I’m Sorry, But I Do Not Grovel

Alise has a post, Part of the Problem, which links to a post by Hemant Mehta of FriendlyAtheist.com.  Mehta’s post is entitled Hawaii Governor Vetoes Civil Unions.  Republican Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii has vetoed a bill granting gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state gives to married couples.  (I’m drawing from language that this article uses.)

At the end of his post, Mehta states the following:

I want to see any Christian who finds this despicable to say so. Blog about it. Tell your Facebook friends. Tell your church members. Call out anyone who disagrees.

If you don’t, you’re part of the problem.

Don’t tell me you love gay people and think this was the wrong decision… and then sit back and say/do nothing in response. I don’t care for your apologies if you’re not backing it up with action.

The part about “your apologies” refers to what Mehta discusses in his post, “I’m Sorry” Is Not Enough for the Gay Community.  At a gay pride parade in Chicago, there were Christians standing on the sidelines, holding up signs that expressed apologies for how Christians have treated the gay community.  See here and here for Christian posts that affirm this apology.  And here is Rachel Held Evans’ An Evangelical’s Apology for how she and other Christians have treated homosexuals.

It’s become hip for Christians to apologize to the gay community.  In the movie, Lord, Save Us from Your Followers, there is a scene in which the narrator sets up a confessional at a fair, in which he seeks forgiveness from homosexuals for how he and other Christians have treated them.  Even conservative Christian friends of mine have applauded this part of the movie.  And the movie itself presents conservative stalwarts like Rick Santorum and Michael Reagan, lamenting that Christians have not shown love to homosexuals.

This is the trend that Hemant Mehta is responding to.  And, as with most things, my response to Hemant Mehta’s post is mixed.

Here’s where I identify with what Hemant Mehta is saying.  Personally, I am sick of the evangelical mantra of “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”  I’ve heard it repeatedly over the years.  It seems to be the predictable evangelical slogan on the issue of homosexuality.  Granted, I prefer “Hate the sin, love the sinner” to the slogans that are on the signs of Fred Phelps and his followers.  But “Hate the sin, love the sinner” still gets on my nerves.

What’s ironic is that I hear it from Christians who lobby against laws that would protect homosexuals from discrimination.  Do Christian conservatives really expect homosexuals to feel loved by them when they do that?  “I love you, but people should be free to fire you from your job, or to kick you out of your apartment because you are gay.”  Wow!  Take away homosexuals’ ability to support themselves and to have a place to live!  Feel the love!

Here’s where my reaction to Hemant Mehta’s post is negative: he acts as if Christians have to prove something to him, like he needs to be appeased.  And he encourages people to bully (by calling out) those who disagree with him, which brings to my mind the anti-war movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and the tea-party movement of today: shout down those who don’t agree with you!

In a sense, Christians have opened themselves up to Mehta’s “prove yourself to me” attitude.  They believe that they are supposed to make a good impression to the world, in order to draw it to Jesus Christ.  When Christians see themselves as sales-persons for the Gospel, the logical consequence is that they obligate themselves to practice good customer service (in this case, for people who are potential customers for the Gospel).  And so, if potential customer Hemant Mehta is not satisfied, then they have a problem.

But I don’t feel compelled to appease Hemant Mehta, or anyone else.  Others may feel that they have a calling to beat themselves up for how they have treated homosexuals.  I don’t have that calling.  Granted, I do regret the times that I told gay jokes, or made closet homosexuals in my school feel uncomfortable.  I am sorry for that.  But I do not feel that I have to apologize for feeling at some time that homosexuality was wrong, or for not becoming an activist for gay rights.  I try to treat people with respect and dignity right now.  But I don’t feel that I have to grovel before people.

Why am I like this?  A big part of the reason is that I have been in oppressive, politically-correct atmospheres that try to force people to believe a certain way.  I’ve met plenty of nice homosexuals, but I have also encountered some who like to bully or shout down those who disagree with homosexuality.  In rebellion against them and their liberal allies, I do not grovel.  I was where I was ideologically, because that’s what made sense to me at the time.  I grovel to no one on account of that.

Nowadays, I don’t join any group that is related to homosexuality, pro or con (though I am in some conservative Facebook groups that take positions on other issues as well).  I used to be in Facebook groups such as “Protect Marriage—One Man, One Woman”, but I’m not anymore.  I also refuse to join groups that Christian friends of mine recommend, such as “Homosexuals Can Change”.

But I’ve not joined gay rights groups either.  Many of my friends and relatives are in Facebook groups that promote marriage equality, but I have not joined them.  And, unlike my Christian conservative friends, my more liberal friends and relatives have not pressured me to join them—either because they still see me as the fire-breathing conservative that I was for many years, or because (to their credit) they’re not big on shoving things down people’s throats.

Why am I neutral?  Maybe it’s because I don’t know where I should stand.  I believe that the Bible is against homosexuality, and I wonder if society accepting homosexual marriage can undermine the institution of marriage.  But I’m also reluctant to tell homosexuals that they must remain celibate for the rest of their natural lives, for how would I feel if somebody told me that?

That’s where I am.  It may not appease Hemant Mehta, but I really don’t care.


About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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One Response to I’m Sorry, But I Do Not Grovel

  1. Hemant says:

    Hi 🙂 Thanks for mentioning my post. I’d like to respond to the idea that “Christians have to prove something to” me.

    They don’t have to prove anything to me. I think they need to prove it to themselves. They talk about how they “love” gay people but their actions don’t back it up — you point this out yourself.

    I don’t really care of Christians think homosexuality is a sin. But I do care if they’re voting down gay marriage or preventing gay people from having equal rights in other ways. I don’t think it’s “loving” if Christians treat gay people kindly and then fight against them being allowed to adopt children.


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