Scapegoating the minorities again.

I admit that I'm the "glass half empty" type. On grey mornings like this, I also admit that I generally assume that we found the glass in the bathroom at a doctor's office, and that the liquid it contains is day-old urine that smells of asparagus. Regardless, is it just me or does it get harder every day to consider oneself a Christian, and to do so with any trace of pride or even comfort?

Moving through my daily devotional routine of reading the Seattle Times, I came across this story about the Vatican's suggestion to intensify the screening process for the priesthood, and to test for "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" and other characteristics that would render one unsuitable for the priesthood. This, of course, is a part of the Vatican's ongoing response to the sex-abuse scandals of the previous 1500 years, and for background it extends from the recognition that the abuse came (comes?) from two angles - an estimated 22% of the abuse was committed by 'pedophiles' who were (are) primarily heterosexual males who abuse pre-pubescent children, and the other 78% involved 'hebephiles' who were (are) primarily homosexual males who had sexual relationships with post-pubescent boys (14-17, generally). (Interesting independent report on the scandals here.) The Vatican is ostensibly trying to crack down on both groups in the priesthood - getting rid of/screening out the pedophiles (rather than just shifting them around from parish to parish, as happened in several sickening cases) and getting rid of/screening out the homosexuals.

In other screening out the gays news, a few months back by a thin majority the Methodists reaffirmed that the "United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching." (Full article here). Apparently their affirmation encourages pastoral sensitivity, but has been interpreted by some as giving sanction to leaders to ostracize the gays if by conscience they feel so inclined. (That probably wasn't the intent of General Conference, but I'm confident that there are plenty of pockets in the Methodist Church where it's fine to ostracize the gays openly and closedly, and that this position will be used as justification for that continued practice.)

Two quick comments for clarification - Catholic seminaries, by popular knowledge, are some of the gayest places in America, and many of the best Catholic priests have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies". The vast majority aren't abusive, and almost none of the worst abusers - the pedophiles - were/are gay. (To be clear, I'm against sex-abuse in the church in any form, and as a youth minister I understand that "hebephilia" is a predatory abuse of power and an unforgivable violation of trust. My point isn't that it's okay.) And Methodists, there's no such thing as the "practice of homosexuality" - unless one counts church choir practice - any more than there is a "practice of being black" or a "practice of being a woman".

The thing for me is that, once again, in both cases we find majority Christian culture out of touch with reality to the benefit of no one. The Catholics are ignoring the elephant in the room ("Celibacy doesn't work for most people! You can't hold back the tide of human biological impulses with religious guilt or pious devotion - allowing for no healthy sexual outlet will produce an unhealthy sexual outlet!) and further marginalizing those ever easy whipping boys, the gays. The Methodists are disembodying the concept "homosexuality" from the reality of human experience, and affirming that traditional religious ideas outweigh modern scientific and psychological understandings about human nature. This isn't a matter of the Church refusing to change "with the times" (nobody wants that, after all), it's the Church refusing yet again to recognize observable and widely accepted scientific truths b/c we're so sure that our "divinely ordained" or "biblical" position is unassailable. Galileo and Copernicus and Darwin and now Kinsey haven't mattered to most Christians until we've made complete asses of ourselves and maimed and killed our quota of intelligent dissenters.

Along with being Halloween, today is Reformation Day. Reformation (resurrection, repentance, transformation), of course, has always been the essence of Christian hope. Today I'm happy to be an Anglican, and specifically a pseudo-revolutionary Episcopalian, where if the Bible or church say something ridiculous, we don't have to believe it.

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