3 min

Losing my religion

Don't stay in an institution that hates you

There’s nothing more pathetic in high school than watching kids trying to join a clique of assholes that doesn’t want them. But at least they’re kids. They don’t know any better. What’s truly pathetic is when grown adults try to do the same thing.

And yet that’s what happening with adult queers and religion. They keep wanting to be a part of groups that not only don’t want them, but think they’re sinful, evil and destined to a life in hell.

As Marion Boyd, the former NDP attorney-general of Ontario, told me in an interview, she doesn’t understand this need that some queers have.

“If you choose to subscribe to a religion that discriminates against you, you’re a fool. There’s a lot of religions that I can’t imagine gays and lesbians having anything to do with.”

And yet many want to. There are groups for gay Catholics, gay Muslims, gay Jews. There’s probably groups for gay Scientologists out there. And this despite the fact that the leaders of those religions have made it abundantly clear that they don’t want queers, and that they believe their respective holy books give them them the scriptural authority to enforce such discrimination. After all, about the only thing that Jews, Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem seem able to agree on is that they don’t want Gay Pride parades in their city. The result was that, through a combination of religious proscriptions and death threats, they were able to virtually kill the march.

The Anglican Church Of Canada is meeting in June to decide whether it should bless same-sex unions, and the result is a no-win situation for queers. If the Church votes no to same-sex unions, it will leave the American church — the Episcopalians — as the only country among the 77-million-member world Anglican Communion blessing same-sex unions. If it votes yes, the Canadian and American churches may find themselves kicked out of the Anglican Communion, which will then effectively transfer leadership from mushy and ineffectual liberals in England to out-and-out queer-haters in African, Asian and South American churches. And the Anglican Church in Canada and the US will probably splinter as well, with the many dioceses that have already expressed their steadfast opposition to gays preferring to function under the rule of homophobes on other continents.

It may end as just one or two dioceses of British Columbian hippies blessing same-sex unions. And even those dioceses will lose members, be the target of protests and have to spend all their time defending their stand. Yes, that would be some victory.

Those advocating for queers in these churches will argue that everybody should have the right to worship in the church of their choice, no matter what their sexual orientation. And, in principle, of course they’re right. But churches are not governments. They don’t have to represent everybody. And government approaches to laws on same-sex marriage and hate crimes have made it clear that churches will not have to bless same-sex unions and will be free to spew as much homophobic rhetoric as they please.

There are a few churches in the West that have dealt with these issues, Christian ones anyway. The United Church in Canada has accepted gays with virtually no debate and, of course, the Metropolitan Community Churches in Canada and the US were founded in large part to minister to gays.

But fighting to change other churches is a fool’s quest. And it’s increasingly an unnecessary one, at least in the West. The major churches in Western Europe and North America, and increasingly in South America, are leading themselves to extinction, as their archaic views on women, gays, contraception, abortion and pedophilic priests lose favour with ordinary people. Even Spain and Colombia — where the Catholic Church still wields immense influence — have approved, respectively, same-sex marriage and same-sex unions, despite savage protests from that Church. Even the fundamentalist churches in the southern US are beginning to splinter apart.

Churches or temples or mosques in the West are dying slowly. Faith itself may still be strong, but the actual institutions are in decline in the West.

Where those institutions are not in decline is in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. And it’s certainly no coincidence that those are the areas of the world where gays and lesbians are under the most concerted attack. In most of Africa and the Middle East, homosexuality is illegal, and in many of those countries the penalty can be death. In Eastern Europe, gays and lesbians face the constant threat of violence, often from police. In Poland, a government minister threatened to investigate the Teletubbies for promoting homosexuality until international ridicule made her back down. And in these countries, the prime motivation for all of this is religion.

Today, that’s where the strength of the churches that Canadian queers are so eager to join is growing. And, as is the case with the current debate within the Anglican Church, a victory for queers here may mean strengthening homophobic churches elsewhere.

Believe in God if you must. But why join an institution that hates you? As Nietzsche wrote, “It is inhuman to bless where one is cursed.”