Expecting the worst

Remember when I went to the baby mega-church with a friend a few weeks back? She was so excited to have found a church that fed her spiritually, and she wanted to share it with everyone around her. Although I wasn’t very impressed with the style of worship, I was happy that she had potentially found a spiritual home. There was an entire row of lesbians seated in front of us the morning that we visited, so I just assumed that this church had a non-discriminatory stance on homosexuality.

My friend was shocked Sunday morning to hear the pastor mention homosexuality in his sermon along with a list of other sins, including divorce and drinking. He specifically pointed out that there were gay people in the congregation and that the other members needed to “pray for them to change.” My friend’s joy quickly turned to sorrow and she is questioning whether she ever wants to visit the church again.

What I find interesting is the way homosexuals will often try to rationalize such despicable behavior. She talked to two other lesbians who were at church during the unfortunate sermon, and both explained that they expect to hear such things from time to time. They also felt like the inclusion of other sins in the sermon meant that they weren’t being singled out.

As she talked it over with me today, I pointed out that neither of us believe that homosexuality is a sin or that homosexuals can change. I asked if she really wanted to continue attending a church that had such a lowly view of her, and was surprised that she seems to be wavering on the issue.

It’s almost like discrimination is such an expected part of the equation that she’s willing to overlook it in order to feel spiritually fulfilled. Having been there myself, it’s easy to empathize with her predicament. Is it any wonder that we homosexuals are often so emotionally and spiritually damaged?

All of this has made me so thankful to be a part of the United Church of Christ (UCC). Visitors to our church don’t have to worry about being condemned from the pulpit for being different. Our church’s website clearly states that all are welcome – regardless of color, income, or sexuality. How could a church that labels themselves as “Christian” do any differently?

Other churches, including the one my friend has been attending, might claim the same open door policy, only to wait a few weeks or months before publicly humiliating the most fragile among them. That “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality is psychologically damaging men and women across this country every Sunday morning.

It is sad enough that people who claim to follow Christ treat us with such contempt, but the real tragedy is that we often expect and even enable ourselves to become victims of discrimination.