Saturday, November 26, 2005

Religious bigotry: The NC Baptists & Vatican have more in common than they thought.

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So, I have decided that at the end of every week (that being Saturday, of course) I will do a weekly ranting of the news and events. It will be a time for me to offer my own insight, opinions and commentary on the events, news and happenings which have transpired over the past week. It will also be a time for discussion, debate and critical inquiry into the things to which I have devoted my life: LGBT rights, activism, advocacy, politics and religion. Many things have occurred this week. There are so many issues which have fabulously graced the face of my blog that I am having a difficult time trying to decide on which ones to write. The biggest issue that sticks out in my mind, however, revolves around religion and the inclusion of LGBT folk. The first little happening involving LGBT people and Christianity occurred last week, with the ant-gay vote of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. Of course, the bigots had to choose my native city of Winston-Salem to hold their little convention in and because of that my city’s name has been tarnished, in part because it is now associated with the Baptist Convention on numerous press reports, news pieces, press releases and media advisories. I feel as though I must give an apology on behalf of all the fair-minded folk living in Winston and say that what the North Carolina Baptists did is NOT representative of the spirit of the City of Winston-Salem. The North Carolina Baptist State Convention accomplished nothing but a furthering of the outcasting of LGBT folk from the Christian church when it took a vote to expel member churches which may be “gay-friendly.” There are numerous Christian churches within Winston-Salem, many of them Baptist, which are accepting of LGBT folk and affirming. The one that sticks out in my mind is the Wake Forest Baptist Church, once a Baptist Convention bastion and stronghold. The Convention, however, broke ties with church after it began to become more accepting and affirming of LGBT Christians. What else would you expect from Wake Forest Baptist? Remember, they were the ones that had to push Wake Forest University to welcome African-Americans as students by first welcoming African-Americans as members, well before most North Carolina Baptist churches were willing to do the same. See, to me, the North Carolina Baptist Convention, along with the Southern Baptist Convention, represents nothing but intolerance, bigotry and hatred for everything they see as “different,” with “different” always becoming somehow “sinful” or “below” them. Now we find out that the Vatican document banning gay priests has been leaked to the media. When I first read the headline, I laughed. How does something “leak” from the Vatican, an institution most well-known for its scandals and centuries-old cover-ups? The Vatican, as well as the Papacy, has to be the most guarded and “lock and key” institution the world over. The document, which was due to be released November 29th, is actually a Vatican “instruction” which does nothing but repeat the same old anti-gay mantra which has been spilling from the Vatican City for decades: Gays are “intrinsically disordered” and not fit for the priesthood. Someone please tell me why it must take so long for religious institutions to catch up with the world. It took how many centuries for the Church to apologize to Galileo? “Oops… well Mr. Galileo, we know it has been five hundred years, but guess you were right, the world isn’t the center of the universe.” So now we have American bishops speaking up and, basically, flat out telling the Holy Father that they will not comply with his orders. Of course, they didn’t come out and say directly, “We won’t obey you,” but they came close. Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington (who also just happens to be the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) has gone on record as saying, “witch hunts a gay-bashing have no place within the church.” “There are many wonderful and excellent priests in the church who have a gay orientation, are chaste and celibate, and are very effective ministers of the Gospel,” he wrote in his diocesan newspaper on October 28th. In a November 12 column Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester, NY, wrote that the diocese he oversees will continue to evaluate “young gay men who are considering a vocation to priesthood.” The American Catholics just need to keep doing what they are doing: Stand up to the anti-gay bully and homophobe of Rome (Lord, forgive me for speaking so rashly about the Holy Father… in this instance it is truth, though, and you are a God of Truth, right?) Someone (and not just LGBT Catholics and activists) need to stand up for right and against wrong. Gay priests aren’t the problem. Prejudice and bigotry rooted deeply within doctrine and practice is. I’m not one to bash traditional doctrine or practice. All of my friends wil be the first to tell you that I am unexplainably and extremely doctrinally traditional for a gay man. But the Vatican is not using doctrine for doctrine’s sake. They are using doctrine (ones which, in my opinion, should have been tossed out the window fifty to one hundred years ago) to cover up their mistakes and further bigotry and hatred. The Vatican is using gay priests as a scapegoat to the ever-growing problem of pedo- and ephebophilia (the attraction of an older person to a newly post-pubescent adolescent) within the ranks of the Roman Catholic clergy. Unless the Vatican can stop deflecting form the real problems and starts to address the ways in which clergy sex abuse scandals were concealed by members of the Church hierarchy, the problem of child sexual abuse will continue within the Church. No amount of anti-gay “inquisition” will rid the Church of its pederasty. Many people will say I have been harsh on the North Carolina Baptists and the Vatican. Still others will say I have been irreverent and disrespectful. I am sure some with think I have taken on a heretical nature by calling the Holy Father a homophobe. All I know is that as a gay man who is also a Christian, I feel both maligned and once again cast out from the flock as the earthly leaders of Christ’s Church continue to make policies and issue “instructions” which seek to limit God’s never-ending grace and the love of Christ to even fewer people; people whom they seek to place into a second-class citizenship and state of even more hostile discrimination, hatred, harassment and prejudice.