Archive for January 9th, 2010

Homophobia

| 09/01/2010 | 352 Comments

“Why is it that if I am against homosexuality I am referred to as a homophobic as if I have some kind of ailment?” This was a question asked by a CNS reader in one of the comments. It sounds like a simple question but in fact delves into conflicting ideas about modern society.

We believe in free speech – but at what point does that becomes hate speech? We believe in multiculturalism – but where do we draw the line and say ‘no, you can’t do that’? And who decides these things?

Firstly, to answer the question: homophobia is labelled so because it is a classification of prejudice, like racism, misogyny, Anglophobia, anti-Semitism, and so on. When people are victimised or marginalised or humiliated or in extreme cases brutalised, we (the wider international community) believe this is wrong and that finding an excuse for it in a religious manuscript or ‘traditional values’ is not acceptable.

Here’s an example of a religious practice that is unacceptable to most people across the globe: in a few Muslim countries (note: not all) an interpretation of Sharia law allows them to bury people up to their necks in sand and stone them to death for adultery. Now it could be argued that this is none of our business, that it is their country, their laws and they can do what they like to maintain their sense of morality. But the cruelty involved repulses us, the injustice outrages us, and whenever such a case is publicised, the international community puts pressure on the country to grant a reprieve; we lobby and campaign and petition for such practices to cease because we believe we have a moral obligation to do so for the sake of the victims.

Yes, I know that these terrible things do not happen here. I am simply establishing the principle of an international moral compass and the right or obligation of people on the outside of a community to ‘interfere’. Does everyone agree so far? Now, to put this in a local context, most people in the Western world, which includes many Christians, see discrimination of homosexuals as wrong, no matter what ‘traditional values’ dictate, and those rallies against gay cruise ships do much damage to these islands.

Historically, Christianity has been no less brutal than other belief systems: the Inquisition burned ‘heretics’ to save their souls and inquisitors believed they had a moral religious duty to light the fires; the "curse of Ham" justified slavery in the minds of the slave traders and slave owners; the Bible was trotted out to denounce movements campaigning for female suffrage; and how can we forget poor old Galileo, forced to retract his conclusions that the earth revolved around the sun because the church leaders of the day said it conflicted with their interpretations of the Bible and was therefore false.

Yes, I know that this was a long time ago and that these things have not happened here. I know that the anti-slavery campaign was championed by Christians (using the same religious text), and I am full of admiration for them. The principle that I am establishing this time is that some Christian beliefs espoused by some Christians, however strongly held, are simply wrong. Within Christianity, no less than in other religions, passionate beliefs feel like God telling you that something is true. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Now, let’s dispense with the comparison, widely used, that homosexuality is comparable with paedophilia. It isn’t. When they’re not going through the Bible to justify their prejudice, homophobes turn to the self-righteous “protecting the children”. But two consenting adults living together, loving each other and/or having sex do not harm anyone (or rather no more or less than heterosexuals in a relationship). Paedophiles hurt children, physically and mentally, and society has an obligation to protect the vulnerable from sexual predators, whether they are hetero or homosexual.

So why should we speak out against homophobia? Because prejudice in all its many dirty colours is mental cruelty.

The person making the comment referred to at the beginning said he/she has nothing against gays, but also writes, “I don’t think being homosexual is a born condition, I believe it is a sickness and even more sickening when they try to promote it as an ‘alternative lifestyle’ which is exactly why Gay cruises are organised.”

Now ask yourself, when someone says you are “sickening”, is that hurtful? If you have to put up with variations of this your whole adult life, how would that make you feel? (The same is true for battered spouses, people on the wrong end of racism, etc.) Quite as awful is the “love the sinner, hate the sin” brigade. Though these people think they are being nicer than the out and out homophobes, this is just name calling (“sinner”) and the real sin here is making someone feel bad about themselves. Stop it.

Then we inevitably come to Sodom and Gomorrah, cities destroyed by God for their wicked ways, and cited whenever those "pious" Christians try to justify their discrimination of any group that holds different lifestyles. A belief system that connects human action with natural forces is a dangerous superstition that can easily lead to persecution (and has done so repeatedly for the last 2,000 years): hurricanes are not forces of nature but God’s wrath because we allow degenerates to live here – and there are plenty of Americans who believe that Katrina was divine retribution on New Orleans.

“The gays are taking over!” – another oft heard piece of nonsense, as silly as saying that women or the disabled or blacks or Jews are masterminding a takeover of the world. People just want their rightful place as equals, a fair chance at happiness. Is that so bad?

Gay bashing is not a fact of life here yet, but it’s only a matter of time. The indoctrination of prejudice that the local churches inflict on young children at Sunday school, coupled with a more aggressive and increasingly violent youth culture makes this inevitable. The hateful, harmful bigotry against gays, spoken with “love” from the bully pulpit, will have consequences as evil as stoning someone for adultery.

And I, for one, will place at least part of the blame at the feet of the local church leaders for stirring up violent emotions and calling it “Christianity”, and political and community leaders for not doing anything about it.

Continue Reading