So yesterday I did something unusual – I listened to a sermon, specifically a sermon from my old church in Savannah. It popped up in one of my social media feeds, and being the curious grrrl that I am, I had to listen for myself.
The topic was on homosexuality and gay marriage – an issue that’s admittedly close to my heart. I suppose there was a part of me (a small part) who was hoping my past church had moved on past its discriminatory views that I remembered.
Of course I was disappointed.
I chose to listen to the sermon on my evening walk, so last night if you saw me muttering aloud to myself as I walked, now you know why.
The sermon is the last part of the “You Asked for It” series, where congregants wrote in topic suggestions for sermons. The minister delivering the talk is the same one who has been the pastor there ever since I was little.
If you check out the church’s Facebook page where the video is posted, you’ll see nothing but glowing comments about how “compassionate” and “balanced” this sermon is. Part of me is hoping that negative comments about it have been scrubbed, because I have a hard time believing that we watched the same sermon.
Here’s what I saw:
I saw a minister who abused his position of power. I saw someone who knows he is influential in the lives of so many who look up to him and consider him as a spiritual leader in their lives. And yet this leader can in one breath say that he “loves” you, but then quickly turn around to dismiss/discredit/destroy you. That kind of faux compassion is nauseating to witness (both in person and on tape).
[For example, in the midst of his homosexual shaming, there was also some slut-shaming also thrown in for good measure -- In reference to his point on “addictive homosexual behaviour", here's an actual quote: “girls in every high school in our community are addicted to the attention that sex can bring, and they discover that lesbian behaviour will turn on guys, and they push that button. Like a drug user.”]
Also throughout the sermon I saw this minister cite shoddy research, more than once, to bolster his argument. In the beginning of his talk, there were huge generalizations made about vague scientific studies and psychological findings. The dismissive label of “urban legend” was tossed about when referring to any recent findings of genetic dispositions to homosexuality (though no sources cited to back this supposed legend).
Later in the sermon, as he started to cite specific research to back more of his more odious points, he cited research that was anywhere from 21 to 36 years old.
For example, one of his key pieces of evidence was that “only 1% of the American population is homosexual.” What wasn’t mentioned is that this stat is at least 21 years old, as it comes from this 1993 NYTimes article. And this decades-old statistic is the most recent research that’s cited in the sermon!
Other claims and sources used as evidence:
- homosexual behaviour is relationally unfulfilling, and gay men adopt “a lifestyle of adultery” (Blumstein & Schwartz 1983)
- Only 2% of homosexuals are “relatively monogamous” / many with 1,000 partners in a lifetime (Bell and Weinberg 1978)
- 100 gay couples 0% sexually monogamous after 5 years (McWhirter and Mattison 1984)
Of course when the pastor cites this research, it was never stated how old these findings were. Just how relevant are these results, decades later? A precursory google search reveals that several of these studies have questionable issues with them, but for someone who’s listening in the congregation, are they going to take the time to follow up on the information that is being presented? It is completely disingenuous on his part to present these findings as relevant facts for people to consider.
But beyond the large amounts of faux piety and substandard research in the sermon, what bothers me the most is the damage it will cause to people sitting in the pews who are in fact members of the LGBT community. Do you know what was the “solution” that was given to these individuals? Choosing to live a life of being single and celibate. Because according to this minister, sex isn’t a physical need, it’s just a desire – so, in order to be an accepted member of this religious community (and by extension, loved by the God of this community), you will need to reject and suppress intrinsic parts of yourself and your identity.
While I’m pretty good these days about leaving religious people alone with their beliefs, this is one place where I have to call BULLSHIT. Why would anyone want live under the weight of this kind of hurtful dogma, especially when there are real-life people who are being crushed in the process?
If there’s a bright side to be found in this situation, it’s this: I am so glad that views like these are being recorded and broadcast. These desperate pleas to maintain religious dogma at the expense of human beings are being more and more drowned out in our society. Having a sermon like this recorded for posterity is important — so when (not if, but when!) it’s a foregone conclusion in our society that LOVE IS LOVE and no government should stand in the way of same-sex commitments, we will be able to pull up these videos and remind ourselves of how hurtful some religious beliefs can be.
I don’t regret rejecting this belief system at all.