Monday, December 7, 2009

Will America become a Fundamentalist "Republic?"

Why is religion so anti-gay? I was asked this question recently on the heals of Uganda passing legislation which makes homosexuality a capital offense. The short answer is that a superficial reading of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures clearly gives the impression that homosexuality is forbidden by God. This has affected the stance towards homosexual persons by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Within each of those traditions there exist literalists (who see the written word as THE law) and progressives (who look beyond the written text and seek understanding of the Divine intent.)

There is a comprehensible repulsion towards and rejection of organized religion by many LGBT people. Many LGBT people have found themselves the victims of verbal, emotional/psychological and physical abuse due to religious organizations. Heads of religious organizations have publicly condemned homosexuals as being both reprobate and representing a moral danger to society. The result of such teachings and preaching has been to create a culture of hatred towards individuals who are homosexuals.

It is important here to pause and recall that the pink triangle, which has become a symbol for LGBT people, was in fact assigned to us in order to target us for abuse and genocide. The Nazis were not an organized religion, but a secular political party. Under Joseph Stalin in the former Soviet Union, an officially atheist state, homosexuals were also targeted for abuse, imprisonment and death. We fared little better under Chairman Mao and his officially atheist regime. The point here is that we are a minority and have been, like other minorities, always held as “suspect” by the ruling elite.

It is therefore an error of logic to deduce that the problem is “religion.” The problem is the desire of social and political elites to control others through homogeneity. The great contribution and arguably the genius of Western Civilization has been the concept of limiting the power of government. Magna Carta, the establishment of representative governance and the elimination autocracy were hard fought battles to establish protection of individuals and their rights. All of these represent a movement towards limiting the power and control of the state (elite) over individuals in society. Toleration, pluralism, and in short greater respect for individual rights and human dignity are the legacy offered us by those who have thrown off the yoke of tyranny.

Although these human rights are innate and self-evident, sadly they are not guaranteed. There have always been and will always be individuals and groups who will seek to seize political control and reshape society/culture to create their utopian ideal. If individuals and their rights are trampled in the process, so be it. Homogeneity of thought, behavior and of society (the world?) were the dreams of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Taliban and Christian fundamentalists (both Protestant and Catholic). LGBT people, like people possessing recessive genetic traits, will always constitute a numerical minority within any society. We simply don’t “fit in.” The Japanese have a saying “The nail that juts up must be pounded flush.”

LGBT people have been targeted in Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and most recently in Atheist societies. In fundamentalist thought, we represent an exception and therefore a threat to homogeneity. We are the “nail” that juts up, we constitute a living challenge to a “one size fits all” social order and to those who would control that social order. We should not be surprised to see this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show.

We should however be angry and appalled, because this republic was established precisely in opposition to such social tyranny. We should be alarmed because infectious and cancerous ideologies have arisen countless times in human history. These attempts at utopia have inflicted incalculable human suffering and cost innumerable innocent human lives. At the beginning of the 21st century religious fundamentalism has imposed itself in various nations. We need to WAKE-UP and realize that we are not merely fighting for our civil rights we are fighting for our lives. We need to understand that anti-LGBT language of Rick Warren, Cardinal Barragan, and the signatories of the "Manhattan Declaration" does not merely end with the denial of the right to civil marriage for same sex couples. Its logical conclusion are draconian laws like those passed in Uganda.

What can you do?

1) Write a personal letter to your senator, congressional representative and to the President. Ask them to impose diplomatic sanctions and an economic embargo on Uganda until these genocidal laws are repealed. Ask three of your friends to do the same.

2) Write to the Secretary of State and to the Department of Justice and ask them to investigate American citizens who have encouraged Ugandan officials to enact these genocidal laws.

3) If you have investments, divest from any company doing business with Uganda. Ask three of your friends to do the same.

4) If you are clergy, prepare a sermon in which you explain what is happening in Uganda. Ask your congregants to execute the three points listed above.

5) Father Tony has asked me to include the following link. If you are Catholic this provides you with yet an additional thing which you may do to fight the forces of bigotry.

6) Visit the website Church Outing and expose those who publicly attack LGBT civil rights from the pulpit.


Matthew said...

Just a slight correction -- the Ugandan kill the gays bill is not yet law. There is still time to lobby and try to prevent it from being passed. We must continue to put intense pressure on the Archbishop of canterbury (regardless of whether one is Anglican) because he seems to think his silence will protect him. And on other church leaders as well. For more links, see:

Its a very sad state of affairs when our archbishop cannot even oppose capital punishment because of inter-Anglican politcs.

john iliff said...

You may recall Frank Schaeffer's discussions with Rachel Maddow on her show.

He expresses (quite forcefully) similar concerns in several articles on his blog, found here:


John Iliff

The Honourable Husband said...

Geoff, let me play devil's advocate for a moment.

"It is therefore an error of logic to deduce that the problem is religion."

True. But it would be a similar fallacy of logic to think that because religion is not the only problem, it is not the immediate problem.

Religion certainly proves one of the biggest threats to those of us who are sexually, ethnically, or spiritually exceptional. Your second paragraph describes it in detail.

In America, according to the 2008 ARIS, Catholics and Baptists make up about 40% of the population. The Catholic hierarchy is explicitly anti-gay, as are many of the Baptist sects. Another 20% are Protestants of some description, which includes everything from once-a-year churchgoers to hard-nosed born-agains. Let's assume that these sects could go either way in equal measure, on the question of same-sex attraction. Plus, consider the disproportionate influence of other smaller sects like the Mormons.

It would not be far fetched to assert that a significant majority of Americans receive moral instruction which explicitly calls homosexuality evil. And they receive it via their religion.

Religious homophobia may be the symptom of a larger disease, but it's a symptom which demands relief before the disease itself can be cured.

If one is treating pneumonia, make sure the patient can breathe while you wait for the antibiotics to work.

Perhaps the appropriate question is not why religion is anti-gay. But why religions, in general, are anti-gay.

On this point, you probably answered your own question, Father Geoff.

"The problem is the desire of social and political elites to control others through homogeneity."

Organised religion creates an elite. Organising anything creates an elite.

In most other institutions, there are (theoretically) checks and balances on the power of the elite.

Either by the constituents whom the elite serves (as in a democracy), or by skilled and respected peers who are the people's surrogates (as in medicine and the law, for example).

In organised religion, the power of the elite has only a very limited checks. How can it be otherwise? The elite is answerable to God, not to man. Organized religion, by its very nature, favours top-down management.

The only way that a worshipper has any influence on his church, is to leave it, and take his money with him.

Organised religion needs special scrutiny. Churchgoers cannot speak truth to power with the same moral force as the rank and file of other institutions.

Can ordinary persons of faith really tell the church elite that their reading of scripture is "superficial", and out of step with divine intent?

How far would I get if I stood up to my third-grade teacher, and proclaimed that I could spell the word "rough" as "ruff", simply because it seems obvious it's a better way?

I don't mean to be flip or facetious, and mean no disrespect to your thoughtful arguments.

But drawing a distinction between one creed and another, or between organised religions and religion per se, seems fruitless to me.

But rather than waiting for the laity to reform their churches, the more realistic solution is to get religion of any kind out of public policy.

With the greatest respect and love,


P.S. As an aside, one should note that the Nazis were about as secular as modern day right-wing Republicans. The party was very chummy with the Catholic Church--as one group of puritanical sexual wierdos might find common cause with another. And the present pope was a loyal chum in his youth.

You carefully avoided saying the the Nazis were professed atheists, Geoff, but I think that context could suggest otherwise.

Mareczku said...

The Nazi party was not chummy with the Catholic Church. In fact, before Hitler came to power, Catholics were not to join the Nazi party as it was considered a racist party. The Catholic Center party was very important. Soon after Hitler came to power, the other political parties were abolished and the Catholic Church made some accomodation with the Nazis. Still there was tension between the Church and the Nazis. In the 1930's two major issues that the Church had with the Nazis were with their euthanasia program against the disabled and also their treatment of Catholics that had a Jewish background. Many Catholics also were against Nazi treatment of the Jews in general.

Anonymous said...

Professor Gerhard Rempel

. . .
The old elites of Europe (aristocracy, landlords, churches) nursed their wounds and meditated revenge on the upstart bourgeoisie.

Behind the vague term fscism there lie in fact two distinct social and political systems.

... the confusion between these essentially different systrems is an esstial factor in the history of fascism. These two systems can be described as clerical conservatism and dynamic fascism. Every fascist movement was compounded of these two elements in varying proportions

Thus fascism proper, what we can call dynamic fascism, was a cult of force, contemptuous of religious and traditional ideas, the self-association of an inflamed lower middle class in a weakened industrial society. This is radically different from ideological conservatism, the traditional clerical conservatism of the older regime, now modified and brought up to date for the
20th century.

The differences were, however, confused by their common front against communism in the 1920s and sometimes the confusion was deliberately designed by the fascists themselves.

This confusion was exploited by the dictators Hitler and Mussolini: in each case the Catholic Church played a significant and positive role. it did so because with the conservative classes generally it supposed that dynamic fascism could be used as the instrument of clerical conservatism. In each case the calculation proved to be wrong. The Church by its opportunism gave itself not a tool but a master.

Both in Italy and Germany the fascist party moved into power through a similar door. The door was held open for it by the Catholic Church. Like the church, the conservative classes in both Italy and Germany supposed that, by patronizing Mussolini and hitler, they had enlisted mass support for a conservative program. These vulgar demagogues, they thought, could be used to destroy socialism at the grass roots, or rather, in the streets. Then they could be discarded. In fact the reverse happened. It was the conservative patrons and their ideas who were discarded, the vulgar demagogues that survived.

This happened because neither Hitler or Mussolini were interested in being conservative rulers. Both were revolutionaries who relished the possibility of radical power.
and therby realize ambitions unattainable by mere conservative support.

BobinCT said...

Dear Anonymous, the reference you posted by Prof. Rempel is very enlightening. I think we in the US have a tendency to forget just how political the Church in Europe was going back centuries, and how that provided some of the historical context in which Fascism took root. Of course the Church was not in solidarity with the people but allied itself with the monarchies, and when they fell, it had to scramble to find another social system that would maintain the status quo. But, as Rempel says, when it opened the door to Fascism the Church thought it was choosing a tool but instead chose a master. What I find interesting is that Rempel refers to Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum as the charter of clerical conservatism. Today, that encyclical is considered the foundation of the Church's teaching on Social Justice and embraced by liberals.