Enough Culpability for Us All

As she often does my colleague, Rev. Christy Thomas has a blog well worth your time today.

Her title is “Incarnational Theology and Corrective Rape.”
As you might surmise, it’s a hard read. Like Christy, I invite you to read the New York Times article that inspired her.

It talks about the horrific practice in some African countries of “corrective rape,” a sick attempt to “cure” women of being lesbian.

What Christy helpfully does is to connect the dots to the theology that supports such things.

Her most powerful section is this:

“…Many sexual practices are highly destructive to the mind, body and soul. But this focus on homosexuality as the primary sexual  ”deviance” that must be addressed in society today has missed the mark…
In light of this, I want to know how many of the African clergy in The United Methodist Church have given either implicit or complicit support to the “corrective rape” movement? Who are those in our African connection that speak out against this societal horror? Who are those whose silence gives approval?”

Christy recalls being at the same General Conference I was –Fort Worth in 2008– and of hearing African delegates say horrific things on the floor of the plenary session.

Specifically, in front of the thousands of gathered World Wide United Methodists, I heard an African delegate describe homosexuality as “of the devil.”

So, I go one step further. I don’t believe the focus should simply be on the African context. Yes, there are some deeply disturbing cultural practices there, being supported by some of the theology of the some of the Christian church there.

But the questions, and the culpability, do not stop at the shores of Africa.

All United Methodists, world-wide, must look at our own culpability.

Practices like “corrective rape,”  supported by some within the Christian Church, and phrases like “homosexuality is of the devil” are not the opposites of our stated theology. The horrific point  we cannot turn away from is that the phrase “incompatible with Christian teaching” is not different from the theology that supports “corrective rape,” but along the same spectrum; albeit in a watered-down form.

I am most certain that my saying this will anger some. So be it.

I will only remind you that it’s a point I’ve made before, when I preached on the outbreak of LGBT bullying a few years back. I won’t go back over all the points I made then, but will refer to this blog I wrote at the time.

Here’s a bit of what I said then:

“So, the clear call is to repentance — to renounce and reject theology, spirituality, and practice that excludes, marginalizes and otherwise harms LGBT persons from understanding or hearing God’s full and unconditional love for them.
“But beyond this call for repentance to the Church of Jesus Christ, I want to address a final word to clergy and lay folk who may be in churches in the so-called “big fat middle.” (I call many of these churches “don’t ask, don’t tell” churches…) They are churches who never say anything, positive or negative, about gay or lesbian people, in part because they live in constant fear of controversy. They are nice people. They are good people.

But I am here to say that this silence has become culpability. This silence, is now, itself, sin. Because of the existence of great swaths of anti-gay theology in “Christian” churches, it becomes even more imperative for those in the middle to speak out. So, if you are a clergy who has always been silently supportive, now is the time to publicly say something. If you are a congregation that is mostly “don’t ask, don’t tell,” now is the time to say something.
Study after study shows that one of the words young people under 40 mostly closely associate with the Church (capital C) of Jesus Christ is the word “homophobic.” That should tell us something. The reason to speak now is because if you do not, many will assume that you agree with an anti-gay theology. Future bullies will hear and believe that. Future LGBT teens will hear and believe that. Your silence could, quite literally, help kill people”

Please read that last paragraph again.

I said this in 2010, and I still believe it today. And if you change the setting to Africa, and change the word “bullies” to “corrective rapists,” and you will find it’s the same issue in different contexts. The questions and the culpability do not stop at the shores of Africa. There is enough for us all.

So, I thank Christy for providing an international context for just how dangerous this theology can sometimes become.

She’s absolutely right: This anti-gay theology is really anti-incarnational.
Which to me means, of course, it’s anti-Christian.

(As always, if you like this post, then “share it” or “like” it on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too…) 

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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