Opinion: The church is in need of a revival
June 12, 2013
Three words for some thoughtful young Republicans concerned about the future of their party: Save your breath.
Those worried that the GOP is losing traction with young voters know exactly who runs the party today: its most reactionary — meaning least conciliatory — faction in generations.
So the College Republican National Committee could have saved precious ink and said "the heck with" rather that issue a new report urging open minds on gay marriage, immigration, even taxes.
Forget it. Unlike the GOP that 20 years ago advertised a "big tent," today's GOP acts more like a bearded sect that chops wood, hunts squirrels and hides out in the hills.
Try to sell changing times to that. You'll see no attempt here.
I am, however, going to make a stab at another American institution that stands to see its influence wane: the church.
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This matter occurred to me the other day when reading that some churches now refuse to allow Boy Scout troops to use their premises after the national organization decided to admit gay scouts.
At that very time, I was reading a book about how religious leaders stepped to the fore to support civil rights in the 1960s.
I have no trouble seeing gay rights as carrying the same heroic imperative.
It took one of my sons to say it just the way it needs saying:
"The bones of the church are going to break" because of anti-gay attitudes, he said.
Americans under 30, he pointed out, overwhelmingly support for gay marriage. And the issue isn't the slippery-slope "definition of marriage" word game conservatives wish to play. You know: Beware of that day when a man can marry his snake and a woman can wed her golden retriever.
No, the issue was equality.
Vast numbers of young people, he said, "don't believe in a religion that doesn't believe in equality."
Kiss that demographic goodbye. Unless …
Unless more churches come to see select passages in the Old Testament as rusted levers for oppressive impulses, just as in the days of lynchings and White Citizens Councils.
Let's face it. If Genesis 1:24 — "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind" — meant in the Klan's heyday that God commanded races be separate, it means that today. Does it?
Enough Bible verses here. Let's turn instead to a statement from an individual straining to justify the exclusionary policy the Boy Scouts just changed.
He said the Scouts' decision was unnecessary, because 12-year-olds don't have a clue about their sexual orientation, and because the Boy Scouts have always welcomed all boys.
What he chose not to mention is that at some point quite a few Scouts will have come to understand they have a different sexual orientation. Gay Eagle Scouts were among those pressing for a change in policy.
As to that hypothetical 12-year-old: Let's say he's gay and doesn't know it, or won't know it for a couple of years. We welcomed him as a child into all things childlike. Short of misconduct that harms others, how could we possibly revoke that invitation?
This brings us back to the civil rights marches of the '60s:
Just as plentiful as were the bold church leaders who staked their reputations and risked their lives for what was right, so too were the churches committed to not upsetting the racist status quo.
Acknowledging the allure of the status quo, it would seem to be high time for more churches to step up and lead in this quest for equality.
Or, like today's GOP, they can continue to give 'em that old-time division.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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