Friends of Padre Steve’s World
Judy and I were watching a Star Trek the next Generation video the other night and both of us were moved by it. The episode called The Outcast from season five, involved an encounter where the crew of the Enterprise assisted people of an androgynous race to find a missing shuttlecraft.
The androgynous race had believed that they had evolved beyond gender, and members who felt that they were either male or female were outcasts, and subjected to what we might call reprogramming, something quite like what some Christian conservatives call “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy” in which homosexuals are forced to renounce and deny who and what they are.
In the Star Trek episode a scientist, of that race named Soren meets the crew of the Enterprise and finds that she is attracted to Commander Riker. It is a highly emotional episode, and when her leaders find that she is attracted to Riker they put her on trial. During that interrogation she is given the chance by Riker to deny who she is and blame the situation on him, but she cannot. Instead she declares the truth about who she is, a truth that is shared by so many of the homosexuals and lesbians that I have come to know over the years. Her argument is so compelling, and has been stated in similar ways by so many of the people that I have known.
“I am female. I was born that way. I have had those feelings, those longings, all of my life. It is not unnatural. I am not sick because I feel this way. I do not need to be helped. I do not need to be cured. What I need, and what all of those who are like me need, is your understanding. And your compassion. We have not injured you in any way. And yet we are scorned and attacked. And all because we are different. What we do is no different from what you do. We talk, and laugh. We complain about work. And we wonder about growing old. We talk about our families, and we worry about the future. And we cry with each other when things seem hopeless. All of the loving things that you do with each other, that is what we do. And for that, we are called misfits, and deviants, and criminals. What right do you have to punish us? What right do you have to change us? What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?”
The leaders of the planet reject her argument and she is subjected to the reparative therapy against her wishes. When Riker attempts to rescue her she rejects the attempt. When I first saw the episode when I was in seminary I was conflicted because I understood that the heart of the matter did not deal with someone being a heterosexual, but toward how we as a society and as members of the Christian faith community have treated homosexuals and lesbians for millennia.
I know and have known many homosexuals and lesbians, many of them Christians, many much more conservative in their faith than me. Sadly, their families, their faith communities, have rejected most of them and until the past few years denied the rights enjoyed by heterosexuals, inside or outside of marriage, including the right to have their partner with them when they die.
Who is to dictate whom people love and the manner in which they love each other? What would I, or you do if someone in a church, or the government, or even our families told us that we could not be who we were born to be? And honestly, what would we think if people tried to change us against our will and against every fiber of our being? Would that not be a crime against our humanity?
That is the question that all of us have to ask, even when we claim that God only blesses certain relationships while ignoring the other clear commands of scripture? When I see people who have multiple divorces, and adulterous relationships condemn homosexual couples who only desire to legally marry and remain with the love of their life, I am appalled, for I know many same sex couples who have been faithful to each other and lived together for decades before their relationships were recognized as legal and proper, even if some religious people disagree.
My commitment is to care for and accept people no matter what their sexual orientation is. As a priest and pastor I can do nothing else. Of course some will disagree with me and that is their right and I will not take freedom away from them, but I do ask that they not impose their beliefs on same sex couples and thus deprive them of the same freedoms the rest of us enjoy.
While the Supreme Court has recognized that gays and lesbians have the Constitutional right to marriage based upon the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1965, that right is still being assailed by its opponents; most of who are conservative Christians.
This is about civil rights and human rights, and at the same time the religious freedom of gay and lesbian Christians who have been denied the right other heterosexual Christians have always had; the right to have the marriage they entered into and blessed by their ministers as legal. For too many centuries those defending the faith, including Popes, bishops and kings engaged in the same relationships that they persecuted others for doing. The list of these defenders of the faith is long, and the people often illustrious and sometimes infamous.
I think that it is time that we learn to accept people for who they are, and not who we think that they should be.
Have a great day,