“God Hates You Sodomites Just the Way You Are!” With this sign as their banner, a group of Christians were out demonstrating against homosexuals in the name of Jesus. Brought to us by the same kind of brain trusts that gave us “AIDS is God’s judgment on homosexuals” and “9/11 was God’s punishment for homosexuality and our culture of abortion”. I know that I, for one, am moved to longing for a deeper understanding of God’s love after reading that. Unfortunately, these are our–and by “our” I mean evangelical Christians–spokesmen. Now, I’m going to use Tony Campolo’s definition of evangelical Christian: “one who takes the Bible seriously as an infallible guide for faith and practice, who believes in the doctrines the Apostles’ Creed sets forth, and who has a personal spiritual relationship with the resurrected Savior.” (Okay, I heard him speak not to long ago and he got me thinking on this topic.) They speak for all of us. Why? Because too often, they are the loudest voice and the one that sets the story for the media to cover.

What do they hope to accomplish with this? As far as I’m concerned, this is nothing more than the religious equivalent to pandering of the worst sort. These so-called pastors are shoring up their support, making a name for themselves, and collecting dollars, by stirring up the fervor of their radical faithful.

We can talk “hate the sin, love the sinner” all we want and I’d be willing to be that’s how some of those demonstrators rationalize their behavior. However, you can’t convince me that the church doesn’t lose legitimacy and relevance when it sees crap like this, done in its name and the name of our Lord, and doesn’t stand up in a loud voice and say “This is wrong”, “This is ugly”, and “This is not what God is about.”

When I look back on the journey of my faith, I see critical junctures where my dogma hit these paradigm shifts, times when my faith wasn’t working for me. So far I count at least three major shifts in my life. One such shift came when I saw a couple of things: how we evangelical Christians treated Catholics (somehow we kicked them out of the club that they started) and how we treated homosexuals.

I come from a conservative fundamentalist background. We take the Bible as the literal inspired word of God. I’m still cool with that, but there are some things and attitudes I’m trying to unlearn. It’s easy to have a system of dogmatic beliefs that you squeeze the Bible and God into, especially when it’s all theory and head knowledge. A great thing about “fundy” churches is that you do get a lot of Bible knowledge crammed into you. It’s the working out what that means that gets many of us tripped up.

The longer I’m a writer, the more I’ve had a chance to put a face on the “homosexual issue.” I don’t think I’m going to shock anyone by saying that you’ll find a higher per cent of gay people in the artistic community. In fact, I distinctly remember being at a World Horror Convention room party and a prominent horror writer leaning over to me to whisper that I was the only straight guy in the room.

Even if you take the conservative estimates of homosexuals in the general populace, you’re still looking at 5% of the people in church might be gay. What, you don’t think gay people go to church? So the thing that I’ve been struggling with is the whole notion of whether or not the church is blowing its handling of the homosexuality issue or collectively showing its ass.

As representatives of Christ, what should the church be doing? Are we doing it? And frankly, can anyone even tell that we’re Christian in how we treat homosexuals?

*Sadly, I’ve seen this sign, too.