On this day, one of the most holy of days in Christendom, millions celebrate the resurrection of their icon of salvation to renew their hope of everlasting life. Although millions of “followers of Christ” portray themselves as representations of his love, it is difficult to distinguish between Christ’s true followers and closed-minded people who reject his teachings in favor of repression and discrimination of non-believers. There are myriad opportunities for critics of Christianity to point out the fallacious mindset and contradictory actions of many 21st century Christians, and indeed, some critics have called for religious organizations to speak out against injustice in the name of religion. There are isolated examples of congregations who stand in opposition to the fanaticism rampant in the Christian community, and their goodness is beginning to catch on.
There is one such group that has spoken out and made a stand that is representative of Christ’s teachings, and they are a model for followers of Christ to emulate if they have the courage and conviction to reject the hate and vitriol that exemplifies American Christianity. Members of a Kentucky church have unanimously voted to cease signing official marriage licenses until same-sex marriage is legalized. Their bold decision came before a recent CNN poll that shows a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, and it is a cause for celebration and recognition that at long last, discrimination and inequity in the name of religion may be on the way out.
The Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (DBCC) declared itself to be an open and affirming community of faith in 2008 with a “commitment to full acceptance of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, or sexual orientation,” and church leaders said their decision represents those values. It is interesting that the church’s commitment is more in line with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment than the discriminatory practices of many fanatical evangelical organizations. The Kentucky church’s members embrace Christ’s admonition to accept all people and to treat them with fairness instead of castigating them, and in many cases, openly condemning them as criminals because of whom they choose to love. A church associate minister, Reverend Ryan Kemp-Pappan said, “Our membership is committed to treating homosexuals and heterosexuals equally. Our congregation believes it is unfair to provide different services and benefits to heterosexual couples than we can provide to gay and lesbian couples.”
Fairness is a word that Jesus didn’t utter in his sermons because he assumed his followers would understand that when he said to love all people, they took him at his word. If his believers then, as well as now, did not understand his words, they surely saw first-hand that Jesus treated non-believers, sinners, and foreigners with love and affection equally, and he didn’t do it for donations, popularity, and notoriety; or to influence legislation. He did it because he represented perfection and was the example for all humanity to follow if they were true, loving human beings, and Christians.
The bold move by the Kentucky church is in stark contrast to voter’s intentions in 2004 when they overwhelmingly passed a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage with the backing of the state’s three largest religious organizations: the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Catholic Conference of Kentucky, and the Southeast Christian Church; the state’s largest congregation. The amendment passed with 74% approval in a statewide vote that makes the DBCC’s decision and pronouncement all the more significant. It is also noteworthy that church leaders didn’t appeal to the religiosity in their decision, but commented that there is inequity that they cannot endorse or perpetuate; the decision is remarkable nonetheless. Kemp-Pappan said the decision allowed members to “live out their faith as to what we believe,” and that it will “expand our outreach to a community that is being marginalized.” The church has a small congregation and performs 8 to 10 weddings per year, but is part of a larger organization and their hope is that their decision will start a dialogue with Christians who oppose homosexuality.
This column has been brutal in its attacks on the hate and hurtful practices of Christians and churches that promote discrimination by advocating legislation that oppresses non-compliant Americans; especially gays and women. However, there have also been calls for Christians to speak out against abhorrent bible-based legislation as well as oppression of the poor, women, and homosexuals because not all Christians support exclusionary practices of the evangelical community. There is overwhelming evidence that appears to portray all Christians as practitioners of hate, but the evidence is borne of organizations bent on controlling the government to reflect their own vision of theocracy and control of the populace.
The Kentucky church’s decision comes at a time when Republicans, at the urging of the evangelical lobby, are preparing to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA punishes same-sex couples in many ways other than not allowing them to marry. Same-sex couples do not have the same rights as heterosexual couples in matters of adoption, health decisions, and income tax status and it is patently unfair according to the 14th Amendment. The oppression and discrimination that conservative-Christian legislators practice has as its basis a few lines from the Hebrew scriptures in the Christian bible and do not represent the teachings of Jesus; or the Constitution. Nonetheless, Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner are going to spend taxpayer money to defend DOMA for their evangelical supporters instead of fixing the economy or creating jobs for all Americans.
Although the DBCC is a small congregation, they have spoken with the voice of fairness and acceptance that Jesus would recognize and endorse. Their decision will certainly elicit hostility and outrage from hate-groups with money and influence in Congress, but it also makes a statement that not all Christians subscribe to the Christofacist’s (HH) agenda of suppression and discrimination. There are good Christians willing to speak out for acceptance and decency that Jesus preached, but they have been shouted down by tyrants and Dominionists whose sole purpose is theocracy with assistance from conservative Christian legislators.
On this day of renewal and hope there is reason to celebrate that there are Christians speaking out and making a stand for the voiceless. Earlier this year when Republicans proposed spending cuts targeting the poor and women, another Christian group spoke out in opposition and based their objections on Christ’s command to feed and clothe the poor. That group, along with DBCC’s decision to stop discriminating against gays resurrects the true meaning of Christ’s teachings, and although they are not mega-churches, their courage and opposition to hate speaks volumes. Many people wondered why millions of Christian voices were not speaking out against hate in America because there is always silence. DBCC is a small in numbers, but they speak with their savior’s authority and it represents millions of voices. Whether or not one subscribes to Christianity, due respect, admiration, and gratitude are owed to any group opposed to hate and discrimination at the hands of alleged Christians. Hopefully, conservative Christian legislators are listening; although highly unlikely, one can always hope.