It was a typical fundamentalist message someone left for me at the church office yesterday. I’ve received many of such letters over the years, almost always unsigned. In essence they all say:
“Rev. Rigby you are leading your flock astray. God has told me to tell you to stop basing your message on what the world wants to hear. Base your message on God’s holy word. Remember that God reserves a special punishment for clergy who mislead.”
I can almost count on some such self-appointed prophetic condemnation whenever my name shows up in the paper or on the news. It is a hollow feeling to receive such notes and have no opportunity to respond, but I’ve also learned that such notes are usually written by people who are so accustomed to hiding in like-minded groups that they do not really wish for dialogue. They would rather use such “drive by prophecy” approaches. I’ve often wished I knew where to send a response to such letters, but the opportunity never seems to present itself, so I’ve decided to write down a response to this latest letter and send it to the winds.
To whoever left this note at my office:
I’m sorry that you did not have the courage to stay and discuss this issue. When you say that my message is an appeal to the flesh, I do not know if you are referring to my stance on gay marriage, or women’s reproductive health or immigration reform, or something else. But since you kept mentioning the word “flesh,” I assume you are referring to the issue of marriage equality. I would like to respond to you with the same honesty and bluntness you addressed me.
I am so sorry for you that you look at people’s bodies and do not consider their character. It is sad to me that you cannot feel your obligation to give others the same rights you claim for yourself. Do you really think that their sex is “of the flesh” and yours is not? While I have no doubt that you are sincere, I also believe you are the one who is deceived. I am not the one focused on these peoples’ flesh, you are. I am focused on their faithfulness, their hopes and their love. Those are some of the qualities Paul called “fruits of the spirit.” Everything you bring up against them is based on their flesh. I hope you will repent of your sin against your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and return to Christ’s message of grace.
If you had even the slightest knowledge of Jesus, your only fear would be of judging and mistreating others. You would not turn other peoples’ struggle for equality into an imagined assault on your moral superiority. Instead, you would offer others the same grace that you yourself need as a fallible human being. But, you have appointed yourself their judge and jury. How can you possibly claim that the one who commanded us all not to judge, has now appointed you to do so?
Since you spoke a word of prophecy and quoted Revelation, allow me return the favor. God wants you to know your day is over. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, the war is over and you lost. Had God been on your side you would have won, but your anti-gay slander now takes its place beside other disgraced historical church movements that defended slavery, inquisitions and witch burnings.
Fundamentalists always say that they do not hate anyone, but God wants you to know when you try to take other people’s children, deny them insurance or demean their relationships as less than yours- you indeed hate them in any meaningful definition of that world.
It is not too late for you to leave your false religion of fear and judgment and return to Christ’s message of grace and love. We are all called into a new humanity where things like race and gender no longer define the worth of the human soul. Please know you can stop sitting in God’s judgment seat without the whole world going to hell.
Have a little faith.