- by Dr. Dorothee Benz -
Two recent stories about courageous individuals confronting religious homophobia provide inspiring–and challenging–examples of refusing to remain silent or complicit when directly confronted by prejudice.
One is the story of the grandmother of a gay man who interrupted an anti-gay sermon to object, and then walked out in protest. The other is the story of a gay man who rebuked a subway preacher, saying “you are full of hate, a false prophet…I’m a man and I’m a good man; I’m a gay man and Jesus loves me. Jesus is love.” The man on the subway was applauded by other riders, but what made it such a brave act was that there was no way he could have known before he spoke up whether he would be supported or attacked for his witness.
A reminder of how dangerous it might have been came just two days later, when a gay couple was attacked on a subway while other passengers said and did nothing to intervene.
Other notable moments of witness against homophobia also made the news last week: Republican Jon Huntsman came out for marriage equality, saying “all Americans should be treated equally by the law.” And the Obama Administration flat out said that the Defense of Marriage Act “simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection."
In the same week, by contrast, the United Methodist Men wrote to the Boy Scouts asking them to continue their current anti-gay policy because they have gotten negative reactions to the proposed lifting of it and “there has not been adequate time for GCUMM or individual church/charter organizations to fully explore the legal and spiritual consequences of these proposed change.” Their Feb. 19 letter is a backpedal from a Jan. 29 position that supported the lifting of the Boy Scout anti-gay ban.
What would Jesus do? Call out the anti-gay preachers? Or cite negative public reaction in siding with an exclusive status quo? What will you do the next time you hear anti-gay prejudice in your church or on the street?
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Dorothee Benz is the chair of Methodists in New Directions, the RMN affiliate for the New York Annual conference.