Final draft of my Journal paper
Throughout high school and college George was a sought after man, quite popular with the ladies to say the least. Tall, dark, and handsome, he stood about 6’3’’ with an olive complexion and ice blue eyes that could mesmerize anyone. George enjoyed the popularity as a typical “frat boy” at a large university. After college, he returned to the small town of Franklin, Virginia, where grew up. George despised Franklin. He hated the people and the way they knew everyone’s business. He felt as though he needed to be in a metropolitan city, some where bigger, perhaps Philadelphia, Pittsburg or D.C. In the summer of 1976, George moved to Washington D.C., a move that was as symbolic as it was physical. He moved to a place where people could better understand him.
Despite his need to move away from them, George was devoted to his family. He attended the local Presbyterian Church with his parents, did odds and ends around the house, and made a great effort to see his three siblings and their families before his move. Shortly before his move, one afternoon while helping his father, Jack, in the yard George, rather bluntly, told his father that he was gay. Immediately his father was in denial, there was just no way was that George a homosexual, he was always popular with the ladies and was such a gifted athlete. Jack simply could not understand why his son chose to be a homosexual. Jack, George’s father led George to the garden and said, “Let’s pray”. It was his father’s hope that praying to the Lord for guidance, understanding, and forgiveness was the only answer, or the only thing he knew to do. George believed that praying was absolutely ridiculous; things weren’t going to change if they turned to God. It wasn’t like George was gravely ill or was dying of cancer... he was gay. God could not change George’s sexuality, he created him that way. The truth of the matter was that George never chose it; he had finally accepted this reality enough to share it with his father. Telling him was the most difficult decision he ever made. He felt that he was letting his father down, as though he was disappointing him in some way which would cause his father to be ashamed of him.
These were not the feelings George had several weeks prior when he had told his sister and mother. They simply accepted his sexual orientation. They loved him; besides what else were they going to do? The next challenge was to face his two brothers whom were older and had families of their own. He questioned how they would feel; they both had sons, would that be an issue? Would they not feel comfortable with George spending time with his nephews? How was he supposed to come out of the closet to tell his masculine older brothers? Initially, Bill and John were a bit taken back. John took the news a little more gracefully than Bill who was in denial, along with his narrow minded father. This secret came as a shock to his brothers; they simply could not believe it. His brothers and father never suspected his sexuality because he wasn’t the stereotypical homosexual. He was the ladies man, the star athlete and jock. He raised the question of how would his exposed homosexuality affect his relationships with his beloved nephews? He was assured that it would not, “how could it?” they told him. Unbeknownst to him, John’s wife, Betsy, would become his biggest backing and sounding board throughout life, when everyone including his religion turned their backs on him.
The Christian faith, in particular the Presbyterian denomination, has had a very difficult time dealing with the issue of homosexuality. George faced a faith that did not support him when he needed it the most, during this the most trying hurdle in his life. Yet, his belief in God, not the Presbyterian Church, kept him company when no one else did. The anti-homosexual parishioners share varying degrees of concern in situations such as George’s. Some argued that homosexuals shared similar morals and values of heterosexuals. Many of the anti-homosexual parishioners feel as though homosexual couples should not be welcome to worship among the others in the church. Homosexuals argue that they should not be discriminated against when all they wish to do is worship the God who they share with their neighbors, and feel as though the church should be a haven where they can be accepted despite their sexual orientation. The controversy continues to arise with many issues contributing to a deeper more passionate debate.
The Presbyterian Church, although not alone in their struggle with the acceptance of homosexual congregation members, is rather vocal about this issue they see as a problem. Keith Hartman, a social critic, wrote Congregations in Conflict: The Battle over Homosexuality in which he states, “homosexuality is the most divisive element facing the [Presbyterian] Church today” (Hartman vix). Meredith Ashbaugh suggests, in her article, Homosexuality in the Presbyterian church, that the Presbytery is “escaping from its previous morals,” and that the real issue at hand is not homosexuality, yet it is something else (Ashbaugh 1). There are always issues that affect the Presbyterian Church. It took the Presbyterian Church over seven decades to ordain women into ministry; with that thought, society must recognize that homosexuality in the Presbyterian Church has only been an issue since the 70s (Ashbaugh 2). Judging by the history, these types of issues are far from over.
The Presbyterian denomination is known for a non literal interpretation of The Bible; however a more literal reading has become increasingly prevalent in recent years (Ashbaugh 1). “Reinterpreting the Bible to meet the needs of…society” best describes the way the Presbytery applies the words of the Bible to life (Ashbaugh 2). According to Meredith Ashbaugh, homosexuals are among those who practice a more relaxed interpretation of scripture, due to their sexual preference. There are still those conservative members who do not wish to change or update the denominations policies and traditions. It is common for heated debates to arise over the decades, due to congregational fears of the Church wandering away from their stated principles (Ashbaugh 2). The denomination will not allow any Presbyterian Church to open its doors for a ceremony uniting a same sex couple in a civil union or marriage. When interviewed, some heterosexual parishioners claim that their struggle to accept homosexuals into the church community stems from their fears that accepting them would result in derogation of the traditional pillars of the Presbyterian ministry. After interviewing a number of both, conservative and liberal Presbyterians, I came to the conclusion that their views on accepting homosexuality in the church are based on their varying morality. Everyone has a different opinion, each with differing reasons. Overall it is necessary to say that their opinions are based upon their interpretation of morality, however others believe that opinions are based upon different reasoning.
Many scholars believe that Presbyterian congregations struggle with homosexuality in the Church due to “social and psychological reasons,” derogation of religion, “and informal reasons” (Scanzoni and Mollenkott 45). Homosexuals as well as Presbyterian ministers state that the fears of homosexuality from heterosexual parishioners arise do to their ignorance stemming from insufficient knowledge of this alternative sexual identity. Interviewing more conservative Presbyterians, showed that socially, they feel that it is inappropriate for their children to be exposed to homosexual couples interacting. They believe that it provokes the interest they wish for their children to not see. The argument made by anti-homosexuals is not concrete. Just like heterosexuals, not all homosexuals take part in public displays of affection Furthermore, most homosexuals are aware of the possibly of offending others through public displays of affection. The issue of affection is also discussed in Andrew Sullivan’s Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con. More conservatives open minded individuals could say that our society has long kept homosexuality as a quiet personal matter for a long time, and to now make it publicly acceptable is perceived by many as flaunting immoral behavior (Sullivan). This case against homosexuals is more concrete, which possibly reveals the truth behind the issue.
Other anti-homosexuals question why homosexual couples can’t worship in a more liberal environment, outside of the Presbyterian Church. Those who were interviewed felt that perhaps homosexuals would be more comfortable among those who openly accept their alternative lifestyle. Some believe that homosexuals have committed an ultimate sin, sodomy, and that if homosexual acts are accepted within the church, the Presbyterian congregation as a whole will “have lost [their] spiritual home” (Kirk, 13). Some of the more informal reasons that anti-homosexual parishioners have difficulty with same sex relations is because they may not understand why homosexuals are rocking their church’s world, and why they do not wish to worship in a place more accepting of their sexual orientation?
The most traditional parishioners do not wish to worship among homosexuals. These conservatives take their stance against same sex relations directly from the Bible. They say the Bible specifically states that homosexuality goes against God. Moreover, homosexual supporters argue against traditionalist, stating that the old rules are no longer applicable since Christ died for all of our sins. Parishioners who do not support homosexuality use the Old Testament as evidence to prove that homosexuality is an offense against God. Those who are not supporters should be frowned upon. They call upon Leviticus 18:22, which states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”. Furthermore, in Leviticus 20:13, it states, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”(King James Version). Many conservative parishioners refer to the chapter of Genesis, which supposedly condemns homosexuality, referencing 19:1-11. The description given in Genesis 19:4, “But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter” delivers a clear message with the intent of a homosexual rape. Homosexuals argue that this is not condemning all homosexual practices, it condemns such in “the context of gang rape, idolatry, and lustful promiscuity” (Scanzoni and Mollenkott, 111). Authors Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramsey Mollenkott have examined homosexuality from religious, sociological, and human sexuality views. They have provided sophisticated views from homosexuals who have dealt with tribulations regarding their sexual orientation. Among one of their contributors, a female homosexual minister, opposes arguments against sodomy, saying, “the scripture makes it clear in Genesis that God’s creation has unlimited variety, and we are part of that variety. God looked at his creation and saw that it was good” (Scanzoni and Mollenkott, 41). Indeed, The Bible states in Genesis 1:31, “And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good,” however this does not make settling the debate of homosexuality any easier (King James Version).
The difficulty with this debate arises due to the fact that there are so many divergent views on this topic. Some traditionalists feel that homosexuals come to the Church to make a statement, citing their discomfort with homosexual couples displaying their affection for each other while in church. On the other hand, homosexuals feel that if the world does not see them labeled by their sexual orientation, but rather by name and face, others would be more accepting of their sexuality. Homosexuals argue that the Church should be the last place where they should be discriminated against. One man who served as an elder in his Presbyterian Church believes that, “If the church is to fully do its job of reconciliation among people and between the human family and God, it must support gay people by helping them accept their sexuality and to express it lovingly. Needless to say, the church cannot do this without full acceptance of gay people themselves as healthy and complete persons”(Scanzoni and Mollenkott, 40).
After living in numerous major cities in the United States, George now resides close to a large city, where he went back to school to obtain his master’s degree in Education. He is now the dean of students at a prominent, private Catholic school in the heart of the city. George has immersed himself in the lives of children and their families who know nothing about his sexual orientation, nor do his co-workers. To them, he is simply George. Through many difficult and hurtful experiences, he says that he has learned that sometimes exposing yourself is not worth the battle, the hurt, and the pain. It is George’s preference that it’s better to keep his personal life very private; there are only a handful of friends that he can share his sexual orientation with. In an effort to separate his personal life from his professional life, George resides in suburbia about thirty minutes from his school. The fact that George’s sexuality is not flamboyant at all allows him to live a very discrete and satisfying life.
Gay rights are going to be an issue in states on an individual basis for a longtime to come. Gay rights has always been a taboo issue for many Americans, perhaps that is why America is split on their feelings involving gay rights. These issues have not only been addressed by the Presbyterian Church but also on a National and State level, which in many cases has led to action involving the Supreme Court. In many cases it appears as though the legislature is homophobic when considering homosexuals to have the partnership rights that heterosexuals do. The state of Virginia just passed a law banning unmarried, non related individuals to purchases real estate together. Furthermore, some states have put definitions of marriage into their state constitutions; in addition the federal government is attempting to do the same.
In addition there are plenty of legislative issues to be brought up in many states across the country. Some of the hot battles for recognition of gay partnerships are in New York, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, Washington, Alaska, and Montana (www.aclu.org). There are however some states that recognize same sex couples, but do not honor same sex marriages or unions. Based on statistics from the “Human Rights Campaign”, “gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees can be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation in 34 states” (www.hrc.org).
How can churches discriminate against allowing homosexuals in the doors of their church, so that they can worship and find fellowship among other Christians? The Christian faith is being hypocritical, when they say that differences should be embraced and not reasoning for one of their brothers or sisters in Christ to be shunned. It seems as though resolution to this issue will land on the shoulders of each Christian and how we view it. It will also mean the all of the mentor in schools and in churches will have to help guide everyone into a better acceptance and understanding of homosexuality.