Out of my deep respect for you I will respond to your sermon referring to my public comments about a local mega church pastor who has made national news for his hurtful comments on gays and lesbian from his pulpit.
My ego aside I strenuously disagree with your theological assertion as one
that has permeated the Southern church in the face of every new civil rights fight. It has been used for decades as a way for nice liberals to avoid the mess of actually bearing public witness against principalities and powers. According to your reading of Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr. would have been wrong for calling out Bull Conners in Public. King believed so strongly in their redemption he refused to stand in silence.
Your stair step approach from Matthew 18:15-20 is meant for community cohesion inside an intimate circle of faith (one I have practiced in a local congregation), not a silencing technique for justice followers of Christ against very powerful cultural leaders. This system of discipline assumes equality. When injustice is perpetrated it is because there is no communal redress. Trying to fit this system on the powerless in redress to those with clear power over is a burden to the oppressed and not Jesus’ message from the beginning.
This pastor, who I don’t know, has a coast to coast radio show, a mega-church, a television ministry, three books and is a darling of many evangelical circles. He is both extremely powerful nationally and locally. The context of his sermon on Gays and Lesbians was not lost on any of us here. We have a Southern city of 200,000 where we can only find a handful of ministers willing to publicly stand up for LGBTQ rights. One pastor who has never taken a stand has been vilified for standing up by many good Christians and his congregation has received the most vile hatred. We also have recently lost a vote giving city workers in same sex relationships benefits overwhelmingly. Local churches and religious leaders organized against this vote here.
I have been asked in private to counter this narrative and make sure that these ministers and laity who make a courageous sacrifices in the face of threats are not alone. Many vulnerable people came out of the closet during this recent vote and have been left hanging in the wind by local politicians and national organizations.
It was no mere coincidence that this powerful local minister preached this sermon at this time. The Gay and Lesbian community here are already hurting badly. Although, I think this minister thought they were helping, it has poured fuel on the fire. Here it will embolden those who wish harm on my brothers and sisters from their humanity of strong cultural power. It congratulates a strong cultural opinion that hatred is really love.
I have been faithful in standing with
the oppressed my entire ministry (mostly to my own professional detriment). Standing with the oppressed is radically different than defending God. Standing with the oppressed is standing with God. So, this is no different. I think these contexts are important.
Silencing critical voices in the public here by well meaning liberal and progressives allows for this sentiment to be buttressed as an acceptable cultural norm. Liberals and Progressives have neither shown a potent silent alternative to direct action and radical agitation for civil rights. Pastor get togethers for “understanding” are elitist ways for inevitable conflict avoidance. I always find it telling that the greatest resistance comes from the supposed liberal and progressive elite.
It is well past time for us to live up to the promise of being heirs of reform and Protest(ants) against powerful religious interests who do harm to the vulnerable, oppressed and marginalized in our society through their use of biblical texts. That goes for those on the right as well as the left. I would challenge anyone to find that to run counter to the gospel message.
You know that I love you both and I am only responding out of love. If it were not you I would not have responded at all. I hope you take my thoughts on this in the way they are meant, clarity and transparency in a hope toward further unity.
P.S. Since you used me in your sermon I will most likely use this in a blog post, without your name of course.