Back in May, I was appalled to read that a Baptist Pastor in North Carolina, Charles L. Worley, had proclaimed his desire, from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, to "Build a great, big, large fence -- 150 or 100 mile long -- put all the lesbians in there... do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out...and you know what, in a few years, they'll die out...do you know why? They can't reproduce!"
Shortly thereafter, another Kansas pastor, Curtis Knapp, stated the following about LGBT persons: "They should be put to death -- that's what happened in Israel," Knapp proclaims. "That's why homosexuality wouldn't have grown in Israel." To make sure that the members of his congregation didn't go on a queer killing spree, he clarified, "Oh, so you're saying we should go out and start killing them? No, I'm saying the government should. They won't, but they should."
Most recently, Jonathan Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, "said he 'absolutely' supported the death penalty for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, though he stopped short of elaborating when it came to how he thought the U.S. government should enforce such punishments."
As a partnered gay seminarian pursuing a vocation in ministry, I honestly don't know how to accurately and appropriately respond to these men's sentiments. I'm aware of my emotions: anger, frustration, sadness, heartbreak, confusion, rage, betrayal, and many more. Yet when it comes to the fact that individuals who profess to be followers of Christ have been so quick to ignore, or worse reject the humanity of a particular population of people, I'm dumbfounded. These are people with whom I'm supposed to have something major in common: our love for Jesus and our call to offer that love to all people.
Proclaiming that a person deserves to die because of their sexual orientation is abhorrent. In fact, dare I say, it's heretical. Mind you, this is not a post about the morality or ethicality of the death penalty or capitol punishment. This is about the implications of negating a person's humanity because of who they are and/or who they love.
These men, and probably many more, have indicated their belief that homosexuality should be punishable at a civil/policital/social level. They've proclaimed that the government should view homosexual practice or not adhering to the gender binary should be criminal and worthy of ending one's life, worthy of trial and litigation, worthy of no longer existing. For a person who evinces and love and reverence for Scripture to behave in this fashion is reprehensible and sickening.
As a follower of Christ, I feel passionate about manifesting God's love for the world in the world. The words of these men do the exact opposite. They do not encourage involvement in a faith community. They do not edify one's relationship with the Divine. They kill, slowly but surely. They tell queer people, "You are worthless. You are disgusting. You have no value. You make me sick. You are dangerous and perverted. Your love isn't real, but is a cheap imitation. Your families are a substitute for what they should be if you hadn't chosen to live in sin and reject what's normal or natural." And we wonder why so many queer individuals over the years have either ended their lives or rejected God, having been taught that God does not love them, and in fact, God despites, detests, and loathes their very existence.
I wrestled with my own sexuality for a long time, believing thoughts just like this. I struggled with chronic depression, isolation, and rejection. Slowly, I started hearing from others that in fact, God did love me, and that my sexuality is part of who I am as a man made in the image of the Creator. Who I love is not an abomination. Most importantly, I deserved to live, and to have a life that was surrounded by loving people who made me better than I was on my own. It saddens me that anyone who's read the Gospels and examined the life and message of Christ would ever come to the same conclusions as these men. Thankfully, their message is a dying one—one that is fading slowly but surely out of existence. There will not be any rainbow death camps, electric fences, or trials for same-gender-loving people or people whose gender is not black and white.
Instead, there will be life. There will be love. There will be joy. There will be hope. There will be change.