I grew up in Kansas' public school system when evolution was removed from the curriculum. As a student I was getting mixed messages about what to believe regarding evolution; my Church said one thing, my school said another. It took time for me to reconcile both voices. 90 years after the Scopes Monkey Trials, those who oppose evolution have lost their steam, even amongst evangelical circles.
As the tide for opposing evolution was waning, opposition toward the LGBT community was waxing in the evangelical church, and used the same arguments taken along. Again I was receiving mixed messages. I heard that we are subject to the "wrath of God" and being gay is "not compatible" to being a Christian. It took time me even longer to reconcile the dueling voices.
As this process was happening for me I noticed something very odd. The more I talked to people who opposed LGBT individuals being involved in the rhythms of the Church; I couldn't help but think that we've already used these flimsy premises and weak logic before. History is repeating itself. The labels have changed and the Bible verses have been swapped, but the underlying logic of the debate is the same: How do we use and interpret the Bible? It goes one level deeper. Deconstruct these debates and the motivation behind the opposition to both evolution and LGBT people in the Church is clear: fear.
It is a fear of falling down the "slippery slope" which changes long-held positions "supported" by scripture, which erodes everything else in the Bible. If Genesis 1 is not literally true, then how can the rest of it be true? There is an underlying fear that if change occurs then everything else would innately be wrong as well. Why should the Church, fear new perspectives? But learning a new perspective on any topic doesn't eliminate the rest of one's belief. For example, learning algebra doesn't negate basic math elements like addition and subtraction. These conversations shouldn't scare the Church; they should excite it.
The debate seems to be guided by a gripping fear of losing power and authority. The Church is especially bad at seeking forgiveness as an institution. The irony is that a central teaching of the Church is seeking out forgiveness from God and others. It took nearly 500 years for the Church to apologize to Galileo. Hopefully, it will not take the Church another 500 years to get on board with ordaining gay and lesbian pastors or to apologize to those defrocked for officiating over gay and lesbian couple's weddings.
Using the Bible as a science textbook doesn't get us anywhere theologically, nor does using the Bible like Match.com, well in this case, ChristianMingle.com. There is origins lessons from the Bible; God creates. The process is revealed to us through science (e.g. Big Bang, evolution) and God is the one who brings order to the chaos. There is dating advice in the Bible; it is love one another and be faithful, loyal and selfless to your spouse. Use the Bible to love. That's it! Radical love. Loving your enemy as yourself. Replace fear with love and it changes everything.
Nearly 90 years after the Scopes Monkey Trials the evangelical Church is still refining and in some parts trying to tone down its rhetoric concerning its stance against evolution. Likewise it will take time before the Church starts to tone down its rhetoric against those of us in the LGBT community. This won't happen through scientific studies and peer-reviewed essays like it did with evolution, but through radical love that casts out all fear. It will cause the Church to graciously reevaluate its ignorant rhetoric against LGBT people and the role LGBT people play in our communities of faith as pastors, laypersons, and mentors. Our stories of being gay and Christian challenge the status quo and allows the decision makers to focus on people instead of a policy. Radical love starts one person at a time, one story at a time, one church at a time, and spreads like wildfire on the plains. Suddenly it's not so radical after all.
The article first appeared in The Gayly April 2013 print edition.