The above headline reads like many of the headlines we’re seeing in the news nowadays. The difference is, for me, this time the pastor who did something stupid and cruel in the name of God is a person I grew up with—a first cousin, to be exact. His name is Andrew Lemus. He is a pastor at the Church of Christ in Norco, California. Recently, this cousin of mine gave a funeral for a Christian man who struggled most of his life as a closeted gay. My cousin Andrew knew this when he agreed to preside over this funeral. Yet, afterward, Andrew posted the following to his Facebook account:
“I am coming out of the closet. I am sad, upset, and concerned that many celebrate the sin of homosexuality. I won’t applaud ungodly actions that are physically and spiritually destructive.”
My cousin is a bigot. There is no other way to look at it. Sure, he justifies his hate on the basis of “it’s what God wants.” But the God he follows also demands death for speaking ill of your own father. By that logic, Andrew should’ve been executed many times over.
The beautiful thing is, views are changing. I doubt ten years ago Andrew’s behavior would’ve so much as generated a sliver of public outcry. But for the last few days my cousin’s Facebook page has been flooded with negative comments from friends, parishioners, and even a few family members. This is how change happens. When each and everyone of us decides to deal with the bigotry in our lives.
Which brings me to now.
Because I refuse to turn a blind eye to my cousin’s ugliness I am being pressured by family to shut-up. Supposedly my actions are causing too much discord within the Lemus clan. I disagree. Andrew lit this fire when he chose to go public with his ignorance and hate. Any decent human being would do what I am, which is speaking up, speaking out, and refusing to accept the bigot in my own backyard.
I recall years ago I once told my mother about a teacher who’d been using class time to disparage Catholics. My mother, a lifelong Catholic, was at the school the very next day demanding this man be fired. When Gov. Pete Wilson attempted to pass racist immigrant laws my mother spent long nights organization public opposition. Clearly, this is a woman who is not afraid to take a stand. So why is it when our own family is the problem, standing up to hate is off limits? And what does turning a blind eye to intolerance communicate to the gay members of our family? It says keeping the peace is more important than their right to be treated as human beings. Would my family be just as silent if Andrew openly expressed his God’s views on rape? Or even slavery? The Old Testament God is pretty okay with rape and slavery. How about Jews? My sister and brother are both married to “Christ killers.” Would my family speak up if that were the issue?
Turning a blind eye, especially when it comes to family, is how hate lives on and is allowed to breed. If we are going to overcome the big issues facing this nation, we first need to address them at home.