Monday, March 10, 2008

Finally, a Holy Man I Can Agree With

Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson, whose open gayness so troubles some of the men in charge of the church that they are causing a potential schism, is a man of courage that I admire.

Recently, Robinson gave an inspiring speech to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force where articulated what all the fuss is about regarding the acceptance of homosexuality. In his speech, Robinson acknowledged that the LGBT community is "about the end of patriarchy. For a very very long time white, straight, educated, Western men have been making most of the decisions for the world, and you know what, the jig is up."

That this white, educated man can acknowledge the privileges that come with being white, male, and educated is a testament to his sincerity in wanting to change the world for the better. As we see all too often, it is easy for those entrenched in privilege- for male leaders of a church, for instance- to appeal to tradition as a justification for keeping the status quo unequal. To reinforce the central thesis that humans are subservient to a male god, and women are subservient to men.

Speaking to the pain that I, and many others in the LGBT community, have experienced as a result of homophobic religions, Robinson continues:

"You have been badly treated. I am not sure a few years ago any leader of a church would have been invited to address [the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force]. Asking you to come back to us is like asking an abused spouse to return home. Ninety percent of the oppression we face comes from the Abrahamic religions... There is no reason the LBGT community should trust us."

To reflect on this a moment, it is validating for a religious leader to acknowledge that many in the community have left Christianity for good cause. For, returning to many of the churches of our youth would be akin to returning to an abuser. These churches, of course, do not see themselves as abusive because the abuse is the status quo- it is accepted, it is normalized, and it is encouraged.

I think back now to the time one anti-gay blogger called me abusive for standing up to his anti-gay rants- a man who seemed obsessed and desperate to discredit my character in any possible way. As many noted, it is a common tactic for abusive persons to accuse their victims of being abusive. And accordingly, I found it to be in my best interest to stop interacting with this man. In his mind, his words and the hateful words of his cohorts are not abusive because they are so firmly convinced that they are on the right side of morality. Lacking complete compassion for other human beings, especially those different from them, they tell us to "just stop" being in relationships with the people we love, to just marry people of the opposite sex, and to not raise children because doing so constitutes child abuse. In their quest to label everything we do as abusive, they are blind to their lack of empathy, compassion, and tolerance for other human beings. All characteristics, of course, that embody abuse.

What I am learning the more I learn about anti-gay churches and bigots is that they have to turn us into the bad guys and themselves into victims. If we're not the bad guys- if we're not "enemies"- we're just humans. Like them. Just as some churches find it necessary to have a perpetual enemy around which the troops can rally, moralists and bigots also need their enemies. It is vital to the ultimate, and often covert, goal: maintaining the patriarchy that Robinson speaks of. Because, really, the "enemy" is usually that which is most threatening to the patriarchy. What is more threatening to the male who demands to be head-of-household than a gay man who sees his male partner as his equal, than a straight man who does not expect his wife to be subservient, than a "feminist" woman who demands equality from her male partner, or than a lesbian who refuses to submit to the authority of a man?

The jig is up, fellas.

Gene Robinson continues to the gay activists,

"You are all people of uncommon courage. There is a risk to have a vision of the world as it should be, then living as if that vision were a reality. God wants us to push the line so far there is no them, only us. It's not going to be easy. That means, gay men out there, what you say about women matters. What those of us who are white say about race matters. We know where this is going to end - with the full inclusion of all of God's people. The reason we sing 'We Shall Overcome,' is not to beg, it is a fact. It is a proclamation. Whether you and I live to see it, we shall overcome."

Finally, a man using religion to break down the walls that divide us rather than creating new ones.

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