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« Why I Left the Church ~ A Big Fat Correction | Main | Who Wants to be a Human Mascot? I Mean Really, Think About It! »

Why I Left the Church

Recently my wife and I had dinner out with friends, both of whom are ministers (which meant we all were ministers!). A family walking by our table – mom, dad, son and daughter – paused and said hello. When they were gone my friend said they were leaving the church because her church welcomes LGBT people. Mom and dad didn’t want daughter and son to be exposed to that kind of environment. In response I said I had left the church for the opposite reason. Here’s what I meant.

First, my UK denomination, under the delusion that it is protecting its “peace and unity” and the nonsense that it is “living within its diversity,” is unable to welcome and include LGBT people fully and openly because a minority in the community believe LGBT people are sinful and pathological. In choosing whom to offend and who not to offend, my denomination chooses not to offend the bigots. As a result, it lends credibility and gives a platform to faith-based gay bigots – and by implication asked me to collude in this behaviour. I could no longer do it.

Second, while I know of no case of any member of my denomination being physically violence towards a LGBT person, many do, directly or indirectly, encourage and/or commit spiritual, psychological, and institutional violence against LGBT people. Injustice is violent. I could no longer be a part of it.

(While I have never witnessed physical violence against LGBT people in my church, I have metaphorical violence. At one of our general assembly gatherings a man expressing his hatred of LGBT people at the microphone stabbed a knife into a block of wood. He was not asked to leave the auditorium nor was he rebuked in any way, though his action, words, and demeanour were disturbing. It does beg the question, what would have happened if someone had done the same while expressing hatred for people of colour? While the question is almost unavoidable, it is, nonetheless, of no value because the church institution does not recognize violence against LGBT people in the same way it does violence against people of colour. Further, while individual liberal and progressive Christians may abhor such behaviour, they find it difficult to challenge and change their institutions. By not speaking out and acting against faith-based gay bigotry, they provide a safe place for bigots within the institution and thus in the public square. By refusing to publicly take sides, they choose sides. By not declaring loudly and publicly that faith-based bigots do not speak for all, they hand the bigots a metaphorical megaphone.)

(If you are unaware of the many expressions of violence, some reading might help. A place to start might be with Religion and Violence by Roberta McAfee Brown; Spiral of Violence by Helder Camara; and The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism by Regina M. Schwartz .)

Third, in general LGBT people in my denomination are either happy with the status quo or are able to quietly tolerate it. Many are fully included in local churches and perhaps understandably do not want to rock the boat. Some have ministries and careers they want to protect. Still others tell me that change will come eventually and that I should cease and desist. If the LGBT community does not want to make a fuss, then what’s up with a straight guy doing it? It all started feeling a bit pretentious if not foolish, and perhaps even unhelpful. I didn’t want to be any of that. So I stopped.

It's a personal not a political thing. Many of my evangelical and fundamentalist brothers and sisters are not shy to say they will leave if the church recognizes LGBT people as fully human and are thus included in the life of the church and society with full rights and dignity (they wouldn’t say it quite like that, but given my perspective, you understand). Also, they would not hesitant to ask others to leave with them. But like a good liberal/progressive I disappeared quietly, so quietly in fact I doubt anyone noticed! And I certainly didn’t ask anyone to follow me, though I seriously doubt I’m the only one to have pulled up stakes and left. I suspect many of my liberal friends will say I gave up the fight and ran. Perhaps. Perhaps they are right. But the decades rolled by and I found it harder and harder to live with myself. And with fewer days left on good old planet Earth than I have had, I decided there might be better uses of my time. As I said, it's a personal thing.

So, for these reasons and a few more, I have to declare myself out.

Copyright © 2014 Dale Rominger

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