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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.