Friday, April 11, 2008

New Language, Same Message

It was pointed out to me that Desmond Tutu may be behind the curve in apologizing to gay and lesbian people. (The suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, but let's explore it anyway.) A couple of weeks ago the pastor of a Baptist church in a town where I spent a few years as a child, Sugar Hill, Georgia (about 40 miles north of Atlanta), used his sermon to apologize to everyone from gays and lesbians to pro-choicers.

You can hear the full sermon here, after fast forwarding through some garish praise music:

While I applaud the change in tone at the Sugar Hill church, it's clear that their message is the same - gay and lesbian people are sinners who need to repent. This kind of talk from churches is a direct result of the Barna Group research I posted yesterday in the Tutu post. Younger people see the church as homophobic and judgmental. This pastor is doing his best to change the face of evangelical Christians. Good for him.

However, don't be drawn by the sweet words - the underlying message remains the same: God hates fags. I suspect (and please, I'd love to be wrong) that an openly gay couple would still not be welcome in this church and not accepted as a couple. They would love the sinners, but still encourage them to turn from their "sin."

Desmond Tutu, on the other hand, has made a bold and courageous move, not just to change the tone used against GLBT people, but the message as well. Tutu has said before that if God is homophobic, he would not worship that God. For Tutu, God's acceptance of gay and lesbian people *just as they are* is a given. For the church in Sugar Hill? Not so much.

It's nice to hear a softer tone from the evangelicals, but don't be fooled. They haven't changed their stripes. Meet the new evangelicals, same as the old evangelicals.

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