Monday, November 23, 2009

Full Faith and Conscience

Lately, I struggle to find the bigger picture in the recent events surrounding religion and the struggle for gay rights. It seems the recent elections of California and Maine have not only galvanized the GLBTQ community, but conservative faith communities as well...and boy are they scared. They will never admit it, but they are. They are buzzing about like a swarm of angry bees after hitting a nest with a stick.

One example of this is the recent "Manhattan Declaration". For those who have not heard of it, its official title is "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience,". It was signed by more than 150 Christian leaders from the evangelical community as well as the Roman Catholic Church. Other notable signers include Maggie Gallagher from the National Organization for Marriage and James Dobson of "Focus On the Family". Also included in the signers is Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Archbishop of Province III, Nigeria, who, According to Pams House Blend, has..

called for five years imprisonment for anyone who "performs, witnesses, aids, or abets" a same-sex marriage, and anyone who engaged in public advocacy or associations supporting the rights of lesbian and gay people

Lovely eh?...Given the divisions within the gay community lately regarding the fight for our own rights, we certainly have been good at uniting religious factions that, in the past, wouldn't have deigned to spit on each other if they were on fire. The Pope recent overtures to the Anglicans certainly bears this out. They are doing this because they feel under fire.

I didn't want to give this document any play whatsoever, as I believe it is a fearful and reactionary document more than the statement of defiance and intent to resist the signers billed it as. It also bears saying that this declaration doesn't single out gays, but also claims civil resistance to abortion rights, health care reform, climate change, and just about anything else the religious right has ever gotten its frock in a twist about. For those who haven't seen the Declaration in its craptastic entirety, it is available here on Good As You. It is simply too long to post here.

What has lead up to the drafting of this document? Perhaps a penchant for grand statements is simmering in the unconscious. You may remember that I recently adjusted the Declaration of Independence and read it on about delusions of grandeur...

However...lately, Christian leaders have been on a huge martyr kick. The passage of hate crimes laws have left them defensive about their religious rights...especially about their right to continue to preach against homosexuality. They claim that the hate crimes law will officially sanction a ban on christian speech and that they are staring down the barrel of fines or imprisonment themselves. These attitudes are unfounded and in many cases purposely misrepresented. The same hate crimes law they fear, also explicitly protects their freedom to preach whatever they so chose. Even so, this besieged attitude has lead to the drafting of the "Manhattan Declaration" as a way to verbalise their intent to resist the government on matters they consider essential to their faith....regardless of the hundreds of other people of faith, they exclude from their little pact, who don't agree with them.

My beef with their position is that they picked this fight. They put gay marriage on the ballots for a vote. They mobilized their congregants to man phone banks. They used their pulpits to solicit funds for their political campaigns and to incite fear of the end times if they failed to achieve their goals of blocking GLBTQ civil liberties. They have attempted to bully governments by threatening to remove charitable that they should be performing without thought of reward.

So where is the sense in the victim mentality?

They brought the fight to us and they are still engaging in it. Right now the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington D.C., rather than minister to the poor and needy of D.C., are directing all their energies into resisting passage of gay marriage rights in the district.

If they feel under fire perhaps its because many believe that religious institutions have crossed a line by attempting to enforce their will on civil affairs and on politics in general. They have stopped being a guide to living a life of conscience and attempted to become rulers of men. In this, some have advocated removing the "tax exempt" status of organizations that participate in influencing public the churches. And now there are those that advocate for something more....outing priests... is a sight dedicated to outing priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington D.C. They believe that:

For generations, in Catholic churches across the country, LGBT youth are told they should be ashamed of who they are and that they should lead loveless lives as social and religious abominations. The emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse inflicted on them by Catholic priests and our church hierarchy is in reality as damaging as the physical or sexual child abuse anyone would quickly condemn. Yet to this abuse, few raise their voices and say "ENOUGH!"

It is shameful that in many Catholic churches, this abuse is being supported by men, who are gay themselves, leading closeted lives of self-persecution and quiet desperation.

Even more shameful, is that many of these priests, while remaining silent, actually lead duplicitous lives rich with romantic and sexual relationships -- both homosexual and heterosexual.

Their is value in exposing the hypocrisy present in the Catholic church. The priesthood is often the bastion of gay men and women who simply cannot accept their sexuality AND their faith, so one must be put aside. If they continue to espouse that homosexuality is an abomination, then they should not be able to enjoy the benefits of those relationships. We need to hold up a mirror to them, to let them see that they are what they claim to fight against.

To live a life of faith and conscience means you have to be willing to ask questions about what you believe in from time to time...and occasionally WHY you believe it. That is a scary thing to do but so necessary. Sadly, that's a question no one today, seems capable of facing...and culture war is the result.

Is there a larger picture to these happenings? There may be...but, from where I sit, it just seems like trading more trading broadsides in that ever widening Christian euphemism...."culture war".


  1. I'll just say what I wanted to say for a long time now... about "religionnaires" (that's how I call them: "religious legionnaires", so called "faith warriors" struggling for their faith's surviving). They claim that Hate Crimes Prevention Act will not let them speak about homosexuality. I don't get it. I am liberal enough to understand that these people have a right to say whatever the hell they want and to have their own opinions. And I don't care that they want to gather in their churches to say all those horrible things about me and my gay friends. I don't care, because they have this right, and they SHOULD have this right, it SHOULD be protected under the law: no one can forbid them to do so. But what SHOULD NOT be said and done is criminal hate speech: something like "gays should be killed, because Bible says they should be stoned to death". And that IS the difference: you CAN say that I'm bad and that I need to repent my sins & change myself to inherit God's Kingdom, whatever, but you certainly CANNOT say that I do not deserve to live or that my rights as a citizen of this state / country / continent / planet / universe should be ignored effectively making me a second-class citizen. It is so simple to define this difference, and it SHOULD be done, I agree with that: the law should explain what it forbids exactly, literally, i.e. not only the violent actions themselves, but also any propaganda of violence & inequality against GLBTQ people. And this is not negotiable: no religious group should be allowed to preach hate and allow crimes just because its scripture says so (yes, I'm looking at Muslims, too). What goes around, comes around.

  2. The last time a group of European fanatics took power, over ten millions ended their lives up a chimney, tens of millions died on the battlefield and from firebombing, and tens of millions more vanished without trace.

    Intolerant fanaticism, of any and all kinds, is the one thing I do not believe should ever be tolerated - and intolerant fanaticism is what has been consistently shown by the signatories of the Manhattan Declaration. I willingly and enthusiastically respect and support those faiths that respect others' rights - spirituality is a crucial part of human identity and must be protected and nourished to become healthy and beneficial. However any group that tries to impose its beliefs on others deserves no respect at all, from anyone: their fruit is hate, misery, violence, prejudice, cruelty, malevolence, distrust, savagery and intemperance, they are the antitheses of the fruit of the Spirit; they are those things which destroy the soul.

    1. Just remember that more Russian Christian farmers were slaughtered than actual jews. "conspiracy" to kill russian christians? conspiracy to kill jews... not too far fetched...

  3. I think you are a bit wrong in your post here Bryan. I don't think it really is fear. I think it is bile. I think it is adrenaline fuelled hysteria. I think that it is a result of appealing to that part of all humans that gets riled up in a fight against their "enemies". It is a result of that strange pleasure which comes from being part of the angry mob.

  4. Im so amazed with the almost criminal level these religious demonize and hate another group, in this case, gays & lesbians. I agree with Kirrilex, that there should be boundaries on hatespeech as well, when it leads to violence.In Canada there was a priest that had a hateful letter about homosexuality publihed, one boy killed himself, and this priest was actually sued, and punished. Where I live (Holland), when a public figure, or a priest/imam outside of church/mosque, says things such as 'homosexualit is abnormal, is an illness etc" then they can be sued. One might think those are not such harmful opinions as saying gays need to be thrown off of a building for example (as one Imam said in public newspaper), but here you can sue even if its less 'damaging'.
    If these religious in your country think, Bryan, that the Hate Crimes Bill would diminish their 1st Amendemnt right, they need to relealize that if it really did, the HCB could never have been accepted. But Im sure theyre too unitelligent to realize this. They will fight their freedoms until the end, Im sure, even when their freedom is actually bigotry and hatred advocation. Summersonset

  5. For clarity, it doesnt mean such Imam/priest, or public figure will go to jail (it has not happened), but people can file a complaint about such harmful statements, and a court will decide if its legit before it can go any further. So, its not like Freedom of Speech is severely limited here, just that certain statements can have real consequences. We have laws against inciting hatred and demonizing of groups, any group. I wanted to clarify as Ive encountered people that said then there is no unlimited Freedom of Speech and they think that is bad or even a form of fascism (lol). Well, in fact, I think when FoS is unlimited, that that is bad. I think a reason why the US carries so much hatred in certain groups is exactly a consequence of not putting some boundaries on it. Summer.

  6. My opinions are well known about the church.
    The thing is, some times I cannot be tolerant and i just want to kick ass.

    Btw, my life is very crappy right know, This year was horrible to me and to my friends, I just wanted you and Jay to know that you guys are the almost the only Good thing that happened to me this year

  7. @everyone....There is a reason I put that Batshit crazy picture at the top. I felt it perfectly summed up the content of the document and those who drafted it.

    @swampy....Gmail me swampy. Let us know what going on...

  8. I was hoping you where going to throw your two cents in on this, I have to blogs on it at the moment the latter of which I think is more interesting.

    On the not of the now ever more strained relationship between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church (episcopal church in the US) it seems like a pretty clear move by the pope (even thought he denies it) to try to shove a further wedge into the Anglican Church in hopes of finally causing it to Schism. Its also why they included the very conservative Nigerian Reverend as a singer. It is to serve as a direct threat to the Episcopal Church, which is very split between its liberal factions (which have approved of gay clergy, and now church blessings and ceremonies for gays) and its conservative factions.
    Its very telling that the Vatican made this decision in the mist of many Episcopal churches and some parishes splitting from the main body of the Church (even Churches them selves splitting up, the church I attend until I was 17 had the happen, a large chunk of the congregation broke off and formed their own church) and looking for other branches. (cant remember real name off the top of my head)
    Part of me finds it very disturbing that the Catholic Church is actively trying to cause the schism of mine and part of me wants to just say let them leave for the catholic Church and allow the Episcopal Church to continue along the right path all that much faster.

  9. @aNothWestView...I agree. The church is setting itself up for the same thing to happen to them at some point. Their own body of believes(and clergy) are not neccesarily behind His Holiness on many subjects on doctrin. If that gap continues to widen the Anglicans and the Catholics may only end up trading congregants.

  10. @Summersonset
    Oh, you're from Holland! The first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage! Congrats!

    Hate speech leading to teenage suicide. I can't help but remind people about a great movie, Prayers for Bobby (based on a true story): Mary Griffith, a very religious woman, found out that her son Bobby is gay, she couldn't accept him, he ran away and one day he killed himself; only after his death she came to terms with his homosexuality and became an advocate for gay rights and protections. She held a speech on local television which ended with following words:
    «Before you echo "Amen" in your home and place of worship, think, think and remember: a child is listening.»
    It is extremely important to protect GLBTQ youth, young people who just try to understand themselves and have a lot of other typical teenage problems to deal with, so homosexuality may become a dangerous issue if their friends & family & everybody around says it's unforgivable to be gay. Thank God, I did not know that I'm gay till I was 19. If I did, I most certainly would not be around today, and my autopsy report would say "Suicide" as the cause of my death. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to be a teenage gay person, even in the USA, not to mention my bigoted & hypocritical country.

    A child is always listening... a vulnerable child, a child that adores one's parents who's word has always been a guide into the darkness of the unknown in this world. How can this child survive if one is being under attack from one's own parents? And what's more important: religious misconceptions or your child's life? That is the question every parent should answer. And every child should be so lucky to have parents who hold their children's best interests in mind and put them before anything else.

  11. And, I'm sorry, people, I have more to say about hate speech.
    In 2006, the Muslim religious leader (Grand Mufti) in my country (Russia) publicly announced that if anyone would come out to gay pride parade in Moscow, he would encourage every "normal person" to take a stick, go downtown and flog gays & lesbians & GLBTQ supporters; Chief Rabbi joined him on that matter. This is what religious leaders are allowed to say publicly in this country without being afraid of getting sued or anything else. This is "modern" Russia where public figures can publicly make threats against other people and call for open violence, and media just broadcasts it openly, while prosecuting attorneys just sit around and drink tea like nothing happens, like law is not being broken.

  12. I don't think It would be a whole body switch between the Anglicans and Roman Catholic Church, I think what would happen is the conservatives might take the popes offer, (I'm still sceptical as well coming from a non catholic, swearing allegiance to a man as the ultimate spiritual authority just dose not quite site right with me) but I do think that the more the Catholic Church movers to the extremely conservative side, the more likely it will be for the liberal catholics to leave and possibly wander over to the Anglican Church. after all the Anglican and especially the Episcopal (US branch) has been more liberal then the catholic church, and continues to get so (no mate how much of a horse and pony show the two put on of trying to reconcile and reunite, the Catholic Church just keeps moving further and further back into the dark ages.)

    Like I said the most likely thing I see is Anglican churches in the developing world will probably take more direction from the Pope (on matters to do with women calgary and gays) then from the Archbishop of Canterbury who is the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.

    I know from my understanding (mom cleans house for one of the members) the chunk of the members of the Church I used to attend (I would like to start again depending on who is preaching now and their views on the churches stances) that split off to form their own Church and congregation, they still consider them selves Episcopal, just that they did not agree with the "agenda" of the Churches main governing body in the US.

    Sorry to go go on so long, but well I am interested in what is happening to my Church (even if i have not technically been an active member in 6 years!) but it is the Church I was baptized into and confirmed into and it's teachings are the foundation of my faith (which I'm always been of the opinion one has to constantly question and examen others wise if you don't its dead)