The View From Bolton Street
The Pain of the Gospel
For I wrote to you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. 2 Corinthians 2:4-5
Warning: this post contains conversations about sexual abuse, trauma and anti LGBT activism.
This week we have witnessed a tremendous amount of pain meted out in the ‘so-called’ name of Jesus. From the continuing revelations of abuse in the Catholic Church, to the Southern Baptist efforts to cover up sexual abuse in their denomination, to the Methodist Church’s determination to marginalize and isolate LGBT and LGBT affirming Christians within their tradition - it has been a painful week in the Church. So these lines from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians are especially poignant: that when pain is inflicted in the name of Jesus it does not hurt the religious leaders — but it hurts all of you. So like Paul I write to you this week out of distress and anguish, not my distress, but the distress of the whole Christian Community.
We all suffer in these moments, and we should, as a faith community, take special stock in those who suffer the most today; those who are reminded of their own abuse and isolation, those who worry it could happen again, and those who have been told they are ‘less than’ as Christians AND as people for who they are or who they love.
Perhaps most of all, we should remember that for far too long, and still today in some corners of the world, the issue of LGBT equality and child abuse have been conflated. Far too many people still believe that child abuse is a result of the acceptance of LGBT inclusion, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, careful study of scientific literature and of scripture informs us that it is the opposite. Child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse, is about power, authority and control. It is criminal and it is evil. Not being an expert on psychology, let me instead speak about the scriptural and moral aspects of this.
A good amount of scripture that is used to argue against gay marriage is actually about sexual abuse. Whether it is the abuse of children, women, the poor, the foreigner, the outcast. Throughout scripture God takes great care to remind us that we must protect the physical sanctity of the body from those who would see to violate it using their strength, wealth, political or religious authority. And yet it is often those very authority figures that take advantage of ‘the least of these’ while sidelining important scriptural discussions of sexual morality to only be about two consenting adults in loving relationships.
This week we have seen what happens when these teachings are co-opted and this message distorted on both sides. The allowance/ignoring of sexual assault on the one hand, and the marginalization and degradation of the LGBT community on the other. A sad, sad moment for the Church Universal.
It is tempting, of course, to say that the. Episcopal Church is innocent in all of this. And while I agree that we are better at inclusion and have strong policies in place to prevent abuse — this is a good moment to take a look at what we do here at Memorial and in the broader church to ensure that we are living out the full gospel story in word and deed. We will continue to, from an internal policy and external advocacy perspective, look at how we can do more to make the world safer for Children and our church more inclusive for the whole of. the. LGBT+ community.