Violence and hate require the response of a real pastor

This article appears in the Election 2016 feature series. View the full series.

The response of one pastor puts into focus not only the issue of gay rights and Christianity, but the relative importance of doctrinal and pastoral considerations. There has been some change among Christian denominations on their doctrinal stance toward homosexuality, but I think it is fair to say that the majority of Christian churches consider homosexuality a disorder, or at least consider homosexual acts sinful. Yet few have taken the stance of Pastor Roger Jimenez, from a Baptist church in Sacramento, Calif.

Jimenez praised the mass shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando. He said that Orlando is safer after 49 "pedophiles" were killed. He commented that the tragedy was that more didn't die. Jimenez wished aloud that the shooter had "finished the job." About 1,000 protesters showed up in opposition to his message. They somehow understood that the message he was preaching was not an authentic Christian message.

Pope Francis has been trying to show Catholic Christians, and indeed all Christians, a better way. In an article from early in Pope Francis' papacy, David Cornell overstates the case that the church is changing its doctrinal stance on homosexuality. He does, however, understand correctly the message Pope Francis is sending. People are more important than the decisions they make about homosexuality or birth control.

Support independent Catholic journalism. Become an NCR Forward member for $5 a month.

It is also clear that Pope Francis continues to drive this message. In his latest interview while returning from his trip to Armenia, Francis again repeats his earlier message of "Who am I to judge?" Pope Francis said that we need to apologize and ask forgiveness for mistreatment of gays and other groups that we have marginalized.

Clearly the message is that relationships and people are more important than specific doctrines. Doctrine has its place, but the Christian instinct should be to reach out to the other with understanding and compassion rather than condemnation and judgment. What is missing from Pastor Jimenez's response to Orlando is our common humanity and a pastor's care for his people.

Catholics and other Christians still have a long way to go in showing mercy and understanding to those perceived as different. Francis has even gone further to say that we are the ones who need to ask forgiveness. There is simply no place in any part of Christianity for the comments of Pastor Jimenez to the events in Orlando.


Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here

Advertisement