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Lynette Mae Headshot

Religious Defiance, Thank God!

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Alamy
Alamy

I'm a Christian, and I'm perplexed. Can somebody please explain to me why folks who profess to believe in the teachings of Jesus are forever bastardizing his message?

Our most recent example of faith-based hypocrisy comes from a story about a father who loves his son and simply wants to support his son completely. The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, a minister of the United Methodist Church, was asked by his son to officiate his wedding. What an awesome thing, right? Right! Except that his son was marrying a man. Uh, oh. Dr. Olgletree says that his son's request inspired him, and he readily accepted. Two of the reverend's children are gay, and he loves and accepts them unconditionally. His daughter previously married her partner in a non-Methodist ceremony.

Dr. Olgletree conducted the ceremony for his son back in October, and no doubt it was a joyous family occasion. Then one of the reverend's fellow ministers saw the wedding announcement in the newspaper and apparently felt it his sacred duty to tattle on Dr. Ogletree to the local bishop. Rev. Randall C. Paige and several other ministers object to Dr. Ogletree's actions, citing violations of canonical law. They say the ceremony is "a chargeable offense" under the church's rules, and that breaking the laws are not the proper way to bring about change.

Really? Um, Jesus broke the laws of his lifetime by renouncing Old Testament teachings publicly, throwing the money lenders out of the temple, cavorting with known prostitutes, pretty much thumbing his nose at much of the religious doctrine of the day, and the list goes on. It seems like he thought that breaking the law was exactly the way to bring about change at times. Unjust laws meant to demonize or marginalize minority groups are always overturned by acts of civil disobedience, because morally unjust laws cannot and should not stand. So how is it that these religious scholars would assert that breaking the rules is not the way to effect change? Guess they skipped those parts of the New Testament. The complaining reverends say that Dr. Olgetree's actions injure the church because they foster "confusion in the church about what we stand for." Shouldn't the church be standing for love, honesty, family and stuff like that?

Dr. Olgletree is awe-inspiring. "Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed," he said. "But if you can't, you break it." He challenged Rev. Paige, saying, "Dr. King broke the law, Jesus of Nazareth broke the law.... So you mean you should never break the law, no matter how unjust it is?" I'm pretty sure that that's exactly the premise that our great country was founded upon, and I hope that we never lose that belief in standing up for "right" over "law." Rules and laws are made in given periods of time based upon the knowledge folks have to work with, but we evolve. We grow. We change.

These changes come largely through interacting with people who may be different from us. That's why I always say that we change hearts and minds one person at a time. The good reverend understands that the teachings of Christianity call us to be loving and compassionate toward one another, not judgmental or hateful. When we open our hearts to the lives and love of others, we cannot help but grow. That's the human experience. The reverend, only wanting to fully participate in his son's marriage, as any parent would, unwittingly became a symbol of religious defiance. He said, "I actually wasn't thinking of it as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience. I was thinking of it as a response to my son."

Amen, Reverend.