I'm on vacation. But I got an email from Ross Murray of GLAAD fame with a "heads up" on the Riverside, California pastor who preached a sermon the other day advocating violence against clergy who bless the marriages of gay or lesbian couples.
"Any comment?" Ross asked.
"Have we met?" I answered.
So here we go.
In his sermon to his congregation about whether they should attend the wedding of a gay or lesbian couple, Matt Brown, the lead pastor of Sandals Church in Riverside, California spoke of being "the best neighbor possible" to a gay couple next door -- but then had this to say about clergy who bless their marriage:
"I really don't have that much of an issue with a gay couple, but I do want to go 'Old Testament' on the pastor that's saying 'this is great.' And that would be unfortunate for us as a church, for me to punch a pastor in the middle of a sermon."
And then he goes on to say: "My biggest issue is with the clergymen who have thrown Jesus out."
My biggest issue is with the Pastor Matt Browns of the world who don't see the disconnect between "being the best neighbor possible" and denying the marriage of your gay or lesbian neighbor the same respect you expect for your own. Jesus said "love your neighbor as yourself" -- and there was no asterisk that said *"unless your neighbor is a same-sex couple." (Matthew 22:39)
My biggest issue is that a pastor advocating violence against those who disagree with him about marriage equality gives license to those he leads to "go and do likewise" and fuels the fires of gay bashing, hate crimes and puts LGBT youth at risk. Jesus said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) -- not "punch them out."
And -- putting aside for a moment the 21st century reality that not all clergy are men -- my biggest issue is with the clergymen who have hijacked the Gospel in the service of their own homophobia. It is with those who have taken the Good News of God's inclusive love proclaimed by the radical rabbi from Nazareth and turned it into a weapon of mass discrimination against LGBT children of God. And it is with those -- like Pastor Matt -- whose polemic preaching throws Jesus under the bus every time he gives those yearning for spiritual community yet another reason not to try Christianity.
Clergy who preside at the blessing of marriages of same-sex couples have not thrown Jesus out -- they have pulled him out from under the bus the Pastor Matts of the world have thrown him. They have gathered the faithful in. They have lived out the call to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to love their neighbors as themselves and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. And they are giving people who thought they knew enough about Christians NOT to want to be one at least one reason to think again.