“Yeeeah, Sydney!” the songwriter and comedian Tim Minchin shouts into a microphone. “Are you up for a . . . sing?”The crowd laughs a little nervously when Minchin, an outspoken atheist, begins to sing, “I love Jesus, I love Jesus.” They bought tickets to a comedy show, not a religious revival. Minchin prompts the audience to join him. “Who do you love?” he asks. “Sing it!” Soon the whole crowd is singing “I love Jesus, I love Jesus,” along with Minchin, in a video that has been viewed half a million times on YouTube.Homosexuality is not sinful per se but homosexual acts are still considered mortally sinful. Old catechisms rank sodomy among the sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance. It isn't Chu's homosexuality that is his ticket to hell. All of us are sinners. I'm no better than Chu. I'm probably a good deal worse in many ways. If Chu goes to hell it would be for the same reason any of us might go to hell: a final refusal to repent, confess, and do penance. Of course Christ loves Chu and everyone else. That's why he came to us.
Then Minchin changes the lyrics: “I love Jesus, I hate faggots,” he sings. “I love Jesus, I hate faggots.” The crowd stops singing along. Minchin looks up from his guitar, pretending not to understand what the problem could be.“What happened? I just lost you there,” Minchin says. He makes a halfhearted attempt to get the singalong going again before giving up. “Ah, well,” he shrugs. “Maybe these are ideas best shared in churches.” Those ideas — loving Jesus means hating gay people — are proclaimed in Christian churches and on Christian television and radio broadcasts. The combined efforts of the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, “The 700 Club,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Westboro Baptist Church, and countless conservative Christian activists, preachers and politicians have succeeded in making antigay bigotry seem synonymous with Christianity. This can cause a lot of heartache — with sometimes devastating consequences — for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children born into fundamentalist or evangelical Christian families. Such was the case for Jeff Chu, the author of “Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America.” Chu is an accomplished journalist who recently married his male partner. But Chu’s mother, a devout Baptist, didn’t attend her son’s wedding. She still cries herself to sleep every night, Chu writes, tormented by the certainty that her gay son is “lost.” As a child, Chu adored the song “Jesus Loves Me.” But does Jesus love him now that he’s an openly gay adult? Chu has his doubts: “There are still moments when I wonder whether my homosexuality is my ticket to hell.”
Scoffers are wont to ask, "How could a good and loving God possibly condemn anyone to burn in hell for all eternity?" The correct answer is that he doesn't. Strictly speaking, God does not send anyone to hell. We freely choose to go to hell when we choose to do evil. We choose an eternity of pain when we choose to turn away from God through sin. God gave us free will, and free will means that we can choose to follow God, or not. We can choose to obey the commandments of Christ, or not. Hell is a consequence of freedom of choice. If a man goes to hell it is, pun intended, his own damned fault. God gives you until the moment of your death to ask forgiveness. It's not God's fault if man turns away from him.
Pieces like this one in the New York Times are transparent attempts at emotional manipulation. It is absolutely true that practicing homosexuals are welcome in church or at Mass. They, like all other unrepentant sinners, must be exhorted to repent and ask forgiveness. Priests and pastors of souls take note: Scripture is quite clear that if you do not call your people to repent of their sins, if you do not teach them good from evil, then you yourselves will be held accountable for every soul that went astray on your watch. You are failing in your duty and in Christian charity if you do not teach the commandments.
Unrepentant homosexuals, that is those who are actively living that lifestyle, are either in danger of hell or they're not. If they are, then no amount of phony-baloney, plastic banana, good-time-rock-and-roll pastoral gobbledygook is going to change that. Only repentance on their part will. Within the Catholic Church there have been numerous "gay friendly" Masses throughout the last few decades. Charity doesn't always mean engagement. Everyone should refuse to give a drink to an alcoholic. If he asks you for one, sometimes the most charitable thing to do is tell him he's a stinking drunk who needs help.
At my old job, once I had gained a reputation as the local religious extremist, my co-workers would often ask me, "Will I go to hell if I do this?" or "Am I going to hell for doing that?" I always replied that they were making a category error. In a sense, the only thing that can send you to hell is your own refusal to be sorry for your sins and to ask God to forgive you.