On the International Day Against Homophobia, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland says discrimination based on sexual orientation should be consigned to the pages of history....
In March, the representatives of the 47 member countries of the oldest European organization, the Council of Europe, agreed that all individuals must be able to enjoy their rights and freedoms without discrimination — including on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. They also recognized that nondiscriminatory treatment by state actors, and, where appropriate, positive state measures for protection against discriminatory treatment, including by non-state actors, are fundamental components of the international system protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms....
In April this year, whilst debating a major report on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, parliamentarians from all over Europe coming together at the Council of Europe voiced serious concerns about violations of the freedom of association and of expression of LGBT persons. They also referred to worrying occurrences of "hate speech by certain politicians, religious leaders and other civil society representatives."
European identity is as much about values as it is about geography. It is not just where we live, it is how we live together that defines us as Europeans....
As I wrote on Facebook in regard to this article: It would be great if the U.S. could catch up to Europe on this issue, and make homophobia a thing of the past. However, with the enmeshment of politics and reactionary forms of religion in the U.S., it is likely to take some time before the U.S. does catch up to Europe, and even to Argentina.
We can't afford to underestimate the enmeshing of a reactionary form of what is called "Christianity" (a so-called "Christianity" that is, in and of itself, a perversion of all of Jesus' teachings, as well as a perversion of the point of His very life and ministry) with both politics and our culture; that perversion of Christianity has largely created and now fosters the negative and distorted perceptions held about LGBT people by all too many people within secular society.
When clergy and other professing Christians bear false witness against LGBT people, degrade them, engage in hostile rhetoric against them, discriminate against them, and seek to deprive them of the very same civil rights that they enjoy, they are not preaching the Gospel of Christ!
Indeed, willfully or not, knowingly or not, they are preaching and doing the devil's work!
And, the unfortunate fact is that these wolves in sheep's clothing seem to have a monopoly of media attention, and are given a level of credibility by those who listen to them that they do not deserve. They are probably given such media exposure because they serve as lightening rods that garner consumer attention, so clergy who do preach and seek to live out the Gospel of grace are virtually unseen by the average person, whether or not he/she is a Christian.
Therefore, most frequently it is the perversion of Christianity that is seen, and the real Christianity is buried under layers of doctrines, dogma, prejudices, rules, regulations, and even hypocrisy and secrecy as we are now seeing in regard to the Vatican.
In this context, in 2001, I wrote an article entitled, Religion Can Be A Dangerous Thing that I'd like to reprint here:
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
The Taliban took the Muslim religion and twisted it into its own projection of God's justice. They took their own prejudices and imposed them on the Koran to justify the killing and maiming of innocent civilians. They use religion as a cloak with which to clothe themselves, and thereby assuage their consciences that what they are doing is not only good and noble, but is consistent with God's will.
September 11th and the ensuing anthrax cases are designed to create terror in one's heart and that terror is seen as justified by the appeal to God. Otherwise intelligent people can take the God of peace and turn Him into a warmonger against the innocent in our midst.
Unfortunately, Islam isn't the only religion that has its haters, its hate mongers, its perverts. Christianity also has its perverts who preach a false gospel that excludes, discriminates, and demonizes certain classes of people. Via many televangelists, and through many pulpits throughout the world, gay and lesbian people are castigated by an appeal to the Bible and to these perverts' sense of "God's will."
These perverts take their preconceived prejudices and impose them on the Bible and make it say what it doesn't say, when seen in context. As the excellent author, Peter J. Gomes says in his book, The Good Book: Reading The Bible With Mind And Heart, when we read the Bible we must seek to understand what it says, what it means, the subtext, the context, what we bring to the text, and what we take out of the text.
The Bible has historically been used to affirm slavery, segregation, and the subjugation of women. Indeed, in the Catholic Church women aren't allowed to become priests, and in some Protestant churches women aren't allowed to vote on congregational matters. The Bible has historically been used as a hammer to oppress certain classes of people; the justification for such oppression is "God's will."
What made many Abolitionists and others such as Martin Luther King unique is that they took the very same Bible that was used to disenfranchise and demonize certain people and saw in it certain principles that overrode biblical practice. Indeed, they saw that biblical principle must override biblical practice. Just because certain institutions were put into place in Ancient Israel and Rome doesn't necessarily make them relevant to the twenty first century in the United States.
The biblical principle that overrode biblical practice was the call to equality, freedom, and liberation of all people from the boot of their oppressors, even those oppressors who wear clerical collars. They took the Apostle Paul literally when he wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:28-29)
What helps make the perverts in the Church world so dangerous is that their message of exclusion is not consistent with the Gospel message of inclusion as seen in the words of Jesus that began this article. Many people, some of whom never set foot inside of a church, feel free to discriminate, shame, bash and even kill gay people and feel no remorse, as they feel they are doing God's will. Organized religion has helped marginalize and shame gay people as seen in the fact that the suicide rate for gay youth is three times that of non-gay youth. And the burden of this atrocity must be laid squarely at the feet of organized religion!
Some may argue that the Bible condemns homosexuality! The fact is that the word "homosexual" is not to be found in the biblical manuscripts, as it was coined in the late nineteenth century and didn't appear in our English Bibles until 1946.
In the Old Testament people were called upon to be fruitful and multiply and, hence, any sexual act that didn't have the possibility of procreation was taboo. That was the sin of Onan! We are not a tribal society living on the edge that must procreate in order to maintain our ability to survive, as it is now well acknowledged that sexual activity need not always be justified by the possibility of procreation. Therefore, it is permissible for barren women and sterile men to be intimate with each other.
It must be acknowledged that regarding homosexuality it does not appear in the Ten Commandments; Jesus never talked about it; the prophets never wrote about it. If it were of great importance, one would think that it would be mentioned in at least one of these contexts.
In the New Testament, one must look long and hard to find verses of Scripture that ostensibly deal with homosexuality. Romans 1:20-32 does not deal with loving relationships between people of the same gender who are constitutionally homosexual. It deals with people who turn their backs on God and worship the creature more than the Creator; are likely heterosexuals who engage in homosexual acts to pagan deities. The book of Romans was undoubtedly written from Corinth, which had about one thousand religions, the most popular one being the fertility cult of Aphrodite.
1 Corinthians 6:9 says that the "effeminate" will not inherit the kingdom of God. The Greek word that is translated "effeminate" is "malakoi," and it means "soft." It is used elsewhere in Scripture to denote soft clothing and illness. In this context, it may denote people who have soft morals or who lack courage. There is no warrant for translating it as "effeminate," and it contradicts Paul's assertions in Galatians 3:28-29.
1 Timothy 1:10 deals with "them that defile themselves with mankind." In the New American Standard translation, that term is translated as "immoral men and homosexuals." The latter term, as previously indicated, doesn't appear in any biblical manuscript. Paul's reference to homosexuality was undoubtedly seen in the context of idolatry and exploitation, not in reference to the constitutional homosexual.
And that's it! No other references to homosexuality exist in the New Testament. The Law was fulfilled in Christ, so we are now free from its strictures. Hence, the Gospel is good news indeed to those who trust in God's grace in having a big enough tent to house all of His children.
Don't let the perverts hijack Christianity as the Taliban hijacked the Muslim religion!