June 27, 2013
DOMA and Religion
Yesterday was a momentous day for LGBT equality. The Supreme Court’s first rulings on same-sex marriage produced historic gains for gay rights Wednesday: full federal recognition of legally married gay couples and an opening for such unions to resume in the nation’s largest state. The divided court stopped short of a more sweeping ruling that the fundamental right to marry must be extended to gay couples no matter where they live. With the addition of California, more than a third of Americans will live in a jurisdiction — 13 states and District of Columbia — where same-sex marriage is sanctioned. Whereas, neither of these decisions will do anything for Alabama, it is still a victory for America. However, religious institutions are already stirring up hatred and despair. One church pastor stated on the news last night that for each Supreme Court ruling in favor of homosexuality, the less favor God will show the United States. These kinds of statements are what drive so many LGBT adults from religion.
The Pew Research Center recently released a study that examined the lives of LGBT Americans. One portion of the study, which has garnered significant media attention is the relationship between LGBT people and religion. The study found that LGBT people tended to be less religiously affiliated than the general population, and views all major religions as unfriendly toward LGBT people.
According to the study by Pew: “Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender adults are, on the whole, less religious than the general public. About half (48%) say they have no religious affiliation, compared with 20% in the general public; this pattern holds among all age groups. LGBT adults who do have a religious affiliation generally attend worship services less frequently and attach less importance to religion in their lives than do religiously affiliated adults in the general public.”
My Christianity is a very importent part of me. Just as I know that I am gay, I also know that God exists and that He, as Jesus Christ, died for my sons on the cross. I also know that God is love, and no matter what other Christians may believe, God created me as I am for a purpose and with his love, I can conquer all.
Also according to Pew, “A third (33%) of religiously affiliated LGBT adults say there is a conflict between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation or gender identity. That sentiment is even more prevalent among the general public. About three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants (74%) and a majority of all U.S. adults with a religious affiliation (55%) say homosexuality conflicts with their religious beliefs. Among all adults in the general public, there is a strong correlation between the frequency of church attendance and the belief that homosexuality should be discouraged.”
Some anti-gay activists will look at this figure and say, “Aha! See? Those LGBT people are anti-Christian. Look, half of them even eschew religion of any kind!”
This figure is largely of their own making. There was a time when religion (all of them) were solidly anti-gay. Human sexuality wasn’t discussed, except in hushed tones and fraught with shame. If someone came out, they had to leave everything behind. Often, their job, their family, and their faith community. While those bad old days don’t exist in the same way they once did, the stigma lingers.
This is an example of where educating the public can do so much good. What did Jesus say about homosexuality? The answer is very simple: nothing. What does the New Testament writers say about homosexuality? Again, the answer is nothing. Yes, Paul of Tarsus wrote about some homosexual acts, such as ritual sex and pedophilia, but he does not write about homosexuality in the way we understand it today. If you believe that God is omniscient and omnipresent, as I do, then why did he not specifically place the love between people of the same gender in his list of prohibitions? Simply because He knew what the future held. Christianity would expand exponentially; Judaism would not. Judaism needed a prohibition on homosexuality in Leviticus because it needed population growth to survive. Christianity, on the other had, converted many and spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Much of this, however, is misconstrued by religious leaders who fear what they cannot understand, which is why so many LGBT adults turn their backs on religion.
Nonetheless, about half of LGBT adults (51%) have a religious affiliation, including a sizable minority of all LGBT respondents (17%) who have a religious affiliation and also say religion is very important in their lives. Most of those with a religious affiliation are Christian (53% Protestant, 26% Catholic and 1% some other Christian faith). Among LGBT Catholics, two-thirds consider the Catholic Church unfriendly toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, while 26% say it is neutral and just 6% see it as friendly. By contrast, among LGBT adults who are white mainline Protestants, most say that non-evangelical Protestant Churches are either friendly (20%) or neutral (54%) toward them, while 24% see these churches as unfriendly.
The stigma of LGBT feeling unwelcome by religion is still propagated. Even when LGBT people have reconciled their faith and their sexual orientation or gender identity, there are those within religion actively trying to reestablish that inner conflict.
The dominant impression is that religion is inherently anti-LGBT, and the amount of work that the Religion, Faith & Values program of GLAAD, the LGBT religious organizations like the Gay Christian Network, Muslims for Progressive Values, or Keshet, alongside of so many denominational LGBT advocacy groups, has not yet changed that perception. It also means that, for those denominations who are LGBT-inclusive, or who have made strides to become more LGBT inclusive, that there is still more work to do.
I say this last part as a Christian and as a gay man. LGBT and allied people of faith need to speak up. Not only for the good of the LGBT community, have who continued to face conflict in religious communities. We also need to speak up for the good of our own faith. I write posts about my faith because I care about the reputation of my church and Christianity in the world. If you truly love your faith, you must make that known. It is only by speaking out that we change the negative perception surrounding our faith communities.