In a horrific statement, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that Anglicans must discriminate against gays, lest bigots in Africa think Anglicans themselves are gay, and then gay-bash them.
Yeah, he really did.
The archbishop says that some Anglicans were massacred in Africa because – get this – their murderers allegedly thought they were gay. Thus, the archbishop says, it’s really complicated for the church to consider becoming more pro-gay, and especially pro-“gay marriage,” because, you know, what if people then try to kill even more Anglicans for doing the right thing?
Yes, because everyone knows that Jesus’ principal message for those confronted with dangerous exposure was to have you “deny” it, preferably three times.
That’s like getting beaten up because someone thinks you’re black or Jewish, and the lesson you take from that isn’t a lesson of tolerance, it isn’t a lesson that perhaps those communities are under attack more than you previously recognized, and perhaps you should double up your efforts to help them. No, the lesson the head of the Anglican church (the Anglican Communion, they call themselves) is to distance yourself from the embattled minority, lest the bad guys attack again.
This is a church we’re talking about. This is the head of the church. Could Archbishop Justin Welby have said anything less Christ-like than this?
In an interview on LBC radio, Welby said that if the Anglican church accepted gay marriage it would be “absolutely catastrophic” for Christians in Africa. Why? Welby explained that he had recently visited south Sudan where he saw 369 bodies in a grave. They were allegedly Christians who were killed because the locals feared that “if we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians.”
Welby, apparently swayed by the unassailable logic of bigots, suggested that the Sudanese Christians were killed because America is too pro-gay, or something.
He said this in response to a caller asking about the Anglicans embracing gay marriage: “The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here. I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America. And they were attacked by other people because of that.”
Members of an English church were killed because some American states have finally legalized gay marriage? Really?
Welby makes me think of the time back in high school when I asked my friend Keith Spirgel, who was one of the only Jewish people I’d ever met (west upper-middle-class suburbs of Chicago, late 1970s, not a lot of Jews), why people hated Jews so much. Keith was so normal, and fun, and smart, and kind – it just didn’t make sense to me, at age 14 or so, why people had a problem with Jews. I still remember Keith’s answer: “I have no idea.”
Zoom forward four or so years to college. I was attending the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and was riding in an elevator in my dorm, a dormitory that had a lot of Jewish residents. Some kids got on the elevator, they seemed a bit drunk, and one of them turned to me and called me a “kike.” They thought I was Jewish. (I’ve always had dark curly hair, and this was the early 80s, when big-hair was still in.) I was just supremely offended, and hurt. I remember saying “I’m not Jewish,” and then at the same time thinking, “it doesn’t really matter if I am Jewish.” But I actually felt as if he had offended me as a Jew, for the first time I understood what it must feel like to be hated for who you are.
That run-in with a bigot, which still sticks with me today, didn’t make me less interested in working on civil rights issues. It actually really ticked me off, and inspires me to this day.
For the leader of an entire faith to make this kind of comment is simply unbelievable. Over the years, the Anglicans (aka Episcopalians, as we call them in America), have had more than a few run-ins with their own bigotry. And I’ve always suspected that at its core the Anglican Communion was just as bitter, nasty and hateful as the Catholic church, the Mormons and all the rest. And Justin Welby just confirmed it.