Last edited: November 23, 2003

Another Christian View of Puerto Rico’s Sodomy Law

San Juan Star, July 11, 2003
Box 364187, San Juan, PR 00936
Fax: 809-793-7152

In recent weeks, the legislature in Puerto Rico and the US Supreme court have made history. Laws that govern the sexual lives of people have been abolished. This was a brave thing, and many of us in the Christian Community welcome the change.

Just as in every family, Christians do not always agree. These disagreements are the roots of the many Christian denominations. Even within congregations and parishes, we do not always agree. The blessing is when we, as Christians, can agree to disagree with each other in peace.

Holy Scripture has been used for many important debates and arguments between Christians since the beginning of the church, and it continues to this very day.

When St. Paul began to evangelize Gentiles, there was a great disagreement between some of the Apostles. The “original” Christians were all Jewish. The Christians, thinking of their religion as a part of Judaism, insisted that the new converts must become Jewish and be circumcised. They quoted Holy Scripture, but Paul insisted and quoting Scripture as well, ended that issue.

The Protestant revolution had good Christians on both sides who all used Scripture to support their views.

Scripture and church teaching was used to uphold and justify the evil practice of slavery. In the 1960s,churches, both sides using Scripture, were on opposite sides of the civil rights issues in the US.

Scripture has been used to oppress women. Women were seen and treated as property. Men were not only allowed, but often encouraged to beat their wives and children, even by the clergy! Scripture was used to oppose Women’s Suffrage. Sadly, we are still fighting domestic violence and child abuse.

In Christianity, the subject of female clergy is still a hot-button issue for some, but we now see women as ministers, pastors, deacons, priests, and even Bishops!

The disagreement about homosexual people is just the latest in the long line of Christian debates. Homosexuality was first condemned by the church in the 13th century, so this is a relatively argument, as theological issues go. There has been, over the last 30 years, much theological research, advances in science and human rights. Many churches are now welcoming and accepting homosexuals, to varying degrees. Others do not welcome homosexuals. All of them use scripture to support their stand!

God is one who breaks-down the walls that people build to keep God and other people separated from Godself. People seem to try to “own” God and keep the Divine one in a box of their own making. They are unwilling to share God with others, but that is not their prerogative in reality.

Many see the Sodomy Law, not as a moral issue, but as a human rights issue. It is about the rights of tax-paying, law abiding citizens to live their lives as they see fit. It is about having the right to love and form attachments without fear of violence or arrest. It is about equal treatment under the law. It is about privacy. None of these are “moral” issues that require the church to speak. These are rights issues.

The idea that homosexuals having relationships recognized would in any way, cause a breakdown in family values is laughable. I know of no married people who would be forced to divorce if gay relationships are registered and given responsibilities similar to or the same as marriage.

Family values are about as broken as they can ever be (This is one area where the church has absolutely failed to stay relevant to people’s real lives). When I seen Gay men and Lesbians speaking out and fighting for the right to “get married” or to have “domestic partnerships” I see nothing but the highest respect for family values. Much more so than people living together, men cheating on wives and people having children out of wedlock.

I believe that our elected officials do well for themselves by going to church and hearing God’s Holy Word. It makes them better people. When they legislate, they must remember they are not there to represent themselves or their church. They have been elected to do what is best for their everyone in Puerto Rico by doing what is right for all of the people. Sometimes, this requires having the courage to stand-up for the rights of minorities. This is what an honorable elected person does. This is something some of our religious leaders need to respect instead of issuing threats to withdraw their followers support. This is what separation of Church and State is about.

I pray for all of us in Puerto Rico as we go through these debates over human rights.

Steve Cannon English, Priest
St. Michael and All Angels Evangelical Anglican Mission

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