Last week on my personal blog I wrote a post addressing the failure of "good" Christians to speak up and combat the hate and lies issuing daily from far right Christians against LGBT individuals. Indeed, I likened them in some ways to the "Good Germans" during the Nazi regime who chose to close their eyes to what they either knew or suspected was being done to eradicate Jews in Europe. The cross posting of that post on here on The Bilerico Project generated dozens of comments.
Like it or not, religion - and in the USA that principally means Christianity - is the underlying source for homophobia, anti-gay laws, and on occasion deadly violence against LGBT people. Many do not want to accept this hard truth.
Refusing to accept that reality doesn't somehow magically make it not true. And failing to speak out loudly against the hate filled "Christians" and failing to demand equal media time to counter the hate, doesn't solve the problem. Neither does attacking LGBT activists who call out the source of the hate - namely the Bible. Bible apologists are, in my view, disingenuous and, in truth, aiding the cause of people like Fred Phelps, Bryan Fischer, Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher who wave about the Bible during their hate filled rants. Yet this is precisely what Mark D. Jordan of Harvard Divinity School (pictured above) does in a piece at Religion Dispatches. His particular target is John Aravosis, but his whining is broad enough to include myself and many other activists.
Jordan prefers those who have quietly "labored strenuously over recent decades to change received readings of the Bible," forgetting the fact that most in the general public have never heard of him or other academic types or their "labors." Quiet labors such as those Jordan lauds are fine and good, but LGBT people are still being regularly murdered, fired from their jobs (I have first hand knowledge myself) and undergoing daily discrimination because of the Bible. And this sad truth dictates that at times those willing to use brickbats and loudly condemn the haters and the fount of such hate are a necessity. I would argue that the younger generations - who seem increasingly inclined to walk away from religious affiliation and hold a negative view of "Christians" - are hearing the message of those like Aravosis far more than that of ivory tower academics like Jordan.
Yes, we need the academics, but we need the street fighters of the Internet as well. who daily set out to expose the viciousness and hate that are too often synonymous with Christian belief. Jordan has directed his criticism in the wrong directions. I would also suggest that Jordan spend more time tracking what those who I call Christianists are saying and doing. If he did, he'd know that there are those in the Southern Baptist Convention and elsewhere who really would like to see gays criminalized and imprisoned if not executed. He'd also realize that patience is in short supply when one lives in a homophobic state like Virginia, has been fired for being gay or has experienced a police harassment simply for being gay. Here's a sampling of Jordan's snarky whining:
The news item is both grisly and depressingly familiar: a young man is accused of killing an older man for making sexual advances. The weapon was a sock filled with stones; the young man told police that he had been instructed in prayer to apply the Old Testament punishment of stoning.
Unfortunately the story didn't stop there. John Aravosis, political blogger and publicist for gay causes, is perhaps best known for leading a boycott against Dr. Laura; or else for outing a conservative "journalist" as a gay porn star. In a recent post, Aravosis says first that "the Bible does say to kill gays," then quotes a string of alternate (and admittedly "wrong") biblical translations before reiterating that they are "quite clear about the need to murder gay people," only to conclude that "Christians do nothing about it, other than quote it against us in order to take away our civil rights."
But then let me ask the obvious question: Who gains when a gay activist endorses the most homophobic of marginal interpretations of the Bible> after half a century of gay or gay-friendly efforts to establish better readings? . . . . The horrifying prescription of Leviticus 20:13 (and its correlate, 18:22) are not directed against classes of persons, but against acts committed by Israelite males (and males only). Moreover, it's a matter of lively dispute even among fierce textual literalists exactly which acts are intended.
Does Aravosis really want to persuade members of the Southern Baptist Convention, say, that a strict interpretation of Leviticus requires them to advocate the death penalty for same-sex acts? It's more likely that Aravosis is preaching to his own choir; that is, to political liberals who identify as LGBTQ, or their staunch allies. What effect will this post have on them? It can only confirm the view that queer political progress depends on a strict secularism--after all, Christians only quote their violent Bible "to take away our civil rights." We politically awake queers would be so much better off, the post implies, if only we could get rid of that hateful book and those who still read it.
I am tempted to ask Aravosis whether what he counts as progress in gay politics (say, around Don't Ask Don't Tell) owes more to the liberationists or to their homophile predecessors. . . . . I recall the long line of Christian writers, pastors, and congregants who have labored strenuously over recent decades to change received readings of the Bible, to enlist the churches in support of legal reforms, to open church hierarchies and church rituals to LGBT people. They understood, as Aravosis may not, that no effort at public persuasion could forestall every violent misuse of the Bible or any other sacred text.
While it cannot issue guarantees, the patient work of undoing Christian homophobia is still worthwhile bloggers like Aravosis, then for the sake of public debate in a country where Christianity still wields considerable power. And not least for the sake of queer believers who still find themselves caught between the dogma of homophobic churches and the dogma of versions of gay politics.