The Pope was at it again recently, choosing to let people die rather than rethink an outdated and ridiculous belief that even a majority of his followers completely ignore.
Pope Benny was in Africa, telling a continent ravaged by AIDS that condoms weren’t the answer to preventing the disease and that they might even make things worse. The pontiff’s comments were criticized by France, Germany, Belgium and the United Nations’ AIDS agency, though not by Canada.
The Vatican’s response was to whine that the criticisms were intended to “intimidate” the Pope into silence. Now, personally, I have no interest in getting the Pope to shut up. In fact, I encourage him to talk even more than he does now. Every time he opens his mouth he costs Catholicism some of its followers. If he keeps advancing crackpot ideas for the rest of his life, the Church could be dead before he is.
It does, however, make Tony Blair’s new venture seem even more ill-timed. Blair, the former British prime minister, converted to Catholicism from his previous Anglicanism after he left office. He’s currently setting up a branch of his Blair Faith Foundation in Canada with the avowed purpose of bringing together adherents of the major religions to talk peacefully. He was recently in Toronto to speak.
Now Blair, to his credit, has said that the Catholic church is completely out of step on homosexuality.
“There’s probably that same fear among [other] religious leaders that if you concede on an issue like this … where does it end? You’d start having to rethink many, many things. My view is that rethinking is good, so let’s carry on rethinking.”
But in an interview with the Toronto Star, Blair also defended his mixing of his faith with his political decisions while PM: joining the invasion of Iraq, for example.
“The point is that, like it or not, there is and will be a huge number of people motivated by faith. So telling people to separate faith from political or social life is futile. Religious faith is a force. The issue is: a force for good or bad?
“It is true there are two faces of faith: one reactionary, extreme, occasionally violent; the other, compassion, love, fellowship and solidarity. So the task for the foundation is: first, to help people understand different faiths better so they can understand different cultures more fully; and, second, to promote faith as part of progress and reconciliation, not a focus for conflict and sectarian divisions.
“Ignoring the world of faith won’t work.”
Presumably Blair considers his faith one of “compassion, love, fellowship and solidarity.” But let’s remember that his faith led to tens of thousands of deaths in Iraq and the normalization of torture by the US and Britian — and by indirect extension, Canada. It’s also led to western countries, including Canada, supporting rulers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan that are anti-woman and anti-gay.
Speaking of which, the Afghan government tried recently to sneak through a law that would have forced Shiite women in the country to submit to sex upon demand from their husbands and would have restricted their movements outside the home to those approved by male relatives. The uproar which resulted when news of the measure got out has forced at least a temporary rethink, but the attempt is instructive.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, six gay men were executed, purely and simply because of their sexual orientation. And in a province of Pakistan, the federal government has agreed to set up sharia law to placate hardline rebels. Sharia law, of course, albeit taken to an extreme, is the exceptionally fundamentalist application of the Koran that has resulted in the imprisonment and execution of gays in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
This is the end result of someone like Tony Blair or George W Bush practising his faith while in a position of political power. As numerous others have pointed out, the invasion of Iraq, and indeed the whole war on terror, resulted, in part, from an attempt to assert the supremacy and superiority of Christianity over Islam.
Unfortunately, since the war has proved nothing of the sort and has also been a complete failure militarily, the result has been a series of compromises that has allowed the worst prejudices of both religions to be acted upon. The victims in those cases, of course, tend to be women and gays.
So, forced to kowtow to warlords in Afghanistan and to the very extremists they supposedly set out to destroy in Iraq, the Western powers find themselves turning a blind eye to attacks on women and gays, and even murders, in order to stop terrorists. It’s a schizophrenic policy full of hypocrisies that shows no sign of changing under Obama.
And to close the circle completely, when queer refugees, from countries ruled by Western-friendly governments which persecute gays in the name of Islam, apply for safety in Canada, there are now Christian fundamentalist immigration judges appointed by our government to rule on their applications.
But I’m sure it’ll all be much better now that the Obama administration has officially renamed the “war on terror” as “overseas contingency operations.”
My father told me he recently read The Davinci Code — which posits that Jesus had children with Mary Magdalene — while visiting my sister. He says he quite enjoyed it, but the interesting part was his saying, “I always thought Jesus was a homosexual.” And he didn’t mean it in any negative way.
I can see why. Living with 12 men and a prostitute, preaching love and tolerance, sounds gay to me. I was also reminded of the fact, as persuasively detailed by historian John Boswell, that the early church used to regularly marry men.
Hatred of homosexuality is a relatively recent addition to Christianity. And it’s not something, incidentally, that Jesus said anything whatsoever about.