Today, there are 2 news stories that have been circulating all over my Facebook and Twitter news feeds. One you are probably aware of, the other maybe not. The two, though, are closely related. The first news story is the indefinite suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson due to the comments he made during an interview with GQ magazine. The second news story is about the “defrocking” of Pennsylvania UMC pastor Frank Schaefer after he performed the marriage for his gay son and subsequent refusal to submit to church law regarding this action. The link between these two stories is clear. The church’s views (or, in the case of Duck Dynasty, a certain understanding of the Christian faith’s views) regarding homosexuality.
The reaction to both of these stories has been…emphatic, to say the least. The debate over the “rightness or wrongness” of homosexuality has once again been fired up. The appeals to the Biblical passages have been made. The academic rebuttals to the interpretation of those passages has no doubt been referenced. The calls for freedom and tolerance (from both sides) have been shouted…or at least typed out with great gusto. The theological debate (and I am using that term VERY generously here) has been raging all day long, and no doubt will continue to rage in the weeks to come.
But I refuse to engage in it. The way I see it, the time for that debate has long since passed. The stakes are too high now. The current research suggestions that teenagers that are gay are about 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. That puts the percentage of gay teens attempting suicide at about 30-some percent. 1 out of 3 teens who are gay or bisexual will try to kill themselves. And a lot of times they succeed. In fact, Rev. Schaefer’s son contemplated suicide on a number of occasions in his teens.
The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin. Let me say that again. It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way. So, I’m through with the debate.
When faced with the choice between being theologically correct…as if this is even possible…and being morally responsible, I’ll go with morally responsible every time. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian during World War II. He firmly held the theological position of nonviolence. He believed that complete pacifism was theologically correct. And yet, in the midst of the war, he conspired to assassinate Adolf Hitler; to kill a fellow man. Why? Because in light of what he saw happening to the Jews around him by the Nazis, he felt that it would be morally irresponsible not to. Between the assassination of Hitler and nonviolence, he felt the greater sin would be nonviolence.
We are past the time for debate. We no longer have the luxury to consider the original meaning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. We are now faced with the reality that there are lives at stake. So whatever you believe about homosexuality, keep it to yourself. Instead, try telling a gay kid that you love him and you don’t want him to die. Try inviting her into your church and into your home and into your life. Anything other than that simply doesn’t matter.