Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gays and “Philippians”

In his article, “At a crossroads?: The Anglican Impasse,” in the March 20, 2007, issue of “The Christian Century,” A. K. M. Adam writes of Rowan Williams, “Disappointed as we were that a brilliant theological proponent of the cause of gay Christians had renounced that advocacy in his capacity as archbishop of Canterbury, we could see that he was unwilling to use his power to coerce consciences in a way that would divide the church.”
As you can see in the post just below this, “Why Do We Believe: The Theological Implications,” I’ve just spent a lot of time and effort mulling over John Haught’s concept that the idea of God that may best jibe with our knowledge of evolution is an idea of a God who is defenseless, vulnerable, and emptying, as Paul says of Jesus in Philippians 2, verses 7 and 8: “... but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” Haught writes in “God After Darwin,” “A truly responsive theology of evolution, therefore, must bring to the fore faith’s sense of the self-outpouring God who lovingly renounces any claim to domineering omnipotence.”
I must say that in spite of myself, Adam’s comment about Williams recalled for me these verses from Philippians. Williams has power; he could say that it is right that the church include homosexuals and let the consequences of that proclamation be what they would be. The pro-gay elements of the Anglican Communion have power. Notably, the U.S. Episcopal Church funds at least a third of the Communion’s expenses, according to the March 20th “New York Times,” and, of course, money talks. Why not exercise power? Because a communion is a loving bond among those who gather around Word and Sacrament. Force can ensure compliance, but not love.
Obviously, many in and out of the church lose no love over us homosexuals. We are repugnant to many and can’t change their feelings easily. However, feelings about homosexuals do change, and more people, even church people, especially in the West, are less hostile to us than they were 10, 20, or 30 years ago. How did their feelings change? They changed most probably because of their increased exposure to homosexuals at home, at the office, in church, at play. Why did their exposure increase? I think mainly, because homosexuals don’t hide as much as they used to. Gay people have more and more been willing to witness to their sexuality. They are who they are.
In some places, such as Nigeria, such a witness can and does lead to death. The Nigerian Anglicans and their American enablers have, of course, been at the forefront of deadly homophobia. Why have Christians in Africa been so active in denouncing homosexuals? Could it be that Christians there are only too well aware of the even more virulent homophobia coming from Islam? In other words, which religion can be the most vociferous in denouncing the “enemy?” For example, in Nigeria, 40% of the population is Christian and 50% is Muslim, so the competition must be fierce.
If homophobia, at first, must be lessened by exposure to homosexuals, then gays and their friends should give aid and comfort to the homosexuals in places like Nigeria. These people are the ones making the witness and facing death. They are the ones who can eventually change the minds of their families, their churches and mosques, and their governments. Perhaps the Episcopal Church could use some of its money to support fledgling gay organizations for Christians and Muslims in Africa and in other places where homosexuals are now in danger. It would be a humbling, self-emptying gesture, but that’s how love begins.

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