I thought I’d end the month, and the quarter, on a positive note. This week we’re going to look at what religions accept gay people. As we’ll see it’s possible to find affirming groups within many major religions.
The Earth-Based Traditions
In most of the shamanic traditions there is acceptance, and sometimes even reverence for queer people. These societies tend to be less structured than ours and the contributions of every member of the group are necessary for survival.
As queer people generally did not have children we were able to take on roles as caregivers, and spiritual leaders, for the entire tribe. Before the influence of modern religion, there was no oppression based on sexuality or gender identity. Many within the remnants of these traditions are trying to resurrect this vital function for their gay members.
The Abrahamic Religions
These faiths include Christianity, Baha’i, Islam, Judaism, and Samaritan. While these faiths are predominantly patriarchal, heteronormative, and sex-negative there are denominations within most of them that are more queer affirming.
The more positive attitudes stem from the fact that the ancient texts may have spoken about same-sex sexual activity but couldn’t have addressed the kinds of relationships that we have within the LGBTQ+ community today. Many believe that God created LGBT people and that our relationships produce “good fruit” and so contribute to the community at large.
Welcoming congregations can be found in some Christian denominations, among reform and conservative Jews, and Liberal/Progressive Islamic groups. The Baha’i and Samaritan faiths believe that all people should be treated with respect and dignity, including us.
The Dharmic Religions
These faiths include Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. In general, Buddhism is accepting of LGBTQ+ people. Although, views vary based on the school of Buddhism in question and the culture from which it sprung. Many argue that the Buddhist prohibitions against sexual misconduct do not apply specifically to same-sex relations.
Many Sikhs support queer equality. The emphasis on justice and equality in the tradition does not exclude us. Sikhism views marriage as occurring between two genderless souls supporting equality for same-sex relationships.
Things are more complicated in Hinduism because there is no central authority that speaks on behalf of all Hindus. In general, Hinduism teaches that all beings are reflections of the divine. LGBT themes in Hindu mythology support the position. Hindus in general are conservative but the cultural shift towards more acceptance of LGBTQ+ people is supported by the faith.
Acceptance can be the Norm
Since ancient times faiths across the globe have accepted queerness. In ancient Sumer, there is evidence that gay men served in the temples of the Goddess Inanna and that same-sex relationships were commonplace among them. It’s my belief that prohibitions against homosexuality were introduced more as devices of political control than anything else.
It is likely that the kinds of same-sex partnering that we see in our culture have not existed before. However, that doesn’t mean that organized religion can’t embrace new relationship forms. After all, the concept of romantic love is relatively new. The days when arranged marriages, for political and familial reasons, are not far behind us and still exist in some cultures today. In most modern societies individuals decide who they will marry and why. If a religion embraces that choice, it makes no sense to ban same-sex relationships.