, Gloucester, MA

July 16, 2013

Letter: The pastor's column and open discussion

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

In the end, all that we have are our opinions.

Hence, I welcome the experience of being exposed to any opinion.

Therefore, I thank the Rev. Patrick Slyman for offering his opinions about homosexuality — and I thank the Times and its editor, Ray Lamont, for publishing them (Midweek Musings, the Times, Wednesday, July 3). Indeed, I have come down with the conclusion that I even have to applaud the policy of the Times to publish online anonymous opinions. I believe it is better for us to express our opinions any way we can than to keep them bottled up inside us. It is then that our opinions tend to become explosive.

For this reason alone, I am all for homosexuals coming out in the open. There are many benefits to this decision. One is being true to oneself. So, let’s talk about homosexuality.

To start with, I am appalled at the attempt to silence any such discussion. For instance, I am surprised by the example given by a group of clergy on Cape Ann. Instead of engaging in serious religious and theological argument, the group has attacked the intentions of Rev. Slyman as fostering hate. I may be wrong, but I read his column as discussing sin — not hate.

Certainly, if so many representatives of our clergy believe that we cannot discuss issues of sin in public any longer, they are entitled to their opinion; but they ought to say so openly. And then, preferably, they might want to justify their opinion.

Let me express a conclusion that I have reached only now in the context of the current discussion held on the pages of the Times: Homosexuality is not a sin.

I find this conclusion quite revelatory and liberating. If prior to that moment a son or a daughter had announced to me they were not heterosexual, I would have been terrified not knowing what to do. Now I would embrace them as a gift from God. And I believe that, on this understanding, we are ready to approach even more complex issues such as this: When is homosexuality — as well as heterosexuality — a sin?

Indeed, I would implore our clergy to give us their best knowledge as to why the Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination. We might learn something in the process.

Indeed, the Rev. Rona Tyndall has done just that; and I believe she has put us all on a positive learning curve. But in my opinion, our clergy also ought to explain to us a question implicitly posed by Michael Cook: Why does the Bible say that eating shellfish is an abomination?

Perhaps, many in our clergy will take refuge in their belief that they have satisfactorily dealt with such questions in the past, but that is not a good escape hatch. Not all of us have had the privilege of being exposed to all the truths uttered in the past. The task of the clergy, in my opinion, is to instruct anew the present generations. We are all hungry for truth.

Some other questions, which I dare to pose only by assuming the possibility of thorough and dispassionate discussion of hard-gotten information:

Are there people who engage in homosexual acts only because this “alternative lifestyle” is considered fashionable?

What are the disadvantages of a homosexual lifestyle? I seem to hear only of advantages.

Are we all firmly keeping in mind the distinction between love and sex?

Two more thoughts. First, it is true that discussions of this distinction can be and indeed are very painful for some. However, there is no short cut to living. Living is so joyous, just because at times we all go through periods of incredible pain. To try to shield us from pain is in vain.

Speaking from that little bit of theology that I know, is not this God’s way? What else is the meaning of the “dark night” of the soul?

The other thought is this. I have learned to run away from anyone who tells me that “God is good.” What is the meaning of this widespread belief? Does it mean that we are free to do anything we want — and that God will assuredly forgive us?

In that sense, religious people who tell us that God is good, tell us only a half truth. And they make God either a fool or a buffoon.

On this basis, I am tempted to say: God is not good.

God is also just.


Middle Streeet, Gloucester