A creative response to violence and injustice.

Guest blogger Peter Fitch

Brief introduction

I want to tell you everything I know about Peter, but that isn't the purpose of this blog post :) Quickly, when I met him in 2009, he was the Dean of the university where I was studying, a professor, a leader, a minister, an #ally, and an incredibly humble human who changed my life. Despite his accreditations, he was the first person to truly empathize with my journey and admit that he, too, was unsure of what God "really thought" about #homosexuality. That acknowledgment gave me the immeasurable freedom to be (and love) my true self. And eventually allowed me to see how my spirituality and sexuality could co-exist.

Peter has since published two books (links at the end) on how he led his church to jump the fence and become fully accepting of individuals and couples of all orientations. His choices and bravery were not without consequence as he stood for what he believed to be true and just. I hope you enjoy his post as much as I did!

From Peter:

I am a straight man, divorced early in life but married now for close to four decades, father of four, grandfather to five (and counting) . . . what does #Pride Month mean to me?

I am also a Christian pastor and a university professor of Religious Studies and Historical Theology . . . how does Pride Month affect the way I see my work?

Both questions weave together for me.

Here are some of the answers that come to mind:

First, I love #creativity. I value thoughtful responses in life. I also love the teachings of Jesus about #justice and #compassion. Pride is a creative response to the horrible violence and injustice that has been directed at LGBTQ+ people over the years. Jonathon Larsen, writer of the Broadway play, “Rent”, said, “the opposite of war isn’t peace; it’s creation.” When you think of all the hatred that has been poured out on people of minority sexualities, I think it would be possible to imagine a different kind of response, an appropriate hatred, a desire to return evil with evil. Instead, there is Pride: people taking to the streets to declare their truth, their worth, their value, and doing it in a lively and happy way. I wish that people in so many areas of life could learn from this example!

Next, what about the people? I have so many friends, as well as a brother, in the #LGBTQ+ community. Pride gives me a chance to think of how I value them, how much I have learned from them, how gentle they have been with me when I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good thing to support them. I am sure now.

Then there is the Church, the one I serve and the larger #Church all over the world. I grieve when I think about the levels of exclusion that still exist. Why are religious people so slow to understand, so far away from the teachings they profess? I started out as a young pastor thinking the same way that I had been taught, that marriage was only for a man and a woman. But as I got to know some wonderful gay students at the university where I taught, I realized that something was wrong. Jesus said that we should look at the fruit of actions and beliefs. The fruit of exclusion is not good. LGBTQ+ children are far more likely to self-harm if they come from a conservative religious background than if they come from a loving and nurturing community of acceptance. That’s what I believe in building now.

What about the #Bible? It’s true that there are a few scattered verses that speak out against some forms of homosexuality, but the more I studied, the more I realized that there is no condemnation of loving relationships. Instead, there are condemnations by Biblical writers of something that they most likely saw as a form of domination or assault of one party over another.

What about Jesus Himself? What did He say about LGBTQ+ life? Famously, nothing at all.

What about Church History? The most common view in the Church has been that marriage was given by #God for the purpose of procreation, of making babies. However, the more I studied, the more I realized that there were lots of problems with the things that ancient Church Fathers believed. Many of them said hateful things about women. Many thought that spiritual concerns were more important than an embodied life in this world. Many believed that #sexuality was evil. I cannot agree with these perspectives. Sometimes the people that gave us the foundations for religious thought and practice were just wrong. More important than the idea of marriage as a place to make babies is the hidden word from far back in the Old Testament: “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Most of us need to be in loving and nurturing relationships to become all that we can be.

What does Pride mean to me, in my life and in my work? Pride is a glorious example of people giving a creative and compassionate response to evil that has been directed against them. Pride is about the declaration that we are all worthwhile. Pride is more in line with the ideas I choose to believe about God than those of the judgmental communities that exclude and devalue the beautiful life that God has given in and to each sacred person.

Links and stuff:

Dr. Peter Fitch is Professor of Religious Studies and Historical Theology at St. Stephen’s University in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, have four children and five grandchildren. He has written two books on themes that relate closely to Pride Month, Learning to Interpret toward Love: Actually Embracing People of Different Sexuality (in the kind of churches where they haven’t been) and I Really Like Baseball . . . Thoughts on Sex, Faith, Mysticism, and Social Change. They are available from Amazon.ca or from Peter himself.

Write to pfitch7@gmail.com


Published works available on Amazon:

Learning to Interpret Toward Love

I Really Like Baseball . . . Thoughts on Sex, Faith, Mysticism, and Social Change

I also highly recommend this documentary for anyone questioning what God really thinks about homosexuality: For the Bible Tells Me So. It's really well presented and I've watched it countless times and continue to learn from it.

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