Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Enough Is Enough

Yesterday I found a fantastic article here on queerty that says what I wish every fair-minded faith leader would say...Enough is Enough!

Here is a sample of Former Bishop John Shelby Spongs words in a recently released manifesto detailing his current position with the church on homosexuality:

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.

[...] I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

For those interested in the complete text put on your asbestos suit and read here.

John Shelby Spong, former Bishop of the Espiscopal Diocese of Newark, has long been an advocate for rethinking the churches stand on many controversial issues. He has written countless books calling for Christian believers of all stripes to look at the bible less like an inerrant document meant to be taken litterally and more like a living one, subject to change and the context of time. Some of his works in this vein are: "Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism", "Why Christianity Must Change or Die", and "The Sins Of Scripture". Not all these works address the same issues but all have a common thread...that refusing to look at scripture as a living document prevents us from alowing the Christian faith also be to alive and change with time.

I have read a few of Former Bishop Spongs works and he makes alot of very interesting points. I can't always agree with him on his interperetations of certain Biblical events...(I.E. the Apostle Paul being gay and hating himself) but niether can I refute them. I don't think you have to go along for the ride with everything Former Bishop Spong asserts to get the the essence of what he espouses....that ALL peoples should have a place in the church...that religious thought should ALWAYS be handled responsibly and with care....and that our faith should never be used to discriminate against our fellow human beings.

The notable thing in Mr. Spongs discourse is the idea "the time for talk is done" it? this itself a responsible statement to make when we are so evenly matched in the poles in Washington and Maine? Doesn't this send the message to many people struggling with traditional interperatations of faith that Mr. Spong thinks his viewpoints should be self evident and shame on you for not getting it? How do we help people understand if we don't keep talking? Even if that discourse is a firm demand and not a demure request.

But that aside...Mr. Spong has done something I wish alot of fairer minded faith leaders would do and thats make a deffinitive statement of support that leaves no bones. In that regard I have only to say...Good on you Mr. Spong.


  1. I would like to address the point that the time for talk is done.

    I have to say that it isn't, not in the USA, not yet. Too many American citizens donate money that is used to harm gay people and they need to be convinced not to.

    It is a matter close to my heart. My best friend and first boyfriend from childhood got caught up in the ex-gay movement. It destroyed his confidence and sense of self and when we were both 19 he vanished into the woods and hung himself.

    The ex-gay movement in the UK is small. It survives only as a branch of the US movement (exodus) and is funded by US money and I spent a lot of time at University worrying about this.

    The USA needs more right thinking religious leaders to speak out. This anti gay crusade money needs to be stopped from harming more people, especially outside the USA. It just isn't right.

    It is why I am sooooo interested in gay rights in the USA. The cultural spread of your TV programs and films and the money of your missionaries are too big to ignore.

    Please don't stop fighting, not even one of you!

    Also I realise that I comment on every on the blog! Sorry I am getting to be a creeper. I should take a break :D

  2. o.k...picture sdded for clarities sake..sorry for the omission....

    And Orange...please dont stop posting...I need to respond more. This is meant to be a discussion blog so I LOVE when people chime many times as they want.

    Ao please PlEASE post till your mouse squeeks in protest and you wear the letters off your keyboard!

  3. One of the great criticisms that many have made about social movements in the past has been the tendency to write off people who don't quite understand (and perhaps are resistant to understanding) why movements are necessary. An example of this would be the rise of the Black Panther party, who assumed that people were refusing to understand the growth of the Civil Rights Movement - which lead to widespread fear not only of the the Black Panthers, but also of the Civil Rights movement.

    Spong's commentary here is perhaps far too reminiscent of this, and I would agree that homosexuals need to continue to discuss their desire (indeed, the impetus) for specific rights openly with the rest of their community in the hopes of breaking down barriers of fear rather than supporting them.

    I have many homosexual friends who have approached life as though those who disagree with their sexuality are not worth having a relationship with; and I think that this is wrong in the larger scheme of the equality movement. Countering hatred (perhaps misunderstanding) with more hatred (once again, likely misunderstanding) does not lead to the extension of rights to another segment of society. Indeed, it may lead to more resistance.

    I know that, perhaps, my perspective as a man who is not yet "out of the closet" is quite limited, but I still think that the gay community has to understand how enormous the challenge is to understand the gay rights movement. It is far more similar to the women's rights movement than to the Civil Rights movement because gender and sexuality are not openly discussed in society - they are assumed. Anything, particularly social movements, that goes against these assumptions are challenging for everybody to understand.

    So, an approach like Spongs, as much as I want to adopt it, cannot be adopted. Keep the dialogue going - build relationships - and change the hearts of people. Don't refuse to communicate with them. Don't build walls. Tear them down... gently, and with love.

  4. @Canandianhumility

    I hear your point and agree with it wholeheartedly. The only thing I can say in Mr. Spongs defense is that he's been holding this conversation for decades....long before marriage equality could ever be considered plausable...he's entitled to a little impatients for carrying the torch for so long.

    And on a more subtle level is the prevailing message I hear of moving away from "asking" and on to "demanding" equal treatment under the law. This Manifesto from Mr. Spong is another ripple in a much larger wave of sentiment.

  5. Hmmm.

    I don't think he's saying it's time to stop talking about our issues in the way you guys seem to think. He's saying, it's time to stop trying to refute anti-gay arguments clearly based on hatred and bigotry---other than to say that's what they are, hatred and bigotry. Lend them no more credence or weight than Civil Rights Leaders of the past did to the entrenched, immoveable Racist crap used against them in the '60s.

    It's time to move on to the real debate, the real action, I believe he means: making it happen.

  6. I think that his view is more to do about talk with in the Church, his view is that those with in the church that in the process of/ have already split from the main body over their objections to gay people are ones that we no longer need to/ should bother talking to as they are the ones whose minds and harts will not be changed, the ones that we need to keep talking with are the ones who are still unsure about where they stand on these issues as they are the ones whose harts and minds can be change whose positions can be nudged and how are the ones that are willing to listen and take part in the conversation rather then just make a couple or rhetorical statements and then hide behind their comp out arguments. I think his statement is to a great extent basically is that the church has reached a point where to hold back for progress to hold back for truly embracing the message of Christ in order to prevent the extreme Conservative fraction of the church from Finlay splitting off (unfortunately I can't think of the word I want which is the ones to describe that) then the church as a whole needs to let them do so and instead of focusing the energy it has on trying to prevent that focus it on continuing down the path of inclusion and spreading the love of god instead of spreading hatred for people that are as god created them. That is why to keep talking to those that don't want to listen that don't want to move from the position they are at is the best course of action, as those few are the ones that are hold the many back.

    I will also have to read those books as I am always interested in that sort of stuff especially when it is written by people that where/are with in the church (Episcopal)