Matthew Shepard

twenty years later the life and legacy of matthew wayne shepard

Considering all of the anti-LGBT rhetoric that has come out of Washington the past 18 months, it was inspiring to watch the memorial service at the National Cathedral today. Most of the music was surprisingly old-fashioned and simple until the end when the extended mournful melodies carried on too long. Bishop Gene Robinson gave a short, informal homily that was moving but not maudlin. I was surprised that he got a standing ovation in the middle of a worship service.

The service was a preamble to his internment in the Cathedral crypt. He is one of only 300 persons to be so honored. It also recognized the pain of his cruel death 20 years ago, and how with the efforts of his family he has become the symbol of the gay rights movement in the US. Whatever one might think of the political aspect of the call to get out and vote, it brought into focus the division in this country of how LGBT people are viewed. Unfortunately, that has taken on a popular view of liberal versus conservative stances. In many situations the positions of evangelical Christians have been at the forefront of resistance to LGBT people, not only in the church but in civil society. The Episcopal Church split over this issue, and the Methodist Church has been struggling with it for almost 50 years and also is facing a possible split. Denominational in-fighting over the issue is a waste of time and energy. We already have hundreds of Protestant denominations that have fractured over much more minor issues. Whatever the evils of the Roman Catholic Church over 1,500 years, it did maintain a certain unity that has dissolved in the last 500 years into endless quarrels and debates.

The rationale of this discrimination is the interpretation of a few passages of scripture in the Bible that is used to justify discrimination of the LGBT community. Haggling over interpretations of the Bible is a no-win situation that only leaves everyone frustrated. Taking Jesus’ mandate to love everyone as ourselves is the basis for a solution to the conflict.

Some politicians in the current election cycle are once again using the LGBT community as a bogeyman to imply that we are a threat to Christian moral values. In fact, Christianity was formed by challenging the traditional 613 Jewish laws of the First Century. It established that the true moral values existed in a person’s heart and mind rather than a self-righteous pursuit of strict legalism. Surely, we have come beyond that debate in the intervening centuries.