Monday, October 01, 2007

GO, Susan!!!

Susan Thistlethwaite is a friend and colleague member of the HRC Religion Council ... and boy howdy does she hit the nail on the head with this one!

By Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared at Columbia University that “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country”, most everyone in the U.S. knew he was lying. What he meant to say is that he is doing his best to commit genocide against homosexuals in Iran and/or so terrorize them that they will deny their own identities as gay people.
This, of course, is not the only lie that Mr. Ahmadinejad tells, smirking as he does so. He lies about the Holocaust, he lies about the real lives of women in Iran, he lies about persecuting journalists and intellectuals, and he lies about his country’s nuclear program. He is helping to make Iran a liar society.

It is easy to see this pattern of being a liar society when it’s somebody else doing it. It’s also easier to see when the lies are such a bunch of big whoppers like Ahmadinejad tells. But a little deception is also bad and the thing about deception is that it tends to lead to more and more distortion so it’s hard to tell where the lies end and where the truth begins.

I’m sorry that some Episcopal Bishops are apparently yielding to world-wide and national pressure from conservatives and backing off of their courageous stance on the full equality of homosexuals in the Episcopal Church. The “compromise” position that strengthened the 2006 resolution on “restraint” in consecrating gay bishops and that explained that the Episcopal Church has no official liturgy for same sex blessing is a gentler form of deception. I have to agree with the Episcopal conservatives here (though of course for different reasons) who called this a “legal fiction.” It is fiction and it is unfortunately a step back from the truth that some Episcopalians are gay, but that all are equal in the sight of God. It also is a step back from the truth that some gay or lesbian Episcopalians have the spiritual gifts needed to be a Bishop.

Bishop Gene Robinson is one of them. If you know Gene, and I do, you will quickly realize he is one of the most spiritually luminous people you will ever meet. Any church that refuses to recognize spiritual gifts for leadership is, frankly, lying to itself and no good ever comes from that.

What happens when people and societies lie about important things like the diversity of human gender preference? Well, one of the things that may happen is that some people so deny their own sexual orientation that they end up playing footsie in a Minneapolis bathroom instead of leading a healthy, self-aware life.

At the end of the day, being a liar society is fundamentally corrupting to individuals and the whole nation. There is simply no better teacher on the multiple and degrading effects of lying than Mr. Ahmadinejad.


Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is president of Chicago Theological Seminary. She has been a Professor of Theology at the seminary for 20 years and director of its graduate degree center for five years. Her area of expertise is contextual theologies of liberation, specializing in issues of violence and violation.


Clark R. West said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I agree with Professor Thistlethwaite 100% and its encouraging to hear such clear voiced honesty. Two Susans hit the nail on the head!

Jack Sprat said...


It was wonderful to read Ms. Thistlethwaite's words, but when I went to the Newsweek site I noticed that almost all of the comments were hate-filled, vicious, and bible-thumping. She (and you) must have to have a thick skin to be out there on the front lines and not get your feelings hurt!

Bless you both!



And no, for those emailing me offline, I am NOT forgetting that the bishops don't have the authority to overturn something that General Convention does ... even something so ill-advised as B033.

That's ALL of our jobs in Anaheim.

What they did have the authority to do -- and failed -- was to offer a response that didn't presume to "interpret" the resolution on behalf of the church. That's how their "explanation" is being interpreted and I believe they over reached and, in the process, did much "collateral damage" not only to LGBT people but to the church at large.

RonF said...

I'm not clear on what is meant by the phrase "liar society".

I doubt that the current President of Iran thinks that he is going to convince his society as a whole that there are no homosexuals in Iran, nor that women are free there or that the Holocaust didn't happen. I doubt that he thinks he'll convince us, either. All I can figure is that he thinks that public denial will somehow help him stay in power. And let's not forget that the office of the President of Iran is a figurehead, anyway. It's the various clerical councils that have the real power; they can veto any legislation with no appeal and they determine who can run for office and who cannot. All he is really doing is parroting lines that someone else is writing.

So I do wonder what Ms. Thistlethwaite means by the term "liar society"?

RonF said...

The “compromise” position that strengthened the 2006 resolution on “restraint” in consecrating gay bishops and that explained that the Episcopal Church has no official liturgy for same sex blessing is a gentler form of deception.

This, OTOH, I can agree with fully. Those of traditional faith are not fooled by the lack of an official liturgy for blessing relationships among same sex couples. What they are looking for is for the bishops to exercise their offices as shepherds and chief pastors of their dioceses and stop those blessings that are going on in their dioceses on the basis that they are in conflict with Christian teaching and are an inappropriate pastoral response. They are also asking that TEC repent of consecrating sexually active homosexuals as bishops (or priests, for that matter) on the basis that sexual relationships among people of the same sex is condemned by Scripture, and to stop doing it altogether, not just put a temporary hold on it.

You may disagree with this. But that's what was asked to be done. And it's not what TEC did. What TEC's HoB did was - well I don't know if you can call it deception. Someone would have to actually be deceived for it to be deception. Nobody has been. Unless perhaps the members of the HoB themselves.

Sidney said...

All I can say is, why doesn't Ms. Thistlewaite aim her fire at liberal Roman Catholics who haven't abandoned Rome to go over to the Episcopal Church to help out in the trenches where we're trying to fix some historical issues with women's ordination, gays and whatnot? Where is her condemnation of them?

Where is her condemnation of liberal Southern Baptists like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton for not quitting their denomination over women's ordination and gays? They, and all liberals in conservative churches, are the ones to blame for the fact that we have lost these battles.

It sounds like Ms. Thistlewaite won't because those liberals are her 'friends'. How sad that she does not realize that liberal Roman catholics and Southern baptists are actually her enemies.


RonF said...

You know, the more I think about the actions of the HoB the more I say to myself, "What do you expect"? This is a group that in an earlier time refused to expel a member that published arguments against basic Christian principles such as the divinity of Christ and the Trinity, seemingly on the basis of collegiality and not wanting to be ridiculed for holding a heresy trial. If they won't stand up for those principles, did you expect them to stand up for yours?

Todd E. Mashlan, a/BSG said...

Dear Susan,

I intend to ask my bishop at the Midwest Integrity Leadership Conference tomorrow, but would like to get your take also....

What is the effective difference between an "authorized liturgy" for same-sex blessings, and a permitted "pastoral response" (which includes a "priestly blessing") to LGBT unions?