Everybody knows internships come with some bullshit. Coffee runs. Picking up dry cleaning. Tickle fights. But the worst thing I've had to do so far is listen to an hour-long sermon from New Beginnings Christian Fellowship (NBCF).
It's not like I'm allergic to church. I spent every Sunday in a Catholic pew until rather recently. It's just that for a guy fed a diet of sermons that consisted of a Reader's Digest-type joke followed with fifteen minutes of light scriptural exegesis, megachurch sermons packed with cultural references and colloquial language lead to wincing.
Dominic had me listen to the sermon because we'd been tipped that a formerly anti-gay pastor, Reverend Leslie Braxton, had quieted his congregation by suggesting bullying gay kids wasn't cool and should be stopped.
What I took to be the major theme of the sermon was introduced early on: "How true is it that God does not show favoritism." From there, Rev. Braxton began to draw on current events, specifically the rescue of the Chilean miners. Drilling down to rescue the miners became a metaphor for God drilling down to save us through the gospel of Luke.
Loosely paraphrasing, his point seemed to be that God does not play favorites, but instead accepts men and women of every nation. Specifically, he cited the example of the biblical Gentiles who could claim no membership in the House of David and did not follow Jewish law but were still accepted in the early Church.
Then came the juicy stuff. Rev. Braxton recited the old Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve line and then said, "I became one more bully in the pulpit."
Audio plus an interview with Rev. Braxton after the jump!
He went on to say, "The military didn't invent Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Church did. We created the dogma that created all the bullies that went out and have kids killing themselves." He talked about the "perverted voyeurism" that had resulted in people jumping off bridges in shame, referring to the Tyler Clementi case. Rev. Braxton wrapped things up by saying, "Jesus is calling and everybody's testimony is the same."
Still confused by the sermon, I talked to Rev. Braxton. He is a kind man who spent half an hour talking with me. He said that his conversion on sexuality issues was a nearly two-decade journey driven by interactions with GLBT people that helped him personalize what had been an abstract issue and also his own interest in understanding overlooked inclusive passages in scripture. His truth-seeking struck me as sincere and honest. His recent sermon was not something entirely new—Rev. Braxton said it was his most candid sermon on sexuality, but that he has been giving similar sermons for a few years now. He says that his congregation has responded positively; many have gay people in their families and came around some time ago. As he put it, "In a sense, I was catching up to my congregation." Oh, and according to Rev. Braxton, "The Church definitely needs to have a conversation about sexuality."
Check out most relevant excerpt from the sermon.