Monday, May 18, 2009

International Day Against Homophobia

Yesterday was International Day Against Homophobia.

As I was growing up I didn't think much about homophobia and I didn't think much about homophobic insults except to know that they were intended to make the insulter feel smug and superior to whoever was being insulted while they made me instantly dislike and distrust the person making those insults.

I'd also heard people talking about a certain class of sin in non-explicit ways and didn't question it, but I'd never heard homophobic rants as a child.

The way I perceived homophobia changed during my first marriage to a "nice" Christian heterosexual man who was controlling from the beginning of our relationship. I still felt out of control even though it had been 4 years since my rape and when I met him his controlling felt like direction of which I had none.

I learned that heterosexuality, outside or inside of marriage, certainly did not equal free of sin.

My first MIL, a woman who emoted warmth and caring toward everyone she met, was the first person to shock me with her private response to the HIV virus in the 1980s. This nice cuddly woman in private swore that HIV was God's way of smiting the evil homosexuals. That way of thinking was absolutely foreign to me since I grew up in a home where Christian and scientific thought coexisted easily.

She spoke from a virulent bigotry I had never seen before and hoped to never see again. Unfortunately she was as disdainful about minorities as she was against GBLTs only there she blamed inferior biology instead of sin. Her view of God and mine were completely different even though we were both Christian.

While condemning a whole group of people to hell she was convinced her baby boy (my husband) could do no wrong. Any failure or illness among her own flesh and blood was bad luck or ill will by someone outside of that circle while all failures and illnesses in those she looked upon with bigotry were caused by their sin or their inferiority.

This was clearly not logical, but it allowed her to view the world in the way she wanted to see it.

At the end of my first marriage I felt like an absolute failure who could do nothing right. My brother Keith had just been notified that he'd been hired to work in Denver and when he left our hometown I went with him. Once in our new city we went to the closest church of our denomination which was a tiny historic building with a majority openly gay membership. A few years before we moved to Denver the church had been in danger of closing because most members either died or moved to the suburbs.

The generosity of spirit I found there left me humbled and disproved every bit of homophobia I'd ever been exposed to. It wasn't that these men were free of sin. They weren't but their sins were not inherently worse than the sins of heterosexuals. For the first time I questioned what had previously been an undeniable fact: homosexual behavior was the worst sexual sin, even when consensual and within a monogamous relationship

For heterosexual Christian men with a pattern of violence against women it was too often: sin, repent, repeat. All while being considered good Christian men.

I could not reconcile this dichotomy with my Christian faith and it led me to believe that the approach too many Christians take to sexual sin and relationship abuse is not rooted in the true core of Christianity at all but, like slavery and racism, is rooted in bigotry. By associating their bigotry with their faith that bigotry 1) wasn't their fault 2) didn't need to be eradicated.

This same bigotry is found in other religions and in groups who reject religion and instead use evolutionary psychiatry to justify violence against women. This shows that this bigotry is rooted in people's need to find a way to justify bigotry and violence. It also shows that both religion and science can be misused to do so.

The approach I rejected is shown in the Double X article Does Rick Warren's church condone domestic violence? by Kathryn Joyce.

A man convicted of assaulting his wife was not only allowed to stay he was embraced while the woman assaulted was alienated for speaking up about her husband's violence and eventually filing for divorce. That practice undermines all the nice words the church puts out. Church leadership saying they don't condone domestic violence isn't enough. As long as their actions provide any support for domestic violence while failing to fully support all victims of domestic violence they enable domestic violence in their ranks.

At the end of my first marriage I felt like I broke my marriage vows even though I left abuse which would have only gotten worse but during my time at that Denver church I realized that by abusing me my husband was the one who had broken our marriage vows. This is something the Saddleback church doesn't acknowledge.

I believe Rick Warren is a Christian, but I believe he is a Christian who supports very dangerous non-Christian practices within his church. Before President Obama's inauguration the Saddleback church's website was changed to remove anti-gay references. Having personal warmth and charisma in person and in books can make someone seem like they understand everything and are completely loving individuals, but like my first MIL sometimes warmth and charisma can go hand in hand with bigotry and injustice.

The mix of these 2 bigotries is not surprising to me at all now because I've come to realize they are rooted in the same dangerous thinking.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:00 AM   0 comments links to this post

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