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It all started out, as it so often does, at AlterNet. That’s where I found this terrific article about a Baptist pastor musing, “What if we’re wrong about homosexuality?” Given the ever-rising mountain of scientific evidence suggesting that being gay is no more a choice than being blond or left-handed. (I am neither of these but I do happen to be gay.)

Anyway, I noticed the article was written by Melissa McEwan, who blogs as Shakespeare’s Sister. I’ve really got to go visit there more; there’s some good stuff there. I took a side trip to The Heretik‘s long enough to become depressed about Pam and Kid’s break-up. They say it’s a sign of the coming Apocolypse. Phew, glad I’m in good with the Lord! Seriously, I don’t follow many B-level personalities but Pamela Anderson‘s got to be the most tragic woman around. I mean, look at that boob job! I’d be on a permanent bummer following that surgery, too. I hope things start looking up for her soon.

Anyway, A link in the Pam Anderson story led me to the Boston Globe online. While there, I noticed a headline in the sidebar which read, “The Anti-gay Obsession.” Well, of course I had to go check that out. Well, this wonderful op-ed piece “highlights” some of the recent activity among religious types with regard to homosexshality. I’d highly recommend it.

But one part stood way out for me and that is this. South Africa voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

While all this nuttiness was going on here, the South African parliament this week voted 230-41 to legalize same-sex marriage. This vote came after South Africa’s highest court ruled that existing marriage laws discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. The post-apartheid South African Constitution passed about a decade ago was noteworthy for being the first in the world to explicitly outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

South African Defense Minister Mosuia Lekota was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “The roots of this bill lie in many years of struggle. . . . This country cannot afford to be a prison of timeworn prejudices which have no basis in modern society. Let us bequeath to future generations a society which is more democratic and tolerant than the one that was handed down to us.”

The tone of affirmation in South Africa had been set years before by the likes of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who lost a son to AIDS, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, who has repeatedly criticized homophobia in the church. “This is crazy,” the retired archbishop said eight years ago. “We say the expression of love in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship is more than just the physical but includes touching, embracing, kissing, maybe the genital act. The totality of this makes each of us grow to become giving, increasingly God-like and compassionate.

This is the part that wriggled its way into my consciousness. Read it again:

“The roots of this bill lie in many years of struggle. . . . This country cannot afford to be a prison of timeworn prejudices which have no basis in modern society. Let us bequeath to future generations a society which is more democratic and tolerant than the one that was handed down to us.”

Are they not the most glorious word combinations you’ve ever seen? “Timeworn prejudices.” “Modern society.” Leave our community a better place than when we came into it. Isn’t that what’s it’s all about?

I’m very heartened to hear and read more about the rising social consciousness of many Christian movements, even some evangelicals. (These are not the first stirrings I’ve heard. When I’m off on Thursday, I’ll have to research some more…a recent interview on Radio Times here on Philly’s NPR station. Tonight, I’ve got to get to bed! It’s 2 AM now.) This is what it’s all about. Leaving the world not only unspoiled but better in some ways than when we were put here. Like packing out your hiking trash, moving or cutting that log in the tail.

This coming from Africa. If there’s one place on earth that is still perceived by the “western world” as primitive, dark, dangerous, backwater it’s Africa. Asia is garnering her respect via India and China. South America has its bright spots. But Africa is still widely viewed as more ‘uncivilized’ than we Eurocentric snobs here in the good, ol’ US of A. Yet they’ve gone ahead and done the “right,” the “progressive” thing. And we in the US lag far behind even the “darkest continent.”

We should hang our collective head in shame.

I thank Debra Haffner and Sexuality and Religion for the inspiration for this post. Rev Haffner referenced the WaPo (AP) article which I have included, in full, below.

Fired Evangelist Asks for Forgiveness

By COLLEEN SLEVIN
The Associated Press

Monday, November 6, 2006; 11:49 AM

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Members of the New Life Church were stunned and brought to tears by the Rev. Ted Haggard’s confessions of “sexual immorality,” then accepted his plea for forgiveness with open arms.

Haggard, who had been a leading evangelist and vocal opponent of gay marriage, apologized Sunday in a letter read from the pulpit of the 14,000-member church he founded.

Some in the standing-room-only crowd wiped away tears and embraced each other as they heard Haggard’s words read by a member of the board that fired him a day earlier.

“The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem,” Haggard wrote. “I am a deceiver and a liar. There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.”

After services, Patty Erwin kneeled near the back of the 8,000-seat auditorium and said a prayer for Haggard.

“We all love him because he’s a part of our family. You don’t just throw away a sister or a brother,” said Erwin, who’s been coming to the church for 15 years. “Desperately, we love him, and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t.”

Haggard, 50, resigned last week as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 30 million evangelical Christians, after a man claimed to have had drug-fueled trysts with him.

He also placed himself on administrative leave from New Life, which he founded in the 1980s. Its independent Overseer Board fired him Saturday.

In his letter, Haggard said “the accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from the ministry.”

He did not specify which accusations were true. Haggard had acknowledged Friday that he paid Mike Jones of Denver for a massage and for methamphetamine, but said he did not have sex with him and did not take the drug.

The letter was read to the church by the Rev. Larry Stockstill, senior pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, La., and a member of the board that fired him. Haggard asked for forgiveness for himself and for his accuser.

In a separate letter, Haggard’s wife drew laughter when she promised to remain with her husband and said church members no longer had to worry about her marriage being so perfect she couldn’t relate to them.

Neither Haggard nor his wife, Gayle, attended.

Youngsters were sent from the room before elders began discussing the church crisis.

“Worshippers are always challenged by crisis. And when tragedy and crisis strikes it is at that moment that you truly decide if you are a worshipper of the most high God. And today as the worship pastor of this church I am very proud of you,” said the Rev. Ross Parsley, who has replaced Haggard.

Ryan Price and his fiancee, Karen Geyer, were impressed. “It seemed genuine _ from the heart. It’s unfortunate but it happens,” said Geyer.

“He’s reaching out and asking for forgiveness,” said Price.

Jones, who said he is gay, said he came forward because he was upset when he discovered who Haggard was and that New Life opposed same-sex marriage _ a key issue in Colorado, with a pair of issues on Tuesday’s ballot.

“I wish him well. I wish his family well,” Jones said Sunday. “My intent was never to destroy his family. My intent was to expose a hypocrite.”

The scandal has disappointed Christian conservatives, whom President Bush and other Republicans are courting heavily in the run-up to Tuesday’s election.

Many were already disheartened with the president and the Republican-controlled Congress over their failure to deliver big gains on social issues even before the congressional page scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley.

Haggard, who had been NAE president since 2003, has participated in conference calls with White House staffers and lobbied Congress last year on Supreme Court nominees.

Imagine you are a 15 year-old who attends a 14,000-member megachurch. Although the…

Youngsters were sent from the room before elders began discussing the church crisis

…news of Pastor Haggard’s exploits has made headlines nationwide. The teenagers, at least, have got to know and understand the implications of Haggard’s actions. The action he took on Sunday was to have a letter of apology he’d written read to his congregation. Rev. Haffner is right to wonder which sins Rev. Haggard feels must be forgiven. What, precisely, was his “sexual immorality?” Is it repressing his innate sexuality? Was it marrying a woman when he really wanted a relationship with a man? Was it denying to himself all his life what he really is? Was it lying…to himself, his family and his congregation? I think we understand his meaning when he writes, “There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.” What else could be as repugnant to an evangelical Christian male as homosexual urges?

Remember, you’re a 15 year-old evangelical kid…

Imagine you live with parents who rant and rave regularly about those horrid gays and lesbians. Imagine that you’re taught that gay men are pedophiles, sexual predators. Imagine you’ve never received any real sexuality education except to abstain from sex until marriage…always with the understanding that, for you, there would be marriage. Imagine you attend rallies to promote legislation barring gay marriage or any other form of legally sanctioned gay relationship. Imagine that “fag” or “lezbo” or “homo” is the most awful ephitet a schoolmate could hurl at you. Imagine your parents and your pastor and your friends tell you that all gays are doomed to an eternity in a fiery hell.

Now imagine you’re gay.

It’s not the being gay which is the sin. The sin lies in the failure to accept other people regardless of their color, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or lack of same. The repugnance is to be found in the closed minds of those who poison their children with images of boogeymen which don’t exist, who teach their children that they should revile themselves. That is the sin. Therein lies the shame.

Before that she bitched about: