Author’s Note: I’ve not been able to verify all the facts of this story, as it has been told to me second hand. However, as it has been told to me, it highlights a big problem that a lot of churches have. They don’t know how to handle gay members.
Recently I was made aware of a northern Alabama Lutheran church that had refused communion to one of its members. Catholics and other Lutherans (and maybe some Presbyterians and Methodists) would understand the significance of this; refusing communion is a very public way of telling a member he or she isn’t welcome. In some churches, this is a direct refusal to forgive sins, which is a big deal for people that think they need communion to get right with their deity. So it’s never done lightly, and it’s done for super serious reasons.
The reason? The church elders found out this person was getting counseled for having gay thoughts.
That’s right. Gay. Thoughts.
This person (I don’t know the age, but he has to be above 13 and confirmed to go for communion) felt ashamed as a result of having these thoughts, and sought private counseling from the church pastor. This is a Missouri Synod church, so it definitely teaches homosexuality is itself a sin. So, the congregation member acted to try to save his immortal soul. And he made the mistake of getting counseling that wasn’t privileged to do it.
Small town churches being what they are, word eventually spread around after the pastor left. The church elders found out about it, and they decided to take this very big step at letting this person know they did not approve of having gay thoughts. Essentially they delivered the strongest reprimand they could find, using a proverbial nuke to swat a fly.
At no point did anyone consider accepting this person for who he is, including himself.
This entire affair only highlights how Christian teachings can lead people to genuinely hate and fear themselves. Rather than simply accepting homosexuality as natural and part of one’s identity, it’s shunned and thought of as a voluntary moral wrongdoing. How dare people love differently than what a religious text permits!
But wait, we’re not even at that point yet. Here’s this person, figuring out his identity, and he’s having thoughts about liking people of his same sex. Alarms go off, indoctrination kicks in, and the conclusion is already made that this is a bad thing.
Divine assistance is needed to help you not be…yourself.
That message is toxic enough to cause church elders to deny someone imaginary redemption for his imaginary crimes against an imaginary being, to publicly shame and humiliate someone who has questions about his identity and still did not question religious interpretation of it. In a way, it’s the perfect form of abuse, because there’s no crime, no civil wrongdoing, and no reason to call the community’s attention to what’s going on. This can happen, and nobody’s going to question whether the belief system is wrong.
Fortunately, this kind of stuff can be brought to public scrutiny. For many Christians in the U.S., y’all will have to ask yourselves if this is what you believe. Do people really need to be humiliated and shamed about things they can’t change?
Personally, I cannot describe any belief system as “uplifting” that encourages people to do their worst in the face of no moral crime. Sexual orientation isn’t something that can be shamed or prayed away.