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Jesus Loves the Little Children

Remember when you were little – three, five, seven years old – and you promised that you would marry your mommy or your daddy when you grew up? Remember when you were little – three, five, seven years old – and you told your best friend you loved him or her even though you were both little boys or little girls? Well, most of us outgrew those childhood vows. Most of us grew up and married other people. Many of us grew up and married other boys or other girls.

Regardless, when we said those things, no one freaked out. No one punished us. No one condemned us to hell for our amorous imaginations. No, they just thought we were sweet.

One would think, wouldn’t one?

Well not the administrators of Rejoice Christian School, in Owasso, Oklahoma, a northern suburb of Tulsa. Yes, I had to look it up. Last week, a second-grader and her five-year old brother were expelled from Rejoice because the older child told her classmate that she had a ‘crush’ on her. According to CNN, the school's handbook prohibits "any form of sexual immorality" and students who do not follow those rules forfeit the "privilege" of attending the school.

Delanie Shelton, the little girl’s mother, recounted that after the incident, “the vice principal sat her down and says the bible says you can only marry a man and have children with a man.”

Does a seven-year old need to hear that?

“My daughter was crying saying 'Does God still love me?'"

Yes, Chloe. God still loves you.

"I was so blindsided. I was angry, hurt, betrayed, sad … so many different emotions. I just couldn't believe it. I asked him to have a sit down meeting to discuss it and process it better and he refused, saying that 'nothing more needed to be discussed.'"

“Nothing more needed to be discussed” because, according to the vice-principal, “they don't condone same-sex relationships on campus.”

One wonders if this vice-principal (the ironic pun in his title is too much on the nose to bother with) or anyone else in administration or the faculty of Rejoice, for that matter, knows anything about child development and human psychology. Again, Chloe is seven. Give her five minutes, and she will be on to a new best friend, a new crush. Are any childhood friendships actual relationships?

Rejoice Christian School is clearly founded on Christian principles. No surprise and, generally, no problem. Until, of course, those tenets are used as a bludgeon of self-righteousness or when the teachings of Jesus are ignored completely.

Actually, Jesus says nothing about same-sex relationships. It’s St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians and Timothy, who excludes “men who have sex with men” from the Kingdom of God. I was at a Baptist university for 16 years, and I always marveled at how they invariably privileged Paul over Jesus, to the point that we didn’t even stand for the Gospel reading until I pointed out the patent disrespect for the Word, and the policy changed. This at a place where a student told me that I was going to Hell because I wasn’t born again.

Yes, Chloe. God still loves you.

The Old Testament, Leviticus in particular, is where homosexuality is condemned:  "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable" (18:22) and "If a man lies with a man as one lies with woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads" (20:13). Leviticus is also the place where many find justification in calling masturbation a sin.

Homosexuality is not a choice. No one wakes up in the morning and decides to willingly join the most vilified minority in the world. Not on a dare. Not for all the money in the world.

Homosexuality is not a sin. Many who practice the three Abrahamic religions would disagree, but I read the Bible differently here. Yes, I see it as a sacred text and a poetic text. But I also see it as a historical text that documents the founding of a nation. Thus, prohibitions against behaviors that are not conducive to building a community, such as, let’s say, sex without procreation, would be outlawed and, moreover, damned. How better to get conformity than to scare someone to hell who fails to conform.

And I see the New Testament as replacing the old Thou Shall Nots with the Thou Shalls of love and compassion and inclusivity.

Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).

He does not say that they had better not be holding hands.

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