234 Signatures. That’s how many clergy it took to break through Nebraska’s bubble of silence. We all know that the popular understanding of homosexuality and religion is that the two don’t mix–period. But it’s not like that for everyone, in fact there are LGBTQ affirming churches world wide. But for those churches who have yet to make a stand as to which side of the line they stand on, one can only hope that what we perceive to be opposition is actually muted confusion.
The scene is such that whenever the subject of “homosexuality” is presented–regardless of whether it is at a fundamentalist church or a liberal Quaker gathering–it is met with a unanimous motion of glazed eyes and uncomfortable silence. Backs stiffen in pews and individuals plead against the silence not to be forced into having an opinion. On one side the subject is uncomfortable because we as religious people already avoid talking about sex, sexuality, and sensuality. Our gender expectations are archaic and we know it. So gay sex is just… well… easily left in the dark. And then when it comes to the whole “abomination” vs “unconditional love” thing, who wants to be the first to stand for or against it, or to choose and then discover you’ve chosen wrong. We just hope it’s not our kids. In fact it better not be our kids because we’ve taught them better (right?). What’s easiest for all of us is to just leave it alone, edge back onto our neutral ground, and keep that conundrum of confusion tucked under the rug. This way nobody gets hurt. Right?
Yes it’s easier to sit in silence and ignore the elephant in the room, but as we sit in tolerant silence for the thing we all have questions about but do not fully approach, we must know that our silence says something clear and concise to the kid in the back who does happen to have a crush on his best friend. In absence of an opinion what the rest of the world hears is “No. Homosexuality is not OK in the eyes of that squirming religious group.” This is the ambiguity we fight against, which is why it was so important for these clergy to come together under the common goal of letting us know that homosexuality is not a damnable sin, at least not in their eyes.
The Heartland Proclamation was lead by Rev. Dr. Scott Jones of the First Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Omaha and reeled in the fellowship of 13 other middle-American states. Their promise to “affirm, embrace, declare, and celebrate,” was stated loud and clear:
“As Christian clergy we proclaim the Good News concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons and publicly apologize where we have been silent. As disciples of Jesus, who assures us that the truth sets us free, we recognize that the debate is over. The verdict is in. Homosexuality is not a sickness, not a choice, and not a sin. We find no rational biblical or theological basis to condemn or deny the rights of any person based on sexual orientation. Silence by many has allowed political and religious rhetoric to monopolize public perception, creating the impression that there is only one Christian perspective on this issue. Yet we recognize and celebrate that we are far from alone, as Christians, in affirming that LGBTQ persons are distinctive, holy, and precious gifts to all who struggle to become the family of God.” Read full quote here
It is now up to us to follow in their trail blazing example. Let us lift the blanket, peak under the covers, and with integrity face the damage we have caused our queer and questioning members. Yes religion has hurt a lot of people but it is still within our power to heal that hurt. If you would like to stand up for your own church and help spread the word to young adults across the country that yes it’s OK to be queer, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and well spiritual, consider donating to our cause. We can help your message go far. If anything, visit the Heartland Proclamation website, watch the video clip, and flip through their pictures to see how their day of signing turned out. It’s the stuff hope is made of.