The Roman Catholic Church has historically championed the sanctity and indissolubility of Christian marriage. Divorced and remarried Catholics are forbidden to receive the Eucharist, which is the heart of Catholic worship. Pope Francis has called the bishops to a Synod on the Family to rethink the Catholic tradition on marriage. The Synod has proved to be quite controversial and messy (see here and here). The Anglican Church has its own difficulties with this issue (here).
Recently, the mayor of Houston, Texas – the Honorable Annise Parker – directed her attorneys to subpoena the sermons, messages, speeches, etc. of selected pastors and religious leaders in the Houston area. At issue is a legal challenge to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Frankly, I don’t object to the straightforward reading of the ordinance. Christians should demonstrate the love and grace of Christ to all humans – saints and sinners – and support basic human rights. I do have major concerns about the legalization of same-sex marriage or the legal redefinition of marriage. As a Christian pastor I will continue to preach and teach the sexual ethics of the New Testament, including the prohibition of pre-marital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.
I remember the 1980’s AIDS scare. People were carrying cans of disinfectant spray in fear of contracting the AIDS virus. When a Florida pastor discovered that one of his families had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, he announced it to his congregation and to the world. The family became outcast in their church and community. Throughout the world AIDS sufferers were the new lepers – to be avoided at all cost. Even though the medical community tried to educate the public, fear prevailed. Decades later this horrible disease still afflicts, but the apocalyptic pandemic never materialized.
Pope Francis has declared that Roman Catholics need to demonstrate joy in their liturgy. When discussing this with a Catholic brother he told me that “most of American Catholicism is shaped by Irish spirituality.” Likewise, most of American Protestantism is shaped by German spirituality. In other words, whether Protestant or Catholic, most of Christian spirituality in the United States is formed by European culture.