Thursday, March 23, 2006


Hero: The Rev. Tim Meyer

Today’s hero is a Billings minister who speaks out against Christian prejudice.
No need to be bigoted against gay Christians In response to the Rev. Johnson's Sunday letter, all Holy Scripture is an inspired sound (Genesis 1:3). But when it comes to Biblical interpretation, few if any this side of eternity hear with perfect pitch. While both Hebrew and Christian canons have similarities, their tone and emphases are strikingly and wonderfully different. Johnson seems to believe that the Hebrew writings exist to harmonize with his own tonal preferences. That alone is a sizable error, requiring serious reconsideration. When love of one's neighbor is of equal importance to love of one's God, there is no quarter for the kinds of bigotry being expressed against our faithful gay sisters and brothers. The ones I know are deeply committed individuals who, by personal observation, serve their communities with passion and their God devoutly. Let those who have perfect Biblical pitch be the first to condemn them.
Tolerance stems from empathy, not sympathy. The difference between those words is clearer in German. In German, “empathy” is Mitgefuehl, or “feeling with” someone. “Sympathy” is Verstaendnis, or “understanding.” Empathy, then, is the ability to live in someone’s skin, to experience harmony in feeling and spirit with another. Sympathy is intellectual. You understand someone’s position, but from the outside. Tolerating gays means feeling compassion for their humanity. It means realizing that they’re people, like you and me. It means recognizing the personal harm done by the institutionalized hatred set against them. To be intolerant of outsiders seems to be the antithesis of the spirit of Christ. To me, empathy is Christ’s essential core, it’s what makes him unique in the Bible. His empathy for the outcast, for the outsider is what sets him apart. He challenges institutions that create the insider/outsider dichotomy and urges empathy for the downtrodden. That the Reverend Meyer used hearing as an allegory for tolerance and empathy seems extraordinarily appropriate. Empathy arises out of awareness. You have to see, you have to listen, you have to feel your surroundings in order to experience empathy. But there’s a limitation on awareness. No mortal has “perfect pitch,” as the reverend says. And that’s where it gets tricky. We’ve got to remain flexible of mind and change our views when we realize we’re wrong. Or something. Anyways, kudos to Reverend Meyer for his courageous acceptance of gays in the face of conservative Christian outcry. It tells me that the reverend's heart is open and loving and not filled with hate and fear.
Idaho is struggling with these issues at this time as well. I posted on my own blog "Family Values or Homophobic" and "Bigots and Hypocrites Do Not Represent Me".

A great resource for evaluating "Christian Principles in an Election Year" was developed by the National Council of Churches. I highly encourage people to check it out.
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