10 min

Religion: it’s not what you think

I don't go to Sunday mass but I do go to Sunday brunch. For me, it's just as holy, especially since this weekend's egg-benny celebrated the birthday of a gay Christian friend of mine. At one point, he laughed about how we could be friends at all, since I spend each day "tearing down everything I believe in." This blog, he says, is out to "destroy established society."

"Of course not," I laughed, "Just the stupid bits. It's not my fault there's so many!" We moved on but the unspoken question remained: is religion itself one of the stupid bits? 

This weekend, the divide between Christianity and homosexuality grew ever wider, with protests outside the Vatican in Rome over the Catholic Church's refusal to support a UN resolution decriminalizing homosexuality in countries where gay people are beaten, jailed and/or put to death:

It's a standard protest these days but, nevertheless, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (self-described as "a nonprofit, interfaith, public-interest law firm") took out a full-page ad in the New York Times condemning the protests against the Mormon church that erupted after its massive support of California's Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. Among these thousands of protests, there have been three regrettable but non-violent actions against Christian people (I bitched about them here). The Becket group now spins these into a narrative of gay "thugs" using "violence and intimidation" against people of faith. 

According to the ad, "religious people have the right and duty to participate in the
electoral process without fear and intimidation from anti-religious
bigotry." Of course they do, just as gay people have the right to object when churches use their tax-free status and, in the Mormons' case, the tithing of 10 percent of their followers' money to fund intolerance to the tune of $22 million. David, meet Goliath.

(And, of course, you've got to wonder what kind of "interfaith" group includes no Buddhists, Hindus or Muslims but does include Chuck Colson, who famously went to prison as one of Richard Nixon's Watergate goons? I'm just sayin'.) 

Sorry, Becket gang, but in modern North America, the very notion of widespread hatred against Christians is laughable: in this poker game of victimhood, I see your white power and styrofoam-cross-crushing and raise you Simmie Williams and Lawrence King.

Yet still, another Christian group has demanded an apology from actor Jack Black and the creators of the very funny "Prop 8: The Musical": "Appearing as a sarcastic, rotund Christ, Black distorts the Bible and
condones shameful, homosexual acts. Associating Christ with perverse
activity is an affront to all people of faith, especially Christians." Wow, I'm really amused at how someone can expect an apology from people while calling them fat perverts! Here's the unrepentent gang on Keith Olbermann's show:

So yeah, here's my rant: the word "bigot" is being thrown around a lot. The Oxford dictionary defines bigot as "a person who is prejudiced in their views and intolerant of the opinions of others." That's clearly the case for many people of faith — their views on homosexuality solidly prejudiced by some (but not all, of course) of the ancient rules in the Koran or the Book of Leviticus — but when gay people stand up to their lazy narrow-mindedness, hoping to protect ourselves by diminishing or maybe even changing these intolerant opinions, religious people then cry that they're the victims of bigotry and lash out. And so it goes, creating this demented Moebius strip we're all now trapped in.

But in the clip above, John C. Reilly is right in making a distinction between religious belief and civil rights. No one is protesting the Mormons' faith itself or even their belief that homosexuality is immoral but it's clear (as Dan Savage and other activists have noted) that providing massive funding to a bill to violate the Constitutional, civil, human rights of gay people is not a private religious belief but a public political action. There's a distinction.

It would be easy to assume, for instance, as my friend does, that this blog's railing against religious homophobia represents a stance against religion itself. It would be easy to assume that I'm a atheist who thinks that a belief in some invisible sky-daddy is pathetic, silly, and an outdated, unnecessary drag on human evolution and progress. Maybe I am.

Or maybe I was raised Catholic and still see great beauty and wisdom in an ancient faith now being tainted by political powermongers who use it as a stick to beat people into submission with. Maybe I'm trying to save the Christian faith from being forever corrupted and marginalized by hateful bigots who are Christians in name only. 

Or maybe I'm something else altogether. Point is, you don't know. My private religious beliefs are just that. They inform, but do not dominate, my political views which are based in logic, compassion and fairness — three traits I lobby to see more of in every (or no) faith. This blog is definitely an extension of my political beliefs but not necessarily my religious ones. 

A friend in California this summer told me that, whether I like it or not, the fight against gay marriage was a "core belief" of his Christian faith. I refuse to believe that — any religion built on such discrimination and hypocrisy doesn't seem worth much to me — and LGBT people should continue to use every non-violent tool at our disposal to change society. We will never agree with any religion that demands we remain second-class citizens because we've seen (or suffered from) what that thinking leads to.

So sorry, Becket Fund, but I can't shed any tears over the hurt feelings of Mormons when there are still children being beaten to death for being gay. It's against my religion.