Disclaimer: This post may provoke strong feelings, especially among any fundamentalist religious individuals reading it. That’s not an apology, just fair warning. It comes from a place of love.
I have been spending a lot of time in recent weeks reflecting on my values and priorities, and on the nature of love. Even as I find myself becoming much less interested in argument or debate, at the same time I am finding it really cathartic to keep expressing myself, and feel very strongly about what I’m writing here. So I will risk alienating or angering some of you by expressing my thoughts on different kinds of love and the ways it does (and doesn’t) correspond to religion and philosophy in my experience.
On one side of my extended family, I have more than one cousin who is openly gay. On the other, I have a cousin who is transgendered. Each of them is a remarkable, awesome person who has my respect and love. I’m proud to be related to each of them and psyched to call them my friends. I also have friends and colleagues who are GLBT (some single, some married) and these too are awesome people I’m lucky to have in my circle. Empathy and passion for justice shouldn’t require this degree of personal connection, but in reflecting on the lives of these specific people I care about, I feel compelled to speak out against the bigotry, injustice, hypocrisy and pain they’ve each needlessly suffered.
There are some people in my extended circle who have strong feelings and opinions against homosexuals. Many of these people describe themselves as Christians. Yet, I’d challenge any of them to show a biblical passage in which Jesus speaks out against love. The Old Testament (e.g. Leviticus) doesn’t count. If you lived by those archaic rules you’d also regularly be sacrificing goats as burnt offerings and managing your harem and slaves in specific ways. Jesus spoke so often against hypocrisy and judgement. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety (many parts of it more than once), and besides being raised by ardent Christians as one of them, I also spent a few years as a young adult with that identity. Eventually the cycles of guilt and cognitive dissonance were too much for me, and though prayer brought me some peace in times of decision-making (e.g. deciding to leave UVA, which was a toxic environment for me), over time Christianity just didn’t suit me and I drifted first into ambivalent agnosticism and then into somewhat angry atheism. Gradually that evolved into a more positive and accepting humanism, with elements of non-religious zen philosophy. I’m sure I’ll write more on that when time allows. In any case, I’ve spent most of my life avidly reading about and deeply considering the nature of religious experience (through both direct experience and study). The main teachings of Jesus which I took away from my years of attempting to worship him and studying his life boil down to this:
- Love, don’t judge. This, over and over again, above all: LOVE, DON’T JUDGE.
- You must choose between money and power on one hand, or love on the other. You can’t actively pursue both.
- Hypocrisy is everywhere, and is evil.
- (Also, he made it clear that his followers didn’t understand him at all.)
Related tangent: this is why things like the “prosperity gospel” absolutely baffle me. Even taking the Bible as a source of literal truth or prescriptive morality (which I don’t), even on its own terms, it is so crystal clear about this. (Don’t get me started on “Christianist” fundamentalists whose self-righteous, judgemental, controlling politics bear more resemblance to Pharisees or the Taliban than to Jesus when it comes to love and non-judgement and compassion.)
Regardless of your religious beliefs, if you would deny any of my cousins or friends or colleagues or anyone else the right to marry the person they love, to have a family, to be parents, to live honestly and openly and to participate fully as first-class citizens of our troubled but still great country, or any other place, then please do the following:
1. Honestly examine the source of your feelings about these medieval taboos. (They do not originate from the New Testament, nor from the words or actions of Jesus. Also, they are remarkably similar to religious arguments made against interracial marriage just a generation or two ago, and they have no defensible place in a progressive secular democracy.)
2. Please don’t post, comment, email, or contact me in any way about this topic, nor about your religious beliefs. (I am not interested in debate, I simply feel compelled to make this point. I could too easily spend time and energy I can’t spare in arguing because I care so much, but it would not be fruitful for either of us so let’s not waste each others’ precious time.)
3. Please stop following my health status on my blog or CaringBridge or Facebook. I just can’t be friends with someone who would go out of their way to hurt my dear cousins and friends in this way.
Note, I need all the support I can get in my battle with cancer, so I don’t take that lightly. But if you’d shun or marginalize or hate these wonderful people (let alone support killing them per things like Uganda’s outrageously evil proposed law making homosexuality punishable by death), we simply can’t be friends. I don’t know how else to make my point as strongly and clearly as I can, and it means that much to me. This is about love, and about letting go of hatred and fear and bigotry of any kind. This is also the civil rights battle of our time. I have been so proud to hear stories of my Uncle Bill’s life-risking trip to the deep south in support of black civil rights in the 60’s. It’s ridiculous to compare a blog post with that kind of courage and integrity and action, but I will take what opportunity I have to try and add my voice to the mix, in favor of justice and equality and love.
On a related theological tack: Jesus was a political radical, who sat down to eat with and literally embrace prostitutes and other “untouchables” at a time when that was momentous, socially unheard-of and politically revolutionary. Personally I don’t view the bible as a reliable historical record or guide to proper living, but even if it were, taken at face value, count the number of times Christ mentions hypocrisy and judgement (and money), and compare it to the number of times he even mentions sexuality. It’s unambiguous. The message is: love, don’t judge. Period.
This is also why I see things like millionaire sunday christians and westboro hate-mongerers as so much more antithetical to genuine Christianity than anything relating to sexual orientation. Also, America is a great experiment in secular freedom and pursuit of happiness. The separation of church and state prevents each entity from being corrupted by the other. If you’d deny basic human dignity and civil rights to any group of minorities (women, blacks, gays, atheists…) then at some level, politically, you share more in common with ancient Pharisees or modern Sharia law Islamic fanatics than you do with Jesus (or Buddha or MLK). But please, don’t start a debate on it, please don’t try to change my mind. This is fundamental to me: I will always love my GLBT cousins and friends and will always support their right to have and to love families. I don’t intend to start a firestorm, but this is about love, and I have never been so full of love for my family in my life. So if you oppose me on this politically and you care at all for me, please, if I can’t change your thinking on this please just let it go and leave me alone so I can fight my fight. Thank you.