Anchorage's Proposition 1 is irreconcilable with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In seeking to allow legal discrimination against transgender people, Prop. 1 sadly stands in a long line of efforts to misuse the teachings of scripture for harm. As Christian leaders in Anchorage, we affirm our call to stand with the marginalized in every era — as Jesus did. We also acknowledge and continue to repent for the Church's long history of efforts to draw circles of exclusion.
We have heard the call of the Gospel, time and time again, to tear down the artificial barriers we have erected. We believe God is continually reminding us that discrimination is not a Godly, moral, or Christian value.
If we look into our own history as Christians in Alaska, we see that the church has a painful legacy of discrimination. As with other places around North America, Christian missionaries sought to stamp out Native languages and cultures. Church leaders founded residential schools to remove children from their families and culture. This legacy continues to impact the relationship between Christianity and Native Alaskan ancestral traditions and culture.
We affirm that we, as Christians, cannot stand by and watch another group of God's children face similar and continued discrimination in our city and state.
The book of Acts in the Bible tells the story of the early church. The first disciples, a group of first century Palestinian Jews, wrestled with how to carry on the Jesus movement. Who could they include? Could non-Jews (Gentiles) join this new movement?
In Acts 10 we find a story of the Apostle Peter receiving a puzzling vision from God in which a voice tells him: "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." Peter received this as a reminder that there is no boundary to God's love. God does not exclude. Peter took this message to the Gentiles, teaching "that God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34).
Likewise in Acts we read the story of the Apostle Paul, who became a missionary to the Gentile world — to the world of "outsiders." Paul went on to teach that there are no longer any distinctions to separate us, for all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3, Colossians 3).
The church has had a hard time remembering these lessons. We so often forget that God seeks only to include, and never to exclude.
We confess the truth that the Bible has been misused to oppress people of color, to reinforce the sinful institutions of slavery and racism. We give thanks for the prophetic voices of people like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King Jr. who led the church and nation away from those beliefs.
We confess the truth that the Bible has been misused to oppress women, to keep them from leadership in the church and society. We give thanks for the prophetic voices of people like Hildegard of Bingen, Harriet Tubman, and Susan B. Anthony who advocated and acted for religious, physical and civic equality.
We confess that the Bible is often used to oppress transgender people today. However, we believe that the story of God is not finished, and our sacred stories continue to challenge us to boldly participate in the expansive love of God.
In Luke 10, an expert in scripture asks Jesus what he must do to live. Jesus asks the man what is written, and the man replies with the teachings of scripture: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Jesus affirms this as the correct answer.
But wanting to test Jesus, the questioner persists, "Who is my neighbor?"
Jesus then shares the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a Samaritan, whose identity made him an outsider and even an enemy, a neighbor likely viewed as unworth loving, provided assistance and care for a man who had been beat and left alongside the road. A man who others had hurried by.
In this parable Jesus is teaching that everyone, especially those we have tried to put aside as the other, are our neighbors and worthy of our respect and inclusion.
In this moment, Christians, whether active members of congregations or distanced from organized churches, cannot remain silent and allow our transgender friends, neighbors and family to continue to be attacked and marginalized by public policy, especially policies proposed by other Christians. However, we cannot abdicate guilt completely. Within our congregations and communities, boundaries still exist, and the Gospel calls us to faithfully challenge the ways in which we use them to exclude people.
Every time we seek to discriminate, to draw lines of separation, we are claiming that we know who God would include, or more so, who God would exclude. The Gospel itself is a constant rejection of this idea. It challenges us to remove barriers, and to welcome with radical hospitality.
We think we know what love is, what it acts like, but do we? When we put up walls to protect what we consider to be some kind of religious purity, deeper love is not found but squandered. By creating boundaries to designate who is worthy or not of our full care and love we limit love's ability to impact us as well. For Jesus, love is not protected, but risked bravely. So are we, as Christians, called to love bravely and recklessly, as if there is nothing that could ever separate us from the loving presence of God (Romans 8:38-39).
If this is the kind of love you feel called by as a person of faith, or simply as a human being, then vote no on Prop 1.
Rev. Jacob Poindexter is pastor of First Congregational Church; Rev. Nico Romeijn-Stout is a pastor at St. John United Methodist Church; Rev. Rachel Simpson is a pastor at Unity of Anchorage. This piece was co-signed by more than 20 Anchorage faith leaders.
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