I was a teenage Methodist. Or, I should say, a teenage United Methodist. My family had moved to a town where there were no Fundamentalist churches. Indeed, the only Protestant church was the UMC. Although very aware of religion, I hadn’t studied it deeply at that point—I’ve come to understand a bit better the marketplace of Christianties and how it works in a capitalist society. The thing is, the more I learned about John Wesley and the Methodist movement, the more I saw how well it aligned with my own thinking and experience. I became an Episcopalian largely because John Wesley never left that tradition and urged his followers in the same direction. Of course, the “United” in United Methodism was due to mergers during the ecumenical period when Christians were learning to overlook differences and a strong base remained from which to draw.
The news has come out that the United Methodist Church has decided to split over the issue of homosexuality. Most major Protestant denominations have made their peace, albeit uneasily, with the issue. They recognized that while a source of guidance in spiritual matters the Bible’s a little outdated on its scientific understanding. If God had revealed evolution to good old Moses things might’ve been a bit different. We now know that homosexuality isn’t a “choice”—it is found in nature, and not rarely. Homo sapiens (if I’m allowed to use that phrase) have developed in such a way that sexuality is a main preoccupation of religions. Some animal species are monogamous and in our case many cultures adopted this as conducive to an ordered society. Then it became codified in some sacred writings.
While homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible, every book of that Bible has a context. Like it or not, close, serious study of Scripture raises questions you just don’t get if you read only authors who think the same way you do. It is far easier to do that—who doesn’t like being right?—but thinking seldom gains credibility by never being challenged. Iron sharpens iron, someone once said. The emotion behind the issue, I suspect, is driven by a couple of things: fear of that which is different, and the inability to see the Bible as anything but “da rules.” In those cases where the rules contradict one another you just have to choose. At least in Christianity. In Judaism they ended up with the Talmud. In any case, we’re now seeing the fracturing of society based on party lines. We could always use a few more choices, I guess, for competition is what spiritual capitalism is all about.