Yesterday we learned that the North Carolina preacher Pastor Worley delivered a sermon in 1978 that included a line that goes something like this:
“Forty years ago [gays] would’ve hung, bless God, from a white oak tree!”
A friend of mine responded to my post yesterday with some excellent points, one of which was that Worley’s church in NC could not be a house of God. She knows the Book well, and I was really touched by the time she took to respond to the post.
I started thinking about how we live in a time when religion is under attack and how that might actually parallel how LGBTQ people are under attack. Of course, VERY DIFFERENT circumstances, but I think that in 21st century American society, religious practice could be viewed as non-normative by a lot of people. In fact, I have been privy to any number of inappropriate comments from so-called liberals condemning and/or dismissing religious practices and beliefs. This language often mirrors the language used by people going on a homophobic rant, and it gets to the heart of this post’s title. Practitioners of religion have been taking it to the chin because of people like Pastor Worley, and I think we all need to take stock here. Extreme practices and beliefs exist in all communities, but we have to be careful about how we respond to these moments when one person speaks for a larger community. Or let me rephrase that. The media holds up this person and insinuates that he speaks for an entire community. That’s part of the problem.
I’m writing this out because I know I need to be more accountable for my own thoughts and feelings about moments like this. Pastor Worley’s rhetoric frightens me, but I don’t believe that it’s a possibility. Maybe that’s naive of me, but I’d rather be optimistic about my fellow man. We need to be smart enough not to take the media’s or Pastor Worley’s bait. We also need to have more compassion. We can’t hate the “hateful.” If we do, we become Pastor Worley.
I don’t practice religion, and I’m not even sure how spiritual I feel at this point in my life. But I do understand that religious teachings are meant to help us see the humanity in each and every individual–so that we see the face of God in the people around us. Empathy, compassion, and humanity in a world where those three things are getting harder and harder to find.