by Nancy Squires
A few months ago, a historic vote took place in the Lutheran church. The largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, voted to allow non-celibate gays and lesbians in committed relationships to become ordained ministers.
This vote was a milestone. You may not think so if you’re not a Lutheran; but consider: Most mainline Protestant churches continue to officially deny gays and lesbians the pulpit, unless they take a vow of celibacy. The ELCA’s vote essentially means gay and lesbian clergy are under the same rules as govern their heterosexual brothers and sisters.
I’m not a Lutheran. But I grew up a church-going Protestant. And I’m painfully aware that much of the bigotry and discrimination that I continue to face as a lesbian is fueled by religious people and institutions. So I was following the considerable press coverage with interest.
I read that many participants at the assembly were in tears when the results of the vote were announced – tears of joy, in the case of gay and lesbian clergy and supporters. Others were in tears for a whole different set of reasons. Some wept because they felt “betrayed” by the vote. It was hard for me to understand how anyone could feel betrayed by seeing others obtain rights and privileges they themselves already have. Privilege and prejudice die hard, I guess (and are accompanied by wailing).
Some Lutherans interviewed were determined to leave the ELCA and take their Lutheran-ness with them – hoping to keep their religious identity and their prejudices. It’s troubling to consider that for these people, homophobia and heterosexism are an integral part of who they are as Christians.
But of all the comments I read, by far the worst was this: a man wrote that he could not understand all of this uproar over “a twitch between the legs.”
A mere spasm, or a tic; a jerk of the muscles of no more consequence than, say, the movement of a horse’s tail to displace a fly.
I’m not sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a more horrifying characterization of sexuality than that – a twitch. To describe all of what we feel for each other, and all that we do associate with those feelings: the sacrifices, the struggles, the sharing, the commitment – to reduce all of that to the word “twitch.”
When I step back from my disgust for a moment, I find myself wanting to say to this person:
Listen – it’s not about a “twitch.”
Let’s just acknowledge, up front, that sexuality has a physical component – we are, after all, flesh and blood human beings. So it’s about physical passion and attraction – but it’s also about emotional connection. (Hasn’t this guy ever heard a love song? Or read a sonnet?)
It’s about empathy and understanding. It’s about a shared life – pleasure and laughter, but also those long nights when you would be crying alone, if not for your partner beside you. It’s about shared purpose – whether raising kids, taking care of aging parents, or simply cooking dinner. It’s about commitment – getting through the arguments about paying bills or who left crumbs on the counter.
But then, he probably believes all of that – it’s just that he believes it only for heterosexuals.
Some people are absolutely determined not to see the truth.
Whether gay or straight, our affectional lives are not about a “twitch.” And it violates us all, as human beings and as spiritual beings, when any of us is subjected to such a demeaning characterization.
I hope somehow this man arrives at a place where he can see that sexuality – everyone’s sexuality – is a whole world more than just a twitch. And with this milestone vote in the Lutheran church, I’m beginning to hope that maybe, just maybe, some of the voices that eventually help him “see the light” are coming from within Christianity.
We may not be there yet – but I see a glimmer of hope.