Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love thy neighbor as thyself

Let me make this abundantly clear -- I am not a religious person. I don't put much stock in mythology, I don't feel the need to ascribe all things to some divine creator, and the belief that living by The Rules (but only The One True Set of Rules) earns one access to some posthumous Magical Kingdom out there in the ether strikes me as more than a bit odd.

I have nothing particular against religion, of course, and neither am I one of these New Atheists who feels the eradication of religion is necessary for humanity to reach its full potential. All things being equal, I'd really rather not have an -ist or -ism attached to my name. It's just hard to envisage a future where the religious and the secular can live in harmony when one is bombarded with stories about human beings visiting pain, cruelty and violence on each other, all supposedly in the name of a loving deity but artfully sidestepping that same deity's exhortations to treat each other -- every single one, no exceptions -- with kindness.

Thankfully, there is hope. In an earlier post, I mentioned Dan Savage's campaign to give bullied LGBT kids a reason to carry on in spite of the abuse and not turn to suicide. According to his posts, part of Savage's frustration that led to this movement comes from the continuing efforts of groups such as Focus on the Family to keep anti-bullying education out of the schools. Between that, Don't Ask Don't Tell, fundamentalist believers decrying -- if not outright attacking -- homosexuals, governments criminalizing and demonizing homosexuality, volumes of misinformation and misplaced rage, etc., the world can seem to have a "Straights Only" sign on it.

There are those willing to see beyond the hatred, though, and Savage's campaign is beginning to pick up supporters in the theological world. According to Baptist minister Cody Sanders, anti-gay bullying is a theological issue.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard well-meaning, good-hearted people respond to this appeal, saying, “Things are a lot better for gay people today than they were several years (or decades) ago. In time, our society (or churches) will come around on this issue.” To these friends and others, I must say, “It’s time.” For Lucas, Brown, Clementi, Walsh, and Chase the time is up. For these teens and the myriad other bisexual, transgender, lesbian and gay youth lost to suicide, the waiting game hasn’t worked so well.
As simply as I can state the matter: The longer we wait to respond, the more young people die.
If this were a hostage situation, we would have dispatched the SWAT team by now. And in many ways, it is. Our children and teenagers are being held hostage by a religious and political rhetoric that strives to maintain the status quo of anti-gay heterosexist normativity. The messages of Focus on the Family and other organizations actively strive to leave the most vulnerable among us exposed to continuous attack. The good news is that we don't need a SWAT team. We just need quality education on sexuality and gender identity in our schools and more faithful and courageous preaching and teaching in our churches.
Treating homosexuals as real people and not abominations? Careful, that just might catch on.

Also of note is this piece by Anthea Butler:

So the Eddie Long crisis is not just a crisis for himself, the accusers, Long’s family and the church; it’s a clarion call to African-American churches to cease and desist with the homophobia and finally start to deal with the fact that its not the folks in the pews who need to be disciplined, it’s the corrupt, bankrupt leadership of many, though not all, churches. The endless round of pastor’s anniversaries, offerings, and the fawning “my pastor is God and can do no wrong” theology of black churches needs to stop.
The absolute fealty to leadership and the “man” of god, enforced with scriptures like “don’t touch God’s anointed” have left so many victims in their wake that it’s a wonder people bother to even go to church anymore. When you factor in the money people have put into ministries that pimp them out and put them down, that’s an abusive relationship predicated on loving God and paying to be close to “God’s representative.” If the Catholic church can’t get a pass on its sexual and pedophilia scandals, why should mega-church pastors?
More good reads after the break.

I'd never heard of John Shore before today, but he pretty clearly gets it.

Here is that Big Difference between homosexuality and other sins: There is no sin I can commit that, by virtue of committing it, renders me incapable of loving or being loved. I can commit murder. I can steal. I can rob. I can rape. I can drink myself to death. I can do any terrible thing at all—and no one would ever claim that intrinsic to the condition that gave rise to my doing that terrible thing is that I am, by nature, simply incapable of giving or receiving love.
No one tells the chronic drinker, or glutton, or adulterer, or any other kind of sinner, to stop experiencing love. Yet that’s exactly what so many Christians are insisting gay people do.
When you tell a gay person to “resist” being gay, what you are really telling them—what you really mean—is for them to be celibate.
W hat you are truly and actually saying is that you want them to condemn themselves to a life devoid of love.
Be alone, you’re demanding. Live alone. Don’t hold anyone’s hand. Don’t snuggle on your couch with anyone. Don’t cuddle up with anyone at  night before you fall asleep. Don’t have anyone to chat with over coffee in the morning.
Do not bind your life to that of another. Live your whole life without knowing that joy, that sharing, that peace.
Just say “no” to love.
Be alone. Live alone. Die alone.
The “sinful temptation” that Christians are forever urging LGBT people to resist is love.
Being, of course, the one thing Jesus was most clear about wanting his followers to extend to others.
Can we stop with this cruel idiocy already?
Shore has a number of other excellent posts on the topic, all well worth reading. A double hat tip to Slog for the links.

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