I found it painful to watch the video that hit the web last week of North Carolina pastor Charles L. Worley expressing his particular view on President Obama's recent announcement about same-sex marriage. Perhaps most disturbing is Worley's suggestion that "lesbians, queers and homosexuals" be quarantined until they eventually die off from a lack of ability to reproduce -- an idea that reeks of hate and contains echoes of genocide.
Gay marriage is an issue that divides our country, and President Obama's new position on the matter promises to make it a central issue in the upcoming presidential election. But it's also an issue that divides American Christianity.
Through my experiences as an interfaith organizer and a Christian, I have been blessed with relationships with people from many different traditions, perspectives and backgrounds. It's also given me a unique perspective on my own tradition as I've worked with Christian ministries boasting political positions on both ends of the spectrum. As a result, I am witness to some congregations that are open and affirming and others which remain conservatively quiet.
To me, the matter at hand is not about whether I agree or disagree with a particular ministry's position. However, the ministries I respect and admire are those which approach all people with a posture of love -- a position antithetic to Charles L. Worley's ideas.
It's too often that the Christian perspectives heard around the world -- whether as viral media or on the front page of the news -- are those of radically bigoted leaders who fail to represent the Christ that I know. And Charles Worley reminds me of some of those embarrassments, like Terry Jones, the Florida Family Association or even Harold Camping. These instances in which my faith is so badly misrepresented remind me why the world needs interfaith cooperation.
Worley, as a matter of fact, gives me two reasons.
First, the face of Christianity that many see today is not an accurate picture of a compassionate Christ. If I and other Christians want to better represent our faith, we can only do so in a world where opinions are based on real relationships, not viral bigotry. The interfaith movement seeks to create such a world. This means increased opportunity for Christians to demonstrate, through dialogue and common action, that what Charles Worley is suggesting is exactly what Jesus wouldn't do.
Second, Worley's hate misrepresents Christians on both sides of the political debate over gay marriage. I'm not convinced that every denomination of Christianity will ever come to unanimous agreement on the morality question. However, at moments like this, the Christian Church must be prepared for intra-religious cooperation that seeks to overcome the language of hate with a language of love. Once again, we need the tools of the interfaith movement.
If you look in the right place, you'll find many Christians apologizing for Charles Worley's comments on behalf of our faith tradition. I, too, wish to echo this apology. But many also recognize that this incident is a call to action, and that we must reach across divides to practice radical hospitality.
Now is a time in which we are reminded that, as human beings, differences are not only present in our theological perspectives or the texts we consider sacred, but at many levels in human existence. And although we will not agree with each other on many levels, we must agree that bigotry cannot be tolerated. This instance is yet another reminder that an example of hate is a call to practice love.