After I left the Episcopal Church to enter the Catholic Church a half a dozen years ago, a good and wise friend told me to avoid taking pot shots from afar. Sage advice.
But a video by Gene Robinson this is part of the It Gets Better campaign has a line that strikes me as telling, and I can’t resist commenting.
Robinson was the first openly gay person elevated to the episcopacy in the Episcopal Church. The goal if the video, which is part of a series, is to speak to gay and lesbian teens whose attitudes and circumstances may be leading them to contemplate suicide. It’s certainly a good thing to discourage anyone from despairing of the gift of life, but I was struck by a comment that comes at around the 1:45 mark.
Robinson says, “God loves you just the way you are,” and then he goes on to day, “God doesn’t want you to change.”
Robinson has in mind, of course, the question of sexual orientation, but I found the sentiment arresting. The main word of Christ, it seems, is affirmative. You’re great. You’re doing fine. No need to change.
I must say, by my reading at least, the New Testament says something very different. Jesus is forever warning his disciples that, if they wish to follow him, their lives are in for some very big changes. And the Sermon on the Mount? It’s a demanding ethic, not a affirmative hug.
There are arguments to be made for why the Christian tradition (and all other traditions for that matter) is wrong to treat male-female sexual reciprocity as normative. I don’t find these arguments persuasive, but they’re not stupid.
But I’ve always thought it disastrous to use the “God loves you just the way your are” and “God doesn’t want you to change” slogans, along with the closely related “God doesn’t make mistakes” shibboleth.
Why? Because it turns Christianity into bourgeois religion, and the church into an affirming chaplaincy for the status quo. There’s no salt in a message that tells people that they’re basically good and don’t need to change.