Christian do-gooding homophobes

The Rev. Winnie Varghese is priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s-Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City and she asks the question “why are so many faithful Christians homophobes?”

Writing in the Hiuffington Post she says:

Some of you must feel like me. I am a religious person who leans toward the “help those who are suffering” school of religion. I believe it’s the way to the kingdom (the reign of justice on earth). Compassion heals the soul and moves the planet toward wholeness as God intends. I get the change the system part, but I think religious people in particular are called to pay attention to immediate suffering and to do something about it.

But why are so many of those who believe what I believe homophobes? Don’t say it’s biblical. Too many outdated, bizarr-o things are biblical, and we put them in the box of random things somebody managed to get into the text.

More importantly, what is a reasonable response to those who serve the poor, hungry, homeless and mentally ill, but hate the gays? The people with the red kettles on my street remind me of the dilemma of Christian do-gooders this time of year. Some days I am angry when I walk by. Other days I am happy to be shaken me out of my holiday preparation anxiety with a reminder of the great need of so many.

She reflects on the official homophobia of the Salvation Army, an organization she describes as a group that does not “believe in any tomfoolery, except dressing up like they are in God’s Army which chose its uniforms at the turn of the last century and of course calling themselves by military titles, kind of church/military high camp, sort of fabulous.”.

I have been reading the blogs about The Salvation Army. I am not a disinterested party. I am not cynical about religion. Religion like other human institutions can be horrifying or transcendent and is often simply a gathering of people trying to do the right thing. I believe Jesus calls his followers to save the world from suffering and estrangement and offers a vision of another way….

….I want to support them because there are not enough groups out there feeding, sheltering, sobering up, dressing — offering cheap used crap to buy for the holidays so your kids can have gifts — do-gooders out there in these mean times. Our leaders tell us as individuals to help a neighbor, because unless the neighbor we mean is a tribal chief in Iraq or Afghanistan, our government itself will not be helping with our tax dollars….

…I am so glad there are some groups out there who believe it is their primary mission to serve the poor. I wish they could see that the match makers of today are homeless LGBT youth, but until they do, and I believe they will, I can’t demonize them completely, although we should be wise as to whose rights they lobby to trample with our money.

I know progressive groups provide services too, but frankly, not at the same scale. I share those politics. I know it is because we are as likely or more likely to lobby our government to create services with our tax dollars, but the Republicans and the Democrats have been very effective since the Reagan administration in devastating public services. If we don’t support services somewhere, people live and die in misery as we fight and lose ideological battles.

What do you do?


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