Excerpts from a Holy Week meditation by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle:
The passion story will be read all over the world this weekend as the Christian community celebrates Easter, but in most of the countries where LGBT people are criminalized, there will be little connection in what religious authorities continue to do in conjunction with their politicians to persecute and crucify LGBT people.
“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” is not a Jesus prayer only for the people who shortened his young life, but as much for the Christian church and others today. …
What we are seeing, in countries like Uganda, is the rise of a militant fundamentalist form of Christianity that is both frightening and yet inevitable, if their sincere interpretation of holy texts concludes that Jesus will return to Earth as a Warrior King. The state becomes the instrument of this violent imposition of the reign of God.
We cannot truly understand the place homosexuality has in the psyche of these fundamentalist leaders without understanding the Warrior King discussion as a kind of internal code and conversation. Homosexuality is seen as against God’s natural order and therefore evil and needs to be eradicated so the reign of God can come. Violence and all the weight of the criminal justice system (and even mob justice) is justified because it is a sign of moral degeneration.
Sadly, if we asked Christians in the world today “Is Jesus the warrior king or something else?” I would expect the vast majority would vote for Jesus as the Warrior King. I look at many of the churches in Africa, including our own Anglican church, and some churches in this country and there is an imperial militancy about our theology and public policy that can be traced back to … early Christian/Jewish interpretations of holy texts.
The church [is] often in the front row calling for the death penalty for LGBT people, for life or long-term prison sentences, in permitting the mob to adjudicate, not unlike the passion story.
The 21st century church all over the world will dramatize this story over this weekend, but is still looking for a Warrior King who will come a second time to violently transform the world. It is the ultimate conversation around biblical interpretation that we need to have and, like the early church, we just may agree to disagree.
The text today reminds us that religious leaders who were around in Jesus’ time used holy texts, culture and religious law and values to put Jesus to death. The 30 pieces of silver used to bribe Judas into betraying Jesus was holy money, straight out of the temple’s collection plates and was a strategic decision by holy leaders to protect their religious traditions. We forget that holy people conspired with the state to put Jesus to death. I am seeing this happening all over Africa today in the context of LGBT people and with laws in Nigeria, Uganda and even Russia, we find ourselves in the story in a new and tragic way. …
I recently visited LGBT prisoners in Cameroon, one of the worst places in Africa for being LGBT. Families and even the churches do not visit these young men and women who are inhumanely treated. I call them, not prisoners of conscience, but prisoners of being. They have done no crime or harm, but are in prison simply for living and loving the way God meant them to be.
Interpretation of Scripture, colonial laws and a growing Warrior Jesus mentality in these churches has made it socially acceptable to unleash all the violence, sexual abuse and injustice that we read about in the passion story.
The bribery by American churches and development institutions to make homosexuality a wedge issue for many African countries is well documented. Holy money still goes to persecute and kill innocent children of God.
It was chilling and the inhumanity of what religious well-meaning leaders are doing to their children and fellow citizens is as harrowing as the story we read today. After the visit, I felt ill and appalled by what we religious leaders are doing in the name of God.
As I looked into their eyes, I shared with them my belief that they have not been forgotten but God was with them. My words seemed empty and false, knowing that the churches in Cameroon had largely created the climate in which these young people were denied their freedom and access to proper health care and earning an income.
The collusion of religion and state is as real today as it was 2,000 years ago. So all I could do was to write a prayer. The invitation of the passion story is to ask ourselves: Where are we? Where am I in this story? Am I one with the crucified, or am I participating in the crucifying? Is my savior the Warrior King or the Suffering Servant? Is my church the Imperial one, wrapped in flag and culture, or am I creating an alternative community of justice and equality that may be in direct opposition to the dominant forces of our own day?
Can I step out from the crowd, like Veronica, to make a difference in the life of someone on their road of suffering? I see her as a prototype for straight allies in these violent contexts who step out and do courageous things, risking all for what is right and decent and humane.
Click HERE to read that prayer for all LGBT prisoners of being. May we find ourselves and each other as one with them, one with the suffering and crucified.
Read the full commentary in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: RGOD2: Easter reflections on effects of Christian militancy on LGBT people