The Big Three wimp out

ucc adThe three major broadcast TV networks stepped in a deep cowpie by turning away a witty ad from the United Church of Christ, and the UCC likely will gain more attention through news reports than it would have through the ad.

News reports in three major dailies — The Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle (where it appeared on the front page, below the fold) — focus on different finer points of the story.

The 30-second ad makes a favored point among liberal Christians: that some churches, by stressing Christianity’s historic teachings on homosexuality, are being exclusive, turning people away or otherwise being spiteful. The ad takes that idea up a notch by depicting a church as excluding a gay couple, a young Latino man and an African American girl.

The ad’s humorous genius is in how it illustrates the concept: two muscular, bald, black-clad bouncers stand outside a church and behind a proverbial velvet rope. One says in a voice of deadpan contempt: “Step aside, please,” “No way, not you” and “I don’t think so.” What American who loves fair play and underdogs could watch this commercial and feel anything other than revulsion for these goons (or the one white married couple they let through the rope)? Is this a church, or Studio 54?

In Michael Paulson’s report for the Globe, one striking detail is that UCC officials did not expect that the commercial could be taken as criticizing any other church:

[The Rev. Nancy S.] Taylor [president of the UCC's Massachusetts Conference] said the ad is not intended to criticize other denominations. She said she showed the ad to members of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, an umbrella organization of Protestant and Orthodox churches, where it drew no criticism.

That detail may say more about the goo-goo atmosphere in councils of churches, even at the state level, than it does about the ad’s content.

Another striking detail from Paulson’s report: Although NBC and CBS have taken the bulk of criticism for flatly rejecting the ad, ABC got off the hook by accepting the ad on its ABC Family cable channel. Otherwise, in the chirpy and conflict-averse spirit of Disney, its parent company, ABC rejects ads from all religious bodies. (One irony here: ABC Family began its life as the 24-hour channel for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, became Fox Family for a time, and still broadcasts The 700 Club a few times a day.)

In the Chronicle, arts and culture critic Steve Winn quotes a UCC minister who sees the long and theocratic arm of the Bush administration yanking the networks’ chains:

“It’s ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial,” said the Rev. John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, in a statement. “What’s going on here?”

The Rev. Kyle Lovett, pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in San Francisco, proposed an answer. On the eve of President Bush’s second term, she said, the networks “can’t afford to go against the administration’s version of Christianity and what counts as moral values and what doesn’t count as moral values.”

In fairness to Lovett, GetReligion is baffled by this explanation from a CBS official mentioned in Paulson’s story: “Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact that the Executive Branch [the Bush administration] has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast.” Since when should legislative actions of the executive branch determine whether a network accepts an ad that violates no decency standards of the FCC?

In the Tribune‘s story, religion professor Alan Wolfe of Boston College raises a concern that we’re likely to hear many times during the next four years:

“CBS and NBC seem to be afraid, not of stirring controversy, but of alienating potential viewers, the kind, moreover, that like to organize boycotts and write letters,” Wolfe said. “There may be a new form of political correctness arising in America, one in which attempts are made to avoid violating the sensibilities, not of women or racial minorities, but of conservative Christians.”

The Tribune also managed to find two conservative Christians who approved of the networks’ decision:

Peter LaBarbera, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, gave a strong thumbs up to the networks’ decision.

He said that in the late 1990s, conservative groups wanted to run a commercial featuring “ex-homosexuals who had been converted back to being heterosexuals.” Under pressure from gay-rights groups, the networks refused to accept the spots.

“At least they’re being consistent,” LaBarbera said.

Karl Maurer, vice president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, also endorsed the networks’ stand, calling the commercials “false advertising.”

“When the Roman soldiers in the Gospel came to Jesus and said, ‘How can I be saved?’ Jesus did not respond, ‘Be inclusive.’ Jesus responded, “Follow the commandments.’”

LaBarbera has a point: When networks reserve the right to turn away any ads they deem too controversial, that sword can cut conservatives as much as liberals.

Nevertheless, the networks would show more integrity — and provide more interesting broadcasts — if they were less skittish about a 30-second ad from the UCC than they are about the Coors twins.

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  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    “[The Rev. Nancy S.] Taylor [president of the UCC's Massachusetts Conference] said the ad is not intended to criticize other denominations.”

    Now THAT is hilarious!

    Clearly, the sub-text of the ad is the assumption that (a) issues linked to homosexuality directly match those of racism, which is an assumption fiercely debated in a wide variety of churches, synagogues and mosques, and (b) that conservative religious groups are denying entrance to blacks, Hispanics, etc.

    I am reminded of studies in the ’80s, reported by the United Methodist Reporter, that the most racially INCLUSIVE churches in American life — if you are seeking churches where members of ethic groups sit in the same pews — are Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal and, hold on, Southern Baptist. Those are rather conservative flocks, on the moral issues.

    You want white-bread religion? Hit the most theologically liberal branches of the oldline Protestant world.

  • Greg Popcak

    I haven’t actually seen the ads but I have no doubt that they are witty. Nevertheless, I agree with the networks decision not to air them.

    Whether they meant to be or not, the ads are in fact a slam against traditional Christianity and inappropriate.

    Imagine the following alternative commercial.

    An attractive gay couple with a bible under each arm walks up to a door and rings the bell. A woman answers the door. CAMERA shows the back of her head and the handsome couple’s eager faces in an over-the-shoulder shot. The couple speak.

    COUPLE: “Hi! We’re from the Third Reorganized Second Day After Friday Church of the First Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ Affirmer.”

    WOMAN: “Oh! What do you believe in?”

    COUPLE: “Uh, Gosh. I don’t know.” Couple looks at each other,mystified.

    WOMAN: “So why do you go to that Church?”

    COUPLE: “To make us feel good about ourselves!”

    WOMAN: “Oh. I don’t know much about religion, but I always thought people went to Church to worship God and learn how to live a moral life. Don’t you?”

    COUPLE: “HOMOPHOBE! BIGOT!”

    WOMAN: (Closes door).

    VOICE OVER: Are you tired of churches that offer feel-good platitidudes but no real answers? Weary of churches so ignorant of their roots and so eager to play the whore to popular culture that they love and include everyone except those trying to live as faithful Christians?

    (Cue sweeping music/ Cut-away to scenes of an ethnically diverse community ferverently worshiping God and engaged in acts of charitable community service)

    VOICE OVER: We invite you to visit the First Church of Christ Traditionalist. A real Church with real answers; Loving God. Serving Others. Living the Truth. When you’re ready to pick up your cross, come join us.

    So guys, whaddaya think? Should we run it?

  • http://www.relapsedcatholic.blogspot.com Kathy Shaidle
  • Brian Lewis

    The issue the ad references is more than just attempting to slam traditional Christianity or point out “that some churches, by stressing Christianity’s historic teachings on homosexuality, are being exclusive, turning people away or otherwise being spiteful.” That’s too simplistic.

    With the U.C.C. (sometimes called Unitarians Considering Christ) that is part of the issue, yes.

    But for their audience, it’s a much larger and simpler issue than that. My point is: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

    Across the country, there are congregations that have the identity of being churches for spiritual refugees. As you can imagine, most of the are UCC churches or Unitarian churches with very liberal interpretations of the Bible. But not all.

    One conservative church that also has the reputation of being a church for spiritual refugees – and also possibly a good subject for a national religion news story – is the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee.

    Again, my point is traditional church teachings aren’t the most important issue in the ad. It’s not what you say, but how you say it.

    http://www.cardmagnets.com/SNL/006.jpg

  • http://godinthedetails.blogspot.com myles

    after watching the ad, i really didn’t get the impression that they were jumping on the gay issue, frankly. the couple is about half a second in the screen, and the focus isn’t particularly on them to begin with. rather, it seems more positive than anything else. so, WHAT’S THE FUSS?

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com/ Darrell Grizzle

    I also don’t believe the ad was “not intended to criticize other denominations.” The UCC is advertising its inclusivity by emphasizing other churches’ exclusivity. But some churches deserve such criticism. Gays and lesbians ARE turned away from church doors, even in these “enlightened” days of 2004.

    Doug raises an excellent question about CBS: “Since when should legislative actions of the executive branch determine whether a network accepts an ad that violates no decency standards of the FCC?” Welcome to the Bush regime.

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    {The issue the ad references is more than just attempting to slam traditional Christianity or point out “that some churches, by stressing Christianity’s historic teachings on homosexuality, are being exclusive, turning people away or otherwise being spiteful.” That’s too simplistic.}

    Well, for some on the theological left, it *is* that simplistic. Either you reject (or reinterpret) Christianity’s historic theology on sex or you’re an “exclusivist.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve encountered this attitude among my fellow Episcopalians.

    {My point is: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.}

    Amen to that, and I would add that people on both sides of the sexuality debate can express their beliefs with grace (or without it).

  • AH

    Having just been shown the door at a local United Methodist Church for failing to endorse Boswell’s and others’ take on the current unpleasantness, I’d like to re-script the ad to serve as a complementary bookend for its current ideology. These buff model-type guys, after a quick catechism, turn away African-Americans in hats, older women, homely homosexuals struggling with chastity, little families, all of whom look quite Middle-American, all clutching Bibles.

    VOICEOVER: It’s safe to come to church now. No bigots here.

    2d VOICEOVER: Is this what your church is saying about you?

    If I ran a network, I’d want to steer clear of this stuff, if possible. And certainly hesitate to air the first in this kind of series.

  • Richard

    Why don’t we just do what the Nazis did in Germany in the late 1930s and into the 40s. The government can go out and round up all of the homosexuals out there, oh what the hell, let’s get the Jews so we can finish the job Hitler’s boys screwed up and while were at it let’s get the Muslims too and then send them all off to extermination camps. I have the feeling that’s what a lot of conservative “Christians” would probably like to see happen, since God won’t dirty his hands doing the deed. Then we can live in a country with only heterosexual sinners to deal with. And maybe something like the Inquisition could also be re-instituted to take care of them and all the athiests and agnostics too. Gee, America would certainly then be a better place to live, wouldn’t it?

  • Dwight

    “Either you reject (or reinterpret) Christianity’s historic theology on sex or you’re an exclusivist.”

    Of course we’re dealing with a 30 second ad, so theological complexity is not really the order of the day. I think given the religious climate we face in this country, why just yesterday a United Methodist pastor was defrocked because she’s an open lesbian, people reasonably conclude that if they are gay they are not welcome in the church.

    The UCC ad is reaching out to folks who are estranged from the church over issues like this. And well, they are one of the only denominations which welcome gay and lesbians into the full life and ministry of the denomination. Clearly this fits with a particular religious understanding, and given it’s rarity and attractiveness to some, I can see why the UCC is advertizing it.

  • alison

    There are some good comments about this on Christianitytoday.com’s weblog. But you probably already know that!

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Note that the CTi weblog jumped on the racial element of the ad as, most likely, the key element in the ban.

    First of all, I think the networks should have run the ads. I also think they should run the ads by ex-gays and other controversial groups. I am a pro-offensive speech kind of guy.

    But there is no question that the ad is saying that the UCC is not racist and the other morally conservative churches are. And that is going to come as a big shock to folks in lots of Baptist, Catholic and Pentecostal settings.

    I will also be stunned if anyone finds a shred of evidence pointing to any government involvement in this case at all.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Oh, and Richard, your post is satire, right? What does it have to do with the news story in question?

  • Fr. Tim

    It’s amazing to me that when the discussion of homosexuality begins, there are some participants who cannot seem to differentiate between “acceptance” of the person and “endorsement” of the act. I have yet to come across a church (although I’m sure some exist) who would turn away someone struggling with the issues of sexuality. However, they might have a problem with accepting outward displays of affection, treating two homosexual persons as a couple rather than as individuals, or treating this issue as if it’s “no big deal”. It’s an issue of something that used to be called church discipline.

    As a “conservative” Christian I object strongly to a couple of the characterizations that have been made about those who hold to the orthodox faith. We are not Nazi, skin-head, inquisitionists. We simply believe that God invites everyone to come to salvation but doesn’t want to leave them in their sins. Come as you are but be willing to be transformed. I know the common reply to my concern is “well, I didn’t mean you specifically”. You’re right, you didn’t mention anyone specifically, which means you applied these wrong, hate-filled terms to EVERYONE in that particular group. Funny, I thought that was the definition of predjudice.

  • Robert

    Fr. Tim,

    As another conservative Christian I agree that there is hypocrisy in the judgments of bigotry that are labeled against us. But I must also acknowledge that often it is not homosexuality which is condemned in our churches, but rather homosexuals. We’ve allowed a few politically ambitious folks to stir us into this us-them fight with the “homosexual lobby” that has fundamentally damaged any outreach we may have to homosexuals. Homosexuals, all too often, are viewed as “them” instead of as “neighbor”.

  • http://wetzell.blogspot.com/ dlw

    Bingo!

    I argue at my own blog, the Anti-Manicheist, that God is not a Gay-Rights Activist nor a Homophobe based on my own experiences in interacting with people on the left on this issue.

    http://wetzell.blogspot.com/2004/11/god-is-not-gay-rights-activist-nor.html

    dlw

  • Richard

    tmatt,

    Yes, the post was a bit of a satire. But, I am distressed over what I perceive to be the hardhearted attitude of a lot of people who call themselves “Christian”. The message I get every week at church is one that preaches inclusion and love of our fellow man in spite of their “sins”. I wish there was more of an attitude of acceptance by people on the conservative side of the divide, but apparently not. And no, I’m not gay, I’m just not homophobic and I can live and let live as long as what goes on in one’s bedroom is between two CONSENTING ADULTS. It’s none of my business or anyone else’s for that matter.

  • Dwight

    “inquisitionists”

    That certainly is a feature of the church today, whether it’s the Stroud case, or Jane Spahr who faces trial in the Presbyterian Church. Or a congregagtion in the SBC being kicked out for accepting a gay couple within the church.

    As a liberal, I do recognize that the issue is one of real theological significance to be sure, that assuming it’s “hate” doesn’t do justice to the issue at hand. But it still remains a fact that gay people are estranged from the church.

  • http://wetzell.blogspot.com/ dlw

    Its important to remember that the issue of how we are loving to homosexuals is separate from the question of whether all sexual orientations are created equal and Christians are very fallible in how they answer the first question, which is not directly addressed in its entirety by the Bible.

    dlw

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com Bob Smietana

    The theology behind the “God is Still Speaking” campaign–which seems to be based on a quote from Gracie Allen, “Never place a comma where God has placed a period”–ought to get some attention:

    http://www.stillspeaking.com/default.htm

  • Paul Barnes

    Looks like a Catholic Church in the background…

  • Phil Blackburn

    To me the purpose of this ad is clear: it is addressing those outside the Church who perceive it as being exclusive, and emphasising that there is at least one denomination where they can be sure of a welcome, whoever they are.

    Can you seriously deny that such perceptions exist? Or that conservative churches contribute to it by their public comments? At least UCC is trying to present a positive message to the ‘tax collectors and sinners’.

    Maybe those of us on the ‘Bible-believing’ end of the Church spectrum need to be more explicit that the preachers of “Thou shalt not” are not a fair representation of our belief, even if the media do like to present us that way.

    And perhaps there should be ads for those who’ve been part of a liberal church for a while, and now would like to move on to something meatier?

  • JB

    Phil – how exactly does accusing other churches of being racist (which you can’t deny this ad does) advance the cause of the Gospel? Sorry, any moral superiority that the UCC thought they may have had as a result of their complete acceptance of homosexual lifestyles (which I don’t buy, but let’s leave that aside for a moment) just flew out the window by reverting to the tactics of Sharpton.

  • http://www.newpantagruel.com Dan Knauss
  • JonathanR.

    The kind of Christianity triumphed by this silly bit of advertising is already dying. Might as well let it suck in and let their kind of people die with them. If any, this ad looks more like the last joke before the croak.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t reach out to the kind of people this ad was meant to appeal to, but if those folks want to chose that route sa badly, then by all means…

  • http://god-of-small-things.blogspot.com bob smietana

    I still don’t get why the Coors twins and four hour erections are ok, and this ad is too controversial.

    If this ad (which is very clever) is an accusation of racism, it’s an awful gentle on. Al Al Sharpton it is not.

    JB asked how this ad can further the cause of Christ–here’s one idea. In a gentle way, it chides Christians for the barriers we put up at our church doors. I thought of that immediately–does a stranger feel welcome at our church, or do they know better than to come in. If we are honest, and not so thin skinned, we may learn something from this ad.

  • JB

    Bob – it “chides” other Christians as being racist. I’m sorry, what other message am I supposed to get from the ad, where the blond, blue eyed couples are allowed in, but the Hispanic young man and the (black? I think so, but I only saw the ad online, not great quality) little girl are denied entrance? And it doesn’t matter if the accusation of racism is “gentle” or not – the UCC has no right to condemn other churches as racist in any manner, when said churches are not racist in any shape or form.

    Have you been to or heard of churches that deny entrance to blacks, hispanics, asians, because of skin color? Please enlighten me.

  • JB

    Bob – ps – see link above, for UCC minister condemning his own denomination’s ad as follows:

    The commercial has been rejected because it sends an arrogant and negative message that the UCC stands apart from the rest of the Christian church who are portrayed as rejecting people based on how they look.

  • http://www.wildfaith.com Darrell Grizzle

    The UCC DOES stand apart from the thousands of Christian churches around the world that DO reject people based on how they look, who they sleep with, and how they believe on issues like abortion (i.e., pro-abortion politicians who are denied communtion).

  • Marty

    The author wrote: Since when should legislative actions of the executive branch determine whether a network accepts an ad that violates no decency standards of the FCC?

    The legislature and the executive branch and yes, even the FCC have finally figured out which way the wind is blowing in this country. What makes you think the big 3 aren’t smart enough to figure it out for themselves as well? I applaud it, and like mr. smietana, i’m glad the coors twins are gone and there’s still hope for 4-hour erections too! It’s a welcome breeze.. that will help clear off some of the stench.

    Kill your cable — it’s a landfill.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Yes, some example of mainstream Protestant, evangelical, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, etc., churches that defend traditional teachings on sex and marriage and discriminate on the basis of “looks” or race.

    Race is the controversy in this ad. And, once again, the GetReligion gang is totally in favor of the networks running it, along with other controversial ads by controversial religious groups such as the UCC.

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    It’s certainly clear that the UCC stands apart from all but a handful of denominations when it comes to gay and lesbians: they welcome them into the full life and ministry of the church, including ordained leadership.

  • http://jesuspolitics.typepad.com Carlos

    tmatt, I think you are correct to point out the possible race/racist interpretations of the UCC ad and to say that racism is no longer the issue for white conservative Christian churches that is was in the 70′s, 60′s, 50′s and before.

    But I think the UCC is being historically correct to link racism with heterosexism.

    It is important to remember that many of the Christian churches that were open to racial inclusivity in the 50′s-70′s are precisely the same churches that today are open to sexual orientation inclusivity.

  • http://www.therevealer.org Jeff Sharlet

    Of course the UCC ad is suggesting racism and homophobia. Of course that’s wildly overstated. And of course there ARE plenty of churches — I’ve been to more than a few — that have “no fags” policy, and many, many more that ostensibly open to all races, but in fact function as segregated spaces, much to the comfort of their members. Such churches are both liberal and conservative. As religion reporters, we’re bound to investigate religion as it is lived, not as it is officially professed. Are racism and homophobia (as distinguished from anti-homosexuality) problems in America? Of course. So why would we assume they wouldn’t be present in our churches?

  • tmatt

    Carlos and Jeff:

    Of course racism and homophobia are present in churches. The issue concerning this ad is the stance taken by the UCC that it is, somehow, a tower of virtue on racial issues in comparison to other churches.

    In the early 1980s, I was stunned to find out that one of the most racially integrated churches in Charlotte — at the level of leadership — was also the most fundamentalist Baptist operation in town, way to the right of the Southern Baptist Convention. There were interracial marriages in the church at that time. Meanwhile, the public image was right, right, right on everything. And the African-Americans in the church were as conservative as everybody else.

    Another anecdote, of course. But the mainline stats also show that when it comes to race, if you want whitebread, hang with the UCC and Unitarians. If you want blended churches IN THE PEWS, go visit the Pentecostals and the Assemblies of God and even lots of Baptist congregations (while other ones are lily white in the same larger flock).

  • http://jesuspolitics.typepad.com Carlos

    tmatt, I agree with what you are saying. Most liberal churches today are indeed segregational, if not in theory, certainly in practice. I just think it is important to also acknowledge the prophetic role of racial reconciliation that progressive churches like the UCC played in the 50′s and 60′s. From this historical perspective I think it is not too unfair to forgive the UCC a little for their towering self-righteousness.

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com/ Darrell Grizzle

    JB asked me (above), “Yea? Care to back that up with some links?” I don’t have any links, just personal experience from talking with people who have been turned away from churches here in metro Atlanta. I know a lesbian couple who was turned away from a Methodist church nearby — not even allowed to come in the door. The same thing happened to a black friend who was turned away from a Baptist church (independent, not Southern) and told she would be more comfortable “worshipping with her own kind.” I myself am not welcome in the Baptist church I grew up in, since coming out of the closet as a gay man. Discrimination DOES exist in the church, JB, whether you see it (or want to recognize it) or not.

  • dlw

    I personally do not believe that the parallels between racism and heterosexism are perfect. One can accept that there is such a thing as a sexual orientation and that it is very hard to change later on in life, and believe that not all sexual orientations are equal in God’s eyes. I should also add that I believe that our sexual orientations should not be properly seen as at the core of our beings, either.

    And so the appropriateness of the gay-rights movements appropriation of the civil-rights imagery and language is part of what is in conflict here.

    Now, I do believe there is homophobia and ignorance on the subject. Though, the word homophobia is perhaps too widely applied by people on the left. I remember my own feelings of alienation from gay-rights activist friends when they insisted that I was homophobic for my heterosexist views.

    As mentioned earlier, I share more of these reflections here at my blog.

    http://wetzell.blogspot.com/2004/11/god-is-not-gay-rights-activist-nor.html

  • JB

    Darrell – So, you turn one anecdotal experience of racism at a church into an accusation against “thousands of churches”. Yes, obviously many churches would turn you away if you are an openly practicing bisexual who sees nothing wrong with the practice, as it goes completely contrary to the orthodox teachings of scripture and tradition. That is not what I wanted to know though. Thanks for proving my point, in any case.

  • JB

    Addendum – I would feel a church had wronged you Darrell, if for example, you went to a church as a visitor one day, mentioned in passing you were homosexual/bisexual, and then were immediately asked to leave. On the other hand, if you wanted membership in a church that held to orthodox views, and you were denied on the basis of your lifestyle (if you had no intention of changing), I’d see nothing wrong with that. A church doesn’t have to condone what it sees as openly sinful practice from its members; in fact, churches are explicitly commanded in scripture to not associate with such people. Also – I did visit your website – another reason you would be turned away might be your involvement in Sufism.

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com/ Darrell Grizzle

    Thanks for proving MY point, JB: The practice of turning people away DOES exist in churches (according to you, it is actually commanded), and churches like the UCC do stand apart from such churches. Hence the need for the commercial: to let people know that if they have experienced such a turning away, they can expect different at the UCC.

  • JB

    “The practice of turning people away DOES exist in churches”

    Yes, but turning away people based on the color of their skin is not widespread, as you previously claimed. We don’t have any disagreement on the other issues.

  • JB

    Also, please don’t try and make it seem like I pulled the injuctions against associating with Christians embracing sinful practices out of nowhere. See 1 Corinthians ch 5. I suspect even your church would be reluctant to give full membership to someone who engaged in polygamy or polyandry, and they would be perfectly right in doing so.

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com/ Darrell Grizzle

    My claim was that some churches turn people away based on how they look. That does at times include race (as happened to my black friend denied entry into a Methodist church) but it also includes people with long hair (my best friend was once denied entry into a large urban church because of his hair length) and the lesbian couple I know who were turned away from entering a church because they “look” lesbian — which in fact they do; one of them looks like k. d. lang. Evidently many posters here live in areas of the world where such discrimination does not exist. But it does exist here in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • JB

    “Thousands” turns into some, turns into a few personal anecdotes. Please see tmatt’s post regarding the racial spread in correlation to denomination. I think we’ve discussed all there is to cover on this.

  • http://gayspirituality.typepad.com Joe Perez

    I don’t have much to add, though I will say that LeBlanc’s original post and tmatt’s comments are right on the mark on this one. But these recent comments that suggest gays are universally welcomed in churches are really naive. Unfortunately I don’t know of any statistics on this, just a LOT of anecdotal experiences. Hasn’t happened to me personally, but then I am unlikely to set foot in any fundamentalist or traditionalist church. Blogger Bill is one who has blogged in the past about his experience being turned away at the church door:

    http://billandkent.com/blog/archives/000580.htm

    “After Kent and I moved to Coventry, I was searching for a church in our area. Kent had grown up Presbyterian, so I called our local Presbyterian Church. I explained to the minister that we were new in town and would like to attend their church and see if it was a good fit for us. After learning that we were a gay couple (I thought he should know so there would be no awkward surprises), he said that we would not be welcomed and to please not come around. So much for being Christian.”

  • Tim Cahn

    When asked (as I occasionally am) why my partner and I still regularly attend church, I am tempted to respond, “Because the church needs us.” I believe this. I believe that the church desperately needs positive, out lgbt folk. Of course, churches as private organizations are free to exclude people whom they believe are inveterate sinners — but, in my view, they cannot honestly claim the name of Jesus when doing so.

  • http://davidmorrison.typepad.com/sed_contra/ David Morrison
  • Steven Taylor

    As a member on a Southern Baptist Church in the heart of Texas, let me say that I find this ad very offensive. It implies that my church (a non-UCC church) is automatically racist and homophobic if not sexist as well. Looking around my church this past weekend, I saw Anglos, Hispanics, African-Americans (as well as Africans), and Asian-Americans (as well as Asians). All of these individuals were gathered together to worship God. Some of the men have long hair and earrings. Some of the couples have interracial marriages. Many of the worshippers wore blue jeans. By the way, we are a relatively small church with less than 250 members present on most Sundays.

    As an SBC church, we are conservative. Conservatism does not mean discriminatory. Although our church has not had any openly gay/lesbian members that I know of in the last 8 years, we have had heterosexual members who engaged in premarital/extramarital sex. All of these individuals were approached privately by the pastor and deacons and counseled about their actions. Some of these members repented and are still active in our congregation. Others, including one deacon, did not wish to turn away from sin and chose to leave the church instead.

    The UCC would have many Americans believe that any non-UCC church is a haven for racism or bigotry. I think this ad should fall under deceptive advertising.

  • JoJo

    I’m surprised that so many of you are offended by this ad. As many of you point out, there ARE churches who ban or discourage the poor, the ethnic minorities, and homosexuals. The UCC does not, and it wants those folks to feel welcome. If your church opens its doors and arms to the same kind of people then you shouldn’t be offended because the UCC isn’t referring to you. On the other hand, if your church discriminates against such people then you shouldn’t be offended for standing up for your beliefs.

    So how else should a church portray itself in a PR campaign EXCEPT by contrasting itself to other denominations? Isn’t evangelism by its very nature somewhat arrogant, by implying (if not asserting outright) that your faith is better? Somehow I can’t imagine the Apostle Paul toning down his message for fear of offending people.

  • Andy

    The ironic thing about this situation is that it seems most liberal churches are nothing but social clubs for upper class whites who think church is somewhere you go on Sunday mournings and thats it. While conservative churches tend to be constantly trying to reach out to people like the poor, minorites, and ex-prisoners. The UCC is losing members because its young people figure if they love God, go to a conservative church where truth is preached, and if they don’t care about God, why not just sleep in Sunday.


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