ESSAY- Thanks but...: Anti-gay sermon offer falls on deaf ears
I must say that I'm becoming a very popular fellow, at least in some circles. Just this week I received an offer of several free sermons from some group (I don't recall their name and have never heard of them). Seems they're supporting the amendment to the Virginia Constitution prohibiting gays from marrying. We're going to vote on it this fall.
The U.S. Senate took a stab at it on June 7, but it failed. The House is taking it up soon, and our President has come out in support of it, as has Virginia Senator George Allen, who's rumored to be running for President in 2008. His campaign apparently believes this position is a plus for him.
I'm presumably supposed to preach these sermons to mobilize my congregation to support the position of the sermon writers. I am not sure if they are working tag team with another group that offered to send me a DVD to show to my congregation for the same reasons. They must question my ability to preach or read the sermon materials.
How thoughtful and kind of them. It has been some time since someone offered me free sermons to lighten my workload. (Maybe my folks have been praying for this without my knowledge). And though I might appreciate the kind offer of assistance, I must respectfully decline. Let me enumerate the reasons.
To begin with, I really do prefer to write my own sermons. Granted, they may not rise to the standards of these advocacy groups and foundations, but I prefer doing my own thinking and preaching.
I also find the offer offensive. It seeks to manipulate me and get me to do the same to the congregation I pastor. I don't like to be used, and I will not be used to use my church. Neither would I ever accept or use the so-called "voter's guides" that have been offered to so many churches– they're poorly disguised attempts to support one group of candidates as the Christian choice as opposed to the godless other side. I don't think God is a Republican or Democrat.
Besides, this kind of activity blurs the whole line of separation between church and state, which has pretty much been erased anyway these days. Maybe it's just me, but I get nervous when I see any one religious group gaining too much power and influence in our government.
Also, the offer is based on a false assumption– that all Christians surely must feel the same way about this issue. And while I don't want to upset anyone's cozy worldview, that just ain't so!
Christians of good faith and conscience differ on this issue as on many others. In fact, I'm weary of giving only one segment– the Religious Right– the floor and the voice, as if they alone speak for our faith. It's time for other voices to speak up.
I have never had a satisfactory answer to this simple question: "How does allowing gays to marry hurt marriage in any way, shape, or form?" They certainly can do no more harm to marriage and the family than we straight folks are doing. Besides, having people in faithful, committed, loving relationships is good for society, right? I thought persons of faith were in support of that.
I might also add that the historic stand of the church, based on the Gospel of Christ (who said zilch about homosexuality but a whole lot about loving our neighbors), is on the side of the oppressed, the outcast, and the minority who are at the mercy of the powerful and the religious.
But such amendments and the religious support of them fosters the very opposite– a climate of fear, misinformation, and even hatred toward the least of these our brothers and sisters. It's impossible for me to understand how anyone could preach hatred, intolerance, and prejudice in the name of Christ. But it has been going on for a long time.
Also, please understand the precedent that approving such an amendment would establish. To my knowledge, our amendments– all– were written to secure rights, not take them away (except for Prohibition, which was later rescinded). Can't call it the "Bill of Rights" anymore, can we? Whose rights will be next?
I also have a little problem with referenda like this. (Although, if you think about it, why not have constant referenda– say, a series each month? That way we might do away with politicians altogether. Well, it's a thought. Let's vote on it!). A majority of registered voters voting to make something a part of the Constitution does not make it right.
I'm certain that a poll taken in the South around the Civil War would have found the vast majority of whites (slaves could not vote and were not even considered persons under the laws of the majority then) would have been overwhelmingly in favor of slavery, even using the Bible to justify it. But that did not make it right.
The majority voters (males) for a long time did not think women should have the right to vote. Were they right? It is simply wrong, unjust, and even anti-American to deny some of our citizens– even if we do not understand or accept the way they see themselves and live– the same rights the rest of us enjoy. And isn't it interesting that criminals in prison have the right to marry, but it is denied to gays (not everywhere, by the way, even here in the U.S.), and even South Africa has recently approved same-sex unions?
One of the main reasons we have a Constitution is to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority. But there are many who would use it as a weapon of oppression. Will we allow this to happen?
I guess this response isn't what my thoughtful sermon and DVD senders had in mind. So they can keep their resources. I'm unfortunately certain they will find others to send them, too, though I hope they meet with the same response.
However, now that I think about it, Trinity Sunday is coming up, and if they have sermonic resources on that, I could use the help. I would dare to make a suggestion to my correspondents: spend more of your time and money on ministries to families, families of all kinds, many of whom could really use the help. I have a few sermons on this subject I'll be glad to send. I could even produce a DVD if it would help.
Bass Mitchell is a Charlottesville writer and minister.