July 07, 2010
At the Pride Parade in Chicago this past weekend, a group of Christians from the Marin Foundation stood with signs reading, "I'm sorry":
The signs read:
"I'm sorry for how the church has hurt you"
"I'm sorry for how the church has treated you!"
"I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe. Sorry."
Tim Schraeder, who is the director of communications at the Park Community Church in downtown Chicago and blogs about church communications, explains the significance of this:
While the ultimate message Jesus came to preach was one of love, grace and compassion, we've sadly misrepresented Him and alienated sons and daughters from their Father's embrace… and I'm so excited to see how Nathan and his team took a different, humble approach and in the end, did something far more powerful than preaching or shouting… they showed love.
Nathan Albert was one of the sign-holders and he felt this was a rousing success:
What I loved most about the day is when people "got it." I loved watching people's faces as they saw our shirts, read the signs, and looked back at us. Responses were incredible. Some people blew us kisses, some hugged us, some screamed thank you. A couple ladies walked up and said we were the best thing they had seen all day. I wish I had counted how many people hugged me. One guy in particular softly said, "Well, I forgive you."
Meh. I'm unimpressed.
It's a nice start. I applaud their intentions. It's better than what most Christians have done, which is to demonize homosexuality and treat it like some sort of disease.
But these signs have an implicit message: We've done a bad job of loving the sinner, but we still believe homosexuality is a sin.
If these Christians still believe that, do their apologies really hold much weight with the gay community?
I would take the Marin Foundation members much more seriously if they held signs that read like this:
I'm sorry that I ever believed homosexuality was immoral. I was wrong.
I'm sorry Christians are to blame for you not being allowed to legally marry. We were wrong.
I'm sorry I ever believed being gay was a choice. I was wrong.
They didn't have that on their signs because they still believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry, and that people choose their sexual orientation.
You can read it on their own website. They don't want to outright say those things, so they simply avoid answering those questions altogether by saying a yes/no answer isn't good enough. Frankly, I don't believe that. There's nothing wrong with homosexuality and it's absurd that we don't have marriage equality in this country. If the Marin Foundation agreed, they should have the courage to say so.
Is it a step up from what we've seen from most Christians? Sure.
Should we encourage Christians who want to apologize for the way they've treated gays and lesbians? Sure.
But even a kind Christian who still believes that homosexuality is immoral hasn't really earned any forgiveness.
(Thanks to FriendlyAtheist.com reader Autumn for the link.)
***Update***: Lots of great comments on FriendlyAtheist.com. A few thoughts:
It's nice that these guys were apologizing to the GLBT crowd. But I care about apologies when they come from the person who committed the wrong (like the third sign). Don't apologize on someone else's behalf. (Then again, Christians also believe someone else died for my sins…)
Why are we so very impressed that they're apologizing for the church? To paraphrase Chris Rock, "Whatchu want, a cookie? You're the Christian Church. You're supposed to be kind!" You don't get to earn bonus points for doing what your own church says you're supposed to be doing, anyway.
If I mischaracterized the Marin Foundation in any way, I'll post a (separate) correction. I'll be in contact with them soon.
***Update 2***: Andrew Marin, who runs the Foundation, will soon be answering some interview questions on my site. They may clear up and confusion or disagreements with what I've written.
Hemant Mehta is the Chair of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) Board of Directors. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and also is an SSA representative to the Secular Coalition for America. Hemant received national attention, including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, for his work as the "eBay Atheist." Hemant's blog can be read at FriendlyAtheist.com, and his book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, (WaterBrook Press) is now available on Amazon.com. He currently works as a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago.