The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Religious Remainders

I’ve been so focused on other issues lately that I haven’t done much blogging about religionand politics. (With one exception.) But I’ve been filing away stories I thought I’d blog about at the time they happened. I didn’t the, but a couple of recent stories jogged my memory.

It’s something, I think, when Southern Baptists shift positions on global warming, considering how many objections to the idea of global warming are based on literal readings of the Bible. (Basically, global warming isn’t in the Bible, so it can’t be real.)

Several prominent leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention said Monday that Baptists have a moral responsibility to combat climate change — a major shift within a denomination that just last year cast doubt on human responsibility for global warming.

Forty-six influential members of the Southern Baptist Convention, including three of its past four presidents, criticized their denomination in a statement Monday for being “too timid” in confronting global warming.

“Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed,” the statement says. “We can do better.”

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, adopted a resolution last year urging Baptists to “proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research.” The resolution said “many scientists reject the idea of catastrophic human-induced global warming.”

On Monday, however, dozens of Southern Baptist leaders expressed a different view.

“There is general agreement among those engaged with this issue in the scientific community,” their statement says. “A minority of sincere and respected scientists offer alternate causes for global climate change other than deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.”

Because God isn’t going to burn up the world until after his favorite people are raptured out of it.

As intersting as that was, I was more surprised to learn that some high profile conservatives have turned their backs on theocracy.

Schaeffer and Whitehead are two high-profile Religious Right apostates, but they aren’t the only ones. Even Cal Thomas, who once served as vice president of the late Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, is critical of the Religious Right these days. Thomas in 2000 coauthored a book titled Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America.

In a column written shortly after Falwell’s death in May, Thomas opined, “The flaw in the movement was the perception that the church had become an appendage to the Republican Party and one more special interest group to be pampered. If one examines the results of the Moral Majority’s agenda, little was accomplished in the political arena and much was lost in the spiritual realm, as many came to believe that to be a Christian meant you also must be ‘converted’ to the Republican Party and adopt the GOP agenda and its tactics.”

That’s interesting talk from a guy who just last year was holding forth about who is and isn’t a “real” Christian.

But it was a couple of posts at Ex-Gay Watch that really surprised me. The first announced that Exodus is leaving politics.

XGW: We’ve heard that changes have been made regarding Exodus’ direct involvement in politics. Can you confirm and explain what these are? What changes have been made, i.e. what were you doing and what are you doing now in this realm?

Chambers: It may sound nuanced but we weren’t really involved in “politics.” We never worked for the direct election or defeat of a candidate.

We did get involved in “policy issues” on a federal level with regard to hate crimes legislation and marriage. We considered getting more involved than that. In fact, as you know, we hired a Director of Government Affairs in March, 2007.

Since the first day we entered into policy discussions and activism it was a struggle for us. I felt strongly about the issues we were defending, but conflicted about the fact that we might be alienating people that simply wouldn’t call us for help because of the perception that we were becoming a partisan and political organization rather than a ministry for all.

In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.

I believe strongly in all of the initiatives that we were involved in, but believe we must focus on our two greatest contributions: 1) helping the Church balance grace and truth where homosexuality is concerned and 2) connecting people who seek our help with a community of believers that can love them as they journey towards Christ.

One of the things that always bothered me about “ex-gay” organizations is that they’ve always said that all they wanted to do was provide an alternative to people who are unhappy with their sexual orientation — or want to bring their behavior into harmony with their beliefs. If only that were true, it might not have been a big deal. But they wouldn’t leave the rest of us alone.

The problem is that too often they fall back on the argument that “we’re just trying to offer an alternative to people who are unhappy with their homosexuality and want to change.” But if that’s the case, why don’t they do that and leave rest of us alone? If that were their only motive then it seems like they’d be able to just do that and let that be enough.

But almost every one of these groups has ties to organizations that are advocating and seeking to legislate discrimination against LGBT people. In many cases, they are entirely funded by anti-gay organizations with an entire legislative agenda built around restricted our rights, and stripping our families of any possible protections.

So I can’t say “more power to you” and move on. Because they don’t move on. They insist that what’s possible for them must be possible for the rest of us, and thus it follows that those of us don’t choose their course shouldn’t be protected from discrimination. Because if you don’t want to be discriminated against, you can just stop being gay….

So, I don’t know if the recent change at Exodus means they will leave the rest of us alone now. (They might, but the various parent organizations that support most “ex-gay” groups most likely won’t.) Besides, it sounds like Exodus will still take opportunities to “share their stories with lawmakers.”

If I was skeptical about Chambers’ statements, I was very nearly moved by Wendy Gritter’s — executive director of an Exodus ministry in Canada — guest post at Ex-Gay Watch.

Thank you for the invitation to write this piece. To be honest, my knees are knocking a bit.

I want to begin by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain that some of those who follow this site have experienced from leaders like me and ministries like the one I lead. I’m sorry that some of you connected with this site who identify as Christian have had your faith questioned and judged. I’m sorry there is a felt need for a site like XGW. I’m sorry that it feels like legitimate concerns have not been listened to. I am sorry for the arrogance that can come across from leaders like me.

Gritter actually went on to address the frustration I expressed earlier.

I also feel called to speak to the conservative church about some of the ways I believe we have been distracted from the primary calling to support and encourage deeply devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

1. We have been distracted by the politics around homosexuality. I do think there is a place for Christians to engage in the public arena. God calls his followers to be a blessing to all nations and to represent him by being the presence of shalom on the earth. Unfortunately, in many of the Christian political efforts regarding homosexuality there is little evidence of shalom. The result is that many who need to hear a gospel of good news perceive God’s people to be hypocritical and unloving (“you say you love us – but you’re fighting to prevent/take our rights”). This has perpetuated a sense of alienation that I believe, grieves the heart of God.

Gritter goes on to address the “distractions” of “orientation change” and “causation.” But it was the first two paragraphs of her post, her apology, that had the most impact to me.

Gritter’s remarks reminded me of Jim Wallis’ post over at God’s Politics, about the Australian prime minister’s apology to the country’s aboriginal people.

I wonder what Wallis the 100 Australian ministers apologizing for homophobia.

As ministers of various churches and denominations we recognise that the churches we belong to, and the church in general, have not been places of welcome for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. Indeed the church has often been profoundly unloving toward the GLBT community. For these things we apologise, whatever the distinctive of our Christian position on human sexuality – to which we remain committed. We are deeply sorry and ask for the forgiveness of the GLBT community. We long that the church would be a place of welcome for all people and commit ourselves to pursuing this goal.

I haven’t seen it mentioned on Wallis’ blog, but perhaps I just missed it. But even this carefully worded apolog, as one commenter aptly describes it, has an effect on me. I don’t know that an apology in and of itself changes much, but perhaps it’s a first step to at lest acknowledge that harm has been done, and resolve not to cause further harm

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