Mennonite Publications Should Uplift the Community

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This article was also published in Mennonite World Review.

Mennonite publications play an essential role in the life of our community. Not only do they share news from Anabaptist communities around the world, but they’re also a vital forum on which we can have honest and sometimes difficult conversations about things that matter most. No matter how we engage with one another, the goal should be the same– to build and uplift our community and to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

A recent post from Harold Miller’s personal blog was re-published on Mennonite World Review. In it, Harold made a case against supporting same-sex relationships and advocated celibacy for those of us who are LGBTQ. It’s a case he’s made before in Mennonite publications and on his own blog. Except this time he used a racist analogy to support his views. According to him, the church should be free to discriminate against LGBTQ people because we can choose how we respond to our romantic desires. But he contrasts this with Black people on the basis that they have no choice over their skin color, implying that Black people would want to if they could.

But why should Black people want to change their skin? There’s nothing wrong with being Black. But there is something profoundly wrong with a society that treats people as less than human based on the color of their skin. In the same way, there’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQ. But there’s something profoundly wrong with a church that denies people full inclusion on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Fortunately, Executive Director of MCUSA, Glen Guyton responded publicly a couple days later, saying “Only hatred and evil equate our skin color with being less than...The author suggests that being white is better or something blacks aspire to. We don’t regret our identity.” And also that, “Talking about the need for long term study and data collection on people in the LGBTQ community sounds more like eugenics and less like the gospel of Christ.” This response was important and valuable, but it never should have been necessary. Miller’s article shouldn’t have been published in the first place.

While Miller later amended the language of the post and apologized for the racist phrase, the racist undertones continue to prop up the analogy. Not only is it racist, but its basic logic is false. Sure, nobody chooses their race. But neither does anybody choose their queer or trans identity. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those.

In reality, the appropriate comparison would be between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. Again, this shows just how racist the analogy is. The argument that we should not be married because same-sex marriage is a choice was applied in the same way to interracial marriages. For centuries, white Christians argued that interracial marriages run directly against human nature and biblical values. They acknowledged that nobody picked their race, but that interracial marriage was a choice. That was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

But racism is never acceptable and should never be given a platform.

In our communities, there are a variety of views on LGBTQ inclusion. In my opinion, Miller’s writings on LGBTQ people are hateful, harmful, and stand in opposition to Christ’s love. I understand that not everyone may feel that way. But at the very least, we should all agree that white-supremacy is unacceptable in our communities and in our publications. It directly harms Mennonites of color, who by the way are the majority of Mennonites globally, and it tarnishes the integrity of the rest of the Mennonite church.

The Mennonite world is large and diverse. Unfortunately there will always be those among us whose words divide us and break down community. We cannot necessarily silence but them, but at the very least we can choose not to amplify their voices. It is okay, and even necessary, to have a diversity of opinions about a range of important issues facing the life of the church. But racism is never acceptable and should never be given a platform. Moving forward, it is imperative that Mennonite publications focus on building and uplifting the community. That will mean seeking out and amplifying a diversity of voices, and especially those who have been minoritized or oppressed within our communities.

Scott Sprunger