Practicing What We Preach

The brutal and tragic killing of Matthew Shepard last fall makes it clear that Christians need a more mature response to the issue of homosexuality in general, and gay-bashing in particular. Not that Christians were responsible for Shepard's killing. They weren't. Yet while the church has been debating among various positions on homosexuality, gay and lesbian people have largely been left to defend themselves against those who twist Christians' statements or silence into a crusade against homosexuals.

Christians on both sides of the homosexuality debate need to take responsibility for the ways they've contributed to an environment that leaves gays and lesbians vulnerable to attack. Because the Bible declares that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), we share an equality in our fallenness. Yet gays and lesbians are often singled out as somehow unique among sinners—on the one side, because their "sins" are somehow worse than others' sins; on the other, because anybody who is uncomfortable with homosexuality is seen to be a bigot.

We cannot allow the savage murder of Matthew Shepard to degenerate into a plebiscite on his lifestyle, with winners on one side and losers on the other. A young man lost his life, two other young men committed a horrendous crime for which they will lose what little they had, and the church—perhaps—will lose an opportunity to show to whom it belongs. We all have lost something in this situation.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1999
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