Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Church Is Under Attack

Tucson Community Church, the church I have been attending since Easter weekend, is no cesspool of hatred, contrary to what you may infer from a recent article in the Arizona Daily Star and now another in Tucson Weekly. TCC's stance against homosexuality on its website is taking some serious heat from gay-rights organization Wingspan, which sent out a letter criticising the information on the site as "really uncool, deeply homophobic" lies. Wingspan accuses TCC of using distorted and scientifically questionable studies to back up its religious stance.

Indeed, some of the research cited by TCC comes from Paul Cameron, who was dropped from the American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association and Canadian Psychological Association for unsound methodologies, especially his contention that homosexuals have a much lower life expectancy.

But what is also troubling is the inference made by some letter writers and online commenters that TCC is fostering intolerance and bigotry.

In the two-and-a-half months I have been part of this church, I have not heard a single rant against homosexuality during any service. I have not heard a single rant, period. TCC is not a ranting church. And for the record, that web page in dispute says:
Please understand that at TCC, we love people and want to help them to be everything that God intended for them to be when He created them. This being the case, we have no desire with the following information to try and attack or hurt someone who is involved in homosexual sex – quite the contrary – our intention is first to try and help to set them free from the sin of homosexuality and the subsequent tragic consequences associated with homosexual sex – this is an act of love.
Doesn't sound like a rant to me -- especially compared to what Saxon Burns wrote in Tucson Weekly after attending a TCC service this past Sunday:
Naturally, my ears perked up when [Pastor David] McAllister talked about how he's been accused of being gay in the past.

"I can't tell you how many times I've been called a homosexual," he said. McAllister noted how ridiculous that idea was, considering that he's been married 27 years and has numerous children.

Yeah, right--ridiculous. Tell that to Ted Haggard or former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey.

Granted, McAllister didn't make my gaydar go off. He looked like a scary Backstreet Boy, wearing a green-and-blue collared shirt and oversized, JNCO-style jeans like the kids (used to) wear. Bleached-blond spikes jutted out from his scalp, and his craggy face seemed at odds with his youthful, buoyant way of speaking.
Technically, that's more snark than rant, but let that go. My point is that this whole debate is turning personal -- just like a lot of debates in our talk-radio world -- and it's branding TCC's parishioners with a label they don't deserve.

I don't think homosexuality is a normal orientation, but that does not mean I hate homosexuals. Every day, I work with several people who are homosexual, and I make an effort to treat them with the professionalism and respect they deserve because they do awesome work for us! I consider them friends. Yes, I am aware of the "some of my best friends are gay" cliche, an excuse long used by bigots, but this is the truth.

I do not think God put me on this earth to evangelize against homosexuality, in either a subtle or fiery manner. I don't think I'm a good evangelist, anyway. I believe God put me here to serve others. I believe He wants me to use what I have to help enlighten our society, to bring joy to people, to uplift others, and to leave this world better than I found it. I recently completed reading the book of Proverbs. It's filled with advice on living right for God and picking your battles:
Proverbs 22:24-25 (TEV) -- "Don't make friends with people who have hot, violent tempers. You might learn their habits and not be able to change."

22:29 -- "Show me a man who does a good job and I will show you a man who is better than most and worthy of the company of kings."

23:17 -- "Don't be envious of sinful people; let reverence for the LORD be the concern of your life."

24:5-6 -- "Being wise is better than being strong; yes, knowledge is more important than strength. After all, you must make careful plans before you fight a battle, and the more good advice you get, the more likely you are to win."

29:11 -- "Stupid people express their anger openly, but sensible people are patient and hold it back."

18:12 -- "No one is respected unless he is humble; arrogant people are on the way to ruin."
Others may say I am failing to take a stand, but this is a stand. It is a stand for harmony. I have no interest as a Christian in getting into discussions over orientation where the end result is too often divisiveness, bitterness and contempt over something that has no resonance in my life other than its conflict with religious teaching. Homosexuality is not an issue in my relationship with God, and I do not intend to make it an issue. I know for sure any ranting I do won't make homosexuals straight.

I pray every day for wisdom. I thank God for my friends and coworkers every day -- gay or straight -- because together we accomplish great things and enrich each others' lives. I can't say what Jesus would have done in my situation. But I'm trying.

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