By Rev. Corey L. Brown, MDiv
Monday, March 4, 2019
Scripture: “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You shut people out of the kingdom of heaven. You don’t enter yourselves, and you won’t allow those who want to enter to do so. “How terrible it will be for you, legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You travel over sea and land to make one convert. But when they’ve been converted, they become twice the child of hell you are. (Matthew 23:13-15)
The 2019 Lenten season is upon us. For those of you not familiar with Lent, this is a 40-day (not including Sundays) Christian liturgical observance leading up to Holy Week. Holy Week is the week that culminates in our celebrations of Good Friday and Easter. During Lent, Christians use this time to fast, pray, and to serve others. As time has passed, fasting has become the most highlighted act of modern-day church observance, while praying and service have been de-prioritized. Lent has just become another weight-loss tool. Christianity started as a communal faith but has now become so individualistic. Fasting, prayer, and service are the “trinity of Lent” and should not be compartmentalized.
Just recently the United Methodist Church just voted for the Traditional plan, which is a manifestation of homophobia, which is deeply rooted in today’s Christian religion. They are choosing to not see those in the LGBTQ community as equals in the eyes of the Creator by not acknowledging their unions or considering them for ordination in the ministry. This is a painful experience for people who have long been ostracized for living into what G-d made them to be. Many LGBTQ have been kicked out of their churches or sent to conversion therapy, in an attempt to stop them from living in sin and to conform or assimilate to the heteronormative construct established by a patriarchally-centered Eurocentric theology.
My question today is what is the church (little “c”) willing to give up? Little “c” church is the institutional church, not the Church, the Bride of Christ. The church is always seemingly asking its people about what they are going to sacrifice to prove their love for the church. These sacrifices are money, lifestyle, and gender or sexual identity. My challenge to the church during this 2019 Lenten is to give up its doctrine, dogma, and ideologies created to exclude others, to deny the humanity of others. There are still churches with White members only today in the deep South whose doctrine still forbids the membership of people of color. As history has taught us, this is wrong. I am convinced in my heart of hearts, that when we look back on this time in history, we will also see that the Conservative church has been wrong in its stance about the LGBTQ community. When you boil down Christian scripture, its commands to us are to love. We have not been given the authority to hate and by excluding others, we are embodying hate, not love. How can we look in the face of others and continue to cherry-pick Scripture to justify the mistreatment of the Imago Dei (the image of Elohim)? Remember the Bible tells us that we are created in the image of Elohim (plural). In one of my next blogs, I will explore what G-d has told me about the creation of gender and sexual identity. But until then, church has some hard decisions to make, whether it will love all of G-d’s people or continue to elevate its doctrine and dogma over the teachings of Christ, which centered around loving and caring for those who have always lived on the margins.
Challenge: Let the Lenten season be not only about giving up, but also let it be about acquiring the habit of loving others through service to others. Pray for an open heart and an open mind and to restore the spiritual connection and balance between the two.