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How to Tell Love From Hate: The Bible vs. Pastor Charles Worley

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Homophobia's newest poster child is Pastor Charles L. Worley, who, in a viral video, proposed (perhaps in jest) that LGBT people (his term was "lesbians and queers") should be rounded up and imprisoned until they "die out" because they "can't reproduce." Like a number of other such speeches, this clip has received over 600,000 views on YouTube and is undermining the efforts of more moderate gay-bashers like the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins to disguise anti-gay bias as something other than hatred.

Responding to the criticism that he hates gay people, Pastor Worley addressed us directly last Sunday, saying, "Listen, all of the sodomites, the lesbians, and all of the -- what's that word? -- gays (I didn't wanna say "queers") that say we don't love you, I love you more than you love yourself... I'm praying for you to be saved." Unfortunately, for a self-described "fundamentalist," Pastor Worley hasn't read his Bible closely. He's off on three counts: "sodomites," "love," and being "saved."

First, the Bible is quite clear as to the sin of Sodom. Ezekiel 16:49 says, "This was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed idolatrous taboos before me, and I took them away as I saw fit." Similarly, Jeremiah 23:14 states, "I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem a horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none returns from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah."

According to the Bible, then, "sodomites" are those who are proud, greedy, lazy, uncharitable, adulterous, and dishonest. The notion that homosexuality is somehow related to the "sin" of Sodom doesn't arise until hundreds of years later, and the word "sodomy" was only coined in the 12th century, by the Catholic church. So, either Ezekiel and Jeremiah are wrong, or Pastor Worley is wrong.

Second, the Bible disagrees with Pastor Worley about the meaning of "love." Now, we all know that love doesn't mean letting someone do whatever they want. If your 3-year-old child is about to touch a hot stovetop, love means holding them back, pushing them away, basically doing whatever is necessary to stop them, even if they cry and shout about it. But what about gay people? Are we like the 3-year-old, unaware of what we are doing? And if not, how do we know if what we're feeling is "love" or something else? Do our religious traditions give us a way to tell real love from false? Sure they do. How about this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Or as Romans 13:10 puts it simply, "Love does no harm to its neighbor."

Let's apply these tests to Pastor Worley's professed "love" of gay people. Is calling for my lifetime internment in a concentration camp "patient" or "kind"? Does it "do no harm to its neighbor"? Or, on the other hand, might it "dishonor others" and do a great deal of harm to the vulnerable LGBT kids in Pastor Worley's own congregation, who, if they take his message to heart, would surely hate themselves, repress themselves, perhaps even take their own lives?

So, then, either St. Paul is wrong, or Pastor Worley is wrong. I think I'll go with the Bible on this one.

Finally, the Bible also provides a guide as to whether homosexuality is to be celebrated or condemned -- that is, whether gay people may also be "saved." It does this not in the three verses (out of 31,005 in the Bible) that talk about lust in the context of Roman or Canaanite idolatry; those are vague, unclear, and subject to interpretation. Rather, it offers a simple litmus test, right in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says, "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:17-20).

In that particular passage, Jesus was talking about telling true prophets from false ones, but it's been understood to stand for a much wider principle: that good things lead to good results, and bad things lead to bad ones. Well, what does affirmation of LGBT people lead to? More love, relationships, family, holiness, truthfulness, and justice -- all good things. What does rejection of LGBT people lead to? Lying, alienation, suicide, repression, rejection, tearing families apart (I've seen it happen), and the desperate search by gay people for some form of sexual outlet (like those priests and pastors who keep getting caught with male prostitutes, male masseurs, and altar boys) -- all not such good things. So, once again, either Jesus is wrong, or Pastor Worley is wrong. Well, I may be a nice Jewish boy, but on this one, I'm siding with Jesus.

Being gay, and welcoming gay people into our congregations and communities, "bears good fruit." Therefore it is good. Of course, one may still disapprove of some expressions of homosexuality, just like one might disapprove of some expressions of heterosexuality. But just as heterosexuality is not defined by a strip club in Las Vegas, homosexuality is not defined by the lustfulness that Paul criticizes and Leviticus relates to idolatry.

Pastor Worley, I'm afraid your "love" for me does not pass the test of Scripture, nor does your understanding of sodomy, or of salvation. I guess it's not surprising that you've read your Bible so carelessly. If you'd been more attentive, I doubt you'd propose locking up me, my partner, and my community in a concentration camp in the first place. Is that what Jesus would do?