Dangers of Bearing False Witness
One of the Ten Commandments states that we are not to bear false witness against our neighbor. I expect that we all engage in this from time to time, perhaps intentionally, perhaps not. We stretch the truth, add in elements that color our position to make the other person look bad. Sometimes this occurs in the context of gossip, which is hugely unreliable.
Now, there is a difference between telling tales, that may have some substance of fact, but have a lot of fictional elements to them, than deliberating skewing facts in order to defame another. We've seen a lot of this lately in the political realm, whether on the local level or national level. Here in the city of Troy, we've seen a lot of that happen. What bothers me most is when Christians engage in this kind of behavior.
I've been in a little debate with a conservative Christian blogger in Troy who is intent on pillorying gays as intent on doing bodily harm to Christians. He has been using as his evidence a You-Tube video about a beating of a Christian preacher by a gay mob at a Pride Festival in Seattle about a month ago. Despite my best efforts, all I can find is one brief report from one TV station and the basic same message going viral on conservative blogs.
Did it happen? Possibly. Was the person doing violent gay? Possibly, though I've seen no evidence of it. What bothers me is that I can find no other collaborating evidence -- no comments from anyone in the community about this activity, but it is being used to smear LGBT folks.
Then there is an article at the Christian Post, a conservative Christian site, that has caricatured the recent vote to be welcoming and gracious to all, as something other than it really was. I happened to be there for the vote and voted for the resolution.
The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met in Orlando, Fla., this week and voted on a resolution that will embrace sexual orientation and gender identity as specially affirmed categories within the church.
The governing body stated that open members of the homosexual and transgender community will be welcomed to worship and serve in the denomination's churches the same way members of different races and ages do.
There are several things wrong here. First, we didn't "embrace sexual orientation and gender identity as specially affirmed categories." There's no such thing. We voted to welcome all people, inviting them to the table, and encouraging our churches not to bar anyone from service in the church due to any specific identity, including sexual orientation. Yes, special mention was made of LGBT people because they continue to be marginalized in the church and society.
Second I should note that the General Assembly speaks to the churches -- sense-of-the-assembly -- but it doesn't become official policy. Gays have been involved in the life of the church, including leadership as pastors, elders, regional ministers, and as part of the General Church leadership. But a sense-of-the-assembly resolution doesn't set policy. So this is at best a mischaracterization. Now, perhaps Mark Tooley and the reporter at the Christian Post don't understand our rather unique polity. But whether they understand it or not, I want to make it clear that we could have voted to be "open and affirming" but that's not what we did. The drafters of this document went out of their way to refrain from saying this, knowing that this is not where we are yet at.
Now, I would vote for a resolution calling for the Disciples to be fully "open and affirming." I would welcome such a vote in my congregation -- but we are not at that place yet.
So, here's my plea, especially as we walk this fine line on LGBT rights, let's be careful not to bear false witness. I'll say this to my friends on the left who are trying to read into the Pope's recent remarks a change in policy with the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, there's a change in tone, but until we hear something more definitive, we need to be careful.