I came across the following post this morning, and it really breaks my heart. In it, “Cop’s Wife” explains the aftermath of a simply beautiful post she made around Halloween, “My Son is Gay.” The new post, “Epilogue,” is about the way the church preschool where she took her children kicking her out for that post…accusing her of violations of the Eighth Commandment. I recently preached my first real sermon on the Eighth Commandment. Doesn’t mean I know everything about it, of course, but enough to know that it sounds like the pastor in this case is misjudging the semantic between the terms “exercising Christian chastisement towards a violater of the eight commandment” and “finding flimsy pretext to abuse a parishioner.” This is what the pastor did:
The second discussion was a face-to-face meeting during which Squirt was present. I was handed a printout of the church’s response. There had been a meeting with some Elders, and they decided I’d broken the 8th Commandmentand not followed Matthew 18. I was told that some members were worried that I was “promoting gayness.” I don’t even know what that means. The words I had written were not promoting anything other than unconditional love and tolerance. My post was about bullying and how my son was treated. My post was about a 5-year-old child. Pastor said he “tried to be mad at me, but couldn’t.” I didn’t and don’t understand why he would want to be mad at me. Again, Boo’s well-being was not mentioned.
There’s some of this that I won’t touch. The whole “promoting gayness” thing, well, these folks are wrong and I have no intention of fighting that battle with them. On this point, what they have to say about gayness I hold as wrong and thoroughly without charity, and with 1 Corinthians 13 as my authority I will interlocute with them on the subject no further.
But what is striking to me is the invocation of Matthew 18. I assume that the verse the church is considering highly is 6: “‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Which probably means the church thinks that dressing up as a woman will somehow make this child gay, and thus be an occasion for stumbling.
Yet in the post as it was presented, the child came forth with the desire to be Daphne. The child conceived the idea; and when he had doubts, his mother encouraged him to face the world bravely, and not only that…in so doing she evinced a clear conviction that the world did not have to be a place where children and adults abuse each other for any reason, heaping ridicule on one another, but rather supporting and building each other up. Such a evidenced faith in what the world can be is, in my mind, a hallmark of what Christians claim the world is, in that it is the end towards which the created community moves.
But I’m getting farther afield than I intended. The verses the church is presumably citing in defense of its bald-faced abuse miss the beginning of the chapter, 18:1-5:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
The pertinent points are two: a five-year-old boy has chosen to dress up like a woman for Halloween. What might it be like if, instead of punishing or preventing him, we thought of how we might become LIKE him? There is a beauty in his act, an innocence of circumscribed and socially-constructed gender roles, to act in this world as if rules of outward form and performance are unimportant and adhere only to the movement of the spirit in the moment. Would that all God’s children were gifted with such wise innocence!
And the second point is more pertinent: in rejecting this family from their church and thus their church preschool, as the epilogue suggests, this church has willed NOT to welcome this child, or his two siblings. That’s, on my counts, THREE separate Christs that this church has rejected, if we are to take Matthew 18:5 as seriously as Jesus does.
And so the only question remaining is, how does this pastor sleep at night?