Prejudice and bigotry against peoples of color, Jews, immigrants and others is rooted in class society where the ruling class needs to keep the working class divided against itself. The idea is divide and conquer, basically, so that workers will see each other as the problem and not the system. Anti-gay prejudice has a similar history and purpose, but in this case I think religion plays a unique role.
After class, religion is the force that largely shapes societies and cultures. Most religions across the spectrum — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. — have condemned homosexuality and most remain opposed to a greater or lesser degree. I believe religion is the driving force behind anti-gay bigotry and LGBT oppression worldwide today.
It can be difficult to resist. If God says it’s wrong, who’s to question? After all, there is no higher authority.
Even people who claim no religious belief or affiliation absorb these teachings, as if by osmosis. Most are probably unaware they’re doing so. Forget about sin, some say. Instead they assert that same-sex relationships are wrong because they’re “against nature.” Whether the person realizes it or not, this is a moral judgement since “against nature” is presumably bad. Such judgement suggests a religious origin even while the person will probably insist it’s scientific fact. Not so. There is no such scientific evidence. Indeed, same-sex relationships are very much a part of the natural order of things, documented across time and species. For reference, check out articles at Yale Scientific, News-Medical and Deutsche Welle.
Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner
I submit, as I stated above, that religion is the driving force behind anti-gay bigotry and LGBT oppression worldwide today.
I’m sure a few will bristle at this. Many religious people sincerely perceive themselves as responding to gay people with love and compassion. “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”
Unfortunately it doesn’t work. First is the negative impact of being counseled to live a life of celibacy and solitude, or to couple with the opposite sex despite one’s true feelings. “Thou shalt not love” is the guidance offered — at least not the person of your choosing; we’ll decide who you can love. There’s also a problem when this leads to policies and legislation in secular society outside the home and church. LGBT people are denied access and protections enjoyed by others in public accommodations, employment, housing, medical care, and more.
It makes no difference if someone is acting through love or hatred, the end result is the same: animus, discrimination and oppression. At best it’s causes hardship and inconvenience, at worst it leads to broken lives and suicide.
A New Look at Scripture
Today we are seeing change despite centuries of historical tradition, scripture and teachings that appear quite clear on the question of homosexuality. My focus today is Christianity, but serious and sincere people of many faiths are reconsidering their long-established interpretations of scripture.
We’ve seen this before. The Bible has been used at various times to support all kinds of things — not the least being slavery in the pre-Civil War south. Holdouts remain, but most people today would agree this was a mistaken understanding of scripture. Back then, however, it was widely accepted. For reference, check out articles at Christianity Today and Time.
We’ve cleared up the slavery question. Might we someday think the same of scripture supposedly condemning homosexuality? Maybe. The process has begun.
I present two videos below that examine this question in depth. They require some time to watch — the first runs an hour — so you might want to get comfortable and grab a cup of coffee. But if you have any interest in this subject, either in support or opposition to homosexuality and LGBT rights, I hope you’ll watch. I think they’re important. And please, feel free to comment below. This is a conversation that will go on for a while.
Danny Cortez: Why I Changed My Mind on Homosexuality
Danny Cortez was a Southern Baptist pastor with New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California, when he delivered this talk in 2014. Southern Baptist pastors don’t usually support gay rights, and it cost him. Yet it didn’t. He lost his job. But he’s said “I am at peace because I know my heart has been enlarged.” He says he’s gained new strength, peace and conviction in God, his faith and his life.
Pastor Danny recounts his journey in compelling detail, the reasons he started, the path his investigation took, and the outcome — which included learning his own son is gay.
Of particular interest and importance is Pastor Danny’s look at Romans 1, a primary New Testament scripture believed to condemn homosexuality. He dissects it meticulously to get at what Paul is really saying. He looks at historical context and what specific words meant in contemporary usage at that time.
TEDx Talk: What the Bible Says About Homosexuality
Kristin Saylor and Jim O’Hanlon spoke about the Bible and homosexuality at a TEDx Talk they delivered at Edgemont School in Scarsdale, New York, in 2016.
Rev. Saylor is an Episcopal priest and Rev. O’Hanlon is a Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In this talk, they challenge some of the traditional thoughts and teachings about God, the Bible and homosexuality.
Title image: Screen grab from Pastor Danny Cortez video.
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