Though I find it dreadful and disgusting, this whole Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty controversy over the past week has not been all that shocking to me. In fact, I grew up with Phil Robertson. Not literally of course, but I have always known people like Phil who make hateful homophobic and bigoted comments and claim to be speaking the words of Jesus. In southern culture, it seems like churches founded on hateful homophobic and bigoted comments are as prevalent as kudzu or mosquitoes.
If I wanted to follow God, I knew I had to leave behind these hateful homophobic and bigoted religious spaces.
A few years ago, I graduated from the United Methodist Church’s Candler School of Theology at Emory University and considered very seriously pursuing ordination in the United Methodist Church. I met with countless pastors, district superintendents and others to discern my call. In our meetings, we kept on hitting a roadblock. I simply would not commit to being silent in my support of queer people. The United Methodist Church and I ultimately parted ways.
If I wanted to follow God, I knew I had to keep leaving behind hateful homophobic and bigoted religious spaces.
I heard a really nasty hateful homophobic and bigoted statement this past week…it simply stated, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”(http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=4746363&ct=3169111). Phil Robertson didn’t say these exact words…though they don’t sound too far from what he did say. The words are actually from the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline. Pennsylvania United Methodists used the words of the Book of Discipline this week to defrock (or to take away the ministry credentials of) United Methodist Pastor Frank Shaefer for the offense of performing the marriage of his son to his partner.
A few months back, I performed my first same-sex wedding. It was a beautiful and holy affair. God was in attendance. If I had stayed the former course and done so as a United Methodist minister, I would be in the same position as Frank Shaefer.
I know many United Methodist ministers who claim to be loving and inclusive of all people. With such in mind, I consistently inquire how any of these ministers can remain in a church that keeps consistently perpetuating injustices against queer people (which is sometimes even their closeted self)? The answer often revolves around money…including talk of salaries, pensions and the economic power of the institution. I try to remind them every time of the rich young ruler in the scripture who stopped following Jesus because he had a salary, pension and perhaps the economic power of the institution to think about.
Regardless of the direction I would like to tell many of my United Methodist friends to go (straight to a truly inclusive religious space), I don’t think that there is much difference between what Phil Robertson claims to do and what many in the United Methodist Church claim to do…exclude God’s children based on sexuality and gender identity in love. I want no part of such a deliberate perversion…because a truly loving God is not involved such a project.