This past Sunday, Reverend Paul Barnes, the leader of a Denver evangelical megachurch confessed to having sex with men. He said that he had often cried himself to sleep- begging God to remove his attraction to men. It was only a few weeks ago that Reverend Ted Haggard, then president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the pastor of a Colorado Springs megachurch stepped down after a three year relationship with a male prostitute was revealed; a relationship that seemed to also involve methamphetamine use. In his letter of contrition to his congregation, Haggard wrote that he had struggled all his life with impulses he called “repulsive and dark.”
Unlike some in both the faith and the gay communities, I am not disgusted by these men’s hypocrisy. Instead I have nothing but pity for these men who, because of their faith, have been forced into self loathing and a deep self-hatred. The true ugliness here is not the hypocrisy of these men, but the dangerous arrogant moral superiority of “moral leaders” who judge and deem that being homosexual is abhorrent, un-natural and against God’s nature.
Barnes and Haggard are men obviously tormented by the natural inclination in their soul to be gay and the moralizing of Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell telling them that their core is evil. Living a double life is toxic. Ignoring and hating your very essence is toxic. Just look at Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey. The Governor destroyed his life and those around him by denying who he was. Much of why he denied his true nature was also rooted in religion- in his case Catholicism.
I don’t condone the lies and deceit that these men committed. Their deceit hurt many of the people around them. I also get more than a little miffed at McGreevey’s mea culpa for profit, But the hell that all of these men have gone through because they bought into the idea that innately they were damaged and bad is sad and unnecessary.
What does that do to a person’s soul? How is one to find God when their soul is sick? Their sick souls come from being hard wired by their faiths to believe that who they are at their very essence is bad; is wrong.
I cannot imagine that a spiritual life could ever be based on a sick soul. But Robertson, Dobson and Falwell are culpable in the development of many sick souls. These men are pastors- they are to tend to the health of their flocks’ souls, not to cause their souls to get sick, dry up and die. Maybe it is time for conservative Christians to stop judging and to follow the teachings of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount. Judging is easy. Living a life of love, understanding and acceptance is hard. Living a Christian life isn’t easy. Contrary to some beliefs, it should not be just about saying “I accept Christ” and sending a tithing check to the local megachurch. It is about giving to the poor, understanding those that are different, loving ones enemy without reservation and is never about judging. Many of today’s conservative Christians are the modern day Pharisees.
If one believes in God the Creator than it seems likely that God created gay people too and that we deserve the love and acceptance of God, our fellow man and our Christian brothers and sisters. Judging gays and lesbians by religious leaders begets sick souls. These leaders should be healing those souls not causing them to die.