A friend pointed me toward this story by telling me a Methodist church got a new pastor, who promptly ran the gay choir director out, and guess how many in the congregation left the church over it? I knew what she was fishing for. She wanted me to feel the warm fuzzies that a bunch of religious folk had protested the treatment of one of their own.
“Eighty percent!” she said, as if the number would change my mind.
Nope. Not impressed.
The conversation stalled shortly after as I refused to debate further whether or not one should encourage such basic human decency by praising it, lest the people involved give up trying to be good due to lack of kudos. I don’t like to have these conversations over chat to begin with, and when it’s chat at my job and I’m trying to work, I like it even less. It takes more time than I have to hammer the point home that I’m not going to give them cookies for doing the minimally decent thing.
So let me unsling my Smack-o-Matic™ now:
I’m not going to give them unstinting praise for doing what tens of thousands of other Christians have done when they had a quibble with their church, and splitting, thus leading to the wide variety of Christian denominations who plague our world today. I’ve seen 80% of a church schism over whether or not they should go doorknocking after church on Sunday afternoons. I’m supposed to be impressed when 80% walk over basic human rights? Puh-leeze.
Plenty of other people will be happy to give them bakeries full of cookies. It’s my job as a nasty Gnu Atheist™ to point out that this is sheer and utter bullshit. Not say, “Oh, congratulations! You’re finally beginning to realize your religion is full of horrid shit that treats good people like pariahs for no defensible reason. I’m so proud of you, pookie!” Fuck that noise.
No, here’s my response to them:
You lot did the minimally decent thing. You stood by a man who was wronged, and that is good. But what I want to know is this: why did you leave your church in the hands of the bigot who forced him out? Eighty percent of you could have ensured that asshole didn’t have a job. You could have found a more enlightened minister, and then rehired your choir director, and taught the bigots a lasting lesson. That would have been praiseworthy. Think of that the next time you encounter this situation – which you will, because nothing’s changed.
Please note this tidbit from the above referenced article:
United Methodist Church law allows LGBT people to attend church services but says “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve.”
And what did you do? You didn’t protest that law. You didn’t demand it be changed. No, you quibbled over the spirit and letter of it. Of course it’s fine to discriminate against gays when it comes to the ministry – God forbid we should have one of those homosexuals behind the pulpit – but we can totes have one as choir director! you said by your actions. I’m supposed to be happy you rage-quit over your choir director being forced out for being gay, and one of the people trying to defend him (by getting all legalistic about the language forbidding homosexuals from serving) being relieved of duty, but I’m supposed to overlook the fact you left discrimination perfectly intact in church law?
You don’t get a bloody cookie. I will give you a pat on the head and send you back to work figuring out what it means to be a just, decent, moral human being who cares about equality and works to ensure equality happens. I’m very sorry your religion makes it so difficult to see why discrimination is wrong, period, full stop. I’m sorry your church is stuck in the past and hasn’t gotten hip to the fact we shouldn’t fuck people over for fucking people with similar genitals. I’m glad you’ve achieved the awareness necessary to understand that a gay choir director is a-okay in the church. But you can do better.
And I don’t think you’re a bunch of tiny toddlers who need plenty of positive reinforcement lest they give up. You’re all adults who are supposedly mature enough to understand that even if you don’t get a cookie, you should still strive to treat your fellow human beings better. And children understand why they’re not getting an A+ for C- work. They know they’re not going to get an A for Effort when they’ve put forth the minimum effort necessary. I think you’re mature enough to get it. And I think you’re decent enough to keep trying to do the decent thing even without people handing you cookies for every tiny increment of progress towards equality you make.
I think I actually think more of you than my pantheist friend. I certainly expect more, and expect, based on your behavior to date, that you’re eminently capable of meeting my expectations.
So get to it. Take the church back from that 20% of bigoted assholes. Run the pastor out on a rail and install one who not only appreciates gay choir directors, but who wouldn’t mind seeing someone who’s LGBTQ (not to mention W) step up to the pulpit when he retires. Get your church’s laws changed. Make a real and lasting difference.
Then I’ll give you a cookie.
And I’ll have an even tastier one waiting for the day you realize all this god stuff’s a bunch of b.s.