The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) recently determined that homosexual pastors should be permitted to be pastors of churches as long as they are in long-term committed relationships, and their congregations want them to be their pastors.
That has about half of the Lutherans of the ELCA upset. Many of them continue to believe that homosexuality is an abomination (according to the Bible) and such people should repent or be thrown out of the church regardless of whether they are pastors or simply members of the congregation.
A few years ago my bride and I attended the weekend conference of the Southeastern Synod. The subject of homosexuals was a major part of the discussions and we heard some extremely impassioned speeches on both sides of the issue.
From my perspective, the people who were most strongly against gays in our midst were people who had not made the distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia.
As a young man, I failed to make that distinction as well. In fact, I was ignorant in regards to both, and that ignorance almost got me thrown out of college.
During my first semester, I and a group of other young men were invited to join a group sponsored by our English professor. During our first gathering at his home, he explained how one of his professors had taken him and some fellow classmates under his wing and taught them some basic social skills that he found very useful later in life. He was simply passing on the favor.
He also freely passed around the alcoholic beverages. Of course, each was a specific type of cocktail. He was teaching us what to expect when we ordered such drinks – when we became old enough to drink legally! Most of us had never tasted anything other than beer. So this was a good thing… or so we thought.
The professor also served us various sorts of finger foods and taught us the proper way to balance our glasses and appetizer plates.
This went on about twice monthly. There were six or seven of us in his group. Then, he announced that he would invite each of us to come alone and he would serve dinner. His explanation – he couldn’t afford to feed us all at once.
When my turn came, I found an invitation had been slid under the door of my dormitory room. The professor admonished me to not tell anyone where I was going because that might cause my friends to be jealous. At that point, I felt a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. Something didn’t seem right, but I didn’t know what it was.
I confided in a friend and told him if he didn’t see me in the morning, to come looking for me. Then, I went off for my appointment.
The professor immediately offered me alcoholic beverages and I refused. I lied and said my stomach had been upset. We then sat down to a very nice gourmet dinner. Later, he explained that it was probably too late for me to return to campus and invited me to spend the night. When he told me I’d have to sleep in the same bed as he and I could wear some of his silk pajamas. I lied again. I told him I’d made prior arrangements to spend the night with a friend who rented an apartment off campus.
Believe it or not, I still had no idea what was motivating that man. Growing up, my friends and I had often called each other ‘queer’, but to me, it was simply something kids called each other.
It wasn’t until I found myself sitting in the Dean of Men’s office that I learned the true meaning of the term. Someone had reported the professor who was immediately fired for serving alcohol to minors. But they also knew he was homosexual and they wanted to know what went on between me and him.
I told the Dean of Men exactly what happened. Then, I asked what exactly did homosexuality mean. I’m sure the look on my face as he explained some facts of life to me made him realize I was being totally truthful.
As a result of that experience, I came to distrust anyone who displayed the slightest hint of homosexual behavior and mannerisms. As I saw it, that professor was preying on my innocence. In my mind, that had to be what all homosexuals do.
I should also point out one other thing that happened to me when I was young. In fact, this event took place when I was very young. I was in the first or second grade and walking to school when I men pulled up beside me and offered me a ride. I had no idea who he was, and had been repeatedly warned by my parents. I ran up on the porch of the nearest house and began banging on the door. The stranger quickly drove away.
Now, that I’m grown (and hopefully a little wiser) I realize that the man who offered me a ride was a pedophile. He may or may not have been homosexual. He might have been a married heterosexual with children of his own. But he, like all other pedophiles, preyed on small children.
And that is the first point of my argument. Gays are not necessarily pedophiles. My college professor was ‘courting’ me and the others. He saw us as attractive young men and was hoping to win at least one of us over. When I gave my feeble excuses, he accepted them and let me leave without any trouble. A pedophile would have forced himself on me.
At that Synod meeting, most of the arguments against gays insinuated that gays are pedophiles. If we are ever to treat homosexuals with the respect they deserve, we have to make a clear distinction between being gay and being a pedophile.
This does not mean I don’t have adverse feelings about gay pride parades and the like. The ‘flaming’ behavior is not something I appreciate in any group. I don’t like the ‘in your face’ attitude coming from any minority group. If you want to be treated as equals, act like the majority of us act. With all minority groups, I think they should have every right that the rest of us have – nothing more and nothing less. Some of these groups, however, seem to want more. But that’s a debate for another day.
Now, allow me to share another personal note. I have lots of relatives, but I want to focus on two. One is an openly gay man and the other is a less than open drug addict. We continue to hope that the drug addict is recovering, but he has told so many lies in the past that it’s difficult to believe anything he says.
The gay relative is living in a committed relationship. He and his partner are also business partners and run a very successful enterprise. He is a joy to be around and one of the most loving individuals I know. He would give anyone the shirt off his back without hesitation.
With the drug addict, the opposite is true. One time he was arrested for shop lifting. He had his toddler daughter with him and was using her to distract the storekeeper. It didn’t work. Imagine the heartbreak of that child watching her daddy being arrested.
Which of these men are worthy members of society? Which of them gives me the greatest pride? Is there any doubt what my answer to both questions would be?
Many people point to the Bible and say that homosexuality is an abomination. Most of that is reflected in the writings of the Apostle Paul. And many Biblical scholars believe that Paul was homosexual. He often reflected on his sinfulness without stating specifically what his affliction was.
Paul was not married. In the Jewish culture of the time, an unmarried man was very uncommon. That’s why some scholars believe that Jesus may have been married; otherwise, he might not have been able to build the following he amassed.
While the Greek and Roman cultures of the time had no problem with homosexuality (and pedophilia for that matter), the Jewish culture thought otherwise. Thus, Paul had to keep his secret to himself.
Finally, science has proven that homosexuality is not the result of a conscious decision. The genetic make-up of gays indicates that they were born that way. If one truly believes that God does not make mistakes, the thought of an abomination seems rather absurd.
Neal Boortz, a radio talk show host that people either love or love to hate, has a standard retort to callers who insist gays consciously make the decision to be gay. He simply asks them, “When did you decide to be heterosexual?” If we all must ask ourselves whether we want to be gay or straight, when did we make that decision? I think it is a perfectly fair question. Since no straight person can answer it honestly any more than a gay can, we should accept the fact that we are genetically programmed one way or the other.
In summary, would it bother me to have a gay pastor? No. Would it bother me to have a pedophile as a pastor? You bet! I would run that second guy – or gal – out of town on a rail… after applying a liberal amount of tar and feathers.