Helping my pastor get it right
A few months ago I posed a question about how to help my pastor get comfortable with the idea of gay marriage. When I talked to him again I discovered his uncertainty wasn’t with the “gay” part of the term but with “marriage” — though he can’t explain what troubles him about the institution (he is married and has a grandson).
Since coming to our church a year ago this pastor has been urging the congregation to be more accepting of all kinds of people, not just middle-class whites that make up 95% of the congregation. He has explicitly stated in his sermons that sexual orientation should not be a reason to be excluded, in the same way that race and income should not be a barrier. I’ve thanked him for saying so.
However, when I talk to him he says he has no idea how to go about encouraging the congregation to be more accepting. So I’ve been pondering the situation and came up with a few thoughts and would appreciate hearing if these ideas resonate with you (or not)…I get the sense that members of the congregation (which is not only nearly all white but tends to be older) don’t feel outsiders should not be welcomed into the church, but balk at welcoming outsiders into this church. Don’t they have their own church? Well, maybe not. The demographics of this suburb are changing.
So what drives discrimination? Why do people say, “I don’t want to associate with people like you?” I’ve heard it comes down to fear and I can believe that. But fear of what exactly? If we want to counteract it we need to understand what we’re up against.
Is it fear that the stereotypes are true? Black men are known for being violent so if I let too many of them into the church I’ll always be afraid that they’ll target me next. Gays are sex-crazed, so I’ll have to be careful so that some homo doesn’t proposition me to take part in some awful orgy. We can’t encourage Hispanics to stick around because they’ll take jobs away from us.
Does that describe the situation? If not, what might? If so, how does one combat it? How does one show that stereotypes aren’t true?