Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Call for Compassion: C. S. Pearce's "This We Believe"

…If the traditional Christian position on homosexuality is not supportable on biblical, intellectual, or compassionate grounds, and you continue to hold to it, you share in the responsibility for the consequences.

           –From This We Believe: The Christian Case for 
             Gay Civil Rights, by C. S. Pearce

Not so fast if, as a straight Christian, you believe the Bible gives you license to contribute to the hatred gay and lesbian people often feel toward themselves because of their sexual orientation, leading, as Pearce notes in her book, to such things as low self-esteem, promiscuous behavior, and even suicide.  As she effectively argues:

Christians must cease instilling self-loathing in gay…people.  Stop telling gay people it's against their religion to fall in love and marry….  It's time to stop persecuting gay people. It's time to accept them as the equal members of God's family that they are.  It's time to start the healing.

"Raised in a conservative evangelical family," C. S. Pearce, a straight, female, "California-based writer and director of media relations for Claremont School of Theology," could have done as many Christians do–react in a knee-jerk fashion toward gay people, using Bible verses to support her personal prejudice.  But she doesn't. Instead, she writes:

…Too often, and usually unknowingly, Christians spread myths about gay people that cause others to fear and stigmatize them.  Yet most of these hurtful and slanderous beliefs are easy to disprove.  They continue to be propagated only because those who adopt them do so uncritically, without trying to find out whether they are actually true.

The beauty of This We Believe is Pearce uses relatively little space not only to show her empathy toward gay people–by describing in realistic detail what she knows to be the effect many Christians have on them, either directly or indirectly–but also to examine each and every Bible passage, used to persecute gay people over the decades, debunking them and rendering them useless.  The conclusions she reaches are intelligent and insightful, not to mention necessary.

I'm sure Pearce is not the first straight Christian to formally express her support of gay people and to urge other Christians to follow suit.  But she is the first I became aware of, and for her courage, I applaud her.  Like the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, says at the opening of This We Believe, "In a few short pages, C. S. Pearce debunks long-held myths, clarifies Scripture and argues for a much needed rethinking of the Church's traditional stand [toward homosexuality]."

Finally, I leave you with this quote from This We Believe:

When traditional beliefs are clearly causing hurt instead of blessing, it's worth struggling with the issues involved in order to come out on the other side….  In this case the struggle means taking the courageous step of letting go of harmful traditional beliefs so we can embrace the blessing reflected in the compassion of Jesus.

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