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Baptists confuse condemnation and compassion

At their recent convention, Southern Baptists in South Carolina approved a resolution encouraging pastors to preach against homosexuality. The resolution calls on Christians “to uphold the biblical standard of human sexuality against all onslaughts” while encouraging believers “to love and show compassion toward homosexuals and transgendered persons.”

The resolutions bring up many questions for me — one of the gay people who will be preached against. First, which biblical standards of human sexuality will they uphold? The practice of polygamy, perhaps? The subjugation of women as the property of their men? The ability of men to divorce their wives for infidelity while women have no such recourse if their husbands are unfaithful? All of these are “biblical standards” for human sexuality.

I wonder if the Baptists actually know what the word “compassion” means. Condemnation and compassion may both start with “co-” and end with “-ion,” but that’s all they have in common. You cannot be compassionate while condemning someone. To be “compassionate” means “to suffer with.” Those who have compassion understand, at the deepest level of their being, the suffering of the other person.

Southern Baptists may think they understand gay and lesbian people and their suffering, but they don’t, simply because most of the suffering gay and lesbian people endure comes at the hands of Southern Baptists and their fundamentalist religious kin. Until they understand their role in our suffering — and seek to end it — there is no way they can have “compassion.” Pity, but never compassion.

The resolution also complains that “Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians have been portrayed by the media as intolerant or dangerous because of our commitment to Christ and our belief in Biblical precepts.”

Actually, it’s not their “commitment to Christ” or their “belief in Biblical precepts” that gets them painted as intolerant. Instead, it’s the passage of intolerant resolutions such as this. Encouraging pastors to preach against homosexuality promotes intolerance. There’s really no room then to complain when the media report on your actual intolerance.

While it’s true the denomination was established in a split with Northern Baptists over slavery, the Southern Baptists have much to be proud of. They have often been strong supporters of the separation of church and state, and their denomination was set up to be congregational with the convention speaking “to” the congregations, but never “for.” For the convention to pass resolutions telling pastors what to preach about and, for that matter, what congregation members should believe, is very un-Baptist.

I suggest that the Southern Baptists pass a resolution returning to their former practices that honor and respect the religious freedoms and liberties of all their members. That would be a step toward true compassion.

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
Jubilee! Circle United Church of Christ

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Publication: The State; Date: December 27, 2010; Section: Editorial-Letters; Page: A15