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Straight from the Heart

Web posted on December 08, 2017

Hey Jude!

Graffiti attack on Waterloo churches.

I felt angry and embarrassed last week when I saw in the news that anti-LGBT graffiti had been spray-painted on Waterloo's Emmanuel and Parkminster United Churches. Even moreso because the message was a verse of Scripture - Romans 1:32.

In Romans 1:18-32, St Paul re-affirms the Old Testament prohibition against lesbianism and homosexuality, and says that these are sins that merit God's judgment. But so, says Paul in the same passage, do a whole lot of other sins, including other kinds of immorality, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceitfulness, gossip, backbiting, violence, pride, boasting, disobedience to parents, disloyalty, evil minds devising evil things, unwillingness to show love or forgiveness or compassion, and having a hateful attitude toward God.

There are enough labels there to catch most of us out several times over. If St Paul is right - as I think he is - we all stand under God's judgment. Which means that whatever judgment we make against the LGBT community, we must also make against ourselves. Those ne'er-do-wells who vandalized the two churches - I wonder what condemnatory graffiti they painted on their own houses. Perhaps a message about the vice of self-righteousness? Or about doing-unto-others? Or maybe even about loving one's enemies?

I don't think the LGBT movement should go unchallenged, but the challenge needs to be civil and fair-minded. It's a challenge that must engage theologians, scientists, ethicists, sociologists, psychologists and, lastly, jurists. But it's not a challenge to be won by violence, protests, or shutting down debate. Nor with spray paint under the cowardly cover of night. We don't burn heretics any more (though we've ordained more than a few), and we don't stone adulterers either (though offended spouses may sometimes wish otherwise). We've learned (have we really?) that violence does not change minds and hearts; it only harden them.

Cheri DiNovo understands that. She's the NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park. She's also a United Church minister. She announced recently that she'll be returning to parish ministry in January, taking over Trinity-St Paul's United Church on Bloor St near the UofT campus. Speaking on Steve Paikin's "The Agenda", she explained that in her new position she intends to engage the theological issues of "diversity" (LGBT etc) to show that the Bible is really a "diversity friendly" book.

I'm not sure how she can do that without twisting the Scriptures in ways that would make their authors roll over in their graves. But to her credit, she recognizes where the battle must be joined - in the academic disciplines of theology, science, ethics, and the social sciences. It's a battle for the public mind. Uninformed and irrational as the public mind sometimes is, this is a battle that can only be won by reasoned, informed debate.

I expect that in a debate on these matters, the Reverend Ms DiNovo and I would take opposite sides. But I love the fact that she wants to engage the issues with serious scholarship. I wish her many stimulating debates - and I hope that some of them may give her second thoughts.

But as for the Emmanuel-Parkdale vandalism, I could fervently wish that it was the work of some evil pagans trying to give the gospel a bad rep. If that's what they were, they succeeded. But I fear that what they actually were, in fact, was earnest, evangelical Christians - misguided, self-righteous fundamentalists. Which is why I'm not only angry but embarrassed.

I hope that the vandals, in retrospect of their deeds, also feel embarrassed and ashamed. They dishonored the Bible when they used it in a malicious and criminal way. They dishonored Christ when they committed vandalism in his name. That sort of conduct can only impair the credibility of the Bible, the gospel, and the rest of us who believe in them.

So to the members of Emmanuel and Parkminster Churches, I want to say that I'm truly sorry for the cost, trouble, and damnable nuisance that some of my fellow evangelicals (if that's who they were) have caused you. I pray it may not impair your faith in the God who, through Jesus, loves both you and them, and the rest of us - in spite of ourselves - which I take to be the essence of his grace. And I hope that the elders of the vandals' congregation will require them to 'fess up and be accountable for their actions.

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Rev Robert Lyon is the assistant at St Jude, Guelph, a congregation of the Anglican Network in Canada, that meets at 10 o'clock on Sundays at the Evergreen Centre, near Riverside Park. Robert welcomes your questions and comments, and will be pleased to discuss topics on request. Contact him at nm@albedo.net.

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The opinions of thefountainpen's columnists are not necessarily those of thefountainpen.com.
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