I am in the midst of preparing for a gay wedding, the joining of two lives together at the heart—a wedding at which, along with friends and families, I will bless God for the gift of love which two men have found in one another.
This is heresy to the world’s conservative Christians, and it is troubling to those who are out in the middle on this spectrum of love and hate. As I mentioned recently, we are not considered to even be Christian in the eyes of the right wing (the “religious reich”).
Who or what is a “Christian”?
Dr. Rembert Truluck offers a simple suggestion in his essay, “A Gay Christian Response to Southern Baptists”: a Christian is one who is Christ-like. Truluck is not picking on the Southern Baptists. He has the credentials to take them on as an insider, not an outsider. He received his Doctor of Theology degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; he was a Southern Baptist pastor, and even served as a writer of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Lessons for six years.
So when Dr. Truluck suggests that “Southern Baptists ceased to be Christian (Christ-like)” it is worth paying attention to his reasoning.
This is not a stretch, but fundamentally good Bible study: Jesus began his teaching and healing ministry by including people who had previously been left out by his faith tradition. In Luke 4:18–19, we see that Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, his boyhood home.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Curiously, the passage goes on to say that “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Meaning that people were watching, and wondering what he meant to imply. From the very outset, there were those who held Jesus in suspicion because he included people whom others excluded from their faith communities.
Jesus went on to welcome women into circles reserved for men, to praise Samaritans who were hated by Jews, to preach tolerance for the leper, the foreigner, and the eunuch (a sexual misfit if ever there was one).
“Jesus in the Gospels defined his ministry by those he included that previously had been left out,” says Dr. Truluck. “When the people rejected the inclusive message of Jesus, he left town. When Southern Baptists defined themselves by who they left out (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people) in changing the bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention to exclude any church that accepted openly gay and lesbian members, Southern Baptists ceased to be Christian (Christ-like).”
When I first read this I almost whistled out loud—as if to say that was a brave or even dangerous comment to be so critical of the second-largest Christian body in the U.S., and one that must still believe it has hegemony in political circles. But as an insider, Truluck is entitled to be severe with that denomination. More importantly, he is right that one important definition of who is a Christian, or what is Christian behavior, is to make the comparison with Christ and his behavior. If Christ included those whom others exclude or “preclude” (the ELCA), they are at variance with Jesus Christ.
Of course (if you could ever have a civil discussion with them!), the conservatives would argue that Jesus never included homosexuals.
But that becomes a matter of heated debate over the “dangerous memories” (Dr. Theodore Jennings, The Man Jesus Loved), and somewhat obscure passages of the New Testament. [See Joe Perez’s review of Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.]
It can be fiercely argued that Jesus and the Beloved Disciple were not gay (John 13:21–26; 19:25–27; 21:20–24); that Cleopas and his companion sharing a home in the village of Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32) were not gay, that the centurion and his pais (lad or boy; Matthew 8:5–13) were not gay. It can also be fiercely—and responsibly—argued that those of us who are LGBT are given clues in these places in the Gospels to “read between the lines”: Jesus means include us, too, who formerly were excluded.
It is not merely a little “side issue” of no particular importance, to include LGBT people, if we see that Jesus defined his ministry and his Gospel by those he included who had been excluded before. In fact, his inclusion is fundamental, central and of the highest importance to what it means to be Christ-like.
— Pastor Dan Hooper, Los Angeles