And then I get to hear the Reverend Charles Worley.
Please listen to the clip below before continuing
America - You Have A Problem
Charles Worley did not become the man he is in a cultural vacuum. And I am talking about Christian or church culture here. That culture prevalent in the United States in the non-Catholic wing of the church. Evangelicals, pentecostals of all varieties and denominations. You need to take a good hard look at yourselves.
- Why are you breeding these churches and pastors that are so full of hate and bile?
- Why is there such an aversion to any sophisticated theological training?
- Why is there such a willingness and proclivity to accept literal interpretations of the Bible where there is good scholarhsip to show otherwise in so many cases?
- Why the aversion to an intellectual component to faith?
There needs to be some hard thinking and hard conversations if you are ever to pull the American church out of the right-wing conservatism that seems to be gripping its very heart and eclipsing every intelligent form of Christianity that might try to take a breath. I know you are not all extreme, but you do have more than your fair share of extremists.
America, You Do Have A Problem.
Australia does not have the same down-home folksy style of preaching in our evangelical and spirit-filled churches, although unfortunately we are doing our best to import it. While it may work for the USA, it doesn't really work here with average non-churchy folk. Australians are not Americans. We have a very different sensibility.
And so to Rev. Worley.
Please allow me to explain to you Rev Worley and to all those of your ilk how Biblical hermeneutics works. If this sounds patronising, I don't mean it to be, but your performance in that service, now shared around the whole world, is so saturated in ignorance, so completely bereft of love or compassion, so pig-headedly brazen and arrogant, that I feel the need to spell it out lest you miss it. Here it is.
When the Parisees tried to trick Jesus, they asked him what he thought was the greatest commandment. He made his answer in no uncertain terms and you can read it in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 22.
"Jesus replied: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
There it is. The entire Jewish religion encapsulated in the commandment of love. And the first teaching by the Lord that it was to be the greatest commandment in the New Creation.
It's not rocket science. It is as plain as day. It's all about 'love', nothing else. It is the only commandment Jesus ever talked about. He reiterated it again on the night before he died.
'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you'.
He talked about it in the Golden Rule: do to others as you would have them do to you.
He emphasised the spirit of the Law rather than the letter of the Law. The spirit that had God's dealings with humanity enveloped in love and our dealings with one another enveloped in love.
One of Jesus' most famous Jewish contemporaries, Rabbi Hillel did exactly the same. There is the famous story of the pagan approaching, telling him that he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could teach him the entire Torah while standing on one leg. Hillel said, 'What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. This is the whole of the Torah, and the remainder is but commentary. Go learn it.' Both Hillel and Jesus understood the law of love and compassion was the only way to God and to be in God.
So when we read the Bible, the written Torah and the early life of the Christian church, we need to read it and interpret it with the greatest commandment in the forefront of our minds. There is no other way to read it.
Love is the only way to read the Scriptures.
Any interpretation that does not lead to love is false. It is not of God. It flays in the face of the Spirit in the world today. Where there is more than one interpretation of Scripture, it is a fundamental exegetical rule that we choose the one that leads to love and compassion and discard the alternatives.
The whole of the God - humanity story is based on love. And so the Judaeo-Christian narrative of that story needs to be so as well.
So that's it. If you can't read the Bible that way, then don't read it at all.
We gay people have had two thousand years of the Christian church putting us down, telling us we are sinful, rejecting the direction of our human desire, fobidding our relationships and repudiating our very lives. We are now in a time when we know better and the Christian churches and denominations that are engaging with that knowledge and understanding are way out in front on the love and compassion scale.
I admit I get angry when I hear such ignorance as that 'preached' by Charles Worley. I am no floating saint. But I do not and cannot hate him the way he hates us because I actually do try to listen to the words of Jesus.
But I also know that all people, men, women and children, gay and straight, need to stand up and say a resounding NO to this stuff and call it out by the names it deserves: ignorance, prejudice, bigotry, barbarism, ugliness, hubris, arrogance, hatred. This stuff is the antithesis of the Jesus command.
In a word, it is death.
If you can't love the people the way Jesus wants us to, then don't call yourself by his name. It is a travesty.
And one final word to Rev. Worley because the end of this clip was one of the nastiest pieces of denigration by an authority figure of a group of people I have ever seen. This is a picture of me (left) kissing my partner Chris. I kiss him because I love him with all my heart and because that's what we gay men do when we love our lovers or partners; we kiss them.
Pax et Amor - Stuart