My travels have taken me to the San Francisco Bay Area, and apparently just in time for Gay Pride Weekend that is going on as I type. Thankfully, I have no need to go to downtown this weekend, so I will avoid seeing the debauchery.
A couple of weeks ago I was in an American metropolis that is perhaps most antithetical to San Francisco: Salt Lake City. Comparing the Mormon hub to “Babylon-by-the-Bay” is like comparing night and day in many ways, but even on the tidy streets of Utah’s capital, one cannot escape homosexuality and its controversy. As I walked down North Temple St, I saw a gentleman on a street corner holding a sign that said “WARNING HOMOSEXUALS: HELL AWAITS YOU!” Next to him was a young lady holding a sign that was equally blunt: “**** THIS GUY!” (The first word was a colorful Anglo-Saxon verb that rhymes with “truck.”)
I happened to be wearing my clerical collar, so I caught the attention of the anti-homosexual. As I walked by, he asked, “You’re a Christian, right?” After I answered “yes”, he tried to draw me saying, “So, you agree with my message?”
I told him that I agreed with his underlying point, that homosexuality is wrong, but that I disagreed with the way in which he was communicating that message. His approach lacked charity and was probably turning away more people than it was bringing to Christ. Telling people that they are going to burn in hell is not a good way to help them experience God’s mercy and love.
He rebounded by saying, “But, it would be lack of charity not to tell people the truth!”
“Absolutely! But you have to do it in the right way. Where in the Bible did Jesus ever tell someone directly that he was going to hell?”
“But in 1 Corinthians 6:9 – 10, Paul says, ‘Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.'”
“In that letter, Paul is speaking to the Christians of Corinth. He is not speaking directly to sinners, nor is he giving a lesson on how to deal with such people. To know how to deal with people living in sin, I suggest you look at the way Christ dealt with the adulteress in John chapter 8. He did not tell her she was going to hell but won her over with his mercy and love.”
At this point in the conversation, people were beginning to gather around, and others were looking out the windows of the office building to see what was going on. iPhones were coming out, so to avoid showing up on YouTube in collar and being misinterpreted as a pro-homosexual priest arguing with an anti-homosexual, I decided to move on.
I overheard the girl holding the other sign saying that she was a lesbian. I did not have the chance to speak with her long, so I just gave her a friendly smile and told her that I would pray for her.
Neither Bible-thumping nor fire-and-brimstone preaching are going
to win people to Christ. We must be like Christ with the adulteress and with the Samaritan woman at the well (cf. John 4): first show them you love them, and then help them see the truth. The truth may be painful for them, but if communicated with Christ-like love, they will accept it and it will set them free.
(For a great video on how Christians ought to treat homosexuals, check out this video on YouTube: “The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church”.)