A Personal Reflection on the UMC's Decision


By Sarah Ngu

I've been in therapy long enough to know that one of the main goals is basically to stop trying to punish yourself for not being _____ enough and to accept, even love, yourself.

And this is what the church preaches every weekend, which is why people love it, especially in our “meritocratic,” competitive, capitalist system in which we are increasingly defined by our productivity and our jobs, and in which we measure our days by “how many things we got done” and how “efficient” we are. These are all capitalistic values. The message of the church—that we are immeasurably worthy and loved, without our having to strive or achieve anything—is a needed balm for our harried souls.

The funny thing is that it seems the church felt like this message was too good to be true, and to make it easier to swallow, they added extra rules. It's the opposite of a sugar pill. In this case, the sugar is too sweet, and people don't believe it's actually good for you, so they add some bitter packaging. That's how you get the trope, "God's love for you is free, but it ain't cheap." That's how you get the sacrificial love of Jesus paired with the gory wrath of God.

In essence, the divine message of unconditional love somehow gets warped into a “Soul Watchers” program of “Am I good enough for God?” And so, the church churns out Christians who really trying to keep in God's good graces, trapped in a collectively imposed prison.

Then the queer people show up. And they say, "Look, I'm just blessed and you know it and there's nothing I have to do to prove myself worthy of God's love, no matter what verse you throw at me.” And the establishment Christians can't handle it, because it means they will have to stop judging not only others but also themselves. So they decide it’s better just to imprison everyone or to kick people out who refused to be imprisoned, because it's safer behind bars.

So, church, whether you are the United Methodist Church or whomever, when you kick the queers out, you are kicking out—as a friend, Van F., said to me—the very people who know what radical grace looks like and who are living it out. You are expelling the prophets among you, the very people who can awaken you to your cage.

The stone that the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone. Can I get an Amen?

Sarah Ngu lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is the cofounder of Church Clarity and host of the Religious Socialism podcast.

(Image by Leonard J. DeFrancisci, via wikimedia.org.)