Monday, September 14, 2015

The Irony of Our Shaming

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
Matthew 7:1-5

When I read that passage as a teenager, it immediately became a favorite. I was amazed that Jesus could so accurately diagnose my parents’ major problem in relation to me: they had logs in their eyes. They were looking for the splinter in my eye while totally oblivious to the logs in their own eyes.

It took several years before I realized that Jesus was not talking to my parents; he was talking to me. Of course, once I understood it, the passage was not nearly as much fun.

I talked about that experience in a sermon one Sunday morning. On his way out of church, a man told me how much he loved the sermon and then turned to his daughter and said, “I just wish your mother could have been here to hear it.”

H. Richard Niebuhr said that the church is a community that is always engaged in the mutual removal of logs and splinters. He noted that there are always more Christians ready to do the removing than to have their splinters (or logs) extracted.

The Rev. Dr. David F. Watson wrote a blog post called, More Thoughts about Christian Discourse, in which he criticized the Reconciling Ministries Movement and others for criticizing three United Methodist Pastors from Texas, North Carolina, and New Jersey, who were themselves criticizing some other pastors in West Michigan, for celebrating a same sex marriage.

You can read about the history of this in previous blog posts, by clicking here and here. As you might guess, I am about to add to the many criticisms with a criticism of Dr. Watson’s thoughts on Christian public discourse.

His central criticism of the people who spoke out against exclusion and in favor of the full inclusion of LGBTQ people within the UMC is not about what they said, but about the way that they said it. He writes:

“This kind of rhetoric has one goal: to shame. Its purpose is to shame the pastors and denominational leaders who were involved in this matter . . .”

This is the point at which the irony is almost unbelievable. 

Over the centuries, many groups have been cruelly oppressed, but few groups have been more consistently "shamed" than gays and lesbians. The movement to exclude LGBTQ people from full participation in the United Methodist Church is built on shaming. What could be more “shaming” than telling a group of people that their lives are “incompatible with Christian teaching?”

If this were a Seinfeld episode, Jerry would be asking, “Do you even listen to yourself talk? Seriously. Have you listened to what you’ve been saying?”

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