Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Ugly Face of Religious Based Homophobia

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With three children of my own, one grandchild and another one on the way, I find few things more incomprehensible that throwing away one's own child based on a few passages in a book that is selectively read for every other purpose.  Yes, I am talking about the Bible - a book I suspect has caused more harm than good over the centuries - and those who cling to the supposed condemnations of same sex relations while utterly ignoring a host of other prohibitions.  In my view, if one discards their child because they are gay, few things better demonstrate the hypocrisy of these parents and the ugliness of conservative Christianity in general  Frank Bruni has a column in the New York Times that looks at the evil still being done by those who simple mindedly cling to a handful of Bible passages and reject their children.  Here are column highlights:

Jeff Chu was married last September, on the lawn of a house on Cape Cod, against the backdrop of an ivy-covered fence. About 80 people came.  His mother and father weren’t among them. 

His mother sent an e-mail just beforehand, to let him know that she was thinking of him. But to be a part of the ceremony? To celebrate the day? That much she couldn’t do, because Jeff was pledging his devotion to another man. And his parents, strict Southern Baptists, have always deemed such a love sinful, and against God’s wishes. 

Against God’s wishes. That notion — that argument — is probably the most stubborn barrier to the full acceptance of gay and lesbian Americans, a last bastion and engine of bigotry. It’s what many preachers still thunder. It’s what some politicians still maintain. 

It’s what Jeff himself once feared.  “How many nights have I spent sweaty and panicked and drained of tears, because I thought I would go to hell — for being gay, for being me?” he asks.  And how often, he adds, did he pray “that God would take these feelings from me?” 

His parents came to America from Hong Kong with the conservative beliefs that Baptist missionaries had spread through that area of the world. They reared Jeff in their religion, sending him to a Christian high school in Miami. One of his vivid memories from those years was the sudden banishment of a favorite teacher after the school discovered that he was involved with another man.  Jeff knew even then that he had feelings like the teacher’s, and writes: “This was the lesson that I learned: Nobody could ever, ever find out, because if they did, I would be damned and cast out, just like he was.” 

At Princeton, he dated women. But in London for graduate school, he began to date men, and to wonder how that orientation could be wrong, when God had presumably made him the way he was.

Although his book doesn’t focus on the scattered references in the Bible to homosexuality, Jeff knows them well. And, yes, a few seem to condemn same-sex intimacy.   But have they been translated correctly? Interpreted the right way? Are they timeless verities or — more logically — reflections of an outmoded culture and obsolete mind-set? And if all of the Bible is to be taken literally, shouldn’t Christians refrain from planting multiple kinds of seed in one field or letting women speak in church or charging interest to the poor?

[H]e thinks it arrogant to insist, as the zealots who condemn gay people do, that God’s will is so easily known. And in light of that, he thinks it wrong for anyone to try to consign gays to the shame that so many of them have endured. 

The stories in Jeff’s book made me sad, and they made me angry. How much needless pain have people like him been put through, and in God’s name no less? 

The truth, as anyone educated and willing to open their mind knows is that the Bible was written by ignorant, uneducated nomads who knew nothing of science, sexual orientation and a host of other realms of knowledge and who wanted to hold themselves apart from surrounding peoples, many of whom accepted same sex relations.  The hubris of condemning others out of intellectual laziness and a refusal to use God given intelligence, now that's the sin.  Not loving same sex relationships.  My contempt and disgust for those who cling to what is little more than baseless bigotry against gays only seems to increase over time.  They, not gays, are the face of evil in the world.

1 comment:

bryn marlow said...

Heaven knows I've been shaped by religious fundamentalist teachings, received loud and clear the message "who you are is wrong/evil/sinful/anathema." Have tasted first-hand the poison passed on in this cup.

I recently saw (and write about) a production of Dell Shore's Southern Baptist Sissies, which deals with just this subject.

Thanks for the link to Bruni's article, and for the ways you speak out and up.