For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4)
The Gay Scapegoat is a convenient and safe target to persecute from both outside and within the Church! His or her very existence is condemned deep within the psyche of many, given the self-righteous in our midst who don’t understand the meaning of the above verse of Scripture.
Jesus fulfilled the whole law! Nothing is left for Him to have done, in that all of our past, present, and future sins have been nailed to the Cross in Him. He and He alone is our Savior, our Sin-bearer, our Kinsman-Redeemer, our Deliverer, our Propitiatory, our Healer, Who bore in His own body every single one of the filthy rags of sin of those who implacably trust Him. Therefore, even if one were to erroneously view monogamous homosexuality as a sin, he or she must rightly understand the Gospel message that it is, as is every one of our behaviors, covered over by the Blood of Christ.
Those who think that they can be righteous on their own miss the whole point of the Gospel message! Our only “righteousness” is Christ. That righteousness has been imputed to us. As long as we remain under the covering of His Blood, God doesn’t see us, but His Son. He doesn’t see our sins, but Jesus’ Blood. Our implacable trust in God, despite life-circumstances, puts us in right standing with God and there is nothing we can do in our own strength to accomplish this “right standing.”
The Bible is very clear that we are to have no idols other than God! One of the biggest idols many people have is the desire to be liked, affirmed, appreciated, and embraced by people who are of this world, whose god is their belly or self-interest. These people who are of this world not only reside outside the Church but also, more disquietingly, reside within the Church as well. These are the legalists who don’t understand the Gospel of grace, peace, mercy, love, compassion, and inclusiveness. These legalists are “spots in your feasts of charity,” “clouds without water.” (Jude 12)
Hear the prophet Isaiah:
“Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:22) Hear the Apostle Paul: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) In other words, “Never let other people define your reality or put you into bondage to them and their ways of thinking.”
Exercising this mandate enables each and every one of God’s children to spiritually transcend the sufferings of his or her own particular wilderness experience.
The legalists, who have always been in the Church, are still trying to vitiate the grace of God by substituting in its place their own idols of self-righteousness, laws, and assorted do’s and don’ts that have had the impact of having many GLBT people living lives filled with self-loathing, guilt, and self-condemnation. These legalists have caused untold suffering to people who have been viewed as “safe” targets to persecute. It’s the legalists, not members of the GLBT communities who put their trust in God over and above their trust in others and life-circumstances, who are out of the will of God!
If suffering was an indication that one was out of the will of God, one could thereby conclude that every one of the heroes of faith in Scripture was out of God’s will. It is a spiritual fact that suffering that is brought about by unGodly forces can not only be redemptive, but show us to be in God’s will, in that the closer one draws to God, the more he or she will be called upon to suffer. Suffering is part of the trip of life for all of God’s children (Psalm 84:5-7), but in one’s spiritual life it is transcended when the unGodly forces creating that suffering are confronted and exposed as enemies or perverters of the Gospel.
What many GLBT people don’t realize is that their being excluded from mainstream society serves a vital psychological and social function. First of all, hate is a great energizer! It enables one to feel superior to another and thereby feel more affirmed in a world that he or she seeks to twist to be in accordance with his or her own perceived self-interests. Moreover, marginalizing and demonizing certain groups of people amplifies in-group cohesion, and the embracing of established ways of doing things that are, again, perceived to be in the in-group’s self-interest.
The nineteenth century sociologist, Emile Durkheim, said that when you have a threatening “out-group,” the “in-group” unites to protect itself against it. There are people who have a vested interest in creating out-groups, because by so doing they cement in-group solidarity, even based on such banal slogans as “family values,” “recapturing the soul of America,” and “sanctity of marriage.” The in-group, safely representing between ninety and ninety-eight percent of the population, can share emotions and fellowship being bonded by this one, and perhaps only, common bond: their stated sexual orientation.
Creating out-groups becomes for many within the in-group their god, and many are unwitting worshippers of this god which they created out of their psychological and social self-interests and perceived needs. Most people who marginalize and demonize gay people are xenophobic in that they reject people with whom they feel they cannot relate, as they don’t see gay (or Black, or Mexican, or immigrant, etc.) people as their brothers and sisters.
Those who refer to the Bible to worship their god of exclusiveness, many of whom reside within the Church, misread Scripture to fit their own prejudices. These people listen to “lying prophets,” as they did with the issues of slavery, segregation, and the subjugation of women, who bring themselves and their followers to ruin and perhaps spiritual death. (1Kings 13) Many GLBTpeople have either committed suicide, or commit suicide on the installment plan through guilt, self-condemnation, alcohol and drugs, due to those who do precisely what Jesus told us not to do.
Those who marginalize, demonize, and help create a climate of hate have created much suffering and a wilderness experience in the lives of many GLBT people. However, if we discern the spirits and see if the tree produces good or bad fruit; whether or not someone manifests the fruit of the Spirit which “is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” (Galatians 5:22) we will clearly see that the inclusivity of God trumps the false Gospel of the Pharisees in our midst each and every time.
Once it is recognized that stereotyping, marginalizing, demonizing, and excluding people and groups serves a very useful social function by creating greater solidarity among the in-group, and serves the psychological function of falsely-based self-affirmation, people will heed the counsel of God. No person or ideology is to supplant the God of inclusiveness, unconditional love, and salvation to those whom He has, by His unmerited favor, chosen out of the world to be His own possession.
Christian GLBT people have a cold-turkey choice to make: believe the Gospel of grace which can only be appropriated by implacable trust in God, (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8-9) or believe the ideology of condemnation based upon the social and psychological self-interests of the in-group.
Jesus set His children free! Don’t let the Pharisees in our midst again put anyone into bondage to the elemental things of this world and thereby allow the lying prophets to define anyone’s reality.
Once we learn that only God’s view of us matters, not the judgments of the legalists, we will truly be set free in Christ. That freedom then involves struggle and commitment to have the GLBT communities fully integrated in society and in every single one of its institutions, including that of civil and religious marriage. The sacrament of marriage for gay and lesbian people is to become every bit as valid within the Church as is any “traditional” marriage.
Our freedom in Christ enables us to appropriate the promise of God to Asher that every one of God’s children can claim: “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25) Tough shoes are needed for the tough trip of life in this world. Strength and tenacity, the will to never give up, even if running on empty and when all life-circumstances defy the promises of God, will bring to fruition the inclusivity of God for all of His children. It is in exercising that strength and tenacity on behalf of the Gospel of inclusiveness that enables one to transcend the spiritual sufferings of the wilderness experience that besets all too many GLBTpeople.
The psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, in his wonderful book, Man’s Search For Meaning, that teaches the lessons he learned after four years in a Nazi concentration camp said that, “To live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in that suffering.” Indeed, he rightly says that one of the major ways we detect the meaning or purpose of our lives is through suffering. GLBTpeople must not suffer by incorporating the ideologies of the ignorant and hate-mongers, but the only suffering they are to do is to be engaged in fighting for full equality, remembering Neitszche’s words, “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
Frankl reminds us that although we may not be able to choose our own circumstances, we can exercise the last of our human freedoms: the attitude we are to have to those circumstances and sufferings. Fighting for the Gospel of inclusivity, although entailing suffering, enables one to transcend the spiritual sufferings generated by the ignorant and hate-mongers in our midst.
GLBT Christians are to have the attitude that God is bigger than people’s ideologies and other self-centered constructions. We are to understand that the call to freedom that is embodied in Scripture is to be taken seriously so that neither gay nor straight sell their souls out to the legalists among us. We must exhibit courage and tenacity by confronting those who have a vested interest in creating out-groups; it is by our exercising the qualities of courage and tenacity that demonstrates our active faith in our God of inclusiveness.
The guts to never give up, having full knowledge of our freedom in Christ, will not only enable God’s children, gay and straight, to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses,” (1Timothy 6:12) but prepare us for our final rest, after our having accomplished the will of God for our lives. The echo of the last words of the martyr Kartar Singh resonate well in the ears of all Christians: “The life He gave to me is the life I gave to Him.”
Our joint struggle must involve revealing and credibly presenting the Gospel in our churches and communities, damning (see Galatians 1:8-9) the traditions of people whose perverted words and actions have caused untold numbers of GLBT people to suffer and wander through psychological, social, cultural, administrative, judicial, and political wilderness areas. This struggle, having as its goal the full integration of GLBT people in society, will spare untold generations of people from the wilderness experience of suffering torments and the feelings of guilt and unworthiness when they and their lives don’t resonate with the ignorant and the legalists’ self-serving ideologies, frequently articulated in the name of God.
Our freedom from the bondage of others’ ideologies, obtained by only looking to God, His promises, and His Word, yields true freedom, to the degree that freedom can be had in this sin-cursed world. This freedom, this liberty, enables all of God’s children to transcend the spiritual sufferings of the wilderness experiences created by others and by one’s own incorporation of perversions of the Gospel message all too frequently espoused from the pulpit and in the media, and believed by the biblically illiterate.
And this freedom, this liberty attendant upon the recognition that we are all one in Christ, regardless of sexual orientation, will be just a mere prelude to that blessed day when “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker 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. He also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.