Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reconciliation Is Not Indoctrination

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24

Our culture is obsessed with lots of things. When it comes to obsessions, we are multi-taskers. We are obsessed with wealth and fame and power and celebrity. 

But within our many obsessions, sex has a special place.

And within the church we have our own special obsession with sexual orientation.

With all that is happening in the world, from rising income inequality to global warming, from the violence in the Middle East to the violence on our own streets, one might reasonably ask, why has the church focused so narrowly on this issue?

There are really two answers. 

The first is that sexual orientation is not our only focus. We are doing lots of things all around the world that address every major issue faced by humankind. Most of it just flies under the radar because although it is important, it has little entertainment value. 

The second answer is that the treatment of our LBGTQ sisters and brothers is an issue for which the church bears a special responsibility. We have done great harm in the name of faith. Sometimes we have done it inadvertently, or even with the best of intentions. Other times we have done it vengefully and without remorse. But we have done it. It is uniquely our sin.

This is an issue on which we must seek reconciliation before we can faithfully come before God to offer our gifts.

John Lomperis, the United Methodist Director for the Insitute on Religion and Democracy posted a blog with the provocative title: “Are Methodist Sunday Schools, VBS for LGBTQ Indoctrination? Should young children be indoctrinated in LGBTQ ideology in United Methodist Vacation Bible Schools and Sunday schools?”

For information on the IRD, click here

Mr. Lomperis complains that at a Chicago event called “Winter Warming,” the Reconciling Methodist Network, RMN, presented a program for indoctrinating children in the “ideology” of LGBTQ advocates. The article is inflammatory and accusatory, and there are many points where one might reasonably take offense. I want to address just two of them.

The first comes from the title of the blog post. 

The online Merriam Webster dictionary defines “indoctrinate” as “to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.” My Microsoft Office thesaurus lists "brainwashing" and "propaganda" as common synonyms.

My guess is that we don’t want anyone indoctrinating our children with any particular point of view, period. That’s not how we grow faithful disciples or responsible citizens or thoughtful adults.

But I wouldn’t call creating a climate in which children can accept and affirm the diverse family groups and individuals they will encounter in their lives as “indoctrination.”

The second issue relates to gender identity.

Mr. Lomperis tells of the presentation given by M. Barclay, whose name at birth was Mary Ann Kaiser. He writes, “She shared about her own more recent experiences as a transgendered individual who has 'physically transitioned in some ways,' now self-identifying as not conforming to gender binaries and using the pronoun 'they' rather than 'she.' She also gave a broader overview of some of the often confusing aspects of transgenderism, including how part of transgenderist ideology is that people did not change genders but rather they were never truly the gender they were assigned at birth—except for folk in the narrow sub-category of ‘gender-fluid.’”

The reality that some people live with, of never feeling that their biology matches their internal sense of who they really are, is not “transgenderist ideology.” It is their reality. And it is incredibly painful. It is not something one chooses.

He follows his description of the presentation with an apology which is not really an apology. He writes, with parentheses: “(I realize that transgenderist ideology would protest my use of female pronouns for Ms. Barclay. It is not my intention to insult or hurt anyone’s feelings. But when someone is facing what needs to be named as a severe delusion of not recognizing his or her own God-given sex – long recognized by psychiatrists as a mental disorder – true compassion involves helping people come back to reality, rather than “humoring them” by saying anything to encourage or enable their very self-destructive confusion.)”

Contrary to his assertion, transgender people do recognize their own “God-given sex,” just like Mr. Lomperis wants them to; the problem is that the identity that God has given them does not match their biology. It is cruel to insist that they are delusional and that the only solution is for them to sit down and be quiet and pretend that nothing is wrong.

This is not easy. For many of us it is uncomfortable. But it is long past time for us to “leave our gifts at the altar,” and go “and be reconciled.”

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