The catalyst for this blog has been a recent article from, Do Gays Need A Church Of Their Own Anymore? First of all, it feels important to acknowledge that I am a heterosexual male and I am blessed to be in a monogamous relationship. I know I cannot answer that question for any of my GLBTTQ Brothers & Sisters. I do know, however, that homophobia is just one of the particularities that remains entrenched in our psyche. And that reality or generality, I believe, allows me to speak with some authority.
As a Christian community, which has been journeying for millennia, discerning God’s call to us through the lens of an itinerant Rabbi known as Jesus has not always been easy. In fact, it’s been a tension for almost as long as we’ve endeavoured to be faithful! This tension has always – to varying degrees – fallen into whether we are pure enough or whether we are inclusive enough. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Leviticus, in particular, illustrates a belief that our purity depended on particular practices. Some of which, though certainly not limited to, were a prohibition against eating shellfish, that a Priest had to have two good eyes, there was to be no association with women during the menstrual cycle and certain sexual relations, such as same gender, was not permitted.
It is certainly not my intention to judge those who have come before us and it is also important to understand that those particular aspects that defined purity of the faith occurred in a context that was pre-scientific method, pre-Enlightenment and – most certainly – pre-Postmodernity. That’s a lot of syllables, but here’s the point: Applying particular historical external practices to our contemporary context no longer encourages purity of faith, but a theology of chauvinism and judgement.
It has been my experience and – I offer this as a general historical gloss – that since the Enlightenment, Christianity (through fits and starts) has been moving toward an expression of faith grounded in inclusivity, which must confront previous particularities that lead to a generality that dehumanises. Whether it’s been slavery, women’s suffrage, the idea of divorce and women’s rights to property, racism and Right Relations with our Indigenous friends, and Brothers & Sisters, we have had to confront historical ideas of purity. When historical Purity Laws are considered normative outside of their context, they devolve into intellectual excuses to demean, judge, dehumanise and – by extension – maim, harm and even kill another human being.
When people experience a particularity, which might range from stereotyping to physical violence, the question of creating safe space should be central. To respond to a question about safety requires that relationships be grounded in mutuality and hoped-for-solidarity. Regardless of the answer, however, it is incumbent on Christian communities, which endeavour to live into being inclusive of diversity, to confront particularities.
In the 21st century, I believe that the practice of purity is no longer one that can be grounded, primarily, in external practices. Rather, I believe that purity of faith – from a Christian perspective – needs to pay close attention to the egalitarian nature that Jesus modelled. That ethos or discipline – for us, I believe – demands that we pay attention to those who suffer and who are excluded. The reality is that those who confront external expectations of purity are most often the marginalised and represent the bodies upon whom the privileged stand.
There is no denying that the reality of homophobia continues to be challenged in a manner that would have seemed impossible even fifteen years ago and that is most certainly hopeful! But as the video below, from It Gets Better Project, illustrates from members of Surrey RCMP Detachment, as long as any child needs to be supported, nurtured and protected to realise that the bullying they experience is not only inappropriate, but dehumanising, then I think, as Christians, we need to continue to always ask:
“How do we create safe places for those who are marginalised?”
We need to ask:
“How do we confront and challenge a particularity that is not life-giving?”
And – just as important – we must realise that one kind of oppression is – in reality – a constant reminder of our tendency to create systems based on a generality of exclusion. And this awareness, I truly believe, speaks to the core of what it means to a Christian community that endeavours to live into the Kingdom to Come now …