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Among of the most challenging types of scenarios that I encounter are those with people who seem to sincerely mean well, but just don’t realize the impact of their words. I was a panelist, this morning, at a conference for health care providers. The purpose of the conference was to sensitize and educate them around issues of diversity. I was asked to speak, along with other LGBT’s, to this audience that consisted mostly of nurses. Imani’s Church Administrator, Jim Manchester, was a panelist as well.
After the panel, a gentleman approached us - with the best of intentions, I’m sure - to express appreciation for our presence and participation. I was distracted by others coming up to speak to me; then I turned my attention back to this gentleman just in time to hear him (speaking to Jim) say something like: “God did not put me here to judge anyone. Besides, there is no hierarchy of sins in the Bible. If something is a sin, it’s a sin. One sin isn’t worse than the others.”
It was one of those don’t-speak-‘til-you-take-two-deep-breaths moments. I used that time to remind myself that the gentleman’s intent was to convey something akin to support for us as LGBT’s. The assumption underlying his comment - that homosexuality is a sin - is probably such a “given,” in his belief system, that he also believed that it would be gratifying to us to know that he did not rank our “sin” any worse than adultery. Yes, indeed, he actually said that! I may have to paraphrase (memory issues), but the rest of the conversation was essentially very close to this:
Me: “I really appreciate your positive intent; and I would ask that you reconsider referring to homosexuality as a sin.”
Gentleman (looking confused): “But there are lots of places in scripture where homosexuality is condemned.”
Jim (after doing a double-take): “Huh?”
The poor guy missed the cue, and tried again: “Yes, scripture says it’s a sin, but nothing says it’s worse than any other sexual sins.”
Jim: “That’s a misapplication. But there are some other very clear scriptures. You would probably agree that Paul’s writings are very clear and inspired, right?”
Jim: “Well, in Romans 8, Paul very clearly says that nothing can separate God’s love from me - nothing - no person, ruler, power, or misguided preacher, or misapplied scripture can separate us from God’s love.”
Gentleman: “That’s right, that’s right, that’s right.”
Jim: “And we’re not just talking about human love here. We’re talking about God’s extravagant love!”
By this time, our gentleman friend seemed totally befuddled. How did his attempt to stand in solidarity with us devolve into this? As it happened, I had been asked to bring a copy of my book (Ready to Answer: Why “Homophobic Church” is an Oxymoron) to the event. So I asked the gentleman if he would accept it from me, as a gift. He did. With any luck, he’ll read it. I think his heart is in the right place. He, like so many others, just needs to be re-educated about those pesky “clobber passages.”