This shrill screed from the hateful quill of Bishop John Shelby Spong:
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.”
That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer.
Bishop Spong, you’ve given me a word-boner.
Of course we in the atheist community must fall all over ourselves to condemn such hateful rhetoric. After all, he might turn away some atheists who would totes get on the pro-gay bandwagon, but for all the mean words said about religious people. If you believe in your principles so little that you’ll let language be the deciding factor of your involvement, perhaps it’s best that you stay home.
And please believe that Bishop Spong (great name, incidentally) gets better:
In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by “fair-minded” channels that seek to give “both sides” of this issue “equal time.” I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.
*Quiver* I’m no longer convinced that being gay isn’t a lifestyle choice, because I’m super gay for the good Bishop right now. I need me some Spong.
This is the power that rhetoric has – it can uplift, it can inspire, it can forge unlikely allegiances. While the Bishop and I would never agree on theology (unless he’s purely a “cultural Christian”, in which case I’ll just scratch my head and change the subject), even a hardened firebrand like myself would be proud to stand next to the author of these words. And it’s not because he’s pandering to my position, or being just s’darn nice about what he’s saying, it’s because he’s unashamed to state clearly what he believes. I have more respect for someone who disagrees with me clearly and directly than I do with someone who pussyfoots around the issues and obfuscates, straining mightily to hold the middle ground at all costs.
While I recognize that not everyone will respond to direct language positively, there is a significant subset of the atheist community that does. My contention is that despite the fact that we may disagree on any number of other topics – from wine to economic politics to the supernatural – we ‘firebrand’ atheists are not so rabidly anti-religious as to ignore good ideas from a variety of sources, even the religious. Plus, when my back’s against the wall, I’m comforted more by someone willing to stand and fight beside me than I am by someone who thinks we just need to compromise with the mob so they’ll put their torches down.