Editorial 31 - July 2006 - Blasphemy in the Name of God
Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people writes, “We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt they too are children of God – and that must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy.”
I can almost hear many very devout Christians screaming, “But
wait! Christians do not blaspheme! There has to be a mistake.”
Do not speak too soon. Think this one through carefully.
you've never thought of Christian churches, lay Christian leaders,
ordained Christian pastors, or church administrators committing
blasphemy against God and against queer people. That is what they do
whenever they mistreat gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered
people. Desmond Tutu makes a very good point. Condemning gay,
bisexual or transgendered people to hell or driving them out of
church is an act of blasphemy.
Greek, the word blasphemy means “to injure.”
A general definition of blasphemy is “any action (e.g., a
gesture) as well as any word that devalues another person . . .”
There is a text where Paul uses the word blasphemy to describe
insulting God's people. “When
we are insulted, we answer back with kind words. We are no more than
this world's garbage; we are the scum of the earth to this very
The word translated insulted means blasphemed in Greek.
ruthless condemnation and insulting of queer people that goes on in
some Christian churches is blasphemy against God and against queer
people. There are several types of blasphemy outlined in the
Catholic Encyclopedia. Insulting and condemning gay,
bisexual and transgendered people to hell could be seen as being a
form of each type of blasphemy described.
kind is considered to be a statement that is against faith. An
example given in the Catholic Encyclopedia
is “God is cruel or unjust.”
Sexual orientation is a
state of being, not a choice. People do not
consciously sit down one day and think, “Being a member of a
sexual minority group, having people threaten to kill me, having my
own parents beat me up for being different, being kicked out of my
home, living on the streets, being condemned and thrown out of my
church, and losing almost all of my friends would be really fun. I
think I'll become gay.” When we damn people for being gay or
bisexual, for being something over which they have no choice, we
portray God as cruel and unjust. Only a cruel and an unjust God
would damn people to hell for the way they were born.
type of blasphemy is to have contempt for God.
One way of showing contempt is to openly disrespect God. Adam
Clarke describes blaspheme against God as treating God's “attributes,
doctrines, providence, or grace” contemptuously.
There is probably no greater contempt and disrespect toward God than
to minimize God's grace, to state by word or action that there are
people who are completely beyond God's grace. Those who state gay,
bisexual and trans people are beyond God's grace show contempt for
God, for God's grace-filled attributes, and for God's grace.
third form of blasphemy listed in the Catholic Encyclopedia
is to have malediction against God. For example, a person may
blaspheme by saying, “Away with God.'”
Cursing God can be direct or more subtle. An act or words that in
effect say, “Away with grace,” could be an act of
blasphemy against God. “Away with grace” is what God,
gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people hear when queer people are
denied as members of the Kingdom of God.
is no question that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic Christians
blaspheme people when they insult queer people and show complete
contempt for gay, bisexual and trans-identified people. Going as far
as to declare people are outside of God's grace is the ultimate
insult and one of the deepest injuries that can be done to people.
While this might seem only like it is blasphemy against people, not
God, mistreating gay, bisexual and trans people is blasphemy against
God. This seems very clear in the Bible. “Then
shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye
did it not to one of the least of
these, ye did it
not to me.'”
the gospel of Mark, Jesus is accused of blasphemy, because He forgave
a person's sins. Forgiveness of sins was an act that only God could
do. The idea that Jesus considered Himself to be equal to God and
made Himself into God was the reason why Jesus was condemned by the
Sanhedrin at His trial.
When lay and ordained church leaders condemn gay people to hell,
they are taking upon themselves power and authority that is only
God's to exercise. Only God makes the decision as to who ends up in
heaven or hell. The judgment is not made by humans. Condemning
people to hell is a power-grab by humans. Power-grabs are not
particularly godly, nor are they Christian.
what is the purpose of this letter to the editor? The hope is that
this letter will help people to understand the power of their words
and actions. We have the power to bring healing or to maim and wound
through what we say. Pastors, church administrators and ordinary
church members have a responsibility to express the faith in such a
way that they do not injure and devalue anybody, including gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.