“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”James 2:8-10
I’ve been delving deeper into the testimony of Ms. Julie Rodgers, a wonderful gay Christian featured in the Netflix documentary Pray Away. I found her autobiography Outlove on Amazon Kindle, and I’ve been feeling a wide range of turbulent emotions over what she’s opened up about.
Just in the first part of her book, she details the time when she was a kid, and her Mom told her that being gay is the only unforgivable sin, because it’s a “chosen lifestyle”. Julie knows this to be a common fundamentalist teaching, and as we both know, it’s a dangerously unbiblical lie. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that gay people specifically won’t be forgiven. This is the fault of leaders such as Jerry Falwell Sr., who accused us of being responsible for 9.11.
There’s only one unforgivable sin, and it’s what’s referred to as “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” in Matthew 12:31-32. Essentially, this is the eternal choice to reject God’s hand and condemn yourself, fully aware of your decision. It has nothing to do with gay relationships.
Even this pastor here, who adheres to the traditional take on the Bible, says that it’s terrible to call being gay “unforgivable”. I appreciate that.
See, here’s the problem with religious leaders claiming that God doesn’t forgive gay people: they’re absolutely using His name to misdirect attention from themselves. When they conveniently ignore actual sins such as lying and adultery while absolutely obsessing over everything queer, they make the real truth unwittingly clear.
It’s not that God doesn’t forgive us queer folk: it’s that these leaders refuse to, while condoning blatant sinners who fit into their agenda.
Playing Favorites, Are We?
As you can imagine, saying that being gay is the ultimate sin is a great way to fuel homophobia in all of its ugly manifestations. It starts from the pulpit, folks. When religious leaders say it’s ok to despise us, it gives validation for the violent parts of our society to attack us.
Riiiight, so “the gays should be executed” but not adulterers, when there’s a passage in Leviticus that also calls for them to be stoned. Those wretched homosexuals can’t possibly be saved, but if a pastor is caught out doing the diddly with prostitutes, no problemo! Even though that passage in Corinthians they love to point to also says that adulterers won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”Leviticus 20:10
Did they demand that this pastor enter a life of celibacy to maintain holiness? I’m being sarcastic, of course, I know they didn’t. They gave him a slap on the wrist, mercy, grace, excuses, when he committed actual sexual sin. Self-righteous hypocrites. Yet, we’re worthy of demonization and slander against us?
I went looking in my Bible for a verse addressing mercilessness, and it opened to James 2, which my Bible has titled as “The Sin of Partiality”. I found a cool YouTube Bible study video explaining this passage.
We see religious authorities playing favorites all the time. Frankly, there’s no better example in the modern age than how Evangelicals have reacted (or failed to properly react) to the crimes of former president Donald Trump, who loves to lie. Case in point, again, his attempt to gaslight America by referring to the violence perpetrated against Capitol officers on Jan. 6 as “hugs and kisses”.
I remember mentioning in my previous blog post that I found an article online about James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, condoned the dangerous lie that 2020 was a “stolen election”. Well, I accidentally found his 2021 February newsletter that not only confirms that, but shows that he refused to even acknowledge the violent insurrection on Jan. 6.
I’ve had enough of this man constantly getting a free pass from the same people who love to vilify us for every little thing. Trump is a narcissistic chronic liar, and lying is mentioned in the Bible quite frequently. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, but for some reason, James Dobson and many other religious individuals love to conveniently ignore Trump’s refusal to stop committing this sin.
See, I can do it too!
I know this is a snide tone I’m taking, and I’ll admit that it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism I use to mask the rage I carry over this. By the way, here’s this passage from 2 Timothy that I accidentally stumbled across. So much of it’s a dead ringer for how our “righteous” former president has acted, the man who loves to slander anybody who dares speak a word against him.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”2 Timothy 3:1-5
Oh, but clearly, it’s those “damn homosexuals” who are the real threat to America. Don’t make me laugh. Start calling a spade a spade and admit that Trump and all other abusive people in power need to be held accountable. How can Evangelical leaders claim to be the “Moral Majority” when they’ve tossed away integrity? So much for being advocates for truth and justice!
Ah, and when I neared the end of Outlove, Julie Rodgers said pretty much all of this. In chapter 18 of her book, Julie accurately rips into the Evangelical hypocrisy surrounding Trump, how they were the ones to first spread the ridiculous double-standard message of “he’s not perfect, we all deserve forgiveness”. Like she said, LGBTQ+ kids like her who come from conservative religious backgrounds rarely receive that same mercy from these people.
Mm, I think it’s time to “scream into the void”, as the youngsters say.
Self-Righteousness and the First Stone
Another thing: I’ve seen the “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” passage be used to invalidate any and all correct callouts against Trump’s wrongdoings by his Evangelical supporters. They’re misusing this story. Jesus intervened in a situation where the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that time, had determined that they had the right to decide whether or not this woman deserved to die.
Jesus made it clear to them that no, they were far from blameless, and absolutely didn’t have the authority to pass this ultimate judgment on anybody. When we call out Trump and others for their wrongdoings, we’re not saying whether or not they’re worthy of God’s mercy or forgiveness. We’re demanding accountability. It’s gaslighting in an insidious form to say otherwise.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”Isaiah 5:20
“Acquitting the guilty and condemning the righteous–both are detestable to the LORD.”Proverbs 17:15
In the part of Outlove where Julie recalls her time as a chaplain at Wheaton College, she mentions a scene where a straight student confronted President Ryken over how ridiculously condemning the College’s faith statement was against their LGBTQ+ students. Once the student turned around, another student threw an apple at him in an attempt at assault.
Oh, and this kills me. The assaulter was so filled with self-righteousness that he revealed his identity on the student bulletin board, and had the nerve to quote from the above 2 Timothy passage as he railed against his victim. He said that he didn’t throw the apple “out of hatred” but to attack somebody who had attacked the “Spirit of grace”.
Don’t you dare try to equivalate somebody addressing issues in religious organizations as attacks on God. That straight ally was advocating for justice, and in revenge, their assaulter decided to unwittingly become one of the Pharisees from this aforementioned Bible scene.
B-But, The Gays Can Change!
So often, as Pray Away showed, my people (a term Julie Rodgers used in her autobiography) have been constantly condemned by religious authorities. It’s exhausting, and fuels several forms of violence against us. And I’m so weary of them arguing that you can “change your sexuality” when it’s been made clear as day that all “ex-gay therapy” does is teach individuals incredibly unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Feel free to look at these other testimonies I found, especially the ones given by ex-gay survivors to then-Exodus president Alan Chambers.
Make Them Celibate (But Only If They’re Gay)!
I’m finished reading Outlove, and there’s another religious issue pertinent to this that bears discussion: religious authorities demanding that LGBTQ folk be celibate in order to be holy. Essentially, if you’re not willing to live a lie by entering a heterosexual marriage, this is the only other acceptable option in their eyes.
So they never demand anything similar from adulterers, liars and those who commit actual sins?
Julie nailed it with how ridiculous this demand is by mentioning this verse from the Book of Matthew:
“They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”Matthew 23:4
They have a lot of nerve, demanding that we all follow a lifetime of damaging loneliness while they refuse to help us. When they refuse to demand a similar penance for adulterers, murderers and such, it’s made clear that they’re partial to condemning “they gays” but nobody else.
All the time, I see the “Moral Majority” condone the sins of those who support their agenda, while condemning those who oppose them/don’t fit their world views. Once again, I’m reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the Silent Hill film, where Rose the protagonist calls out the cult leader for all of this.
Rose: “Burn me? That’s your answer. Burn anything you’re afraid of. Burn anything you can’t control.
This woman uses your fear to control you. She led you to burn Alessa Gillespie, she lead you to burn an innocent child. But you will not deny your guilt, and you cannot deny her pain!”
Christabella: “That child was sin incarnate!”
Rose: “No. It is you who have sinned. You darkened the heart of an innocent, and now you cower in the face of Alessa’s revenge.”
Christabella: “Heresy. Burn her. BURN HER!”
Rose: “YOUR FAITH BRINGS DEATH!“
Like the cult in Silent Hill, Evangelical leaders and organizations have the blood of innocents on their hands. The dogma they demand be followed is responsible for LGBTQ+ children feeling that God has abandoned them, and has left them in an emotional pit of despair. The lies preached from the pulpit are part of the reason so many of those children of God end up taking their own lives. And yet, there seems to be no pity, no remorse, no compassion in return from those Pharisees who continue to falsely accuse them.
May we all take care and remember that Jesus, God Incarnate, walked among the outcasts and called out the religious leaders of that age as hypocrites who refused to be merciful towards those they deemed worthless.
I will follow His example, and I’m done trying to “see both sides” to this issue.
It’s time for Evangelicals to understand that when they claim to speak for God while simultaneously being selective about justice, they portray Him in the same way. God isn’t selective, so knock it off.