We’ll be shifting gears for September, talking about homophobia in religion and looking at some supportive communities for queer people. For this post, we’ll take a very brief look at the overall issue.
Homophobia as a Hallmark of Religion
It wasn’t their original intention, but most organized religions are used as tools of political and social control. For those of us who stand outside what a faith considers “normal” it has led to powerful oppression.
Let’s take a brief look at the root of homophobia in several religions. In most cases, the positions used against queer people are taken outside their original cultural context. But, we’re not the only victims. The bible, for instance, has been used to justify many atrocities including apartheid in South Africa.
The Demonization of the Other
Throughout history groups of people have been singled out by religious leaders. Whether it be queer people or any other group. Making otherness seem dangerous helps leaders galvanize support. Oppressing the demonized group is presented as god’s will.
We are no strangers to this. Despite a consensus among mental health organizations for many decades, they insist that queerness is a disease. Even with powerful evidence to the contrary, they state that we are trying to convert their children, that there is a “gay agenda” trying to take over society. These manipulations are purely political, sometimes not even reflecting the speaker’s beliefs.
The Clobber Passages In Christianity and Judaism
There are a number of passages in the Old Testament that are used to justify homophobia. If given the culture of the times, and understanding of the languages these texts were written in, none of them was about homosexuality. There is no evidence that the concept of a gay person even existed in these cultures.
There is a lot of scholarly evidence that this is the case. If you’re struggling I suggest listening to this insightful interview with Colby Martin who very effectively “unclobbers” the clobber passages: https://rickclemons.com/life-uncloseted/531-colby-martin/. I’ll be writing more about queerness and Christianity in my September 13th post.
Homophobia in Islam
For the most part, Islam’s ancient texts focus more on sexual acts than sexual orientation. Of course, neither two men, nor two women, can engage in sexual activity that isn’t adulterous because there is no provision for them to be married.
There are direct prohibitions against male-to-male sex in the Qur’an but many of them have been called into question by more moderate Muslims. It is the Hadith that contains most of the proscriptions. It is part of Muslim tradition to debate the Hadith. Still, we have a long way to go before LGBTQ Muslims can find a home in the religion of their birth. I’ll be exploring more about queerness in Islam in my September 20th post.
Homophobia in Buddhism
The issue with queerness in Buddhism centers around the concept of sexual misconduct. In Beyond Dogma the Dalai Lama spoke about individual homosexual people being fine but the act of using sexual organs outside of their intended use is not. Those acts include oral sex and anal intercourse. The same is true for heterosexuals. However, he also said “When science points to or proves a truth contrary to Buddhist teaching, then Buddhist teaching must change,” So, there is hope.
Religions have not been kind to queer people. But, in most religions, there are people working to modernize their faiths, and there are supportive congregations to be found. Let’s hope that as culture continues to evolve, religions will continue to evolve with it.