I mean, they're totally obsessed with homosexuality. It's one of the cornerstones of evangelical politics. It inspires more bile than pretty much anything else - and more bullshit. I recently read about a so-called 'Homosexual Agenda' on a right-wing site. It makes gay people sound more like the proponents of a 'new world order' than fellas who dig other fellas.
You've got to wonder where this obsession stems from. Personally, I believe it's all Freudian. After all, it's a commonly held belief that homophobia - which translates as fear, rather than hatred of gay people - often stems from a homophobic person's denial and repression of their own homosexual impulses.
Which makes sense when you take outspoken pastor Ted Haggard, who was voted one of the most influential evangelical preachers in the United States for his determined stance against gay marriage and homosexuality in general.
He once stated; "homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures." This was shortly before he was revealed to have been involved in a three-year long homosexual relationship with a male prostitute.
Or Paul Barnes, founder of Grace Chapel in Colorado. Despite preaching about how homosexuality was an unnatural sin condemned by scripture, he confessed in December 2006: "I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy. . . ."
It seems wherever you look, more and more outspoken critics of homosexuality are proving the stereotype right by admitting their own uncertain sexuality.
The Christian Position
If you ask a fundamentalist Christian why they hate gay people, you'll generally hear the same list of arguments.
- It's unnatural.
- It's unhealthy.
- It's considered a sin by the scripture of the Bible.
That's what Christians CLAIM is the basis for their dislike of homosexuality and public acceptance of a gay lifestyle - things like gay marriage (or civil partnerships) and the right for gay people to adopt.
However, on even the briefest examination of their arguments, it's clear to see the Christian anti-homosexual agenda is simply riddled with holes.
Let's examine the arguments:
1: Homosexuality is unnatural.
I'm not sure what the criteria for 'unnatural' is, but homosexuality is rife in nature. National Geographic and Wikipedia have lists of literally hundreds of mammals who have been observed engaging in same-sex activity.
Bonobo monkeys are an excellent example, with 100% of researched animals involving themselves in homosexual or bisexual relationships with other Bonobo monkeys.
Considering that a record 1,500 species of animals have been recorded displaying homosexual behaviour, the argument that homosexuality isn't a normal, everyday part of nature's rich tapestry falls utterly flat.
Of course, some Christians refute this logical argument on the grounds that they believe mankind did not evolve from animals. If mankind is not evolved from monkeys, why should we emulate their behavior by tolerating homosexual behaviour in society?
This is a rather contradictory argument, however. If you're going to distance mankind from the animals from which we evolved (or not, depending on your beliefs) it's suddenly so much harder to claim that homosexuality is 'unnatural.'
Homosexuality is entirely natural in the wild, so in order to claim it's 'unnatural' in mankind is to hold humanity to a different standard than nature. In that case - who has the authority to argue that homosexuality is or isn't 'natural' in polite, civilized homosapien society?
Like most Christian arguments, it all circles back to the Good Book. Nature itself might not say that homosexuality is 'unnatural,' but the Bible apparently does. In that regard, the Christian right-wing has already surrendered this first position against homosexuality by falling back on their third argument.
2. It's unhealthy.
Mike Huckabee, the most conservative Republican candidate for the White House, proudly declared: "Homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."
He's talking, of course, about AIDS.
When AIDS and HIV first arrived on the scene, in the early eighties, it was often thought of as a 'gay' disease. It ran rampant through the gay community in the United States and while the heterosexual infection rate is now higher than amongst the gay community, it's still a disease that's often considered part of the homosexual lifestyle.
The fact that AIDS is still a hotly discussed issue within the gay community encourages conservatives to argue that it's proof that homosexuality is an unhealthy and unnatural lifestyle. Condoning homosexuality, as far as they're concerned, puts everybody at risk from infection.
Certainly, in the early days of the AIDS crisis, this argument carried some weight. The heterosexual community was generally only exposed to AIDS and HIV when a blood-doner gave tainted blood (infecting the recipient) or a man on the 'Down Low' maintained heterosexual relationships while at the same time engaging in clandestine homosexual encounters.
With much more being known about AIDS and HIV these days, those risks are reduced. Blood screening has practically eliminated the risk of infection via transfusion and a growing acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle has reduced the number of men who feel pressured to repress their natural inclinations and live 'double lives' (except in the religious community, examples being Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes.)
These days, it's fairly clear that the major infection risk somebody with AIDS poses is if you sleep with them. This makes the fervent outbursts of Ted Haggard that much more duplicitous. When he was preaching about the health risks of homosexuality and what a risk it posed to the community, it was clearly because he was exposing himself to that risk and he was scared.
The Christian condemnation of the homosexual lifestyle actually exposes more people to risk. As Barnes and Haggard illustrate, men who feel pressured to hide their true sexuality often maintain heterosexual relationships in public and have homosexual encounters in private.
Religion prevents these men being able to live their desired lifestyle - and in maintaining a straight 'front' they're exposing their wives to the very same health risks they protest against.
3: It's considered a sin by the scripture of the Bible.
This is where the Christian argument falls back to during every engagement. The Bible apparently says that homosexuality is a sin - and therefore should not be condoned.
While the scriptural argument might be the cornerstone of the Christian position on homosexuality, it's not a very good one. Even before you actually examine the evidence contained within the Bible, you have to consider a very important question:
The Bible apparently says that homosexuality is a sin. But so what?
Because America is not a Christian society. Sure, the United States might have been founded on Christian principles, but at least two of the founding fathers were confirmed atheists and since the foundation of America, the demographic has broadened to include Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Seiks and Muslims.
What unifies the people of America is not the Bible, but the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - and they say nothing on the subject of homosexuality.
In fact, the first line of the Declaration of Independence is:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
During the Civil Rights movement, the right of a person to have a consensual, monogamous, long term relationship with another human being was constitutionally protected by 'the pursuit of happiness' in the 1967 Supreme Court Case Loving vs. Virgina. In that case, it was an interracial relationship - but the precedent was set.
Christians can legitimately argue that the word 'marriage' refers only to a man and a women. But allowing two people of the same gender to have an officially mandated civil partnership with each other - offering the same protections, benefits and standing as a heterosexual marriage - is quite clearly the constitutional right of every American couple who decide to live that way.
If a Christian believes their values are truly in conflict with the Constitution, they have to ask themselves: Which are you? A Christian or an American?
The two don't have to be mutually exclusive - but many fundamentalist Christians choose to make them that way. It's evident in the political positions they take regarding homosexuality.
Fundamentalist Christians either want to appoint right-wing, conservative Supreme Court Justices who will ignore the precedent set by Loving vs. Virginia, or they lobby to change to Constitution itself to include the rule that marriage is 'between a man and a woman.'
The fact that the Christian right wing cannot support their own position without manipulating or amending the Constitution illustrates just how conflicted it is with the spirit of American society.
But moving on, it's time to examine the Bible itself and see exactly what it says about homosexuality.
Now I've often found discussing such issues with fundamentalist Christians to be difficult. As far as many Christians are concerned, they know the Bible better than any non-believer and often dismiss any notion of discussing the subject with somebody who hasn't already taken their blinkered position on the subject.
But that's just an arrogant statement - and incorrect. For one thing, the ability to quote every line of the Good News Bible does not make you a Biblical scholar. Most fundamentalist Christians are only familiar with the Bible they use in Church and in Bible study. They argue that this is the entirely accurate, heavenly inspired Word of God.
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16
But it's not. It's a very long way away from that.
The Good News Bible or King James Bible is merely an English translation of a Biblical anthology. It MUST be considered as such. If anybody has learned a second language and done translation work, they must know that there are several different ways of translating something and to believe that any English-language translation of the Bible is 100% accurate is to assume that the original translators were as divinely blessed as the Bible's original authors.
Take some of the translation problems Biblical scholars encounter. In one example, in Matthew 5:22, the Revised Standard Bible says Jesus warns people: "Whoever insults his brother, he must answer for it in court."
The King James Bible translates this somewhat more closely to the original Koine Greek text, which comes out as: "That whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Racha, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."
The King James Bible used the word 'Racha' as one of the insults Jesus warns against using. At that time, no translation for the word could be found - so the term was left untranslated. However, a more recent study of ancient Hebrew and contemporary Greek indicates that the word 'Racha. was synonymous with the Hebrew term "rakh" - which indicates a man of weak, effeminate and homosexual appearance. Historian Warren Johansson equated to the common anti-gay slur 'faggot.'
So therefore, in the original Matthew 5:22, Jesus warns his followers not to make fun of men of effeminate or gay appearance. He specifically uses that term. Hardly supporting the traditional anti-gay position Christians take, is it?
The Christian Argument
When it comes to scriptural evidence condemning homosexuality, Christians are largely wise enough to ignore the Old Testament. Although the Old Testament position on homosexuality was explicit - so were positions on a variety of other things, which are incompatible with a modern Christian lifestyle.
For example, Leviticus 18:22 says: “And with a man you shall not lie with as a man lies with a woman; it is an abomination."
However, according to Leviticus, it is an equal 'abomination' to eat shellfish, pork or rabbit, so considering even fundamentalist Christians enjoy a good pork chop or shrimp cocktail, you can't base an argument against homosexuality on Leviticus. That would just be hypocritical.
Instead, Christians argue that the New Testament provides ample evidence that Christianity condemns homosexuality. Although this isn't entirely accurate.
In actual fact, there are only two explicit references to homosexuality in the New Testament, both appearing in the Pauline epistles.
That in itself is interesting. Paul the Apostle did not actually know Jesus. He didn't actually know anybody who knew Jesus. In fact, he claims to have received the Gospel from a vision of the resurrected Jesus while traveling on the road to Damascus.
Therefore, even assuming the translations of Pauline epistles appearing in the King James Bible or Good News Bible are remotely close to the original texts, it's worth noting that by historical standards, Paul's gospel is anecdotal at best.
In Epistle to the Romans 1:26-27 , Paul wrote:
"Because of this [idolatry], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul says:
"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
There are two major issues with accepting these two references to homosexuality as absolute proof that it was condemned in the Bible.
First off, it was Paul speaking, not Jesus. Paul the Apostle is not God. Paul the Apostle is not Jesus. In fact, Paul hadn't even met Jesus. Therefore, it seems entirely contradictory to base a scriptural argument against homosexuality purely on the words of a man other than Jesus.
Especially since the only reference Jesus himself made about homosexuality in the entire New Testament was to condemn people who insult men who were 'Racha' or seemingly homosexual.
Apart from that, Jesus doesn't say a thing about homosexuality - and considering just how important the issue is amongst modern-day fundamentalist Christians, I find it very troubling that the spokesman of their entire religion had nothing to say on the subject.
Secondly, Paul's comments are in themselves contradictory to the Christian faith. The basic philosophy of Christianity is that anybody can inherit the Kingdom of God as long as they accept Jesus. Absolutely anybody regardless of the sins they have committed.
Evidence of this comes from a far more accurate source than Paul's epistles. Both Luke and Matthew recount the last hours of Jesus' life, in which he spoke to two thieves crucified to the left and right of him by the Romans.
The 'Good Thief' accepted being crucified; "for we receive the due reward of our deeds." But he recognized Jesus as the son of God and asked: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Jesus responded: "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Luke 23:39-43.
And THAT'S the basis of Christianity. That anybody - regardless of what they've done throughout their life - will be welcomed into heaven as long as they accept Jesus.
So when Paul pompously argues that gays and drunkards won't 'inherit the Kingdom of God' then he's contradicting none other than Jesus himself. I personally believe Paul is arrogantly pontificating his own beliefs using Jesus' name to give himself credibility.
After all, if you believe Corinthians 6:9-10 condemns homosexuality, it also equally condemns drunkenness, talking about somebody behind their back and even obesity (...nor the greedy...)
And anybody who's spent any time around fundamentalist Christians will realize that excommunicating all two-faced gossipers would leave the Churches pretty empty.
The Pauline epistles are simply flawed - from both a historical and a scriptural basis. Therefore, inarguably, using them as evidence in the argument against homosexuality leaves that position equally flawed. Jesus never condemned homosexuality. That's a fact, documented beyond any reasonable doubt within the Bible.
Let's Get Real
Having examined the flaws in the fundamentalist position, it's worth taking a step back at looking at the big picture. The anti-gay argument is seriously flawed. Only in the narrowest, most blinkered interpretation of scripture is it possible to determine that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible (although not by Jesus himself.)
That raises the question: Why are fundamentalist Christians SO vehemently opposed to accepting homosexuality?
I believe the answer to that one lies in recent history.
Man & Woman?
Currently, the major sticking point Christians are unwilling to budge on is the subject of gay marriage. Not just the term 'marriage,' but the idea of offering same-sex couples in committed relationships the same legal protection married couples have.
It's rather alarming to look back just forty years to see a similar position being upheld in the southern United States - protesting marriage between the races.
During the first half of the 20th century, all across the United States, there were laws enacted to separate black people from white. They went to different schools, rode different buses and even drank out of different water fountains. Top of the list of 'racial crimes' was an interracial marriage between a white person and a black one.
In 1967, Loving vs. Virginia was a hotly contested court case that saw a black woman marry a white man in the District of Columbia (as was allowed in the American capital.) When the married couple moved back to their home state of Virginia, a grand jury issued an indictment against the couple as they'd married in violation of Virginia's segregation laws.
On sentencing the couple, the judge announced the following:
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
Note the opening words: 'Almighty God.'
Just like in the argument against gay marriage, it's the Lord's name used (taken in vain) and it's apparently his will that blacks and whites be separated.
But the Lovings did not capitulate - and the court case reached the Supreme Court - the highest court in all of America. Nearly ten years after their original indictment, the Lovings were allowed to remain married, on the grounds that Virginia's segregation laws were unconstitutional and "odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality."
Chief Justice Warren explained his ruling:
"Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."
Note that the gender of the 'person' a man is free to marry is never mentioned. Some people argue it's implied - but other people logically argue that the only requirements to marry is mutual consent by both parties (rendering senator John Cornyn’s 'box turtle' argument void, since a box turtle, or any animal, is incapable of offering informed consent to marry.)
Bigotry in Faith's Clothing
The alarming thing comparing Loving vs. Virginia to the modern day argument against gay marriage are the similarities. It seems like it's the same old cast, performing the same old script, just four decades later.
While certain Christians were instrumental in securing Civil Rights for African-Americans, the core support for racial segregation across the United States came from the majority of 'decent,' normal, Church-going Americans. The same people who are now protesting against gay marriage.
In fact, the scriptural arguments were quite similar, too - with the 'mark of Cain' often being interpreted as dark skin, thereby offering scriptural evidence to support the assumption that black people were spiritually inferior to whites.
Such scriptural interpretations were clearly just cynical attempts to hide racism and bigotry behind the legitimacy of religion. I honestly don't see how the Christian position on homosexuality is any different today.
It's quite clear that the most verbal opponents of gay rights aren't fighting against homosexual equality for any 'greater good' or 'higher calling.' They simply don't like gay people. They're scared of the effects 'gay' people will have on good, old-fashioned 'family values.'
But that's no different to white people in the 1950's being scared of the effect 'negro culture' would have on polite, white society - heralded by the arrival of 'rock & roll' music.
It doesn't necessarily mean the Church goers in the 1950's or the fundamentalist Christians of today are necessarily bad people. They're just not exposed to homosexual people in the same way those of us in urban areas are - and are therefore apprehensive about people they know nothing about (aside from whispered rumors and Church mandated anti-homosexual propaganda.)
This is why the anti-gay movement is much stronger in America's heartland than places like New York City or California. In New York, we know that the gay community wants nothing more than the basic civil liberties the 'heartland' of America was denying black people less than half a century ago.
The right to avoid discrimination. The legal protection of an officially recognized, consensual, monogamous, committed relationship. The right for certain aspects of 'gay history' like the Stonewall Riots to be recognized - just like important events in the history of the Civil Rights movement are recognized.
In protesting so vehemently against this, I'm worried the fundamentalist Christians are being enormously hypocritical. In the New Testament, Jesus certainly never said anything about homosexuality, so by putting his name behind a movement to repress and deny other human beings their basic human rights seems totally against everything Christianity is supposed to stand for.
"They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." Titus 1:16