Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bishop Spong is done debating!!

The time has come indeed. Thank you Bishop Spong.

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

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. The world has
moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to
new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance.
They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down
the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground
between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice
denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights
song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new
understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who
seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new
and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new
ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so
deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which
they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless
rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to
feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured
lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing
injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.
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

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the
present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and
educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing
ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop
of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even
killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world
religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price
that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our
world's population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by
side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to
justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild,
false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat
Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and
Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time,
energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they
are no longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is
over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the
final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as
equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both
church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become
legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask,
don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we
must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be
submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise
conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine
having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether
segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to
women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that
they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of
demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not
understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation
has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its
constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some
ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives
and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should
ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or
membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this
dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has
quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a
debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on
refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by
engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on,
I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not
care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound
holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled
and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of
the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should
treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste
time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient
might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the
birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on
9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American
Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's
participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God
whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian
Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have
treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we
designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a
century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth."
I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into
it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two
equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has
simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others
to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring
will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It
will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a
new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice
in it and to celebrate it.
– John Shelby Spong

1 comment:

Birdie said...
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