Home > baseball, religeon > Matthew Shepard Died for My Sins

Matthew Shepard Died for My Sins

So here we are again watching Tiger baseball still tied in extra innings. Texas has a couple on but I am still optimistic. I missed of the game being my late night to work but there was a rain delay and now for the extra innings I’ve gotten some baseball in. Being the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death makes me want to write about homophobia. I am blessed with a community that is almost exclusively open and tolerant and welcoming of diversity. Of individuals mired in that mindset that I deal with is the maliciously ignorant and Christians. Its the latter group I want to share some thoughts with as the first group tends to stay quiet about it on social networks.

Many of my friends would wonder how I can even be friends with people who are intolerant. That is a fair question and worth answering as way of introduction to the topic. I can remember my own homophobia. Being part of the privileged class whose sexual orientation is affirmed by culture and safely in the majority I blindly accepted the teaching of my church that homosexuality was sin and worthy of judgement. I wasn’t a bad person and had a lot of love in my heart. I am sure I must have said and done things to my friends who were gay but they were all mostly in the closet then and I hadn’t developed much empathy.

What changed for me was reading from the sermon on the mount and really believing what Jesus was saying and realizing its amazing and profound implications. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, bam, hit me like a thunder clap. War was wrong and I was called to be a peace maker. My whole worldview changed rapidly and profoundly as I followed the inferences to economic justice and radical non-judgement. It was a long process of looking at myself and growing into the person that I wanted to be.

For many years I maintained an Evangelical belief in the bible as the literal word of God. Ultimately I found that belief to be incompatible with the clear message of Jesus as represented by the Gospels. Paul in particular makes several statements that are incompatible with Jesus’s message. Jesus always sided with the disenfranchised over the powerful. Children, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans and the poor. “He who is without sin cast the first stone” “sell all you have and give to the poor”.

Jesus rejected a law and preached a salvation that was a free gift to all. He railed against the law givers who used as a weapon to beat down the powerless. He would not have rejected a law through its “fulfillment” only to establish another. Paul has his amazing wisdom but I find him to at times be in error. As he himself admitted he saw through a glass darkly. He did not claim the infallibility fundamentalists bestow upon him. So he makes some statements you can choose to interpret to denigrate women and condemn homosexuals but should you when it clearly runs counter to Jesus’s core message?

There are a lot of things that are condemned in books of the bible. I suspect there is more about sloth then homosexuality but Christians don’t have the same antipathy for the lazy. I am overweight, obese even and no Christian has felt the need to warn me that I face judgement and Hellfire for my sins. Homosexuality gets this special treatment because the religious angle is a gloss to justify hate and fear that runs counter to what Jesus was about.

I know a Christian who is proud to be homophobic and wears it as a badge. Phobia means fear and I wasn’t given a spirit of fear, but of love. I was told not to judge and to hate someone is the same as murdering them. Matthew Shepard bears this out. It was all of our fear and all of our hate that gave cover to the men who beat him and hung him on the fence to die.

Wanting to take sin as a laundry list of potential infractions that are clearly listed in a book is legalistic hogwash. Jesus clearly laid out principles. Love God. Love your neighbor. Hell they’re the same thing. But we create these institutions and books of rules when Jesus said the institutions and the rule book are not the way. Give from your heart, give it all. Its beyond a Law. Even Paul knew all a law is capable of is condemnation. “To know good and do it not that is sin”. Sin is the lack of a positive not a negative. What part of the void did you fill with love today? What part did you fill with good? What right do you have to judge and can you tell me your blamelessness? How much of Matthew Shepard’s blood is on your hands? Evil prevails when good men do nothing.

Categories: baseball, religeon
  1. October 13, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Great post, I wish there was more tolerance and love in this world and that people were more willing to live and let live. You have a great way of saying things.

  2. October 14, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    This post states pretty much exactly what I’ve been thinking for the past week or two. I’m taking a class called “New Testament Letters” where we read Paul’s letters and examine them. There have been a few times where I’ve raised my eyebrows reading what Paul says. It seems to contradict Jesus’ message of love. Like when he says “those who practice such things (being gay) deserve to die.”
    When I was studying that letter for homework, I literally dropped my pen and started crying. I had two uncles who were gay who recently died, and hearing that they deserved it made me so mad. And the fact that there are so many people in the world who wholeheartedly agree with that statement makes me feel sick.
    I really really like the way you’ve learned to take Jesus’ message in your own hands and get to the true spirit of it. I wish everybody could do that. Great post, I’m so glad I read this.

  3. October 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I’m glad you both liked the post. It challenges me to write about more thoughtful posts rather then stick with what i’m cooking or my day to day events. Thanks for reading and making comments.I hope we can all work towards making a world with more love and acceptance and that we can keep challenging each other to enlarge our hearts and our sympathies. Kato, I am sorry to hear about your uncles, death like the rain comes to us all whether we deserve it or not and grief is hard enough without people making it worse then it has to be. I try to remember that most folks are doing the best they can with what they have to work with and look for opportunities (teachable moments) to make them think. well, thanks again for reading.

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