another college chaplain and another gay student. the one place you cant stand!

another blog by Neil Hart on gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

Sorry guys, ive done it again. WAAAYYYYY too long. But have a read anyway. Yeh?. this stuff is important.

i was listening to a Lutheran Church of Australia college chaplain speak about his role in a Lutheran college some time back. He touched on the issue of gay students in the community. You wont be surprised, readers,  to hear that my ears pricked up at that point. He mentioned in a casual manner, as if it were the most natural thing in the world and not an issue at all. “oh yes, we have quite a few gay students who have come out in the college community.” The only other thing i remember him saying was that, generally, the gay thing was no big deal for either the teachers or the other kids in the college.

Truth be told…i didnt know what to think. By now readers  i’m sure you have some suspicions that i might not be 100 percent behind present Lutheran Church of Australia teaching on homosexuality. I do have real fears about the harm our teaching on homosexuality does to our community, gay and straight alike. I have particular fears about the effect our teachings have on young gay people who are in our care. And here , i was listening to a chaplain describe the situations of gays in his college in reasurring and understatedly healthy terms. Could it be that there was really broad acceptance of the gays in the college?  “No big deal”… ok.. .cool… yet…. not ok. Something wasnt sitting right. Something was gnawing away in the far reaches of my slow moving brain.

It came together for me as i had the chance to question the chaplain further over lunch. He tslked about a recent event where a teacher had come to him for advice. The teacher was going into a class containing one of the “no-big-deal-already-come-out”  gays students”  Whatever the class was, it was apparent that the question of sexuality was likely to arise. The teacher asked for advice on what she should say to him. The chaplain admitted that he didnt know what to say.

sorry… (pause for dramatic effect)…did you get that?….let it sink in for a bit….

The chaplain told the teacher that he  didnt know what to say!

Suddenly the thing that had been gnawing away at the back of my brain, chomped through the last remaining vestiges of my hypothalamus (leaving me slightly dull eyed and drooling)  and  burst into my frontal lobe with stunning revelation and one blinding flash of insight.

The understated no-big-deal of the chaplains opening remarks were not that at all. The chaplain and staff were not operating out of an attitude of acceptance of the gay students in their care. They were operating out of stunned silence and confusion.

I challenged him in my usual careful and sensitive manner…”WTF!!!!  you didnt know what to say???!! you couldnt tell the student that he was a wonderful child of God. That he was OK! that His sexuality is an important part of who he is and that people are there to support him and help him and love him no matter what. Coz thats what God’s about! that’s what this college is about. ..

Hes just a 16 year old Kid in the middle of the hardest and most confusing time of his life. I rmember the confusion of teenage years and trying to work out who i really was in the world. How much harder must it be for a young gay guy! (actually…no….lie… i dont remember how hard it was. all i really remember is vague snippets of girls in bikinis, beer and cigarettes…school was in there somewhere… and…ummmm…..oh yes..there it is again…dull eyed staring and drooling…but that might have just been me.)

I dont remeber exactly what i said to the chaplain. I think it was words to that effect. I hope it was, Who knows,,,maybe i just stared and drooled. but i dont think so. i must have said something coz i remember that the conversation went straight to the question of sin. Ahhh yes. Sin. the church cant really say nice reassuring things to the kid coz its collective conscience doesn’t allow it. Coz, in its heart of hearts the church sees the “blot” of homosexuality and is gagged lest any words give the wrong impression that sin is ok. Coz if its sin, it cant be ignored and it cant be ok.

Sigh…I couldnt help but think of my grandkids at that moment. What if any of them are gay? would i want them in that classrom? speaking to that teacher? advised by that chaplain?……ummmmmm…….NO!

The chaplain was no dummy and he certainly was not a person lacking in compassion. he knew what he was saying, and i think that his face betrayed the struggle that was going on inside of him. He said, “If its not sin then we do great harm to these people. IF its not sin”. (There you go M. there is the context for this quote which i first used in the “lutheran college, gay student, more harm than good” blog.)

Well, as i said then i say now. No . Its not sin. and Yes, You do great harm.

It seems to me that the chaplain and that experienceis representative of where the church at large stands in publicly addressing questions relating to homosexuality.  They lack the freedom to consider alternative and compassionate appraoches to the question and the people in their care. and yet they lack conviction and courage to speak and to act in a way that is consistant with church teaching on sin. The lack of speech and action is probably because of the public backlash it knows it will receive.

If a gay or lesbian person were to follow their heart and pursue a full expression of love with someone that they are attracted to, someone of their own gender, then the Church believes that person to be acting sinfully, rebelliously and outside of the will of God. If they continued unrepentantly in this sin then the church would be forced to act. It would act because it cant condone sin and because relationships gay or straight, are very public things, the effects of public church discipline would need to be considered. Eventually the relationship, the open and unrepentant sin, would cause offence to enough of the community of faith that church discipline would need to be exercised. The person would be excommunicated (or whatever it is that they call it now) They would be refused holy communion because the body and blood of christ would now sand in judgement over their unrepentant sinful lifestyle. Eventuslly they would be excluded from the church community.

If this principle of taking sin seriously were to be applied by the chaplain as he advised the teacher on how to speak to that gay student then the conversation might have gone something like this…

“I know its hard but in love for this guy we need to confront him with the truth. Because, while he is in a christian college we have tjhe best chance to bring God’s word to the situation and we can tell him things that he will probably not hear in the world. We need to tell him that his sexual orientation is ungodly, unatural and perverse. He cannot allow himself to fall to temptation and act on his desires. If he does then he will be in open and unrepentant sin and if that were to continue through his life then the consequences of that sin may well be eternal. For the sake of his soul and his overall well being, we need to confront him with the truth (sensitively of course) help him to repent of his sin and remind him of God’s forgiveness. Then we need to advise him of the help that is available to him. He could be prayed for so that he doesnt fall into temtation. he can investigate reparitive therapies that can help him renounce and supress his homosexual orientation.”

That, readers, would be an appraoch that takes sin seriously. An approach that says  “Yes, it IS sin and we will deal with it as we deal with all sin. Repentance, forgiveness and help with living a godly life”.

So, why dont they do it? Why did the chaplain and the teacher not go down that path? Because it SUCKS . thats why. and both the chaplain and the teacher know it. It is violent and horrible and would be incredibly damaging to that young gay guy. If it were my son that were spoken to that way i might even explore legal avenues….prolly for 3 reasons.

1. to show my son that he is not a freak and that i love and support him and would go to the ends of the earth to protect him and seek justice for him.

2. To show my son that the community generally does not have such perverse, prejudiced and damaging views. and that society through the law would want to protect him from such obscenities.

3. To make sure that the college could never do that again to another vulnerable young homosexual in their care.

But. as i said,  tje chaplain was no dummy and was not lacking in compassion. He had a real heart for that young guy and would never do anything to harm him, And thats the point. The chaplain knew, in his own heart of hearts, that the church’s usual approach to sinful desires and activities becomes a horrible perversion when it is applied to this young homosexual.

And so, he is silent. struck dumb by the  pressures applied by the inescapable logic of the situation.

Either:

It is sin and he needs to deal with it and the student  from that perspective.

Or

It is not sin and he and the teacher are free to treat this young man in exactly the same manner as they treat all students in discussing questions of sexuality and relationships.

But the chaplain takes neither course.

He stands in the one place he cant stand.

He neither acts in accordance with the teachings of the church and the bible nor acts in accordance with the sense of justice and compassion inside him that squirms more than a little at the biblical process for dealing with homosexual sin. He stands like someone trapped in the demilitarized zone between north and south korea, surrounded by barbed wire and feeling the gun sights of both sides taking a bead on him. And his perfectly undersatndable but totally unacceptable response?….he crouches down and covers his head with his arms.

Dont stand there man. eventually, someone WILL fire a bullet. (S@#t. Is that what i just did?).

It occurs to me, especially as i have watched some recent public discussions on the question of homosexuality, that representatives of the church stand right alongside the chaplain. They lack the freedom to consider alternative and compassionate appraoches to the question and the people in their care. and yet they lack conviction and courage to say what the church teaches for fear of the public backlash it knows it will recieve.

A couple of examples…( i know this is taking a while….sorry…please bear with me)

The program…Q and A…2009.

The panel. (In video clip appearance order)…

Father Frank Brennon: christian, jesuit priest, activist. Lots of trustworthy grey hair and sits forward all the time. He is quick to smile even when he is being hammered by an opponent. He sounds a bit too much like he is trying to be my friend.

Waleed Aly, muslim and social commentator. ( a small appearance at the start of the clip) He looks distinctly middle eastern…hmmmm….need i say more. His comments always sound very considered and he gets lots of applause. but, when he finishes, i dont think i have understood anything of what he has said. It appears as though, if pushed,  he might just tolerate me as his friend.

Last to appear is Christopher Hitchens: world renowned athiest, writer and social commentator. He looks arrogant even in the way he sits. He appears to be snobbish and works very hard NOT to be my friend. The only other thing of note is that he is frustatingly well informed and almost always right. (damn!)

oh yeh…the panel also has 2 chicks from hufflepuff. i dont know their names and and i dont remember that they said anything of note, but i understand they have good hearts and are good at finding things: coz thats what hufflepuffs do…apparently…: / )

Frank and Waleed are asked about religious opposition to gay marriage. Frank didnt answer the question by using words.. Waleed didnt answer the question by not using words and Christopher was the only one who said anything sensible at all. I have cut out a lot of the extaneous material.

“WHY DONT YOU SAY WHAT YOU ACTUALLY THINK? HOW ABOUT THAT!”

“…the way Frank spoke about homosexuality its as if the church had never condemned it as a mortal sin”

hmmmm…cant argue with the man.

Father Brennan’s meandering irrelevancies probably grow out of his desire to present the church’s stand on the issue of gay marriage as reasonable and just, that they are not the hard headed nay sayers that everyone imagines. The fact remains, however that he speaks for a church who have called homosexuality an immoral perversion. He speaks for a church who have just sent a letter to parliament condemning same sex marriage.

The same letter, by the way, was signed by the president and leaders  from the Lutheran Church of Australia. Its the letter i referred to in my “gay marriage vs mandatory detention” blog. Remember readers? I promised to get a copy for your perusal. Its prolly good for you to know what is being said in the national parliament on your behalf, dont you think? (btw. I still cant get a copy of the letter. Ive contacted the National church office but no response to date. mind you, i’m not surprising  i know that they are very busy people. since we have decided not to apply any reasonable funding to The office of the president and yet still expect him to do the impossible job we have asked him to : / )

Here is another clip of Christopher Hitchens in full flight. It Is recorded in London in a debate entitles “Is the Catholic Church a force for good in the world?” Guess which side he was on? The other member of his team was Stephen Fry of QI fame. (clever likeable man :) ) Stephen is gay, a point which was exploited to the max by christopher. He tried to get the opposing team to even acknowledge that the church considered his sexuality sinful and deserving of God’s punishment. have a look as he summarises.

“Something about the question brought out the inner coward!”

Ay friends,  there’s the rub. The church cannot any longer say what it teaches because it knows how abhorent it sounds to the community it seeks to win.

I think that the traditional church response to homosexuality is bigotted, abhorent, harmful and is probably based more on fear rather than love and concern for the GLBT community. However, there are people whose religious convictions dictate that they remain true to their understanding of what the bible says about homosexuality. To these people, i give my (grudging?) respect. I completely disagree with them. but, like me in this blog i guess, they are speaking out of their own convictions. they are at the very least…consistent.  but i have little respect for those who stand in the demilitarised zone…looking stunned, slightly embarrassed and more than a little confused. Coz thats the one place you cant stand. coz there…you stand for nothing at all.