Steve Stanton, the city manager of Largo, Florida, is getting a sex change operation. That news is grounds for firing him. Injust as that is (but so damned typical), I was amused by this remark:
“If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he’d want him terminated,” said Pastor Ron Saunders of Largo’s Lighthouse Baptist Church. “Make no mistake about it.”
It’s a fascinating comment. We have an idealistic image of Jesus representing the weak and downtrodden, the oppressed minorities, of preaching tolerance and inclusion, and Pastor Ron Saunders is exactly the opposite … and at the same time, he isn’t some weird Christian renegade, he’s actually fairly representative of the attitudes of the American religious towards sexual diversity. On one level, you feel a provocative tension between the ideal and the real when someone like this pastor preaches his intolerance.
At the same time, though, you’ve got to figure that he’s probably right. Jesus was a provincial rabble-rouser and religious fanatic, all wrapped up in ancient Jewish law and custom. Give him a tour of the 21st century, and he’d probably freak out and wonder where his people had gone so wrong; introduce him to the idea of transexual surgery, and he’d probably go all Fred Phelps on you. Or maybe not; who knows, the man has been dead for almost 2000 years.
The real problem, perhaps, is when one lets one’s imagined vision of a long-dead individual, known only indirectly, be a moral guide. It’s a recipe for unmooring one’s ethics from anything real, allowing the imagination or obsolete tradition to be your sole moral compass. It seems to me that if Stanton has a history of competence and good service to the city (and apparently he does, having been manager for 14 years, and having no recent policy errors to trigger a firing, just this one personal and professionally irrelevant decision), then that should be the defining factor in the the city council’s decision, not whether he has testicles or not.
Oh, but of course: the Bible has a very specific proscription against people like Stanton. Who needs a moral compass when you’ve got the words of antique priests?