A shocking story has recently come out of Texas. It seems that High Point, an Arlington megachurch, abruptly canceled a planned funeral after finding out the deceased was gay, and that his family planned to mention that fact:
The pastor said that he could imagine a similar situation involving a different sin. Perhaps a mother who is a member of the church loses a son who is a thief or murderer, Mr. Simons said. The church would surely volunteer to hold a service, he said.
“But I don’t think the mother would submit photos of her son murdering someone,” he said. “That’s a red light going off.”
These words blaze with ugly and unrepentant bigotry. Comparing homosexuality to theft or murder is a disgusting slander, and shows that, when it comes to gays and lesbians, these people have nothing but hate in their hearts. They are consumed with an obsessive drive to punish everyone who engages in lifestyles they do not approve of. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t allow the funeral to go forward as planned so that they could deliver a sermon, a la Fred Phelps, about how the deceased is now burning in Hell and all other gays must repent or else share his fate. (I note that the deceased man, Cecil Sinclair, was not a church member; it was his family who wanted the memorial service held there.)
In either case, they’ve made it abundantly clear that people who practice different ways of life are not welcome within the doors of their church. I hope that all gay people and friends of gays take this lesson to heart and withdraw their support from churches that continue to disseminate such repulsive prejudice. I don’t understand why Mr. Sinclair’s family wanted to hold the memorial at High Point in the first place. Were they unaware of the church’s position on gays? Or did they believe that they would be welcomed, regardless of their differing views on the topic, because Christianity is a religion of love and tolerance? If so, I’m sorry for their disillusionment, but I think this only further underscores the point that most conservative denominations only extend that hand of welcome to people who believe and act just like them. Far from being a universal offer, their compassion is extended only to members of the in-group.
But there was another part to this story that also shocked me:
For instance, the family was willing to allow the church to issue an “altar call” asking people to accept Jesus at the end of the service.
Perhaps I’m naive, but is this a common occurrence at conservative religious congregations? Do they routinely exploit families’ grief as a way to proselytize for their own beliefs? It strikes me as tasteless and insensitive in the extreme to use a death in the community as an occasion for advertising.
High Point Church’s dismissive comparison of homosexuality to theft and murder underscores a point I made last month, in the post “Why Do They Care?“. The reason this bigotry seems so shocking is because it blithely equates murder, an act of violence inflicted on the victim without their consent, to a consensual, loving relationship between people of the same gender. To rational humanists, that is an outrageous equivalence, to compare an act of violence and harm to an act of pleasure and consent.
But to religious fundamentalists, there is no relevant difference. In their eyes, the only evil is that which offends God. No other factors are relevant – whether it causes harm or not, whether it is consensual or not, whether it causes pleasure or pain. If it angers God, it is wrong; and every such act receives the same punishment. They group all sins into the same category, recognizing no distinction or difference among them. A morality so blatantly divorced from human concerns, bearing no relation to what actual people need or want, is bound to cause great suffering whenever it’s applied to the real world.