The GOP’s Problem with Christianity

The GOP’s platform of “compassionate conservatism” has been difficult for Republicans to implement, and the difficulty is not because they cannot do it, it really is simply because they don’t want to do it — and more importantly, they don’t have to do it.

In an interview with The Associated Press, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and the number three man in the party’s leadership, discussed a Texas sodomy law now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything,” he said, adding, “All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.”

While inflammatory remarks hurled at the American public are not necessarily a mainstay of the GOP, certain comments have been condemned and yet others have been comforted in the vitriol of religious rhetoric.

In December 2002 at the 100th birthday party on Capital Hill for retiring Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott’s racist and segregationist “slip of the tongue” was publicly condemned by the party and President Bush.

The Republican Party has a problem with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people . . . it has become apparent to me that they also have a problem with Christianity and its theological mandate for inclusion of all people.

No longer holding onto its blatantly bigoted stance on race, the Republican Party’s vitriol of religious rhetoric of hatred has been hushed. Where this vitriol once garnered votes, it is now a political liability that can lose an election.

Santorum, a father of six children and a telegenic staple of Sunday morning talk shows, is a devout Roman Catholic who attends Mass every day. His denunciation of LGBT people is comforted by his hubris, like when he told Fox News Channel, “I do not need to give an apology” to the LGBT community, because “I think this is a legitimate public policy discussion.” But it is also comforted in the vitriol of his religious rhetoric to love the sinner but hate the sin when he told the AP, “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who’s homosexual. If that’s their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it’s not the person, it’s the person’s actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.”

According to Earl H. Tilford, professor of history at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Santorum does not need to apology to the LGBT community as a defender of the Christian faith because the immorality of homosexuality is fundamental to the Judeo-Christian understanding of sexual morality.

Both Tilford and Santorum feel no apology needs to be made to the LGBT community, but I do. I also think an apology should be made to Christianity, a religion that is always changing and must especially change to include in its fold those who are left out.

Former Episcopal Bishop of Newark (New Jersey) John Shelby Spong stated in his book Why Christianity Must Change or Die that “Institutional Christianity seems fearful of inquiry, fearful of freedom, fearful of knowledge — indeed, fearful of anything except its own repetitious propaganda, which has its origins in a world that none of us any longer inhabits.”

Unapologetically intolerant and intentionally exclusive Bush’s GOP has “got religion,” but has no compassion. And, while the GOP’s “compassionate conservatism” lacks the very thing it purports to have, “compassion,” Christianity does not.

However, it is usually the staunch defenders of the Christian faith who cannot change or will not change because their faith is firmly built on antiquated proscriptions against LGBT people and no compassion for them.

Unapologetically intolerant and intentionally exclusive Bush’s GOP has “got religion,” but has no compassion. And, while the GOP’s “compassionate conservatism” lacks the very thing it purports to have, “compassion,” Christianity does not.

Sexuality is an essential part of being human. It is not something you may or may not choose to have. The Gospels portray Jesus as a compassionate, gentle, loving, tender, and warm person. As quietly as it is kept in Christian theology Jesus was fully human, and as one who was fully human he was also fully endowed with sexuality.

Jesus expects sex to be an integral part in fulfilling his commandment that we are ” . . . to love one another” as stated in John (13:34) in order to experience the deepest desire and expression of spiritual communion. How we express our love sexually is not mandated to be heterosexual, although defenders of the Christian faith purport otherwise.

The perversion about our lives lies not in what heterosexuals or defenders of the Christian faith say we do, but in what they refuse to accept as part and parcel of the continuum of human sexuality, because God affirms the inherent goodness of all sexualities as part of creation. Our sexualities are the expressions of who we are with and in our bodies. Sexuality is a language and a means to communicate our spiritual need for intimate communion — human and divine. It is our self-understanding through which we experience the world. Also, our sexualities force us all to see the walls of partition erected in our society, in our churches, and in our families that prohibit us to live freely in our bodies, and, these walls not only contribute to the false socialization of who we are as male and female, but these walls also contribute to the false spiritualization of who we are as the body of Christ.

Until the 4th century C.E . . . to be called a Christian was considered a religious epithet, and it subjected Christians to ridicule, hate crimes and Christian-bashing in much of the same way as us LGBT people are today.

The Riverside Church in New York City welcomes LGBT people as the body of Christ. In its “Statement of Openness, Inclusion and Affirmation of Gay/Lesbian Persons,” it states, “Recognizing that our Christian faith is the foundation of our values in human relationships, we envision a community in which each person will grow up knowing, enjoying and having confidence in her/himself as a sexual being. Our sexuality is a gift of God which enriches our lives and deeply touches the reality of our own humanity; it is a channel through which we experience the abundant life.”

Although many Christians do not make the connection between the struggle LGBT people face today and those of the early Christians, because if they did they would know we stand firmly on the shoulders of the early Christians.

Until the 4th century C.E. when the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, Christians were despised as much in those days as LGBT people are today. As a matter-of-fact, to be called a Christian was considered a religious epithet, and it subjected Christians to ridicule, hate crimes and Christian-bashing in much of the same way as us LGBT people are today. Just as Matthew Shepard, a 21 year-old first-year student at the University of Wyoming, in October 1998 was bludgeoned and then nailed to a wooden fence, like a hunting trophy, because he was gay, Stephen, a follower of Jesus was stoned to death in 35 C.E. because he was a Christian. Stephen became the first Christian martyr, and the Apostle Paul, before he saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and stopped his Christian bashing, was one of the many approving bystanders at Stephen’s stoning.

Christianity must change in order to stay vibrant and applicable to today’s times. It must have an on-going relationship with the dispossessed, the disinherited, the disrespected and the damned that looks at reality from an involved, committed stance in light of a faith that does justice.

But if the GOP right-wingers don’t remember or refuse to remember their history of Christianity, they are not only doomed to repeat it, but they are also doomed to desecrate it.

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