Yesterday, I received the following email from the American Family Association. It reads as follows:
Dear Rev. Dr. Jerry S.,
“ESPN and its parent company, ABC, have refused to take any action against ESPN anchorwoman Dana Jacobson for her hateful, slurring remarks against Jesus, saying “F — — Jesus.”
“On January 11, Jacobson was speaking at a celebrity roast in Atlantic City, N.J., when she unleashed a profane tirade, saying, “F — – Notre Dame,” “F — – Touchdown Jesus” and finally “F — – Jesus.”
“‘Touchdown Jesus’ is the popular moniker for a statue of Jesus raising his arms, located on the Notre Dame campus.
“Catholic League president Bill Donohue spoke with ESPN about the attack and received an e-mail from Jacobson which basically treated the incident as a non-event. The statement said, in part, ‘I respect all religions and did not mean anything derogatory by my poorly chosen words.’
“Jacobson’s comments were at a public event where she was representing ESPN.
“The fact that neither ESPN nor ABC has taken any action against Jacobson indicates they have a bias against Christians. Donohue said that Jacobson should be fired.
“This anti-Christian bias of the networks is becoming commonplace. Actress Kathy Griffin used her appearance on the Emmy Awards program to tell Jesus to ‘suck it,’ responding to athletes who thank Jesus when they achieve certain levels. No action was taken against Griffin.”
Although I find the “popular moniker” for the statue of Jesus at Notre Dame to be defamatory, as it trivializes Jesus, I also find the defamatory statements made by Dana Jacobson and Kathy Griffin, as reported by the AFA, to be defamatory, showing the contempt that they may well have for Christianity; their having no apparent qualms that their defamatory statements would offend their listeners.
And, the unfortunate fact is that it is very likely that increasing numbers of people would not be offended by their statements as reported. And that likelihood is due to the fact that we have allowed as spokespeople for Christianity to be what used to be until recently “the fringe” within the Christian community.
What was the fringe a mere thirty years ago has largely overtaken much, if not most, of the institutional Church and most all clergy, and other professing Christians, have not condemned the hate-mongering and hateful rhetoric that has been spewed from all too many pulpits against LGBT people. Indeed, the history of the institutional Church is replete with its being enmeshed with the most reactionary forces within secular society, being their spokespeople, affirming their hatred and exclusion of assorted minority groups, and being in the vanguard in the oppression visited upon LGBT people.
This reality has caused untold numbers of intelligent, sensitive, and decent people to distance themselves not only from the institutional Church but from Christianity itself, as these people falsely believe that the fringe, the haters, the homophobic clergy speak for Christianity and speak for God. Indeed, many Christians have distanced themselves from the institutional Church and, as in my case, do not even go to church any longer, unless it is a church that embraces all of God’s children.
Christianity is largely held in contempt by many people because clergy and other professing Christians have not confronted the homophobic clergy for not only preaching the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion, but for perverting Christianity to be in accordance with their own prejudices and, frequently, hate-filled hearts.
Moreover, those who profess to be Christians, by their mere attendance in churches that have homophobic clergy as their pastors, have lent credibility to those clergy, and have affirmed and encouraged the homophobic hatefulness that has been spewed for all too many years. And such clergy have also emboldened assorted politicians and others to either to engage in homophobic rhetoric themselves or, just as hatefully and cowardly, helped prevent almost all politicians to be against full and equal civil rights for Gay people.
The image of Christianity has come to such a sorry, distorted, state that it is very likely that if you even mention the word “Christian,” the first word that would likely come into another person’s mind would be the word “sin.” The crying shame is that the word “love” would not likely be the first word that would come into people’s minds when the word “Christian” is used.
I don’t merely blame the homophobic clergy for this state of affairs, but I also blame cowardly professing Christians for allowing these clergy to speak for Christianity, for the Church, and for God, and to do so with impunity!
The very fact that homophobic clergy and others know that most people will not confront them for the anti-Christian sentiments they express partakes of the same dynamic as the defamation of Jesus by some people in the media. Both groups of people fail to know what Christianity truly is, and that is because the living out of the Christian life is so infrequent; the exposition of the Gospel of Christ is similarly infrequent; they know that their target audiences are likely to view their hateful sentiments favorably.
The only Gospel to be found in Christianity is the Gospel of grace (God’s unmerited favor), faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness. Anything else is not of God and is, indeed, a distortion and perversion of Christianity!
That’s why the word “Gospel” means “good news!” The Christian is liberated from legalism and from the yokes of bondage imposed by mere fallible human beings.
Jesus tells us that we are free! Hear Him: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
The homophobic clergy and their blind followers, uttering words and frequently acting in discriminatory ways diametrically opposed to the Gospel, show by their rhetoric and actions the facts that they, themselves, are not free, and that they don’t seem to have a clue concerning the Gospel of Christ.
Moreover, they also seek to impose yokes of bondage onto others so that other people can be as warped in their theology and in their lives as they are; by so doing see to it that intelligent, sensitive, decent people aren’t likely to even consider Christianity as “a reasonable faith” and as a viable way by which to navigate their lives in this world.
Indeed, homophobic clergy and other homophobic professing Christians are doing the devil’s work!
And if professing Christians remain silent in this matter, and don’t speak out against the perversion of the Gospel and the demonizing of LGBT people, they are not only aligning themselves with these homophobes, but they are showing themselves to be every bit as culpable in doing the devil’s work!
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.