On Sunday, many in San Francisco will be gathering for the annual Gay Pride March in San Francisco. The Gay Pride movement and parade started as a protest one year after bar in New York called the Stonewall Inn was raided 45 years ago today. This protest March was created, not to thrust a “lifestyle” on to the general public, but to bring awareness to a community, which was being treated differently and unjustly. Discrimination against GLBT folks was, and to some respect is, connected to unknowing and fear.
Walter Brueggemann brought that out in one of my doctoral classes when we were working through the book of Leviticus. There were two African Methodist Episcopal pastors in the class that went off on a tangent on homosexuality. When Brueggemann corrected the men as to what Leviticus was actually talking about, he looked at them and said, “It is hard to accept homosexuality because you find it Icky?”
The two pastors laugh, and my friend who I worshiped with while in Atlanta retorted, “Yeah, basically” to which Brueggemann pointed out how often we make laws because we do not know or understand things. He then brought it back to the controversial statement, especially to two pastors in a tradition so rooted in slavery, Jim Crow, and so much more racism. “It is easy to subjugate people who are separated from the whole or lay a moral decree upon them; that has been the excuse for many persecutions, including slavery.” The discussion that ensued was lively and powerful as the two men began to think deeper about their positions.
What really changed the dialogue concerning sexuality happened about fifteen years after Stonewall in the late eighties. A new disease was in full swing called AIDS. It was initially linked to the Gay community, which was the fastest spreading community for the gay male community. I won’t go into the history, but I would recommend someday sitting through a play, made into a miniseries called “Angels in America” to get a sense of the disease from the inside.
The visibility that AIDS bought forced many people come out as gay and encouraged others to come out in solidarity. By the late nineties, most people knew a gay person, by the mid 2000’s most people would say that they had a friend or family member that was gay.
In the last couple of years, we have really seen a change in the understanding of Sexuality. Though our denomination and some congregations continue to debate the issue of sexuality, society has made a shift, and for the first time a year ago a national survey showed most Americans supporting GLBT issues. Interestingly, among self-identified conservative and liberal young adults (18-30), both groups are overwhelmingly supportive of most GLBT rights issues.
Unfortunately, in the church the debate continues, often to the frustration of young adults, both conservative and liberal! The frustration comes from the debates over sexuality, which often have far more to do with being right than about the individuals and helping them to find a journey with God.
As a church, we have to examine and explore the issues that are in front of us in a way that Christ would. Though there are a few places in the bible that discuss the issues of homosexuality, all of them are in the context of worship or promiscuity in the Old Testament, or a specific forced sexual act of abuse that was linked to pedestry in the New Testament. Unfortunately, these few verses allow people to justify actions that are so against the teachings of Christ; you wonder what God would actually think.
As we get to know the vast community and diversity within this world, we have to start with the fact that we are all children of God. We all have emotions, we all hurt, and we all have Joy. Moreover, what God wants for us more then anything else is to be a loving community that enables people to have a deeper, fuller relationship with Him.
Today, it will have been 45 years since the Stonewall Riots, and our culture and world have changed considerably. The question that we have as a church, a denomination, and a world faith community, is: How are we going to learn to accept and support one another no matter what?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen