For those of you interested in the ideas sparked by my post yesterday on coming out in a religious context, here’s another good read: “Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue,” by Baptist minister Cody J. Sanders at Religion Dispatches.
More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay). . . .
With dualistic conceptions of good and evil and hierarchical notions of value and worth, it becomes easy to know who it is okay to hate or to bully or, seemingly more benignly, to ignore. And no institutions have done more to create and perpetuate the public disapproval of gay and lesbian people than churches. . . .
Ministers who remain in comfortable silence on sexuality must speak out. Churches that have silently embraced gay and lesbian members for years must publically hang the welcome banner. How long will we continue to limit and qualify our messages of acceptance, inclusion and embrace for the most vulnerable in order to maintain the comfort of those in our communities of faith who are well-served by the status quo?
It’s a great piece, well worth reading in full (and printing out and bringing to your place of worship, if you have one).
For comparison purposes, see the piece in the Washington Post’s On Faith column, “Christian compassion requires the truth about harms of homosexuality,” by Tony Perkins of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council. Perkins asserts:
Within the homosexual population, such mental health problems are higher among those who “come out of the closet” at an earlier age. Yet GLSEN’s approach is to encourage teens to “come out” when younger and younger—thus likely exacerbating the very problem they claim they want to solve.
I’m not sure where Perkins gets his information. All the studies I’ve seen attest to a better sense of self-worth and fewer emotional problems when one comes out earlier. But I wouldn’t expect the FRC to mention that.
Having said that, we need to be careful not to taint all religious organizations and believers because of the harm caused by some. Jumping back to my previous post, which mentions a piece by Rabbi Victor Appell about the comfort that religion can provide to youth coming out, I should note the “Do Not Stand Idly By” campaign launched yesterday by Jewish LGBT group Keshet with over 100 initial community partners. More than most communities, the Jewish community knows the dangers of standing idly by. The campaign encourages people to sign the “Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives” and commit to ending homophobic bullying and harassment in synagogues, schools, organizations, and communities. (Thanks to Liz of Eat, Drink, and Be Mommy for the tip.)
I wouldn’t be surprised if other religions and denominations have started similar campaigns. Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.
(Two posts in a row about religion? From agnostic me? Fact is, I spent five years of graduate school studying medieval intellectual history, which is in large part a study of the interaction between religion and society—so the subject holds a deep interest regardless of my personal beliefs.)