The following press clipping was sent to me [Andy Long: I don't know whom this "me" refers to] and reported to be published in the Appleton Post-Crescent on Sunday, March 29 [presumably 1998]:
Dear Reggie White,
I've only heard good things about you, and nobody for a moment doubts your greatness as an athlete. But if your words to the (Wisconsin) legislature this week were accurately reported, I'm troubled, and in particular about what you said about homosexuality.
I write to you as one ordained minister to another. As the Bible is the founding document of every Christian church in the world, it can't be taken seriously enough. But if you take the Bible seriously, you can't take it literally - not all of it.
For instance, in the book of Leviticus, it is a "toevah" - an abomination - not only to eat bacon, sausage and ribs, it is sinful even to touch the skin of a dead pig. If you thought that insight valid today, would you be playing football?
Homosexuality is not a big issue for Biblical writers. In the 66 books of Scripture (71 if you're Roman Catholic), only seven verses refer to homosexual behavior. Some time ago, I picked up a pamphlet entitled "What did Jesus say about homosexuality?" Opening it, I came across two blank pages. Closing it, I read on the back, "That's right, nothing."
St. Paul thought all men were straight. He assumed all homosexual activity was done by heterosexuals.
This assumption is true as well of Old Testament writers, which means that all the Biblical passages used to flay gays and lesbians have really nothing whatsoever to say about constitutionally gay people in genuinely loving relationships.
As Christians, we don't honor the higher truth we find in Christ by ignoring truths found elsewhere. I'm impressed that the American Psychological Asociation does not consider homosexuality an illness, and that natural scientists have discovered homosexuality in mammals, birds and insects. Clearly, God is more comfortable with diversity than we are!
In my experience, a lot of people talk in the abstract about homosexuality being a sin, but without first-hand knowledge of gays and lesbians. Wouldn't it be better to talk *with* rather than *about* homosexuals?
I write you all this in large part because today the "gay agenda" has replaced the "communist threat" as the battering ram of reactionary politics. It grieves me to see you put your considerable muscle behind such a blunt instrument of prejudice.
We live in a land of great prejudice and you as an African American and I as a white man have had to overcome the differences we have invented about one another. It is urgent that men and women, gays and straights, do the same, for as James Baldwin described us, "Each of us, helplessly and forever contains the other - We are a part of each other."
--Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Lawrence University
(Editor's note:) The Rev. William Sloane Coffin spent the 1995-96 academic year at Lawrence Univrsity as the Edward Scarff Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies. He is now a visiting professor at Lawrence.
Additional information not published in the Post-Crescent: Rev. Sloane Coffin has been active the civil rights movement for nearly four decades. In 1962, we was a Freedom Rider in the black civil rights movement in the South. As chaplain at Harvard, he provided sanctuary to draft-resistors to the Vietnam war. In 1979, he was one of four clergy permitted to minister to the Americans held hostage in the U. S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Rev. Sloane Coffin has been active in the gay civil rights movement, marching with his wife and at times with his (straight) children in Gay Pride parades in New York and other cities.