Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ministerial Malpractice?

 Previously, I (and others) have suggested that the existence of ex-gay "conversion therapy," via its promotion of the idea that being lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) is "defective," is abusive to LGB people.

 Over at Religion Dispatches, Rev. Cody J. Sanders goes follows a similar way of thinking and argues for the coining of the concept of "Ministerial Malpractice":
"Violence against queer people runs much deeper than physical bullying, verbal harassment, or even hate-crime murder. It is a violence that takes place at the level of the psyche, the soul—at the very level at which our sense of “self” is constructed within our relation to society.

It is a type of violence that cannot be assessed by examining bruises. Violence against queer people in any form is an ideologically aggravated, theologically intensified violence—legitimated by a discourse about queer people that is already embedded in the lives of both attacker and victim.


 Of the three classic 'professions' (law, medicine, and divinity), we are well aware of malpractice in the medical and legal professions. But we don’t talk much about ministerial malpractice, aside from cases of criminal child sexual abuse that have come to light in myriad denominations.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the negligent attitudes of clergy and congregations concerning the violence being enacted upon queer lives—not just the violence of bullying, but the persistent injury to the bodies, psyches, and souls of queer people.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the youth minister who invites representatives of 'ex-gay' ministries to speak to teenagers because these “practices of love” are theologically responsible, despite evidence of their destructive power.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the pastor who knows the realities of violence enacted upon queer lives and is deeply concerned, but who, nevertheless, avoids any mention of sexuality in the pulpit so as not to upset parishioners.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the theological scholar who prevaricates in public when asked about concerns of justice for queer lives—not even out of a sense of personal conviction on the matter, but in order to protect a public career: speaking invitations, book deals.

By ministerial malpractice, I mean the congregation that skirts around open discussions of queer affirmation, inclusion, and justice because they don’t want to become a 'gay church' or (more liberally) they don’t want to be 'defined by that one issue.'”
 It's an idea certainly worthy of conversation and debate, especially given that many religious folks who hold anti-gay beliefs are reluctant to truly own those beliefs.

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