News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 13, 2013

FLASHPOINT: A pastor speaks out against Sullivan’s ‘traditional prom’

By Paul McGlasson
Presbyterian minister, Sullivan

---- — I am a pastor in Sullivan, Ind., and I am outraged.

Recently, two young students applied to walk the Grand March together in the school prom in Sullivan. They are both female. They are not the first same-sex couple to attend the prom together; they are, however, the first same-sex couple to apply to walk the Grand March — a festive introduction of attending couples before gathered friends and family in the high school gym — together. The school decided that in fact they did not need “permission;” the law grants the right to walk, so the only measure necessary is simply to sign up.

As soon as their desire became known, furor broke out. The social media was lit up in Sullivan, mostly by a group advocating action against the couple. Then, many of the clergy joined the chorus against the couple, and some have gone on record advocating either abandoning the Grand March altogether in protest; or pulling the couple aside to “explain” why it would be best not to march; or, finally, holding a separate “traditional” prom. And in fact — as the national media have become aware — a group has formed to begin planning a second, “traditional” prom; as yet no plans are clear, nor are the numbers known.

As an American citizen I am of course appalled — in fact, outraged — at the bullying tactics of those who wish to marginalize, stigmatize, and ultimately put nothing short of a target on the backs of these two young women. In a day when the civil rights of all people are recognized as the foundation of our democracy, I shake my head in wonder that such hatred and sheer bitter inhumanity can still exist in our world. Furthermore, LGBTQ teens are one of the highest risks for suicide, and here is another example of the bigotry, hatred and bullying they must endure.

And yet, my fullest anger is reserved for those who support this action in the name of Christianity, which is mentioned routinely among those who support a second prom. In the name of Jesus Christ, who said: “do not judge, lest you be judged,” this group of “Christians” would stand in judgment over others to the extent of not daring to share the same dancing space with those they think morally inferior to themselves.

I am sure they think their alternative prom is “separate but equal;” but it is a dance of the scribes and Pharisees, not the joyful noise of the Lord. The community of faith in Jesus Christ stands in solidarity with civil rights for homosexuals as for all people, period. To do otherwise is to turn our back on the gospel itself.

Paul McGlasson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sullivan. He received his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and his Ph.D. from Yale University in Systematic Theology. He is the author of several books, including “God the Redeemer,” “Canon and Proclamation,” and “Invitation to Dogmatic Theology.” Before entering the parish ministry, McGlasson taught theology for several years in college and in seminary.