Is Homophobia Holy Writ?
By Gabriel Rotello,
Newsday, March 10, 1993
hold gays to one standard and straights to another? Apparently
some Presbyterians think so.
theirs is a fairly broad-minded denomination, Presbyterians last
November barred the Rev. Jane Spahr, a lesbian minister, from
leading a Rochester congregation. Their highest judicial body
ruled that although celibate homosexuals can be pastors,
"unrepentant" ones like Jane Spahr cannot because their
sexuality is contrary to scripture.
I asked a leader
of the ad-hoc group of upstate Presbyterians that opposes gay
pastors, the Rev. Ronald Sallade of the Union Presbyterian
Church in Scottsville, where scripture condemns gays. He
mentioned Matthew, Chapter 19, but Sallade seemed to be
stretching. Although there are a few anti-gay passages in the
Bible, they're not in the four Gospels. Jesus, it bears
remembering, never said a word about homosexuality. But I
recalled that he opposed divorce and remarriage, so I asked
Sallade whether Presbyterians also banned divorced ministers.
"Oh, we allow
divorce. I myself happen to be divorced. But I'm remarried, and
I intend to remain remarried for life."
But I thought
Jesus said you couldn't do that. "No, he said that divorce is
adultery. And to adulterate is to water down, right? And that's
the point with all sin: to look at it, see it's a mistake and
recover from it."
But if a
remarried person really repented, wouldn't he return to his
original spouse? If not, isn't he simply continuing to commit
adultery? "No, it means that when you remarry, having made one
mistake, don't make it again."
me to look up Matthew for myself, and, surprisingly, the passage
Sallade said condemns gays actually condemns...divorce. The
Pharisees ask Jesus if divorce is allowed for any reason, and
Jesus replies that once a couple gets married, they are "one
flesh" that can never be "put asunder." But, ask the snooty
Pharisees, didn't Moses allow divorce? Yes, Jesus replies, "But
from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, whoever
divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another,
Since the ban on
adultery is one of the Ten Commandments, while a ban on
homosexuality is not, I couldn't help wondering why
Presbyterians allow remarried, but not gay or lesbian, pastors.
I interviewed several Presbyterian theologians and ministers,
who mostly just looked embarrassed. I even got a concordance, an
index of every word in the Bible, and looked up dozens of words
— atonement, forgiveness, charity — searching for a passage that
says, or even hints, that Christians can ignore Jesus and
remarry. I found nothing, though I'm still looking. I'm up to
the entries under hypocrisy, and I think I'm getting warm.
qualms about homosexuality are indeed embarrassing when
juxtaposed to their general acceptance of divorce. Fears of an
imaginary gay threat to the family seem particularly absurd next
to the very real damage divorce does to families. But on the
other hand, this modern tolerance of divorce shows how easily
many Christians could- accept gays and lesbians, if they really
wanted to. After all, if they've found a way around Matthew 19,
they can find a way around anything.
You'd think they'd
be eager to, what with Jesus' other admonition, the one about
casting stones. I mean, if people can interpret the Bible to cut
themselves a little slack in their love lives, the least they
can do is be charitable about it. And it's hardly charitable —
or consistent — to insist that the Bible requires gays and
lesbians to be celibate for life, while straights don't even
have to be faithful.
It doesn't even
make sense. After all, we frail humans are expected to have
double standards. But it's hard to imagine God does.