SUBMITTED BY WALLACE WALTRAUT WIENS, NOTL.
I am writing in response to letters submitted to The Lake Report, starting with John Boydell’s letter, “Mennonite church discriminates against gays and lesbians,” June 27.
Dear John Boydell: I am sorry for the pain and disrespect that you have endured because of your sexual orientation. It should never have happened. Period. No excuses.
To Elly Teichgraf: You are younger than me, but I remember the courageous, upbeat, smart woman that you are. You were very gracious in your letter to The Lake Report. But your life in any church could not have been easy; I suspect you have chosen to forget a lot, and forgive even more.
There are, indeed, Christian churches that are accepting of the LGBTQ community. They are “inclusive.” But I know of only a very few that will permit active participation, who will baptize, marry, ordain and bury people who are openly gay.
There are many of us who desire to change the status quo in our churches, but our efforts have been largely unsuccessful.
I grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and my family attended Niagara United Mennonite Church. Although I am now at Bethany Mennonite Church, for many years I worshipped in Catholic churches in Germany, Texas, New York, as well as Niagara-on-the-Lake. My spirituality is very important to me and has been nurtured and encouraged by the caring people I have met in the churches I have attended.
I am also a lawyer practising in New York. My colleagues are married and single, men and women, gay and straight. We work together professionally, take care of business, get married or not, raise children or not, have mortgages, and plan for retirement.
In my personal life, I treasure the company of my gay and lesbian friends. We celebrate the good times together, take care of each other during the bad and, sadly, sometimes we have to grieve together.
Why must my religious life be so different? Why so judgmental and exclusive? Especially in a country as enlightened as Canada, where a very smart and sophisticated prime minister said decades ago that government has no place in the bedrooms of the citizenry.
But we church-going folk do tend to go down that tortured road of moral superiority and, well, we know that gay people are promiscuous, don’t we? We’ve all seen those Gay Pride parades, those outrageous, scantily clad men and women dancing through Toronto’s streets.
I have always suspected that Jesus would agree with Pierre Trudeau. Our Lord was not enamored of people who make superior moral judgments – that whole business of looking for the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and paying no attention to the plank in your own.
So, let us now pause and review our own straight lives. Let us remember lunches at the Sundowner in Niagara Falls or drinks at Private Eyes in our very own Niagara-on-the-Lake. Let us consider the naked women we ogled in Playboy magazines. Those pre-marital affairs… only once, twice …
Remember the quick marriage and the “premature” baby? Virginity as we approached our Mennonite and Catholic marriage altars? Hmm. Maybe not so much. Consider the movies and jokes about 40-year-old virgins. Hahaha. Skyrocketing Viagra prescriptions and delusions of faithfulness to our spouses, in body and in mind.
Oh, but that’s different… we may be searching for fun in all the wrong places, but we’re messing around with the OPPOSITE sex. It’s not the same.
Oh, but it is the same.
Dear Straight Friends: That’s called a distinction without a difference.
We live in a time of extreme promiscuity and sexual degradation. Think Hugh Hefner, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump … the list is endless and comprises a lot more straight than gay people.
We rightly condemn that behaviour in our politicians and movie stars. But change starts at the grassroots level, with each one of us individually. We need to honour our sexuality with modesty, joy and commitment, whether we are gay or straight.
Our Lord’s primary commandment is pretty straight forward: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind … and love your (gay) neighbour as yourself.
That is all.
So many have suffered under our superior religiosity in the past. How will we treat our young men and women in the future, when they ask to fully participate in the life of our churches? Will we always turn them away only because of their sexual orientation? Force them to hide who they are and live a lie? Can we afford to reject the blessings that they have to offer us? Are we serving our Lord well?
I think we can do better. Because the love of humanity demands nothing less than that we respect and preserve the dignity of all God’s people.
Wallace Waltraut Wiens