New Leaven in the Loaf

by Louie Crew

First appeared in Metanoia 8.3 (September 1, 1976): 2-3.

© 1976 by Metanoia; © 2004 by Louie Crew

Prick even most Christian radicals and they will bleat: "Why are Gays trying to take over in the Church?"

Homophobia is clinically defined as the "irrational fear of gay people." See George Weinberg, Society and the Healthy Homosexual.) The fear that the radicals bleat with others is irrational because of several false assumptions.

First, the fear assumes an imminent gay take-over of the church .  That is not likely nor do gays seek it. Many gay people gave up on the Church long ago in view of the Church's record as the one institution in our culture most hostile to all eroticism in general and to homoeroticism most stringently in particular. The language of Genesis is echoed in the laws of most of the 35 states still sporting sodomy statutes. The gays who are still sticking around the Church are those whom the Church could not even run away, and in many cases we have been writing the liturgy, performing the mass, teaching and thinking the theology for centuries, always in fearful silence, with just enough stench from the last "discovery" to keep us in our place.

Second, the fear masks the fact that the Church does not belong to heterosexuals, but to Jesus Christ, whose sexual orientation is unclear. The Gospels record no genital restrictions. Heterosexual assumptions notwithstanding, Christ's love is indiscriminate for all persons, unconditionally.

Third, the real fear not verbalized is the fear that the Church will somehow lose respectability, that even radicalism may lose some of its chic, if gays are welcomed. This fear is more rational, less phobic. But Respectability has no place at Calvary; and the sooner all of us learn that, the sooner we can access grace.

It is a truism that the real Church is a community of people called out to be compassionate. Compassion combines co- ("together") and passion ("strong feeling") and suggests the attempt to try to see another's experience, however alien, from the inside. A model is Jesus's compassion for the thief on the next cross even without the thief's confession, or the Samaritan's concern for the nobleman without weighing to see what the man might have done to deserve being in the ditch. A community without compassion is not the Church, but an heretical imposter, as Jesus seemed to indict the Pharisees when they passed on the other side. When the Church fails to try to understand Gay experience from the inside -- that is, almost always -- the Church practices grim heresy.

There is no way the Church as it now behaves can be credible in claiming to love Gay people.

The Church has said Gays are special sinners; but the Church has not believed that. For all other groups of sinners the Church has sent missionaries. No established Church has ever evangelized the Gay community.

The Church has echoed now discredited psychiatrists to say that all gays are sick; but the Church has not really believed that. Whenever the Church finds sick people, the Church builds hospitals, around the world. Yet no Church has built even a tiny clinic to diagnose, much less to heal, gay "sickness."

There has been a sizable gay ghetto in America for at least 50 years, and there has been articulate recognition of this community since Kinsey's studies in 1948.

The gay Christian movement speaks God's judgment against the Church for its inability to love and calls the Church to repent and rediscover what grace and communion really are.

Lutherans Concerned, Dignity (Roman Catholics), Integrity (Episcopalians), Affirmation (Methodists), More Light (Presbyterian Gay Caucus.... these are part of a growing movement of Gay Christians called out of our larger memberships in the "one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" into smaller bodies to witness to one another and to the Church at large Christ's unconditional love for all people, and for gay people in particular. Often we meet in dark, ddrafty corners of ghetto churches when the religion of nongays takes a nighty off. Many of our members are fearful of being spotted and thereby marked to be be fired or moved out of our apartments. No cameras are allowed. Priests and laity, respecting but crossing the lines of all our rich cultural and religious diversity, we come together most ecumenically to break bread and drink wine, sometimes to be baptized, sometimes to be confirmed, always to depart from our catacombs with the mission of love, with the hope and promise of renewal.

Those of us who can risk greater vulnerability, often because we have been less scarred in our youth than have others of us, bang the year round on doors of rectories and vestries, on the doors of standard Church publications and at boards of education and professional organizations, always seeking someone to hear the Holy Spirit speaking in the temples of our Gay bodies, the message of Christ's unconditional love.

We gays have more questions about sexuality than we profess answers. We are as catholic in our diversity as are those in the hetero majority. Our common experience of Gay suffering is alone what unites us. Ironically it is often the persecution by the Church that has forced on Gays our greater sexual honesty -- we've had no hetero respectability, no hetero reputation to protect. And we know ever so much more about the heterosexuals than they know about us. They are flaunted in all the literature and all the other media. And we've seen the seamier side of hetero Christian lovelessness much more objectively than heterosexuals have tried to see it. We are not surprised, though nevertheless deeply disturbed, by the spiraling divorce rates or the rampant birth rates, and all of the other evidence of hetero selfishness and greed and pride. Often it seems that our nongay sisters and brothers set out on purpose to make a mockery o the simple Eden injunction to be fruitful and multiply, risking an end to all future fruitfulness and an imminent ecological disaster.

The entire history of the Gospel has been marked by its perpetual extension to hitherto excluded persons.

The Church now as always is charged to carry the Gospel to every person.

Ironically the Church has made gays the modern equivalent of the lepers, the very least of thse God's children, only in our time to have God choose the despised and the rejected to be instruments of salvation.  We have not sought God so much as God has sought us, to make a mockery of sexual pretensions and to bring the light of honest, understanding and compassion.


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