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September 9, 2003


Dear Editor:

I was saddened to read Rev. Bill Pawson's response to Earl Apel on September 8, 2003. I definitely agree with his closing statement: When will God's faithful people say "Enough is enough"?

In the City of New York, the opening day of the new school year was marked by protests about a school catering to homosexual students. Having been born and raised in a nearby rural (now more suburban) community, the existence of this school has disturbed me for a number of reasons. I was disturbed out of concern about the unknown or variable nature of human sexuality, particularly during development. I was disturbed because "separate but equal" seems to be inherently wrong. I was disturbed because a group of kids have been sidetracked because they are "different." Mustn't kids be exposed to their neighbors in the (admittedly merciless) public school systems to learn how to get along? That's the way I grew up, and it was fine for me!

On the way to work today, I heard an interview with opponents of the school who had travelled great distances to make a statement about their Christian faith. Amid all of banter, I heard a horrifying profession of faith come from a child's mouth. "God doesn't like fags. They will go to hell." The child knew the correct citation from Leviticus, but spoke not one word of grace, of hope, of compassion. If Christ had asked for one who was pure to cast the first stone, this child would surely have thrown one!

Reason, compassion and discernment of God's will, as given to us in scripture, all cry out against our complicity in hate crimes committed out of homophobia. Yes, it is true that the PC(USA) makes it clear that hate crimes are wrong, that judgment is God's, not ours, and that we must approach scripture with humility. Yet somehow we know that we aren't doing enough. As a lifelong Presbyterian in a denomination that confesses to be composed of sinners (100%, as I recall), I admit to being troubled that we have not been able to live in a tenuous truce with our own brothers and sisters in Christ over issues about sexuality. Some feel the need to make public acts of noncompliance, rather than using their own pastoral discretion. Yet others feel the need for a continuous witch-hunt for purity among the faithful.

When will God's faithful people say "Enough is enough!"

In a series of letters and Viewpoints in 2001-2, I addressed many of the errors and misconceptions that Rev. Pawson repeated in his letter, and see no advantage in addressing them yet again. However, I do feel that I should note that he misunderstands the classic "nature-nurture" controversy, and that "conspiracy theories" in psychiatry and sociology should be of no greater relevance to faithful Presbyterians than "theories" about ancient astronauts with arks from outer space. More importantly, I find his mention of STDs to a monagamous, faithful Presbyterian to be irrelevant, if not rude. Still, I'll give Rev. Pawson the benefit of the doubt. I've stated things a bit too saliently myself from time to time – if this is one of them, I apologize.

An additional point about hate crimes: Nearer to my home is a town that has become populated by hispanic immigrants, many of whom are illegal aliens. A while back, it became the site of a hate-crime abduction. More recently, some kids tossed fireworks in a window and accidentally started a fire. A tragic accident that almost cost the family their lives. A stupid accident that left them homeless. Some immediately called it a hate crime. Others said it was just kids being kids. Kids who chose that house just because of who was living in it. The following Saturday, I had reason to pass the 7-11 in that town, and noticed the lines of day-workers waiting for odd jobs that teenagers used to eagerly do – jobs that seem to go undone nowadays. The very sight itself is alien to the region, more reminiscent of border towns in the southwest. A handful of white protesters held up signs demanding the deportation of illegal aliens. Why aren't the town, county and INS enforcing the laws? What's a good citizen to do to protect their way of life, their jobs, their schools, their property values?

I'm not wise enough to have the answers. I just know that sometimes we find ourselves concerned about the wrong things, follow the wrong signs for what seem to be the right reasons. Rev. Pawson will find these observations to be irrelevant or manipulative. Another reader will certainly perceive it as yet another loose association by an unpatiotic, fuzzy-headed "LIBERAL." I only hope and pray that most readers, the great middle of our historic denomination, will understand that sometimes the most important lessons that we teach our children are not the ones we had in mind.

When will God's faithful people say "Enough is enough"?

My heart and prayers go out to Deacon Apel and his torn congregation. I pray that God provides him with the strength and ability to discern His path through this turmoil of our making. I also pray for my weary and confused denomination – faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, all.

Yours in Christ,

Craig E. Tenke, Ph.D.
elder, Center Moriches, NY
neuroscientist, NYS Psychiatric Institute, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York City, New York

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