March 23, 2011
In fighting hatred and bigotry we must hold our ground fiercely and take back the ground of the enemy.
You may know that Indiana is one of those places where they think that “defending marriage” means defining marriage as only legal between “a man and a woman.” UUs have been vocal in opposition to the bill that would change our constitution in that direction. Recently, our Community Minister, Julia Hemeyer (the UU Church of Muncie, IN) wrote a thoughtful piece “Why I Stand On the Side of Love.” She used well considered words and reasonable arguments, as well as a strong appeal to compassion and Love.
There actually were many positive responses in the paper and online. But there were also the inevitable “God said this is wrong” responses.
Now, I am a very reasonable person and I have always encouraged thoughtful dialogue, but something about the tone of those negative responses hit a chord in me. I decided that if they were going to say that God was on their side that someone had to clearly state that not only reason and compassion, but God almighty, was on our side.
Here is what I had published in our local paper:
“This is a simple fact: The politically motivated, so-called “defense of marriage” amendment will do nothing to defend marriage. The fact is that it will establish discrimination and bigotry in our state constitution. This is a simple fact: To go against gay and lesbian marriages is un-Christian. Just because we have hidden our oppression and ignorance for so long is not a reason to exclude the realities of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from healthy respect and the right to engage in responsible relationships. God and the Bible both condemn lustful sexuality and affirm the discipline of marriage.
Since gay and lesbian relationships are as natural, and can be as healthy, as heterosexual relationships, God and the Bible demand that they should be treated in the same way. All marriages should have the same protections, rights and responsibilities as any others.”
The response was quick. They said I was a kind-hearted pastor who was leading people astray. They did not argue with me or wonder why I said what I did. They did not ask me for scripture to back up my arguments. They just said I was wrong. That confirmed for me that I needed to say that they were wrong about God and the Bible. I will not convince my detractors, but as they perceived, I will lead people “who assume a minister must know what he is talking about regarding the Bible” and I will cause others to wonder and think anew.
My favorite final email about this came from a member of my congregation: “How could I have known I was being led astray by you, a”well-meaning pastor” who “misleads… regarding the Bible”? Keep up the good work.”
I am quite proud to be a UU and to show that the power of love and justice has many names, including “Bible” and “God.”
March 2, 2011
Rev. Robert Bell may have done us a great favor. The question is will we take advantage of it? Rob Bell has announced his new book “Love Wins” has generated a lot of short term condemnation from his more conservative Christian brothers and sisters. He has generated their ire by daring to suggest, to PROCLAIM, that there is no such thing as an eternal Hell. Check out his cool book preview at: http://vimeo.com/20272585
I have long felt that as the institutional inheritors of American Universalsim we have been hiding a powerful message in our back closets. Lately we have been saying that we “Stand on the Side of Love.” Christian Universalism is the primary root of this idea. So, will we capitalize on Rob Bell’s recent celebrity and publicity by enunciating our ability to affirm and include his message in our lager faith? Will we say to everyone that Origen as well as Arius, Gregory of Nyssa as well as Servetus, James Relly as well as Charles Chauncy, Robert Bell and Carlton Pearson as well as our current Unitarian Universalist leaders are all part of the really good news of inclusion, love and faith?
If we do so then we will gain from Rob’s notoriety and turn even more people to the side of Love.