Saturday, February 11, 2012

Des Moines Church: "Gay Is Not Okay"

Rev. Michael Demastus of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ decided to preach about (and presumably against) homosexuality this Sunday. He has titled his sermon "Gay is Not Okay" and used his church sign to advertise that sermon. Shortly afterwards, Patrick Boltinghouse of West Des Moines saw the sign and got angry. He posted against the sign on Facebook and eventually a "People against the bigots at Fort Des Moines Church of Christ" Facebook page got created. This Facebook group is now planning a protest for 8-11 AM this Sunday at the church and roughly 200 people have indicated that they will attend the protest.

Demastus reports that he and his church have receives tons of negative responses to the "Gay is Not Okay" sign, including three threats to his home and family. The church's own Facebook page had to be shut down due to harassment. The church marquee itself was vandalized. And now the "Gay is Not Okay" message has been replaced with "Adultery is Not Okay".

What a mess.

Demastus says that he's just preaching against homosexuality, not homosexuals. In other words, he is preaching against gay relationships and families and marriages, not gay people and family members. I disagree with his message and I disagree with his parsing. You can't really separate people from their relationships and families. It wouldn't work if I said that I love and support Joe Hetero, but I am totally against his marriage to Jane Hetero and their relationship. But Demastus has the right to preach against homosexuality. His church has the right to establish its own rules for the type of behavior that it condones and the types of members that it allows to join its flock.

Yes, Boltinghouse has the right to organize a protest against that church. I'm just not sure what it will accomplish. And I'm also not sure that it won't backfire against the GLBT communities of Iowa. The Des Moines Register reports that Demastus had earlier expressed fear that he would be prosecuted for preaching against homosexuality. "If I go to jail, I'll still be preaching it in jail." Doesn't this protest and the accompanying siege of harassment against this church just feed into this fear?

I don't agree with his message, but Demastus has the right to preach against homosexuality. Just like I have the right to lead a shared ministry worship services at my own church as talk about the blessings of all families, including GLBT families. Iowa is fortunate to be a marriage equality state. Frankly, we need to do what we can to keep it that way. We need to fight the good fights -- such as when politicians attempt to introduce anti-marriage constitutional amendments or when the state refuses to treat married gay or lesbian parents equally to married heterosexual parents. But we also need to learn to let things pass us by -- such as an anti-gay church marquee.

My faith and my family won't get hurt this weekend by Demastus preaching against us to his flock. Neither will Iowa's other gay or lesbian families. But incidents that threaten his expression of religious liberties now could very well hurt our families in the long run.

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