Jesus Would Run the Ad

Jim Wallis has now responded to the brouhaha. Sojourners Magazine recently refused to run an ad that shows two lesbian moms and their child being welcomed in a church. (Read the back story.)

As one of the key voices in “progressive Christianity” in the U.S., this decision by Sojourners is obviously disappointing but not terribly surprising. Sojourners’ position reflects a common though bizarre incoherence at work in many Christian communities. It comes down to this: we’ll support civil rights for lesbian and gay people; we just don’t want them in our churches.

Do Christians really hope and work for a civil society that is more welcoming than their own churches? Christians will insist on inclusive legislation but not an inclusive Gospel? Really?

Wallis offers six points in his response, most of which sound pretty good. (Read his full response.) He notes, for example, the position Sojourners has taken on anti-bullying and the commitment Sojourners has made to civil rights for lesbian and gay people. Sojourners has even welcomed gay staff members!

Points five and six, however, buried at the end of his response, offer a reminder of how easily even moderately supportive language can beguile me in a hostile religious culture.

Point #5: Sojourners’ commitment to ending the war in Afghanistan, addressing the national budget, and securing immigration reform take priority over engaging with the controversy the lesbian ad would provoke. The logic here is foreshadowed in Point #4. There he reiterates the “core” of Sojourners’ calling, which is focused on poverty, racism, and the stewardship of creation. Alas, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to add on the concerns of LGBT people.

The “if only we had more time” argument highlights the Achilles heel of most self-proclaimed progressive organizations. Let’s call it the “laundry list” approach to social justice, and it goes like this: We’ll address poverty first, then move on to race, and then we’ll try to squeeze in the environmental issue.

A far queerer and therefore more Christian approach would recognize all these “issues” as tightly interwoven with each other, including LGBT concerns. Poverty is always already gendered; race is always already sexualized; budgetary policy (can you say “marriage”?) and immigration policy cuts to the heart of many lesbian and gay families and their children.

Point #6: Sojourners is committed to engaging in dialogue in its editorial pages but will not take advertising about divisive concerns that have become, for people of faith, “political wedge issues.” Here, apparently, we are invited to suppose that racism, economic injustice, military interventions, monetary policy, saving the environment, and border enforcement have all lost their edge as political wedges. How about this instead: two women raising a child are not a wedge; they’re a family.

Wallis concludes by noting that Sojourners always tries to ask what Jesus would do, and that Sojourners will continue to ask that question about LGBT concerns.

Brother Jim, the queerly Christian answer is clear: Jesus would run the ad.

Author: The Rev. Dr. Jay

I'm an Episcopal priest, parish pastor, and Christian theologian as well as a writer, teacher, and occasionally, a poet. I'm committed to the transforming energy of the Christian gospel and its potential to change the world -- even today. Now that's peculiar, thank God!

6 thoughts on “Jesus Would Run the Ad”

  1. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that Sojourners and Wallis have failed to understand that at the root of poverty, racism, and ecological stewardship lies a common concern for all Christians: whether or not we actually believe that G-d provides enough love, goodness, and material resources to go ’round. Inequality for LGBT folk is not part of a laundry list (good image, Jay), but a manifestation of a greater sin – the same sin that perpetuates poverty, racism and war.

    As long as we live in the fear that we will somehow not have enough if we share some of our abundance so that others may be fully welcomed into G-d’s family, we will not be the Church. We exhibit a startling lack of trust in G-d’s ability to provide enough for everyone.

    Perhaps the question that Sojourner’s needs to be asking of every situation is not “Does this keep people in poverty?” or “Is this racist?” or even “Does this perpetuate war?” but instead, “Does this situation deny G-d’s ability to provide enough for us ALL to live together, with enough food, enough peace, enough justice, enough love?”

    Because if we deny G-d’s ability to provide for ALL of us (which I shamefully admit occurs all too often in my own life), then we’re not living very faithful lives, are we?

    Here’s to the lilies of the field…

  2. Re: “Do Christians really hope and work for a civil society that is more welcoming than their own churches? Christians will insist on inclusive legislation but not an inclusive Gospel? Really?”

    I think that is often the case among so-called Christian churches, which agree theoretically with inclusiveness but somehow can’t get past their own prejudices to implement inclusiveness in their own communities. It seems to me that pastors/church leaders often fall short of the ideal in this area; it’s not popular to preach about helping the disenfranchised. IMHO, if a pastor doesn’t lead his/her flock toward inclusiveness, she/he isn’t doing the work of a Christian minister.

  3. I think youve made some truly interesting points. Not too many people would actually think about this the way you just did. Im really impressed that theres so much about this subject thats been uncovered and you did it so well, with so much class. Good one you, man! Really great stuff here.

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