Saturday, March 30, 2013
Like David and Goliath
This blog will be kind of a difficult one to write for me. I was raised...and still consider myself...Christian regardless of the path my life has taken. I will be discussing faith and religion...so if you are offended by those topics than perhaps this is not the post for you. I know that these are deeply personal topics, but I encourage anyone who reads on to be respectful and to remember that this is written from the point of view of one human being...me. It will be flawed, it may make you facepalm, but that's just the nature of discussing religion or politics, which is why people caution never to do it. Yeah...we never listen to those people. That said...
How did gay people end up being the single most important issue to religion? As I have lived my life as an out gay man, and been involved in advocating for marriage equality, I have seen this issue grow from being one of many issues the church frowned upon to somehow transforming into an apocalyptic battle for the survival of the world. It makes little sense to me. I mean, to be against it because of your interpretation of the Bible...sure, I'm used to that opinion...but to hear the way religious voices talk about the gay community is to have them paint the image of them as David facing down the us as the big mean Philistine, Goliath. There is no one else and no other issue as galvanizing to the religious community than stopping gay people....not poverty, not economical inequality, not hunger, not spiritual well being....just holding off the end times by holding back the tide of gay rights. Further more any other religious group or tradition that decides to support and affirm LGBT people gets branded as traitors and heretics.
For many this will seem like a no-brainer relationship between traditional attitudes to homosexuality being threatened by the advancements that have been made by LGBT people of late. However, rather than just accept that as a given fact...I'd like to take a minute to look deeper at why we have become the arch nemesis of organized religion and how I believe that is a mistaken view
A huge aside:
First off I would like to say that I draw a sharp distinction between "religion" and "spirituality". I tend to think of religion as a set of actions and beliefs that men do and coming wholly from the human heart. As such it can be subject to human flaws like greed, control, and fear. We are told in one momet that God loves us and then in the next moment we are given the huge list of things we can never do or else we are out of his grace...and given a whole list of things we must do to show our faith in him. In my opinion...it is religion that keeps people in a state of fear that they are not good enough in Gods eyes....not loved...not accepted...and just one thin thread from dropping into hellfire. We are told: God loves you and Jesus died for you...but don't Ever have sex or think about having sex unless you are married and even then it is suspect and a part of your lower being. Don't have doubts or too many questions as these are all signs of unfaithfullness. Pray, read the Bible, and share the gospel with everyone you can. If you don't do these things you are a lukewarm christrian and maybe your faith isn't good enough. And if you come to the realization that you are born gay...forget it, you're toast. Either way, their message of unconditional love is completely invalidated and they close a door to God and make people earn it open again. This is what I call religion and in every tradition that you find that kind of thinking, people are scared to death and willing to do anything to prove their faith.
I mark this kind of practice as different that simply acknowledges the already open door and encourages people to walk through it without any stipulations. This has become my understanding of the Gospel. That Jesus sacrificed his life for sin meant all of them. "It is finished" meant exactly that....not, "it is finished unless you...(fill in the blank)". After all, Jesus didn't travel around Israel looking for the gay people(for surely they were there in some capacity). He spent his days feeding people, healing the sick, and showing the people that the religious establishment of the day regarded as pariahs, that God loved them too. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes and others that were looked down on because they were exactly the people who needed to hear that message of love the most. He spoke with them because they were everyday told how rejected by God and their own people they were. I know people will take issue with me over that and I think its a huge discussion in it's own right....Suffice it to say that modern day religion has treated LGBT people like those prostitutes and tax collectors....Judged and shunned, with no hope. What messages of "love" we hear from Christianity are always predicated on no longer being gay first...something we know we can not do anymore than we change the color of our eyes.
Back on Track:
But as time has marched on and we as LGBT people are making great gains in being acknowledged as regular everyday people....that old meme of gay people as "the enemy" dies a slow death. But, there are those who march in the name of religion(see above) who would still have everyone believe that gay people are somehow the penultimate enemy to be faced by those of faith. Reading the words of many religious leaders across denominational lines is to come away with the notion that there is no more important issue for a Christian person than to face than the battle to prevent the gay community from obtaining any kind of acceptance....not hunger, not poverty, not the millions of kids in foster care who need a good home....just stopping gays. Just read the last Popes Easter address for a great example of this. All of this, happening under the name of "faith".
As LGBT people have advanced in public opinion and legal protections, so to have those who oppose that advancement escalate their efforts to not just one of many moral battles....but the moral battle that defines them as a persons of God. And even though throughout history the religious view of gay people has been the overwhelmingly predominate one such that gay people were actually burned at the stake, lobotomized, and publicly shamed and persecuted....now that gay rights are advancing, that is exactly what they are hysterically doom-casting will happen to them. That gay people will silence their viewpoints, close down their churches, take away the Bible, and throw all Christians in prison. All of it complete nonsense that they wrap up with a neat little bow and sell as "the culture wars".
They have very conveniently put God on their side and gay people on the other, as if we hold no connection to God or any spirituality of our own. And so they cast themselves as the biblical David....small in stature but resolute in faith, ready to take down the gay Goliath who has come to destroy their kingdom. Except for a couple very inconvenient points....The first would be weren't they just the majority a few minutes ago, making them the Goliath? And second...
The very people that most Christians are demonizing as wanting to destroy marriage and lock them up for their faith have...for many of us...come from your churches. Their is this notion that gay people don't hold any kind of spiritual values and if they do, they are automatically invalidated because they are held by a gay person. A person who, in all probability was expelled from their own churches for no other reason than being gay.
For my own part, out to myself 20+ years ago meant a huge internal struggle with how God thought of me. I had labeled by gayness "temptation" and fought it tooth and nail for years until it got to the point when I could fight no longer and I was forced by that inner battle to consider that my feelings were not something intruding on me, but something innate to me. In my mind was the balance of accepting my sexuality on one side, and God on the other. Now, I did not hate God. I was very anxious to please him. To have to look inside myself and realise that a trait I now knew was as "me" as my eye color made me unacceptable in his eyes was terrifying and heart breaking. There felt like no resolution to my inner conflict and so I did what many gay people do...I walked away from it all. But just because I did that did not mean that I stopped talking to God. Nor in all that time that has passed since, do feel like he hasn't watched over me. For someone told that being gay meant that they were an abomination to God and that our blood was on our own hands....the connection I felt was a revelation in it's own right and signaled the beginning of a move away from religion for me and hopefully to a more spiritual outlook.
There are many LGBT people out there in the world carrying their own spirituality and values. Each one working out their own relationship with a God that many would tell them wants nothing to do with them. Some sit in church pews in congregations that accept LGBT people....some just keep the line to God open understanding it's a two way conversation. Some of us are carrying around the wounds of rejection from the church's we were raised in....and others have made their peace....and still more have rejected it as vociferously as they themselves were first rejected. That there are so many gay men and women who utterly reject all forms of organized religion should come as no surprise to anyone....however, have been showed little love by it.
And so we come back to David and Goliath. The mighty versus the small. In the story, one had God on his side while the other did not. Hopefully we can see that the analogy does not fit so well anymore. Many LGBT people carry the same values these people claim we want to destroy...No one has taken anything from them except their ability shame people and hold them as non-people...excluding them from society and legal protection. Gay people are not the ultimate enemy of the church or faith and it's time that we remind them of that. If there is an antithesis to faith and spirituality, it is not gay people. Fear, greed, lack of charity and love are far more the enemies of faith than any gay person wanting to marry someone they love and raise children. I strongly believe we need to get past the notion that gays and the religious are somehow opposite poles...because that totally ignores the many ways in which we connect and overlap. Just as the opposites of faith is all forms of unlovingness...so too is the the opposite of equality, just plain bigotry. These are the real players in our account of the battle between David and Goliath and we know how that story ends. I wonder what they would make of the Story of David and Jonathan?...
Until next time dear readers...