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It may sound like a silly question, but do you wear your church on your sleeve?

Most people would probably say no, which is not a wrong answer (there really is no right or wrong answer to that question). Personally, I’m comfortable not wearing my church on my sleeve, shoving it down other people’s throats whenever they look at me, cornering them in the most uncomfortable places (like standing at a men’s room urinal) talking to them about my church and my faith. But in the same breath, neither do I wear my sexuality on my sleeve. My sexuality, my faith, my church, my heigh, my weight, my education, my diet, my bowel movements – these are all facets of a single life that in its totality is me.

I can understand the need of the LGBT community to fight for acceptance and equality. Sadly, after all these years, and even having come such a long way already, it’s still a necessity until everyone can live together in true acceptance and charity. But why do we still need to identify with a label? We see the commercials that it’s wrong to apply labels to people, yet we still do it. And it’s wrong no matter which side of the fence you stand – whether you’re identifying yourself as a “gay” something, or pointing the finger at someone calling them a “gay” something.

But the one thing that really gets under my skin is when a church dives head-first into that pool of shame, spouting labels left and right, either for or against. And it’s in the context of the churches (both protestant and catholic) that we find the worst cases of labeling and finger-pointing. Rather than focusing on what’s most important – living the faith we’ve been taught – they either focus on condemnation of homosexuals, or they raise the plight of the LGBT community to a level of sanctity that it’s nearly unattainable by mere heterosexuals. These groups promote themselves as a “Gay Church,” where “No matter who you are, you belong here” signage all over the place. There’s no such thing as a gay church – just like there’s no such thing as a straight church.

I’m thinking of one parish, in particular (which shall remain nameless at this point; let’s just call it St. Gay for now), which swiftly moved from a true Anglo-Catholic parish which taught and lived the faith received. However, upon hiring an outward and openly (some might say “flaming”) gay, activistic Curate, the parish of St. Gay has quickly deteriorated into a calling house for other like-minded people who have very little interest in religion, and tons of interest in gay politics, gay bars, gay pride festivals, and rainbow pillar candles.

Now, I’m not saying that gay activism isn’t needed – or that gay bars, gay politics, gay pride festivals and parades aren’t fun – they still are! But just like the churches need to keep their toes out of politics (Do politicians preach sermons on federal budgeting or lobbying or international affairs? No, I don’t think so!), the churches need to keep their focus on what’s important.

Most recently, St Gay’s curate felt it was more important on a Sunday morning (when the faithful members come to worship) to be manning a table at Philadelphia’s Outfest, even though there were other able-bodied gay men who were there during that time. To those two members of St Gay’s, and St Gay’s curate, it was more important to tell everyone how gay and gay-friendly St Gay’s is, than actually being in the church performing the religious services, hearing confessions, assisting at the High Mass, and doing the job to which the curate was ordained (and hired!). St Gay’s – until just a little over a year ago – professed, taught, and lived the faith. The parish never felt a need to run out to every gay pride event to announce to the world how gay-friendly they were, because that wasn’t their primary focus. As people gravitated toward the once religious parish, it was because of the faith, it was because of the traditions, it was because of the reality of the life and practice of the parish that they came to know and love St Gay’s and call it home.

Today, however, the parish seems to be steeped in nothing more than it’s own fascination with sex and sexuality; and most of those who called it home for many years have left because they refused to diminish their faith with a sexual identity forced upon them. The very few who have stayed behind continue to fight against the heresy of faithless Christianity steeped in clergy sexuality and indiscretions, in hopes of bringing the religious life of St Gay’s back to the forefront; and in hopes that it will, once again, become not a Gay Church, but a Christian church – where one’s sexuality is not of importance, but the health of one’s soul.

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