Faith is a wonderful thing. Religion is all too often more divisive than inclusive. And churches can be decisively hypocritical, especially when church leaders decide that "giving ground" on the acceptance of members who are gay — or even just a family member of a person who is gay — is not to be tolerated.
No wonder religion is at the root of most wars. Watching the drama play out this week after Ridgedale Church of Christ told the mother of a gay Collegedale detective that she, the mother, must repent of her sin or leave the church, has shown the pinnacle of hypocrisy.
The mother's sin was merely in loving her daughter and publicly standing beside her as the young woman sought and received Collegedale city benefits for her partner in a same-sex marriage. The family, which had a decades-long and multigenerational relationship with the church, chose to leave.
Where is mercy? Where is love? Where is anything in this church's cruel demand even remotely God-like? Even remotely inviting enough to bring fellowship to believers and would-be believers?
This newspaper's letters to the editor and online comments are constantly sprinkled with Bible verses, thrown willy-nilly from one writer to the other until the issue at hand is completely lost in ping-pong word attacks. What's religious about that? Rather than showing love of God, more often than not they show contempt.
For all of the literal Bible verse thumpers out there who want to point to Leviticus 18:22 as your excuse for not being truly faithful to God's doctrine of love and mercy, consider this "art imitates life" segment from the wonderful television series "West Wing." In it, the character, President Josiah Bartlett, takes on a television Bible show host, Jenna Jacobs, who has called homosexuality an abomination.
Bartlett tells her, bitingly, "I like how you call homosexuality an abomination," and Jacobs replies that she doesn't: the Bible does in Leviticus. The president finishes her sentence: Leviticus 18:22.
"I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here," Bartlett continues. "I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?
"While thinking about that, can I ask another?" Bartlett continues. "My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it OK to call the police?"
Then the TV president invokes sports.
"Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?"
And finally, two Bartlett questions turn the woman pale.
"Does the whole town really have to be together for me to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?"
Well, now back to reality -- but those are all real Bible verses by the way, from the same Bible that Ridgedale Church of Christ teaches.
Of course, not all churches want to pin scarlet letters on every easy target.
The new Pope Francis, the head of the largest Christian church in the world, reminded us of that recently as he talked with reporters about faith and gay priests: "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" the pope replied to a reporter's question.
Exactly. It's not for us to judge. Nor is it up to the pope. It's not up to the Ridgedale Church of Christ either.
One more thing: 1 Corinthians 13:13 -- And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.