, Newburyport, MA

July 5, 2013

God's light is redeeming this country

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

As I read Pastor Ron Johnson’s July 1 letter entitled “Darkness is destroying this country,” words like sanctimonious, self-righteous, pompous, judgmental and Pharisaic God-talk come to mind.

For openers, if I learned anything in law school, it was that rarely do rules, regulations and laws possess “clarity.” Virtually every answer to every question — secular, canonical, biblical — was characterized by the word “arguably.”

As a straight male, I heard much of the same arrogant and legalistic verbiage in the church of my youth as I now hear from Pastor Johnson. I believed that party line to the nth degree — until I was confronted by a teenager on the Samaritans Crisis-Suicide Hotline. Despite my background, I found myself uttering to the lad: “God meets you in your deepest thoughts and in your deepest feelings whether they be for the opposite gender or for the same gender.” From that day forward, my church’s party line flushed down the drain.

The greatest cause of teen death in this country is, arguably, suicide! Statistics indicate that twice as many gay teens take their lives as do straight teens. How many of those teens have felt put down by this mentality?

I seldom quote specific lines of Sacred Scripture to avoid being taken out of context. Even the devil can quote Scripture. I prefer to take the Gospels as a whole — a marvelous Message which portrays Christ as the most inclusive Man I have ever met. He identified with the second-class citizens of his day and fought incessantly with lawyers and pastors who placed cumbersome loads on other folks’ shoulders while refusing to lift a single finger to lighten them. His words and actions embraced civil rights to their fullest. I value this same inclusiveness in church leaders like Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts. Pray for him as he recovers from a recent illness.

After decades in ministry, I have concluded that nothing in Holy Writ says it quite as well as Matthew 25: “So long as you did it for these, the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for Me.”

Some of us act as if our sexual orientation were the measuring stick for entry into the Kingdom. No quote from Paul or Genesis, taken out of context, can substantiate this. The manner in which we treat the sick, imprisoned, homeless, hungry, thirsty and naked is the way we ourselves will be treated on the Last Day — whether we be gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, cross-gender, transgender or eunuchs.

In the meantime, let’s lighten one another’s load rather than add to it. Let’s especially embrace our teens who struggle daily to find and to accept their identity without judgment.

Perhaps there are such teens in Mr. Johnson’s own parish, unable to share with him who they are — knowing full well that he has already judged them with lots of anger but with little compassion?

The Rev. Dr. Bob Gallagher