We will choose love over hate despite church vandalism
Claire T. Ackleow
On Wednesday, November 17, our Progressive Pride flagpole and flag was stolen from Faith Lutheran Church, ELCA in New Albany, and “LEV 20-13” was spray painted on our building. Luckily no one was hurt and it was noticed almost immediately. We promptly notified the police, who are treating this as a hate crime.
There’s a lot of debate about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but the truth is that the word “homosexual” has only been in the Bible for less than 100 years. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible used the word “homosexual” in its 1946 translation, but before that the word “homosexual” did not even exist in the scriptures. It was this simple mistranslation of the original Hebrew and Greek scripture that started much of the debate over homosexuality. What the scripture actually criticizes is sexual activity that is exploitative or coercive.
Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with a man as with a woman, both have committed an abomination; they will be put to death; their blood is on them. The word “abomination” here does not refer to inherently evil behavior, but to acts that are ritually unclean. These acts also include things like eating shrimp, getting tattoos, and wearing clothes that combine natural and synthetic materials. All of these are considered “abominations” according to the Old Testament scriptures.
Jesus himself, however, chose to read the scriptures through a lens of grace and compassion rather than reading them literally. When the religious leaders brought a woman accused of adultery to Jesus, he did not literally interpret the ancient scriptures by stoning her to death. He went against what was written in the Holy Scriptures. Instead, he said, “Let him who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at him (John 8:7).”
This unfortunate incident of vandalism specifically targeted our church as well as the LGBTQIA+ community in general. Faith Lutheran Church is an LGBTQIA+ affirming church, and what this individual has done goes against our Christian principles of openness and inclusion. We believe what Paul wrote in Romans is true, that “love does not hurt a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). Thus, fulfilling the law is no longer about adhering to Levitical laws, but rather fulfilling the law means loving one another. As it is written in John 1:17, “The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. As Jesus himself says in John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I loved you, you too must love one another. This is the new covenant that Jesus Christ made in his own blood for all people. We therefore believe that all people are sacred and holy, created in the image of God, and that all are worthy of God’s love.
Faith Lutheran Church is committed to fighting bigotry of all kinds, and this incident makes us even more determined to continue to fight against all forms of discrimination. We stand for justice and equality for all, and Faith Lutheran Church is a safe place for those who are marginalized or oppressed.
I would like to encourage readers to be more tolerant, not to indulge in hatred, to do more research into what the Bible really says and its context, and to remember that any version of the Bible we read (unless whether we read the original Hebrew or Greek) is an imperfect translation of what was originally written.
Reverend Claire T. Ackleow is the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Jeffersonville, IN.
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