Friday, July 22, 2016

Confronting Religion, The Source of Anti-LGBT Animus

I continue to feel a general malaise since the massacre at Pulse in Orlando, which has been followed by new assaults on LGBT Americans through the GOP's adoption of the most anti-LGBT platform EVER.  Now, this evening we have seen our own possibly American version of Hitler or Stalin accept the nomination as the Republican presidential nominee.   It is a frightening time to be an American.  It is perhaps even a more frightening time to be an LGBT American despite the strides that have been made in recent years.  Indeed, LGBT people will never be safe and fully equal until we and our allies confront the root cause of homophobia and anti-LGBT animus: religion, especially fundamentalist religions.  My August column in VEER Magazine - which is longer than usual - looks at this issue and what needs to be done.  Pick up a copy on local Hampton Roads newsstands.  For those who are not locals, the following are some excerpts from the column:
Like so many in the LGBT community, I have found myself profoundly shaken by the massacre last month at Pulse, a gay dance club in Orlando, Florida.  When my husband and I travel, we often enjoy going to local gay dance clubs in the cities that we are visiting, be it New York City, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, or last year, a club called Raidd in Paris, France.  Though worlds apart in some ways such clubs have a common trait: they offer a refuge in a still too homophobic world.  They offer a place to dance, talk with friends and to have fun. While I had never visited Pulse, we know a number of people who had visited.  We also have a friend who lost someone he knew in the carnage that took place during the early hours of June 12, 2016.
 What happened at Pulse sadly could have happened at any gay club, including clubs here in Hampton Roads.  And, if one looks at history, over the years at least twenty five (25) attacks have taken place against gay clubs, although not on the scale of the Pulse massacre.  The most notable was in 1973 at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans where 32 individuals lost their lives. Closer to home, in 2000 an attack on the Backstreet Cafe in Roanoke, Virginia, one person died and six were wound.  The shooter's motivation in the Roanoke attack?  To kill some "faggots" - seemingly the same as that of the shooter in Orlando.   All of these incidents stand as a reminder that if one is LGBT, hatred toward you is always lurking in the hearts of those who would happily commit violence.   Conveniently for Republican politicians and those I call Christofascists, America's homegrown answer to the Taliban, to whom these Republican politicians regularly prostitute themselves, the shooter at Pulse pledged allegiance to ISIS.  This allowed them to quickly blame Islam and "radical Islamic extremists" and to ignore the root cause of homophobia and anti-LGBT animus in America: religion, especially fundamentalist Christianity. Numerous pastors and “professional Christians” like Pat Robertson and anti-gay hate group leaders Tony Perkins and James Dobson stepped forward to make this religious based animus all too visible following the Orlando tragedy.  Some of them implied that the gays and their allies who died at Pulse "deserved" what happened to them.  Others went further and even bemoaned the fact that there had been any survivors at all.  And some advocated for the government to execute LGBT citizens. Some statements even repeated the deliberate lie that most gays are pedophiles - in truth the vast majority of those who molest children are heterosexual males - and suggested the world was now safer for children.  At the same time that some American Christians were making their animus to LGBT people shockingly obvious, others engaged in strenuous efforts to avoid condemnation of Bible based anti-gay hatred even as they condemned that found in Islam.  . . . . . Nowhere does it mention the fact that Leviticus predated the Quran by roughly 2100 years.  The Quran and hadiths were not authored in a vacuum and, sadly, the misogyny of the Bible and in more recent centuries, Christian missionaries and colonial regimes found their way into Islam. Another effort to apologize for religious based hatred can be found in Pope Francis' comment to journalists that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church needed to "apologize to gays and should seek forgiveness from homosexuals for the way they have treated them."  The problem with Francis' nice words is that when he has had the opportunity to dramatically change Catholic dogma and doctrine on gays he has done nothing and backed down in a cowardly fashion to the ugliest homophobes in the Church hierarchy.  Likewise, Francis ignored his own past attacks against gays, equating gay marriage and adoption by gay couples with the work of the Devil, and declaring that gay marriage was a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” 
 We cannot allow these subterfuges and insincere apologies to succeed.  I hope the Orlando massacre has set the stage for a long overdue discussion about the role of Christianity in anti-gay animus.  Likewise, those I call the "good Christians" - i.e., akin the "good Germans" at the time of Hitler's rise to power – must face the complicity they bear in keeping anti-gay animus alive and well and socially acceptable.  I call this Christians "good Christians" because, like their German counterparts of roughly 85 years ago, they stand by silently as their churches and pastors preach anti-gay hatred even as they themselves claim to not agree with the anti-gay diatribes. Despite such protestations - almost always made in private conversations - these Christians continue to financially support the very same churches and "family values" organizations that daily promote hatred and reject modern knowledge while clinging to a few passages written roughly 3400-3500 years ago by unknown Bronze Age authors who would be deemed utterly ignorant by today's standards of knowledge.  
In my opinion, it is long past time that these "good Christians" cease being given a pass for their complicity in funding and supporting homophobic denominations, church hierarchies, and pastors.  They need to either become part of the solution or they need to be confronted for their role in keeping hate and homophobia alive.  Will these people like the confrontation?  Most assuredly not.  Like most of us, they will not like to be forced to candidly analyze their beliefs and/or cease their sheep like following of church leaders. The favored phrase of "love the sinner, hate the sin" needs to be challenged head on for the disingenuous lie that it is.  The implicit support of hate and homophobia must be challenged.  
However, "good Christians" are not the only ones who need to be held accountable.  The Republican Party needs to be held accountable for its role in cynically keeping anti-gay hatred alive and well and politically acceptable.  Over the last year, roughly two hundred (200) anti-gay bills have been introduced in states across America in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's same sex marriage ruling in 2015.  All of these bills have been almost unanimously backed by Republican elected officials only too happy to seek political favor at the expense of the lives and dignity of LGBT Americans. 
If you find yourself falling into the "good Christian" category, perhaps it's time to cease your silence.  Consider (i) speaking out against homophobes, (ii) confronting anti-LGBT clergy, and/or (iii) ceasing your financial contributions until your church ends its homophobic teachings (make sure the church leadership knows why you are taking the action).  If need be, find a new church that does not espouse homophobia and the marginalization of LGBT lives. Such actions may be scary and uncomfortable, but unless you take them, you will be complicit in the hatred and violence based on slavish adherence to a handful of Bible passages - even as the balance of Leviticus, including dictates against wearing clothes of two different fabrics, planting multiple crops, eating "unclean" foods and other supposed "abominations," are utterly ignored by Christian denominations.  

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