The Washington Post labeled the bill “ugly and ignorant”, “barbaric”, and “that it is even being considered puts Uganda beyond the pale of civilized nations.”
The Los Angeles Times warned that the bill would cause gay Ugandans to face an “impossible, insulting, historical, cruel and utterly false choice of having to choose between being gay and being African.”
The Anglican Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha said that the Bill “would become state-legislated genocide.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has said in a public interview that he did not see how any Anglican could support it: “Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.”
The Vatican legal attaché to the United Nations stated that “Pope Benedict is opposed to ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay men and lesbians.”
AS IN THE US, PAUL CAMERON IS THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF THE HALF-TRUTH, HYPERBOLE AND LIES ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY AND HOMOSEXUALS UPON WHICH THE BILL IS BASED
Stephen Langa, the March 2009 workshop organiser, specifically cited an unlicensed converstion therapist named Richard A. Cohen who states in a book that was given to Langa and other prominent Ugandans,
“Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.”
These statements were based on faulty studies performed by Paul Cameron who has been expelled from the American Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. Cohen, himself, confirmed the weaknesses of these studies, stating that when the book will be reprinted, these statistics will be removed.
ADDENDUM: OUR SOURCES
Jeffrey Gettleman, writing for the New York Times, January 4, 2010, reported on “Americans’ Role in Uganda Anti-Gay Push.”
Erin Roach, posted on Baptist News, November 18, 2009, the news that “Exodus Opposes Uganda’s Proposed Anti-Gay Law.”
Baptist Press, December 13, 2009, announced that “Mega-Church Pastor Rick Warren Condemns Uganda Anti-Gay Bill.”
The editors of Wikipedia have assembled the best history of this bill and the world’s response.
YouTube carries the complete video of Rick Warren’s Open Letter to the Clergy of Uganda.*
*We wish to express our thanks to the Rev. Rick Warren for taking this rather courageous step on behalf of the lesbian and gay people of Uganda. Pastor Warren did everything in his power to avoid meeting with our gay and lesbian parents and their families in 2009 during the Soulforce American Family Outing. We have tried on many occasions to help him understand the tragic consequences of his own teachings about homosexuality and homosexuals. And though we continue hoping that he will meet with a Soulforce delegation to hear the scientific, historic, psychological and personal evidence that homosexuality is one of God’s gifts, we pause in our pursuit just long enough to give him thanks for reaching out to save the lives of our lesbian sisters and gay brothers in Uganda. Thank you, Pastor Warren. We are grateful!
A call for a nuanced view of religious leaders
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
January 4th, 2010
Most of us are capable of seeing our coworkers, family, and neighbors as possessing varying degrees of rejection or support.
We know that Aunt Gladys will ask when you’re going to go to Vermont to marry your young man and we appreciate her. But we also know that Uncle Fred will keep his mouth shut but, if asked, will say, “well, any of your special friends are always welcome in my home, but I’m just old fashioned and think a marriage is between a man and a woman”. And Cousin Susan loves you and supports you but really wishes that you were straight because, “the gay life is so much more difficult”.
Somehow we are able to accept Uncle Fred and Cousin Susan and their limitations without denouncing them as vile people. But too often our community views religious leaders through a dichotomous lens; either the minister is a fully supportive political ally, or a hate-filled anti-gay bigot.
But truthfully, most are neither.
Some ministers are fully supportive of political equality, but believe sexual engagement between anyone other that a heterosexually married couple is sinful. Other may be less quick to assign the “sinner” label, but are not comfortable with treating same-sex couples equally in society. Some accept same-sex attraction in their parishioners in the same way they might accept a physical impairment, not necessarily the ideal but also not soul-threatening. Many have never given it much thought at all, believing that homosexuals are like alcoholics or gamblers or those folk who stay home on Sunday so they have no relevance to the church.
Sadly, our community too often has only one description for any of the above: anti-gay.
But this is unfair to them and foolish of us. We can be, at times, too quick to denounce and drive away some who could in the future – or currently on some issues – be incredibly valuable allies if we only would let them.
One such example is in the news today. Joel Osteen, pastor of Houston’s Lakewood Church, gave an opening prayer at the inauguration Annise Parker, the newly elected lesbian mayor of Houston. To some in our community, this seemed unfathomable.
The Advocate opened their article with:
Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, who ignited a firestorm in November with his comment to The View that gay people were not among “God’s best,” thanked the heavens on Monday for Annise Parker, the newly inaugurated lesbian mayor of Houston.
Queerty (who calls Osteen a “smiling bigot”) chose:
Unlike Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, the mayoral inauguration of Houston’s Annise Parker did not include any flubbed lines. Except for for anti-gay ridiculous person Pastor Joel Osteen, at an opening prayer, praising god for “lifting up our new mayor, Annise Parker.”
It seems difficult to find in these paragraphs anything about Osteen that would suggest he’s not a raging homophobe. But whether or not it was intentional, it was definitely sloppy and lacking in thought.
Actually Osteen did not say that gay people were not among God’s best. In response to a question on The View from Whoopie Goldberg about whether gay people were welcome at his church, he responded,
We have ‘Everybody’s Welcome’. Gays and straights and all different religions and they’re all welcome. But, Whoopie, I come back to the, ya know, what I believe the Scripture teaches is that homosexuality is not God’s best. So I come from that value system of the Scripture, I can’t pick and choose. I love everybody, I can’t say that I don’t have friends who are not gay, they’re some of the nicest people in the world.
These are not the words of a hater or a homophobe. And they do seem consistent with Osteen’s past comments. In a 2005 interview with Larry King:
KING: Do you ever involve politics in the sermons?
OSTEEN: Never do. My father never …
KING: Never mention President Bush?
OSTEEN: Well, only to pray. Only to pray. We prayed for President Bush, Clinton, all of them. But I’ve never been political. My father hasn’t. I just, I have no …
KING: How about issues that the church has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages?
OSTEEN: Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don’t go there. I just …
KING: You have thoughts, though.
OSTEEN: I have thoughts. I just, you know, I don’t think that a same-sex marriage is the way God intended it to be. I don’t think abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better way to live your life. But I’m not going to condemn those people. I tell them all the time our church is open for everybody.
KING: You don’t call them sinners?
OSTEEN: I don’t.
KING: Is that a word you don’t use?
OSTEEN: I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don’t. But most people already know what they’re doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don’t go down the road of condemning.
I also note that Osteen welcomed Jay Bakker and Soulforce when they came to visit Lakewood Church and was not part of the recent Manhattan Declaration. Yet some in our community seem incapable of distinguishing Osteen’s religious interpretation of Scripture from, say, Ken Hutcherson’s crusade of hatred and bigotry.
I think it would be useful for our community to adopt a more nuanced view of religious leaders. By doing so, we might find ourselves with unexpected allies.
Joel Osteen does not agree with my understanding of Scripture; but his disagreement does not make him a hater or a bigot. And I recognize the value in having a lesbian politician – elected despite her opponent’s religion-based homophobic campaign – being given blessing by the pastor of the largest congregation in the nation.
Jay Bakker and Soulforce Meet With Joel Osteen
May 14th, 2008
For Jay Bakker, growing up as the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker was more than a little chaotic. Until the collapse of their Christian media empire in 1987, his parents were superstars. But at age 13, his father went to prison, the family’s closest friends denounced them, and Jay’s world changed completely.
Perhaps it is this unique experience of having been at the crest of the conservative Christian world only to feel betrayed that has allowed Jay to question the purpose and meaning of his Christian faith. And Jay’s openness has left him with conclusions and direction that are unlike many others in that world.
One area of disagreement is with whom God accepts and welcomes. A careful study of scripture led Jay to conclude that many of those who are not welcome in the pews of most churches are those whom God most seeks to know. And in revisiting scripture and the nature of God, Jay came to believe that homosexuality is not sin.
Jay now is joining Soulforce to take that message on the road in an effort called The American Family Outing. And because of his history and his connections, Jay has access to religious leaders that most gay people cannot dream of.
The first stop was in Houston, TX at the megachurch of Joel Osteen. There Bakker was able to arrange for a meeting with Osteen. From the Houston Chronicle
Bakker said Osteen was most gracious, had chairs reserved for the LGBT community Sunday morning and made time to meet after the 11 a.m. service.
During their chat, the two men agreed to disagree.
“I don’t think homosexuality is a sin, and they do,” Bakker said, “but it was very nice of Joel to introduce me to his family. I met Joel’s wife and mother, and they were just great. … I’m really grateful.”
Don Iloff, Lakewood’s chief of communications, agreed the visits and meetings went well.
“Dodie Osteen, Joel’s mother, wanted to meet Jay,” Iloff said.
“She knew him as a little boy. And everybody liked Tammy Faye and Jim, Jay’s dad. He has his flaws but … ”
Iloff said it was a pleasure to host members of the LGBT community at Lakewood. “They’re very, very sweet people. They’re the nicest people. I didn’t expect anything else, really.”
The communications chief also said members of the LGBT community are welcome at Lakewood, but he and the Osteens don’t have much more to say on the subject of sexuality.
While it would have been phenomenal had Osteen take the opportunity to requestion his theology, his response is nonetheless encouraging and to be welcomed. As more people in the conservative evangelical Christian movement come to know gay people and their allies, the stereotypes can drop away and the animosity diminish. And while we can differ on the interpretation and application of Paul’s conflation of Greek words in an epistle to a church in Rome 2,000 years ago, I hope we can do so without engaging in Culture War.
I am very appreciative of the work that Soulforce does. And I am very appreciative that a straight preacher is willing to see that his mission to spread the Gospel includes using his family name to gain access to some religious leaders who would drive gay men and women away from their faith.
I wish them much continued success in their campaign.
Why Does Focus Fear the Snakeywolves?
January 23rd, 2008
This spring, Soulforce will follow their successful campaign to bring awareness to conservative campuses with a campaign to bring Good News to evangelical mega-churches. They have identified six pastors and churches that they wish to approach and seek dialog:
• Rev. Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
• Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
• Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland
• Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia
• Rev. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois
• Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California
They have sent letters to each of these pastors
The letters inform each pastor that a delegation of families with two moms and two dads, as well as supportive heterosexual-parent and single-parent families, plans to visit each church. The letters invite their congregations to collaborate in creating opportunities for meaningful conversations. Over the next several weeks, staff from Soulforce, UFMCC, NBJC, and COLAGE will negotiate peaceful forums with members from each of the congregations.
Some might think that such efforts are futile, but history shows us that it if we don’t speak to those who oppose us we cannot have any hope of influencing them. And we have also seen some who have been willing to allow God to shift their thinking on issues surrounding sexual orientation.
Polls have also shown that those who are familiar with gay people are far more likely to support gay civil equality. We also know that it is far easier to condemn the person whom you don’t know than it is to look someone in the face and offer them cruelty.
Perhaps it is the potential for true communication that has frightened Focus on the Family. FOTF’s Caleb Price has sent out a warning against the churches meeting with or listening to Soulforce. And Price expresses his concerns in the most fearful and demonizing of ways.
“As with any temptation to disregard God’s clear word on any given matter, this attempt by Soulforce and their allies is a classic example of what we see in Genesis Chapter 3, when the serpent tempts Eve by [asking] ‘Did God really say …?’” says Price. “And I think perhaps the biggest lesson we can take from that account is it’s best not to talk to snakes. Scripture clearly teaches that there will be a great falling away in the last days and there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing who will try to enter into the fold and deceive even the elect.”
Portraying Soulforce as snakes and wolves (or perhaps snakeywolves), Price seeks to keep churches from seeing Soulforce’s members as human, as children of God. Accusing them of being tempters to a false doctrine, Price aligns Soulforce with forces of evil.
“These churches that have been targeted by Soulforce need to be clear about the real agenda behind these staged actions,” he says. “It’s not for dialogue and greater understanding — it’s to tempt them to embrace a false doctrine, which will keep many from the gospel message of hope and transformation for those who are trapped in homosexuality.”
However, there is hope that with such obvious and blatant fear-mongering, Price’s efforts may not be effective. We have faith to believe that some within the mega-churches will be able see beyond snakeywolves and emissaries of Satan and will hear the message brought by sincere and devout Christians seeking to spread the Good News of a loving and inclusive God.