Leprosy? Like where my limbs fall off?

From House MD 5.01, “Dying Changes Everything”:

Doctor Gregory House: “Those aren’t bruises. They’re mycobacterial lesions. She has diffuse lepromatous leprosy. Must have caught it on one of her overseas estrogen tours. Chemo wipes out some of the bacteria, she feels a little better. Wipes out most of her immune system, she gets a whole lot worse.”

Patient-of-the-Week: “Leprosy? Like where my limbs fall off?”

House: “Actually, this is the flattering one. It’s also known as “pretty leprosy.” It doesn’t disfigure, it makes your skin look younger, smoother. Don’t let the girls hear. They’ll all want to lick your face. Unless you’re that kind of feminist. [to Taub and Thirteen] Blast her with antibiotics and prednisone. She’ll be fine.”

Lepers. Lesbians. Who can tell the difference, really?

Today in London the Emmanuel Centre church hosted a one-day conference and another half-day tomorrow:

“The Lepers Among Us: Homosexuality and the Life of the Church”

What is this about, you may ask?

According to the keynote speaker and chair of the conference, Jim Reynolds, it’s all about:

“Failure to live out the reality of Jesus Christ’s presence in the common life of the church with those who struggle with same sex sins is a disease of epic proportions, a malignancy that spreads throughout the Body and resurfaces as the Evangelical, Biblebelieving church attempts to deal with other sin issues. This failure is merely symptomatic of other deeper issues within the body, diseases that are not so easily identifiable nor that carry the same stigma or bigotry: spiritual complacency and ambivalence, hypocrisy, unaccountability and Biblical ignorance.”

I would love to see that on a placard at Pride. It looks almost as if Jim Reynolds is trying to say that evangelical Churches ought to be treating LGBT people right. Almost.

Jim Reynolds has taught theology, religion, philosophy and biblical studies at Pepperdine University [“Students Pray on a Regular Basis”], the University of Texas, San Jose Bible College [which has been William Jessup University since June 2004] and is currently an adjunct professor at Dallas Christian College and Austin Graduate School of Theology.

Apart from the University of Texas, these are all tiny little Christian colleges – none with more than a thousand students, all predominantly white, all (except for UTex) predominantly conservative. Is this man really calling upon evangelical Christians to act more like “Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful” as John Cusack memorably put it?

Everyone’s favourite American evangelical,Fred Clark at Slactivist comments

Conversations with those who are upset with me for not condemning homosexuality invariably come down to the claim that Paul’s epistles give strict rules on the subject. “Rules, rules, rules,” Paul says in response. “When I was a child, I thought as a child. But you know what? I grew up. Let me show you a more excellent way …”

What is all this about? Well, apparently (says the Core Issues Trust) it’s about

…support for relationally and sexually damaged and wounded adults who seek wholeness, and desire to walk in obedience to the Gospel of Christ. Grieving for those whose sense of rejection and abandonment is increased through the well-intentioned, but often misinformed acts of Christians seeking to uphold the Biblical prohibition on homosexual acts, CORE seeks to explore appropriate patterns of relating in both singleness and in marriage. It takes seriously the Biblical injunction to “love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22), and promotes the idea that change is possible.

What this is about is the gay cure fantasy. It’s based on the faulty idea that when God told Peter not to treat people as “unclean”, what God actually meant was “It’s okay to eat shellfish!” but that if you’re “conflicted in your sexuality” you can be cured. When CORE say:

“The call is for the Church to be and become Family for all sinning Saints, including those who struggle with same sex sins – to stop dispensing a hush-hush shame and begin mediating grace openly to all believers who struggle with gender identity issues. Like all of us, same sex strugglers from time to time need professional counselling or a para-church group, but neither can possibly do the work of publicly and openly redeeming a life for a lifetime.Only the Church can do such a great work!”

what they mean is the kind of damage to vulnerable gay people that Patrick Strud talks about:

When my investigation was published, scores of victims contacted me. I saw the self-harm scars. I heard again and again about the suicide attempts caused by these failed attempts to become heterosexual and the years of follow-up therapy they needed to recover. Some never really did. One man told me that as recently as the mid-80s, when he was 16, an NHS psychiatrist offered him electro-convulsive therapy for his homosexuality. A study by the psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder found that conversion therapy caused psychological damage in a majority of cases. Every major mental health body in Britain condemns it.

Normal human sexual orientation is a spectrum: it’s normal to be gay, to be straight, to be bisexual. What is wrong is telling a perfectly normal person that there’s something wrong with their sexual orientation: what’s even worse is taking someone who has already been told – by parents, church, school – that their normal feelings are wrong, and from there, trying to confuse and hurt them even further by telling them they can be “cured”. The first stage of reparative therapy is “like throwing spaghetti against a wall“, as the “therapist” tries to figure out what’s the “cause” of the patient’s sexual orientation so that it can be fixed.

Fred Clark again:

I want to rationalize American evangelicals’ understanding of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. By that I mean I want to spare them from irrational readings of the map that cannot be reconciled with the terrain of reality. If your reading of the Bible leads you to assert that homosexuality is a choice when it is not, then you’re reading it wrong. If your reading of the Bible leads you to claim that “ex-gay ministries” are effective, rather than delusional and abusive, then you’re reading it wrong. If your reading of the Bible leads you to claim that the happiness of a loving, committed same-sex relationship is an intrinsically, irredeemably abhorrent thing, then you’re reading it wrong. And if your reading of the Bible leads you to tell someone else that their desire for that kind of relationship means that they are dirty and wicked and evil, then … well, then you’re just being a jerk, really.

I’m not asking you to throw away the map. I’m asking you to read it in such a way that it doesn’t force you to pretend the terrain is something it is not and never will be. Pretending will not make it so.

But the biggest problem with this evangelical reading of the map is not the ways in which it creates supposed conflicts with the terrain. The biggest problem with this way of reading the map is that it forces the map to contradict itself. It forces them to read the text as though it did not say “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” It requires a reading of the text that, like my own misreading of the rules on usury, leads to a place where love becomes a violation of the law. And that’s not a good place.

Is it okay for an atheist to say, Amen to that?

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Filed under Human Rights, LGBT Equality

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