Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tutu to Church: Focus on Real Problems

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an amazing man. I had the pleasure of briefly meeting him while I attended seminary and he was a guest lecturer at Emory's Candler School of Theology. What a gracious and gentle soul.

It comes as no shock to me that he is a staunch support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In San Francisco, CA, last night, Tutu apologized to GLBT people on behalf of the church:

In his 30-minute address, Archbishop Tutu said that for his part it was impossible to keep quiet “when people were frequently hounded...vilified, molested and even killed as targets of homophobia...for something they did not choose—their sexual orientation.” In the face of this ongoing persecution, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient praised LGBTI people for being “compassionate, caring, self-sacrificing and refusing to be embittered.” He spoke critically of his Church, apologizing for the way it has ostracized LGBTI people, and for making them feel as if God had made a mistake by creating them to be who they are. “How sad it is,” he said, “That the Church should be so obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when God's children are facing massive problems--poverty, disease, corruption, conflict...”

That's the true message to the church - stop obsessing about the sex lives of some human beings on the planet and start worrying about the things that affect all of us. The church is so like society - always ready to pounce on the seemingly salacious and treat it like a dog treats a bone. Sex sells and sadly, the church believes it can only get people's attention by focusing on someone else's sexuality. The church, thanks to Augustine, has never really had a good, honest, cleansing talk about sexuality, so it remains something whispered about, speculated about and demeaned as "dirty" somehow. But, with humans, if it's dirty, then we're extremely interested in hearing about it, dreaming about it, and as Tutu rightly points out, obsessing about it.

It's a shame that the church believes it can only be relevant in the lives of people by titillating them with tales of sex or creating an "us" v. "them" mentality when it comes to GLBT people. The reason the church is falling into irrelevance is just this obsession with sex and condemnation. If the church truly cared about the predicament of humankind and really sought to bring about God's realm in this world it would be hard a work like Tutu, focusing on poverty, disease, corruption, conflict and more.

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