Letter to Lynchburg Friends

Note: This letter is addressed to the couple Mr. Herzog met while taking part in the Soulforce action in Lynchburg when 200 GLBT Christians met with Rev. Jerry Falwell. His friends asked him several questions, including:

  1. Do you believe the bible is the inerrant WORD of God?
  2. If you do, what do you think Rom.1:20-32 teaches?
  3. What 2 Corinthians, 5:17 teaches?
  4. And what Revelation 2:1-17 says?

Thanksgiving, 1999

Dear Friends in Christ,

Being at Lynchburg with our gay brothers and sisters and straight friends in Christ through our comforter, the Holy Spirit, brought to us not only the Peace of the Lord, which passes all understanding, but also a glimpse, if not the presence, of our souls in communion in the Kingdom of God through the Grace of God’s love made manifest. For these joys, thanks be to God! That weekend also had its sorrows. I felt ambivalence about those who tried to abuse us outside the refuge given by our straight brothers and sisters, and profound sadness when half of Brother Falwell’s congregation sat on their hands while the rest applauded his message of reconciliation and unconditional love of their gay children. I saw in that more death, more suicides, more killings, more abuse and more marginalization. Lord have mercy. Lord, God, we pray, give us understanding, strength and power to help stop the killing, the alienation, the spiritual violence.

They call us faggots. They teach their children to shun us, they sit by while we are despised. They sit by while others are despised in our name. They wonder why the Columbine straight outsiders killed and killed and killed those who called them “faggots”. They wonder why. They wonder at the source of hate as their offspring circle the flagpole and in Christ’s name disparage, judge and condemn their brothers and sisters. They wonder why. Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord stop the hate, stop the killing, stop the spiritual violence.

Christ’s message is simple, yet they complicate it. God is love. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Word made flesh. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.” “Whosoever believeth in him…” “…on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ” Judge not least you be judged…” “The law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.” “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth come through Jesus Christ.” They seem to read the Bible, whichever version suits them, as if they were government agents interpreting the Internal Revenue Code, its amendments and the regulations thereto promulgated by them

It is hard — very, very hard — to say what the Bible is or is not. But it is not hard to know the basic teachings of Christ. It may seem hard to some to know who Christ left us – the Holy Spirit. He did not leave us hate. He did not leave us judgments. Even Paul agrees there is no right to judge unless the other person has repudiated God first. Like the Pharisees they ask questions. “Is the Bible the inerrant word of God?” We ask, what is the Bible? Which version? Which translation? Which books? Which do they accept? Which do they reject? Are there sixty-seven versions? Two hundred? Wasn’t it in Greek and Hebrew? Common Greek or academic Greek? Do they read the Greek or Hebrew? Do they know the culture of those who wrote? Who wrote and who were told? Which version which was written are they using? Why that one? Do they listen to those that do read and study besides their own? Inerrant??? or violated??? I do believe our interpretation of it is a mirror into our own souls.

The intellectuals among the neo-Pharisees know their hope to condemn gays is in Romans. Yet doesn’t Romans Chapter 2 condemn them and Chapter 1 free us? Do they know the difference in Chapter 1 between violation of the moral law and violation of the usual nature of one? Is God immoral in Romans 11:24 – “Para physin” when “against nature” he grafted the Gentiles on to the Jewish tree? Now the neo-Pharisees have an immoral God? Isn’t that what the Pharisees tried on Christ? No wonder others see it as idolatry. A violation of the first of the ten commandments given by God to Moses and the first of the two commandments given by Christ. Do they worship their version of the Bible as God? Where does it say Christ told anyone to write books and to worship them? Isn’t Jesus the Word made flesh? The best information we seem to have is that he said he was leaving the Holy Spirit as our guide and comforter. And the disciples were to go out two by two in male pairs and teach of his life, death and resurrection so that we may believe and have life in the Lord.

Yes, I believe God inspired, does inspire, and will continue to inspire people to write and teach. And I believe we have the obligation to know the times, the values, languages, the idioms, the cultures and the personhoods of people who wrote and taught and do write and teach about God; but most of all we need to establish through prayer, study of all we can and then more prayer, the Will of God through the Holy Spirit our comforter and guide. To those of you who wonder, “How can this possibly be done?” “The task is too hard!” Recall what Brother Falwell said: “Is it true? Is it loving? Is it necessary?” Or as some of our young people would say, “What would Christ do?” or as a former Presiding Bishop of our Church said “May I act to reflect the love of Jesus Christ.” It really is not hard to understand the Bible if you study all about it and use tests of love instead of hate. Don’t you worry when someone uses his version of the Bible to reject, condemn, marginalize and kill others? Doesn’t that ring a bell? Don’t you wonder if perhaps he missed the point?

So what does Romans Chapter.1 verse (whatever) say? It is part of Paul’s entire argument in Romans (look at Chapter 2 and the rest of Romans if you want to understand Chapter 1). In fact it might be better to read Romans backward. I think, (since you are interested in what I think), he was concerned about the division of the Gentiles and Jews in his new Jewish sect who worshiped Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. They had low regard for one another and little understanding of the good news of their salvation through Jesus, the Christ. To the Jews the Gentiles were still caught up in idol worship (a lot of us still think that is true if you look at the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Catholic churches today). A lot of the Gentiles thought the Jews were caught up in being judgmental and the old cleanliness code of Leviticus. They even wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised, even the adults! Paul tried to point out that both were in error. Worshiping idols resulted not only in immorality which was a denial of God, but also in uncleanliness, such as promiscuous sex without love by and with temple prostitutes in group orgies. But Paul also understood that being judgmental and preoccupied with the cleanliness code resulted in condemnation of oneself. His point finally becomes clearer in Chapter 3: We are all sinners and our only justification is first in our baptism and now in our salvation through the blood of our Lord, Jesus the Christ (Chapter 6). Paul was clear. Love God not idols, quit judging others and believe in our Lord and savior, Jesus, the Christ. Quit the judging, start the loving and trusting.

What is fascinating about chapters one and two of Romans, is that they are all about turning from the one true God – being like the judgmental early Jews worshiping the cleanliness code of Leviticus or like the early Gentiles worshiping idols. The Gentiles up and down the coast, the heterosexual Gentiles not accepting Christ manifested their worship of the gods of the idols in unnatural (unusual to them, para physin) sex – heterosexuals had sex with those of their own gender and others in groups all without love but in worship of their gods. How perverted – heterosexuals without love having sex with their own gender. How bizarre. How could they? It is as bizarre for a heterosexual to have sex with a person of the same gender as it must be for a homosexual to have sex with a person of a gender different than his or hers – how bizarre. My God, how unnatural (unusual to themselves, para physin) heterosexuals having sex with persons of their own gender and homosexuals having sex with persons of the opposite gender – all without love, without affectional preference, all in a loveless orgy. That was as unnatural to them (para physin) as it was unnatural (para physin) for God to graft the Gentiles on the olive tree that is the Jews (Romans 11:24). I think that is what Paul was speaking of.

I believe that in today’s world the hypocrisy of acting against who you are (against your nature, para physin) is at the very heart of why gay men and women finally come out as who God made them. They can no longer stand the hypocrisy of trying to love against their nature (against what is inherent in them, para physin). It is at the core of their very being (there very nature) that their affection is for a person who is of their same gender, but more importantly of their same affectional preference. And they act this out in living together in love and in the embrace of each other and, yes, in expressing their love for one another, not only in their daily life together, but as they know God intended – in sexual relations with each other just like straights. My gay brothers and sisters are as repelled as you at the call boy, male prostitute sex of your “ex-gay” pastor. I don’t know if he is gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. I know, as he said, he was a hustler. To compare him to us, is to compare you and your spouse to that of a customer and prostitute. Yes, that was spiritual violence.

I love the question about Revelation. With the joys given us through the Holy Spirit who needs the bribes, threats and dreams of John in Revelations as motivation? We can all fit on a pinhead like atoms if that is what God wants or we all can be in John’s dream city. Praise be to God. I serve God, not out of fear or greed but out of joy given me by his love manifested through the Holy Spirit. I know I am loved by God. I know I am loved by my lover and my family, I know I am saved in the blood of the lamb – our Christ. If you don’t know that it is your problem, not mine.

From those who sat on their hands when others applauded Brother Falwell’s message of reconciliation and unconditional love of their gay children, I believe I know how they see us – moral degenerates, sexual perverts, consumed by deviant sex, ungodly, leaders of youth to deprivation and alienation from God. And many of “us” see “them” as ignorant (having not a clue as to what they don’t know and no interest in knowing anything else than they think they already know or are told), judgmental, self-righteous, hypocritical (i.e. divorce, wealth, usury, the Jubilee,…), manipulative, opportunistic, selective in Bible interpretation, worshiping literal words as idols, lazy in studying the scriptures, Sodomites in denying hospitality, turning gay youth from Christ, and most of all killers of their gay children and the gay children of others who they drive to suicide and who they support the murder and marginalization of through denigration, hatred and contempt – spiritual violence.

They see me as how I may perform a sexual act as opposed to how they may perform a sexual act. They don’t see me as a person with an innate inborn affectional preference from my earliest childhood different than theirs. For me girls were always my best friends and women still are. I am shy and afraid of most males. Most of the males that were friends in childhood have as adults come out as gay. Boys are the ones on whom I had hidden “crushes”. Beginning with Guy in the second/third grades, Art in the fourth/fifth/sixth, Bill in the seventh/eighth, Don in the ninth, Calvin in the tenth…until a wild girl after law school made me believe the lie taught in school and church – that my secret affectional preference for persons of my gender was merely a stage through which I would and then did pass. After we broke up, I married a dear friend and had with the help of the Holy Spirit four children. Ours is a wonderful family. We love each other and my “companion” their “friend” and “uncle”. God makes wondrous households of love – perhaps to witness to others God’s capacity to love and provide for all of his children.

They see me as they may. I know, yes, in certainty I know myself a child of God’s, a sinner as Paul, whose only salvation is in the blood of Jesus, the Christ, my Savior. I know the Holy Spirit as my teacher, guide and comforter. In the communion of my brothers and sisters in Christ I know the Peace of the Lord that passes all understanding. I know this through prayer, study of the Scriptures, use of the Book of Common Prayer, at the Communion rail, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit in my life lived through His power in the best way I can – acting to reflect the love of Jesus. And I say praise God. Thanks be to God for the wondrous cross he has given me to bear, for the chance to witness to his love and grace, for being just as he made me and leads me to be.

As Christ left the problem of salvation to the rich young ruler who turned from him and went away when Christ asked him to give all he had to the poor and follow him, so I ask you to join hands with us and give all you have to the poor and with us follow Him in love. Love God with all your heart and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Judge not one another, nor turn a child from Christ for any reason, but sing praises to our Lord and God and follow Him through prayer through our comforter given to us by Christ – the Holy Spirit – which each of us in Christ must know in our lives.

Peace, Gordon