Who Would Jesus Fence Off?

Last week a Baptist pastor by the name of Worley got a fair bit of internet attention for declaring that gay people should all be stuck behind an electric fence – lesbians in one area and “queers and homosexuals” in another, where food could be dropped to them from an airplane until they all eventually died off because they couldn’t reproduce. OK, just for a minute we’re going to set aside things like the obvious fact that straight people would just go on having gay babies like always, thereby replenishing the supply of queers outside the fence. Let’s even let go, for the moment, of the congregants who cheered during the service and supported their pastor with a standing ovation a week later. Not much you can do about stupid and mean except call it what it is.

No, what I’m thinking about at the moment is the fence. The idea that we can identify the undesirables and wall them off. For Worley, the world would be a more virtuous, lovely place if you could just stick the “queers and homosexuals” off someplace where he wouldn’t have to look at them. Which doesn’t strike me as all that different from wanting a giant wall along the US/Mexico border. Which, perhaps, is not entirely unlike wanting to live in a gated community, the kind where a neighborhood watch patrolman might shoot a kid who looked as if he didn’t belong there and might be up to no good.

There’s something deeply tempting about the idea that we can make ourselves safe by simply building a wall between ourselves and the thing that scares or disgusts us. It is, I suppose, human nature to believe that we can find security by fencing out the “other.” Which is why the role of religion is supposed to be to remind us of our better selves, to push us toward letting go of the scared hind brain that wants to wall ourselves off from danger, so that we can move instead toward a more evolved self that longs for peace built on a foundation of love.

You can search the Christian Scriptures all day for a suggestion from Jesus that we should wall ourselves off from those who are “different” or “disgusting” and all you’ll find are stories like that of the Good Samaritan, where the hero is  a member of a despised ethnic group, or of Jesus eating with a tax collector – someone utterly unwelcome in polite society of the place and time. Pastor Worley may be speaking for the large percentage of Americans who have entrenched themselves in fear and loathing, but he sure as heck isn’t speaking for Jesus.

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