26 July 2006

Goin' To The Chapel

"Washington Supreme Court Upholds
Same-Sex Marriage Ban"
On a five-to-four vote, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage. It was revealed Wednesday morning. The majority ruled that the Defense of Marriage act restricting marriage to a man and a woman, which the legislature enacted in 1998, does not violate the state's constitution, adding that any change to the law must be made by the legislature.

The long-awaited decision in the case (oral arguments were first heard in March 2005) was a crushing blow to the Gay Rights movement, which weathered a similar ruling by New York's highest court earlier this month as well as a defeat in Georgia's highest court regarding a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.

With the Washington court's decision, Massachusetts remains the only state in the country to offer full marriage rights to its Gay and Lesbian citizens.
(Associated Press: July 26, 2006)

The two best methods humans have of regulating their sexuality are celibacy and marriage. Neither method is foolproof, of course. Humans are human, after all! Still, these methods can be highly effective when we seriously commit ourselves to using them. They work just as well for homosexual folk as they do for heterosexual folk. It's hard to believe one group should have the right to deny either or both of these options to the other group, but that's what court decisions like the aforementioned ones are trying to make us believe.

As matters stand right now, Straight people have universal access to both celibacy and marriage. Gay people only have universal access to celibacy. This state of affairs surely can't be pleasing to God.  Vatican policies notwithstanding, you can't force people into a choice of living in sin or living celibate! Marriage validates, encourages and nurtures stable, loving adult relationships. Human beings benefit from having such relationships; it's good for their long term health. There's scientific research that proves it!  Is the health of LGBT individuals less important to God than the health of everyone else? Of course not!

Why has this string of hostile court rulings come down? Obviously, the answer is bigotry. The legal arguments used to justify these outrageous rulings read like they could've been written by the heterosexist Family Research Council. And who knows? Maybe they were!

Could there be a more profound meaning in them, though? Should we interpret them to mean God is opposed to Lesbians and Gay men legalizing their relationships? No, I don't think we should. However, I do think they amount to a message from God. I think He is testing us! Clearly, He's not going to give us LesBiGay folk what we want on a silver platter. He wants us to engage in a righteous struggle, one that's at least as long and as hard as equality struggles have been in the past. He wants to know if we're willing to do what must be done to secure equality: The praying, the marching, the rallying, the picketing, the civil disobedience.

If we are willing, then He can use our crusade as a tool to teach humanity valuable lessons about love and justice. That's what I think. In light of the high-profile Gay divorces (if that's the proper word) that have already occurred, I think He may also want us to prove ourselves ready for marriage. I doubt that He will allow us to enjoy this right if we intend to treat it with as much disrespect as Straight people do.

I'm not a street activist or a political organizer, but there's one thing I feel certain about. The template we should be using in the pursuit of marriage and other rights due us is the same template Dr. Martin Luther King and his courageous wife Coretta Scott used in the 1950s and '60s. Their movement was powered by faith, and it stressed the dignity of the people it advocated for. When we compare race relations then to race relations now, there can be no question that their methods were effective.

Civil Rights veterans like Mrs. King, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond and the Reverend CT Vivian have reached out to Gay Rights strategists in recent years, offering advice and the benefit of their hard-won experience. Basically, they were rebuffed. Our arrogant "leadership" decided to reject the proven methods of Civil Rights crusading and strike out on a radical new path. The Gay Rights movement would be secular rather than spiritual. Our marches and rallies would feature Disco-singing "drag queens" and foul-mouthed comedians. We'd sanction nudity and open display of sexual fetishes. We'd call ourselves d*kes, f*ggots and queers in public. We'd basically undermine any kind of dignified presentation of LesBiGay issues.

No wonder we still can't serve openly in the military! No wonder we still don't have federal job discrimination legislation! No wonder we still can't get married! Frankly, I'm surprised that we've made as much progress as we have. I don't think we've given mainstream society much reason at all to take our Civil Rights movement seriously.

Whether we like it or not, Gay Rights is considered a moral issue by most people, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. How can you win a moral battle using secular weapons? You can't do it, and it shouldn't be done. Gay Rights is a moral issue! There is no way to exclude Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexual and Transsexual persons from what is moral, religious and spiritual. We are spiritual beings! You don't have to be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or an adherent of any faith to know that.

Most of us understand that our sexuality is part of something inherent within us, something that's bound up with our very existence. Personally, I believe that it's the blending of male and female essences, the state of being that Native Americans wisely call "two-spiritedness." Knowing oneself to be Gay is knowledge of the spirit; in certain Gnostic gospels, Jesus Christ teaches that humankind should strive for this kind of knowledge.

I would go so far as to say knowledge of one's LesBiGay sexuality falls under the category of religious belief. Isn't it time we recognized that persecution of "two-spirited" people is just like religious persecution? Isn't it time we had religious women and men for our leaders? Where are they? We need them. They must come forward and assume the mantle of leadership. The struggle for Gay Rights must be a moral and spiritual struggle, and it must have dignity. Just as African-Americans of all sexual orientations did, we must present ourselves as deserving of the freedoms we seek, deserving both in the eyes of society and in the eyes of God.

I'm not suggesting that we should "act Straight." God forbid! Our natural unisex aesthetic is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, sometimes we are effeminate men. Sometimes, we are butch/femme couples. Yes, sometimes we ignore binary gender traditions when it comes to clothing, demeanor, personal habits, etcetera; and sometimes, we even "act Straight!"  It pleases the Lord that we are as we are. We should never present ourselves as anything but the androgynous creations He meant us to be. I'm merely saying that when we do something as serious as turn out to demand equality, we need to be totally focused on our goal.

We need to treat our issues with more respect! We need to stop presenting ourselves as sex objects. We need to make our marches and rallies welcoming to children, the elderly, and people of faith. We need to clean up our filthy language, especially when we talk to and about each other!  We need to chill with the raunchy comedians and the Disco glitter. We've got to learn not to confuse a Civil Rights event with a Fire Island White Party! No drugs! No alcohol! No flashing of breasts and genitalia! Take that stuff somewhere else.

We need inspirational speakers who can rouse a crowd like Billy Graham can. We need inspirational singers like Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, artist/activists who know the old freedom songs and can adapt them to our reality. We've got to hew much more closely to the trail Reverend and Mrs. King blazed for us . . . and regardless of how objectionable some folk may think it is, we should evoke the name of Coretta Scott King forcefully and often! She advocated strongly for Gay Rights, and she would want us to do that. She is one of our spiritual mentors.

However, we should never forget that our primary spiritual mentor is God, the One who in His wisdom created us. If we acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge us and bless us. Please don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say: Even if we do transform our movement from secular to spiritual, I don't know that God will grant us our wish to marry legally. That may not be His will. I only know that it's right for us to wish for and fight for legal marriage; and I know that advocates for legal marriage have gone about as far as they can go using secular arguments. Divorcing Gay Rights from religious considerations actually reinforces what Bible fundamentalists believe: That homosexuality falls outside the realm of God's love. That repugnant belief is the very root of anti-Gay bigotry, and we must declare all-out war on it!

There are lots of people who get married in places other than church, but most folks who marry in this world do so in a chapel of some kind. As long as we are forbidden to walk into the chapel with our loved ones, moral objections will be employed to condemn our relationships. My reading of ancient Christian texts indicates that no human beings belong inside the House of God more than those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual. Our "two-spirited" orientation connects us to Heaven in a most unique and amazing way!

Our challenge . . . one that the Lord has given us in the form of these odious court rulings . . . is to convince the rest of humanity of that fact. First, though, we have a greater challenge. We must convince ourselves!

24 July 2006

Too Dumb To Read The Bible?

I discourage people from reading the Bible without a minimum of familiarity with how the texts came to be, the import of the cultures which shaped them, and the issues of transmission . . . without scholarly guidance (not that scholars always agree!), it is easy, too easy, to read our own desires and interpretations into the texts, and to imagine they speak to us in the 21st century when they were composed for a very ancient and different people . . . I doubt that it is often helpful to wage the battle on the field chosen by the opponent.

The text quoted above is excerpted from an email sent to me recently by Dr. Vern Barnet, a local interfaith minister. I had been sharing some of my blog postings with him and encouraging him to give me feedback. He did so, albeit somewhat reluctantly. Some of his feedback was quite useful. Gradually, though, I began to perceive that he wasn't comfortable talking with me about the Bible.

Our final correspondence, which I recall included a request that I never contact him again, makes his discomfort quite clear. I always knew that some people would disapprove of the Scriptural interpretations I post at Christ, The Gay Martyr. However, I never expected to be told that I was too dumb to know how to read the Bible! Here's an excerpt of my response to Dr. Barnet:

I'm not so naïve as to think that, as a Gay man, the Bible will have no effect on my life. It has, it does, and it will continue to have one. For centuries, the Bible has been used to vilify Lesbians and Gay men. Its texts have been twisted to make a very potent weapon against us. However, if we make an effort to understand specific Bible texts, we can nullify the power of those who seek to use them against us. I believe that. The Christ did not teach what Fundamentalists say He taught, and certain Bible verses often don't say what they are purported to say. I am approaching my Bible study as a scholar, using heavily annotated translations. I may not have a Bible college degree, but I can comprehend the meaning of texts as well as if not better than a Pat Robertson or a Jerry Falwell.

Dr. Barnet writes a column for a local Gay periodical. He identifies himself as a friend of the Gay community.  This has led to him being subjected to some very real threats from concerned "Christians." Recently, one of them came to his house in order to assault him. Upon not finding him home, the brute beat up his son instead! So, the good Reverend has been through the mill a few times. He has more than earned the right to advocate for Lesbians and Gay men.

The problem is, he's not very effective at it! Often, he's asked to take part in public debates on issues that involve religious opposition to Gay Rights. When false prophets hurl misinterpreted Scriptural citations at him, such as the infamous verses from Leviticus, he never challenges them directly. His defense of homosexual citizens always comes across as pitifully weak, and the bigots have no trouble making short work of him.

I do appreciate the Reverend's efforts. I believe he's sincere about wanting to diminish the level of religious intolerance. However, you can expect only so much in the way of advocacy from somebody who accepts the most hateful interpretations of Bible scripture! His last message certainly leads me to believe that he does accept them.

The Reverend has the right to believe what he believes. He does not have the right to suggest that I keep silent about what I believe! How often does any fighter get to choose his field of battle? You fight where and when you must. He forgets that the Bible and other Christian texts belong to all believers, not just to those who believe in a certain way. They don't just belong to ancient cultures, either, which is obvious when you look at how much influence they have on the world today.

The Reverend's inference that you have to be a cultural anthropologist to interpret Scripture is elitist, to say the least! Historically, the majority of Christian ministers have not been cultural anthropologists, and most of the current crop of preachers aren't, either. Even if they were, I would never cede them the right to define the Bible! That's the easiest way I know to fall prey to manipulation. For centuries, corrupt theologians have done no less than manipulate their congregations! They've employed hard-to-understand translations of the Bible, like the awful King James Version, in a deliberate campaign to distort Jesus Christ's teachings. As a result, unsuspecting believers have been left largely at the mercy of evil socio-political agendas.

We who call ourselves Christians must stop allowing ourselves to be led like lambs to the slaughter! We must incorporate intellect into our faith. For the record, my source texts come from the Revised Standard Editon of The New Oxford Annotated Bible. It's one of the most widely-used versions by Bible scholars. My source for Gnostic texts are various books edited by Marvin Meyer, a world-renowned Gnostic historian. Rest assured that I do not approach the work I'm doing in a cavalier manner. What's more, I don't ask anyone to accept my interpretations of Scripture. One of my main reasons for sharing this blog is to encourage Lesbians and Gay men to investigate Scripture for themselves.

Don't ever let anybody get away with saying you don't have enough sophistication to understand the Bible! The most widely distributed book on the planet . . . and you're not equipped to absorb its meaning just because you're not a scholar? Or because you're not Straight, and might be inclined to "read things" into the text that aren't there? Preposterous! Homosexual adults are not empty-headed Dumb Doras who can't read religious texts unless heterosexual theologians are there to explain them. How could we possibly interpret them any worse than Fundamentalists have?

Don't let anyone patronize you like that, and please, don't be afraid of the Bible! Pick it up! Pray to God for understanding, and then open it. If something confuses you, consult a diversity of resources and use what you learn from them to achieve enlightenment. As you read, the Lord may send insights that are meant specifically for you. I definitely believe that there are insights in Scripture that homosexual men and women are uniquely qualified to comprehend. Seek, and you will surely find them. With God's guidance, maybe I can help point you in the right direction.

22 July 2006

The Book Of Punishment

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination."

"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall be put to death (and) their blood is upon them."

The Biblical book of Leviticus expands upon the Ten Commandments and other laws given to the people of Israel during their trek through the wilderness. God brought the ancient Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, but every time a crisis loomed in their path, their faith in Him faltered. His patience with them finally snapped after He summoned Moses to the summit of Mount Sinai for Holy instruction. In Moses' abscence, the Israelites engaged in orgies and fashioned a golden idol to worship.

God imposed Levitican law on them as punishment: Stringent rules governing diet, hygiene, physical appearance, business transactions and sexual practices. Complicated rules for performing religious ceremonies. A long litany of sins for which animal sacrifice was the only atonement. Instructions for ostracizing people with skin diseases. Even a procedure for stoning transgressors when their sins were judged unforgivable. Much talk of slaughter and blood, and burning and defilement. All of it very, very detailed, and very, very tedious!

Leviticus can accurately be described as a pause in the Biblical narrative, because the story of the Israelites doesn't advance again until the beginning of the next chapter, the book of Numbers. It makes sense that the book of punishment would appear in the Jewish Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), but why include it in the Christian Bible? Clearly, early Church leaders included Leviticus in the Bible because of its draconian nature. This was a text Fundamentalists could easily use to subjugate believers once they'd successfully been sold the idea that all Bible scripture was Divine!

What's also clear is that these laws were intended specifically for the ancient Israelites. Every legal passage more or less begins the same way: The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, "Speak to the people of Israel . . . " The people of Israel are the only ones being addressed! Unlike the Ten Commandments, which Jesus Christ would later designate as law all people should follow, Levitican law was never meant to be observed by the world at large. You can argue that the Messiah even excused Israelites from observing it when He did away with Sabbath prohibitions, dietary restrictions and the requirement that people be stoned for certain sins.

Whether or not the laws of Leviticus are applicable to orthodox Jews is a subject of debate for orthodox Jews. It is not, has never been, and will never be a legitimate subject of debate for Christians! Levitican law has never been applicable to Christians! Common sense dictates that we observe some Levitican directives, such as the prohibition against incest, but we certainly don't deal in slaves, grow and groom beards by Holy mandate, shun tattooing, offer up animal sacrifices, abstain from eating shellfish or refuse to wear clothes of mixed fabric. We follow the commandments of God as the Christ defined them, not as Moses defined them!

Despite this, religious bigots throughout history have singled out what they interpret as God's ban on homosexuality and applied it to everyone regardless of religious belief. Just for the purpose of playing Devil's advocate, let's pretend this particular law does apply to everyone. If we know that a law applies to us, we should try to understand it as best we can, shouldn't we? Let's do so right now.

What does it mean to "lie with a male as with a woman?" Couldn't it mean exactly what it says? To sleep with both men and women? If you interpret Leviticus 20:13 as a ban on homosexuality (something I believe even the ancient Israelites did), then you are guilty of misinterpretation. My, just listen to those indignant howls coming from the Conservative lobby! God made men and women to be with each other in marriage, they're screaming. All men are meant to have sex with women!

Are they, now? Then why did Jesus Christ state otherwise? Reference Matthew 19:12, and read what He had to say about "eunuchs who have been so from birth." (Be careful that you don't define eunuchs as castrated males, because that wasn't the ancient meaning of the word. Don't read a celibacy requirement into that verse, either, because celibacy is not mentioned.) The Christ knew there were men who didn't relate sexually to women, and if He knew it, wouldn't the Creator know it, too? Of course He would; because who else could have created such men but the Creator?

That's why, if you believe that the aforementioned commandment came directly from God, it's phrased the way it's phrased. That's why it doesn't state "males shall not lie with males" and/or "females shall not lie with females." It's an explicit prohibition against bisexual relations. I look at it as something similar to Jewish kosher law, which forbids eating milk and meat products together. This law forbids taking both male and female sexual partners. It does not forbid homosexual men, those the Messiah called "born eunuchs," from acting in accordance with their natural sexual orientation.

Nor does it forbid Lesbians from doing the same (you can be sure that Jesus Christ knew about Lesbians, too)! I find the law's application to Lesbians particularly ludicrous. Numerous times, I've heard the verses from Leviticus as well as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah being used to publicly condemn Lesbians. Unbelievable! There's absolutely no basis for interpreting the text that way. The next time a religious bigot pulls that crap with a Lesbian, I sincerely hope that the Lesbian will educate the bigot as to what those Scriptures actually do and don't say. She should do it in a respectful manner, of course. She should take the ignorant one aside and enlighten him ever so gently. Or maybe not so gently! Whichever method seems most appropriate.

Needless to say, bisexual intimacy isn't a sin when engaged in by Christians or anyone else who doesn't practice the faith of the ancient Israelites. As to whether it should be considered a sinful practice by orthodox Jews, I couldn't possibly comment! Suffice it to say that I'm sure some Hassidim do practice it, regardless of what they might say to the contrary. Rampant sexual hypocrisy among theologians is one reason why I hold any and all forms of fundamentalist religion in very low regard.

Do you find these observations of mine to be disrespectful? What about the way Gay Christians are disrespected? And vilified? And lied about? There's nothing wrong with correcting religious leaders when they spread false information about us. On the contrary, I think it's mandatory! We know only too well what happens when homophobic falsehoods are allowed to gain credence. When we act to banish ignorance and inform the uninformed, we are blessed in the Savior's eyes. We are doing the work He wants us to do! I believe this is true, as fervently as I believe Jesus Christ walked this Earth and died for my sins.

19 July 2006

The Sin Of Sodom

GENESIS 19:1-9
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, "Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet. Then you can rise early and go on your way . . ." So they turned aside to him and entered his house, and he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house, and they called to Lot: "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them!" Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly! Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man. Let me bring them out to you and do to them as you please, only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof." But they replied, "Stand back! . . . this fellow (Lot) came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them!"

I have just finished re-reading the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. This, of course, is the infamous story from the book of Genesis that is used most often to demonize Gay people in general and Gay men in particular. Homosexual males are portrayed as psychotic rapists, a characterization that religious fundamentalists have no trouble accepting.

But is that really the way Gay men are characterized in the story? Some think not. In recent times, Liberal theologians have interpreted the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as not being about homosexuality at all. They say it's about the sin of being "inhospitable." To their minds, it conveys a warning against being unkind to foreigners. I do not agree with the Liberal interpretation. The story does concern homosexuality! However, it is not about homosexuality in the way people have been led to think.

To understand what I mean, you have to know something about angels. From information found in Gnostic Gospels such as the Secret Book of John, we can discern that angels are androgynous beings who appear as males. In all likelihood, their androgynous nature would make them look effeminate to humans. In ancient times, angels would probably have been mistaken for eunuchs, which were the equivalent of what we call Gay men today (see my post titled "Strange Fruit"). Eunuchs were hated then, just as Gay men are now hated in much of the world.

When the predatory men of Sodom and Gomorrah laid eyes on these androgynous angels, they no doubt said: "Look! That man Lot has eunuchs in his house. We despise those kinds of men! They don't have sex with women. They are an abomination to God! Let's go and give them the treatment they deserve. Let's treat them like female whores, and then drive them out of our city, or kill them!" The text of the story makes their hostile intentions clear. They did not go to Lot's house to invite the angels to participate in an orgy! They didn't have anything consensual in mind. Their intent was to force themselves upon the angels.

Is that what most sane people would think of as typical homosexual behavior? No. It's similar to what heterosexual jail inmates do when they find perceptibly Gay men in their midst. They rape and humiliate these poor men, often forcing them into sexual slavery. They don't act out of lust. They act out of a bestial desire to violate another human being!

The very idea of a city populated entirely by Gay men is absurd! Some of the mob that surrounded Lot's house may well have been homosexual, or Bisexual. After all, you can't always tell from appearances. However, you can be sure that none of them identified as eunuchs! Not convinced? Then consider this: If the mob were comprised of crazed eunuchs (homosexual men), why would Lot offer his daughters to them? If his mandate were to protect the angels from harm, and he knew that the mob only had sexual interest in men, why didn't he offer them his own body, or that of another male in his house? (That Lot would give up his own daughters to be raped is something I find abhorrent, but that's a whole other discussion.)

Here's the reason: Lot knew that these men were not eunuchs. Most of them were no doubt married and had children. They weren't in the habit of using their penises to give or get pleasure exclusively from other men. However, they evidently were in the habit of using their penises to inflict pain and degradation on men who didn't conform to their idea of manhood.

Let me make myself perfectly clear: The mob at Sodom and Gomorrah attacked the angels because they believed them to be what we now call Gay men. Therefore, the sin of Sodom is not homosexuality. The sin of Sodom is the hatred of homosexuality! I believe that the ultimate sin that caused God to destroy the twin cities was essentially an attempted Gay bashing! Think about that the next time you hear someone rail against "Sodomites."

The book of Genesis is historical narrative. It documents the history of the ancient Israelites, beginning with the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden and ending with the death of Joseph in Egypt. It includes the incident at Babel, the first murder (Cain killing Abel), the story of Joseph's coat of many colors, the founding of the Islamic faith, and several other important events.

Let me tell you, it makes for very spicy reading! It's literally dripping with adultery, fratricide, jealousy, deceit, drunkenness, prostitution, polygamy, lust, rape, and incest! In my opinion, it's not fit reading for a child without parental supervision. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't understand most of it when I read it as a youngster. However, there is nothing in the Genesis narrative that an adult Lesbian or a Gay man need fear to read. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that condemns the act of same-gender love. Anyone who thinks otherwise must have a very twisted concept of what love is!

The next time a Fundie accuses you of being a Sodomite, why not offer to call the cops?  It's clear from the Bible story that a Sodomite is a rapist, and rape is what you're being accused of. Let them do their civic duty and bring you to justice. They should be prepared to press sexual assault charges, and to provide evidence of same to the arresting officer when he arrives. If they're dumb enough to do as you say, then they'll be in a big mess of trouble, and you can slap them in the face with a false arrest charge!

If they decline (which I suspect is more likely), then suggest they study the Old Testament until they understand what kind of violent act sodomy really is (there are separate accounts of it found in both Genesis 19 and Judges 19). Tell them to keep their scandalous accusations to themselves unless they've got evidence to support it, and do so with an implied threat in your tone. Then remind these so-called messengers of God that throwing libelous statements around could land them in jail someday, where they might learn the true definition of sodomy by experiencing it firsthand!

17 July 2006

Christianity Is Not An Ice Cream Sundae!

Jesus did not mention homosexuality, and it is a lie to say He did. Christians must follow the example of Jesus and confront those vicious predators who use the Christian religion as a camouflage for bullying. We must be as understanding and kind as we can be, but to be tolerant of the oppression of others is not true tolerance.

Gay bashing is not just an opinion, it is an assault. Just as the (Ku Klux) Klan did, religious fundamentalists have a right to believe that homosexuality is a sin. They even have a right to preach a message of hate. But when they harass people in public, it is time for Christians to rise to challenge their intolerance. We have an obligation to protect our neighbors from harassment and slander, especially when it is done in our name.

The above quotes were taken from The Huffington Post, a blogsite run by political commentator Arianna Huffington. It comes from the Reverend Jim Rigby, a progressive Christian and one of the blog's regular contributors. What follows is my response to the Reverend's posting of 12 July 2006, part of which appears below it as feedback.

I appreciate and applaud Rev. Rigby's recognition that Gay bashing isn't Christian. He's certainly got the right idea. Yet he undermines his own position when he says that fundamentalists "have a right to preach a message of hate." What? WHAT? That is heresy! No one who calls himself a Christian can claim such a right! Neither can anyone who calls himself a Christian assign such a right. How can hatred figure in Jesus Christ's message of unconditonal love? It cannot! Hatred and haters have no sanctuary in the house of God.

Rev. Rigby seems not to understand what so-called evangelical Christians are. They believe they have a mandate to spread their version of the Gospel. They recruit people into their ranks via evangelism. They are not going to place any restriction on where, when or to whom they preach their intolerant beliefs. The Reverend might as well tell a gossip: "You can spread your vicious lies among your close friends, but don't tell them to anyone else." What folly! The gossip spreads her malicious talk as far as she can spread it, and evangelicals do the same thing. The solution is not to try and limit the scope of their message. The solution is to repudiate their message and do everything possible to distinguish it from true Christian teachings!

Nothing could be more harmful than allowing the sacred teachings of our Lord to become a vehicle for bigotry, and I don't just mean harmful for Lesbians and Gay men. That kind vehicle harms everyone it comes in contact with. It makes a complete mockery of the Christ's message!

In an honorable attempt to extend Freedom of Speech rights to every citizen, we Americans have done a most dishonorable thing. We have given free reign to wicked false prophets, and they've used it to mangle the Christian faith until it has become something that the Christ Himself doesn't recognize. If something hateful is mouthed by someone brandishing a Bible, we seem to be afraid to call it hate speech. Yet, what kind of speech could possibly be more hateful than the kind that places a whole section of humanity outside the range of God's love?

I've come to believe that those on the Left who insist that "Jesus did not mention homosexuality" are really saying that He found homosexual persons beneath his notice. Their existence and their activities were of no importance to the Savior at all. They're basically saying: "Jesus Christ ignored the homosexual (person), so everyone else should ignore them, too." It's like they want to protect Gay people by making them invisible! If you've been reading this blog with any degree of regularity, you know that I couldn't disagree more with such a strategy.

The Christ DID mention homosexuality! In fact, He did more than just mention it. He explained it, in the 19th chapter of Matthew. He called Gay people "born eunuchs", and He did not mean for them to be invisible! He meant for them to be seen as evidence of His Holy work. Of those He called to service, He is quoted as saying:

MATTHEW 5:14-16
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.

The good works of God's Gay children include the abundance of music, art, literature and public service they have given to the world. Anyone who was born a Lesbian or a Gay man can learn the truth about their sexuality in the Biblical and certain Gnostic Gospels. Homosexual and/or androgynous persons are spiritual eunuchs. They walk on the Earth just as their counterparts walk in Heaven, and it is at the behest of the Messiah that they do so (see Matthew 16:28). Therefore, to attack those human beings the Christ called born eunuchs is the equivalent of attacking the Christ Himself! (So-called) homosexuality is anything but the loathesome thing Bible fundamentalists say that it is. It is a blessing from God! Rather than seethe with loathing at the sight of a Lesbian or a Gay man, heterosexual Christians should rejoice! It is a sign that the Savior will return to us.

More and more, those who call themselves Conservative Christians are basing their belief system on the premise that God despises Lesbians and Gay men. This blasphemous lie must be obliterated! It cannot be allowed to remain the basis of anyone's belief in God.

How cruel to undermine someone's belief system, you might think. Is it more cruel than letting someone believe falsely, only to find himself confronted with the truth on Judgment Day? Isn't it kinder to let someone know ahead of time that he is not following Christian tenets when he vilifies God's children?

Not only does Rev. Rigby not comprehend the nature of evangelical faith, he also seems to misunderstand what Christianity is on the most basic level. Christianity is not like an ice cream sundae that you can choose to eat with or without fudge topping! You have to eat it the same way every time. The only acceptable topping is unconditional love! Top the Christian message with hatred, and it is no longer Christian. It is no longer fit to eat! Its validity, its usefulness, its whole raison d'être is erased, and instead of leading people to Heaven, it diverts them toward Hell. You cannot be a true Christian and believe it's OK for that to happen!

Everybody in this world who is a true Christian must actively oppose the false Christianity which has taken root among us. We can't ever make peace with it! When hatred is spewed from the pulpit, those of us who have the courage to do so must stand up in our pews and denounce it! Those of us who don't have that kind of courage must still be courageous. We must rise from our seats and walk out of that church so our ears will not be filled with blasphemy. Blasphemy poisons the spirit! We must seek God elsewhere, because there's one thing of which you can be sure: God and Satan do not reside in the same house! We must prove ourselves worthy of wearing the name "Christian".

There's one thing Rev. Rigby and I agree on 100%: We must cultivate an intolerance for religious intolerance! If we accept it . . . if we allow this horrible cancer to fester and grow . . . then we will have participated in the destruction of our own faith.

15 July 2006

His Majesty's Secret Service

Here is the complete text of a post I left this morning on Jasmyne Cannick's blogsite. It summarizes the main conclusions I've arrived at while undertaking a study of the Christian Bible and certain Gnostic Gospels:

I do not believe that every word of the Bible should be taken literally. To me, that is equating the Bible with God, a form of idol worship. However, what people think the Bible says about homosexuality and what it actually says can be two vastly different things. Here is what Jesus Christ said about the subject:

MATTHEW 19:9-12
(Jesus Christ said)"There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven."

"Eunuchs from birth!" That is the name the Messiah gave to Gay men and, by association, Lesbians. Don't let anyone mislead you! He was not talking about people whose genitalia was missing or deformed. He was not talking about people who were celibate. He was talking about people who do not or cannot have sexual relations with their opposite gender!

Elsewhere in that passage from the Gospel of Matthew, the Christ exempted born eunuchs from the requirement to enter into heterosexual marriage. The all-knowing Messiah understood what Gay people are. They are inherently different from heterosexual persons in that the male and the female are fully integrated within their spiritual beings. It is an inborn difference that can often be discerned by others. Those of us who have been beaten, ostracized and harassed since childhood can surely attest to this fact.

There are absolutely NO passages in the Bible that condemn . . . born eunuchs for their affectional preference. Do you hear me? None! If prohibitions against homosexual expression had been meant for eunuchs, then the word "eunuch" would have been used (in Levitican law). It is not used, because God knows better than anyone the difference between those who were born eunuchs and ordinary human beings! He created all life. Why would God condemn what He Himself has created?

Bible scriptures that prohibit homosexual behavior could only have been meant for those persons God has created heterosexual. You want proof? Here is the proof, contained within the two of the scriptures used most often to stigmatize homosexuality:

"You shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: It is abomination."

"If a man also lay with mankind as he would lay with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination."

The key phrase is "as you would lay with a woman." If you are not the kind of man who would lay with a woman, then you have committed no sin! So says the Bible.

The scriptures indicate that Jesus Christ also said this about Gay people . . .

MATTHEW 16:28/MARK 9:1
". . . there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King."

Based on my reading of early Christian texts, I firmly believe that He was talking about Lesbians and Gay men. He referred to us as eunuchs, and one of the main functions of ancient eunuchs was to serve as attendants to and protectors of harems and bridal chambers. (Gnostic) Christian texts speak of a Divine bridal chamber where the Son of God (who is called The Bridegroom) and the city of Jerusalem will be united during the second coming of Christ. We who the Christ said were born eunuchs are keepers of the Holy Bridal Chamber. We attend it at the explicit behest of the Savior!

It doesn't matter what religious faith we ascribe to as individuals. It doesn't matter if we ascribe to no faith at all. (I believe that) Jesus Christ is the reason Gay people exist on this Earth. We are His Majesty's Secret Service! Our presence is evidence of His having been here, as well as a symbol of the salvation He brought to mankind, and a reminder that He will return.

It is why, all over the world, homosexual men and women have maintained a sizable presence in the Christian church. It is why Satan has inspired such vicious opposition to our presence not only in religious institutions, but in society at large. Satan's machinations will ultimately be futile, no matter how formidible they may appear. The Messiah's second coming is the only thing that can deprive the world of our presence. So I believe.

However, I don't for one second believe my enlightened readings of Scripture will sway the opinions of most hetero-bigots. I don't say the things I say because I hope to change anybody's mind; I'm nowhere near egotistical enough to presume I have that power.

I say what I say in order to challenge the orthodox teachings that I'm convinced are wrong. I want to encourage Bible study that isn't so damn superficial! I want to show that there's a more intelligent way to read and interpret Scriptural passages. I want to provide an alternative to the negative impressions of same-gender sexuality and blended gender people that organized religion has promoted for so long. Most of all, I want to plant in people's minds a seed of doubt, a nagging kernel of wisdom that urges them to question how the teachings of Jesus Christ have been and are being disseminated.

A new school of Bible scholarship has risen to challenge the corrupt orthodoxy of the Vatican and other Fundamentalist faith organs, a school of purified Christian doctrine. As that school gains more influence, wayward churches will lose much of the power they currently exercise over God's children; it's inevitable, because the Truth about Jesus Christ and His born eunuchs can't be suppressed forever. It's bound to come out!

All I'm trying to do is help it along. That's the service I've pledged to render to His Majesty, and you know what? The less of a secret it is, the better!

12 July 2006

Blood On Their Hands

What a sad state our popular culture is in! That’s something on which religious fundamentalists and I fully agree. Too many folks in the entertainment industry seem incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong! They don’t understand why it’s wrong to glorify irresponsible sexuality on screen. They don’t understand why it’s wrong to degrade women and girls with misogynistic records and videos. They don’t understand why it’s wrong to sell Rock and Rap songs that spout vulgar and violent language. Evidently, they don’t even understand why it’s wrong to promote recording artists who advocate murdering a minority group.

For the past ten years or so, the music industry has been making big profits off the sales of dancehall Reggae and Jamaican Hip-Hop. Many people find this kind of music irresistible. Gay people often find it reprehensible! Rap acts in general have a bad reputation when it comes to their attitudes toward Lesbians and Gay men, but Caribbean Rap acts have taken homophobia to a new low. Best-selling Jamaican artists like Busta Rhymes, Buju Banton and Beenie Man are notorious for sprinkling anti-Gay lyrics into their songs, lyrics that aren't just hateful but downright genocidal.

A song called “Han Up Deh” recommends that Lesbians be lynched. Another called “Chi Chi Man” suggests that patrons of Gay bars ought to be burned to death. One of the most infamous examples, “Boom Bye Bye,” gleefully encourages shooting Gay men through the head. These and other disgusting songs call openly for Gay people to be wiped off the face of the Earth, often on religious grounds. In urban centers all over the world, impressionable young people are partying to this obscene music.

That’s unfortunate, you might say, but what harm does it really do? Don’t song lyrics just go in one ear and out the other? No, they don't! What’s been happening recently in Jamaica obliterates that myth once and for all. Within the last two years, two prominent Jamaican Gay activists named Brian Williamson and Lenford Harvey have been viciously murdered. Williamson‘s killing was particularly heinous; he was stabbed multiple times. At the crime scene, Dancehall Reggae fans reportedly gathered to celebrate his death. They even had the nerve to sing excerpts of “Boom Bye Bye” and other homophobic song lyrics as the poor man’s mutilated body was carted away! What more evidence could anyone want that Hate speech can and does have frightful consequences?

Human Rights Watch reports that “violent acts against men who have sex with men is commonplace in Jamaica. Verbal and physical violence ranging from beatings to brutal armed attacks to murder are widespread.” Men aren't the only ones in danger, either. This very week, two Jamaican women suspected of being Lesbians were slaughtered in the home they shared. The tragedy has all the earmarks of an anti-Gay hate crime. Sure, you can say there's no way to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that popular music played a role in these killings; you can call the popularity of anti-Gay Reggae tunes just a symptom of a larger problem. True enough, but if the symptom is ignored, isn't the problem going to be ignored, too?

The last thing you'd think homophobic artists would want to do is participate in a benefit to raise HIV awareness among Gay Black men. Yet that’s exactly what a music industry charity recently asked them to do. LIFEbeat, a Manhattan-based organization that professes to have AIDS prevention as its goal had scheduled a big benefit concert for this coming weekend. As headliners for their “Reggae Gold Live! 2006 Summer Jump Off,” they tagged none other than Beenie Man and a group called TOK, both high-profile sources of anti-Gay virulence. How’s that for inspired casting? What better way to promote AIDS prevention among homosexual youth than showcasing performers who call for their extermination? A real coup de grâce!

When Black Gay activist Keith Boykin found out about this, he immediately demanded an explanation from LIFEbeat. In a letter to John Canelli, the organization’s executive director, he laid out the case against what the concert organizers were doing in no uncertain terms. “I fully support the mission of LIFEbeat to use music to reach America’s youth about HIV/AIDS,” he wrote, “but I cannot support the use of blatantly homophobic recording artists to achieve that mission. In fact, to provide a forum for these musicians actually contradicts the mission of LIFEbeat, in that the artists promote homophobia that contributes to AIDS. Furthermore, to use Beenie Man and TOK at an AIDS benefit concert is a slap in the face and an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Gay men, Bisexuals and Lesbians who have died of AIDS! As a Black Gay man, I’m personally insulted that an AIDS organization would give a space for anti-Gay musicians to spout their homophobia.”

Boykin ended his letter by requesting that LIFEbeat require Beenie Man and TOK to publicly renounce their homophobia as a condition of taking part in the Reggae Gold Live! concert. LIFEbeat executives were unwilling to grant his request. John Canelli was quoted as stating that he was “not in a position to make a demand like that.“ Boykin then alerted the Black Gay community on his popular blogsite. American Gay activists, especially those of color, have a history of not responding or responding half-heartedly to these kinds of affronts. Yet, it turns out that even the patience of docile homosexual Black folk has limits. People simply hit the roof!

Activists around the country joined forces via the Internet with allies across the globe and whipped up a firestorm of protest. News media was alerted, bloggers were mobilized, and hundreds of faxes, emails and phone calls poured into the LIFEbeat offices. At first, the charity stubbornly refused to revise its concert line-up, and offered lame excuses for its ill-advised choice of headliners. They even argued that the lyrics in question had been taken out of context, but that strategy was doomed from the start . . . how the Hell do you take death threats out of context? Four days after Keith Boykin sent his letter of protest, the outcry had grown so great that LIFEbeat decided to cancel the benefit.

I’m often not proud of the things my people do, but I can definitely say I’m proud of this collective action. As Bernice Johnson Reagon sang on the award-winning Civil Rights documentary “Eyes On The Prize”: I know one thing we did right/Was the day we started to fight!

Last I heard, LIFEbeat spokesmen were grousing about having their good intentions sabotaged by radical Gay agitators bent on political correctness. Radical? Maybe so, if valuing one’s own life is radical. Political correctness? Absolutely not! “Moral outrage” would be a better description for what motivated the actions of Keith Boykin and his supporters. Boykin, Jasmyne Cannick, Stacyann Chin and other community spokespeople are now asking LIFEbeat to re-mount the benefit concert with Gay-friendly artists, and give the proceeds to J-FLAG, a Jamaican Gay rights network. I seriously doubt that will happen; an AIDS charity is unlikely to consider human rights fundraising part of its mandate. Even if it does, I question the wisdom of trying to work with an organization that suffers from such an obvious lack of good judgment.

If Canelli and company didn't know any better than to hire somebody like Beenie Man for an AIDS benefit, why would we expect them to do a good job promoting tolerance for Gay people? How can we be sure that helping prevent HIV infection was their main objective, anyway? Maybe all LIFEbeat really wanted to do was generate good publicity for the Reggae acts they planned to showcase. Maybe it was just a ploy to increase the audience for these acts, which in turn would increase profit margins for their record labels. True concern for the welfare of at-risk Gay and Bisexual men may have been the farthest thing from their minds!

Cynical, aren’t I? Of course, I may be wrong. But in the final analysis, LIFEbeat is an arm of the entertainment industry, and no number of benefit concerts can make up for the immeasurable damage that industry has done to young people. For too many years, mass-market music, movies and television shows have glamorized promiscuity. They've displayed young girls as willing sex objects. They've presented drug abuse and petty criminal behavior as something youth should aspire to. They've encouraged youth to disrespect their elders. They've desensitized the public to depictions of graphic violence. Now record companies are enabling sick and twisted "artists" who preach homosexual genocide.

Could matters possibly get any worse? When it comes to spreading evil influences, homophobic Reggae stars aren’t the only ones with blood on their hands! John Canelli told Keith Boykin, “My job is to save lives.” No lie? Well, then, here’s how he can do it: Get Time Warner, Sony/BMG, Universal, Disney, Fox, Clear Channel and all the other media conglomerates to stop marketing ignorance, hatred and immorality. That would save a Helluva lot more lives than he could ever hope to save by staging flashy musical galas!

03 July 2006

When Liberation Wasn't Liberating

(Jesus Christ said) "Some people have wings, but rush toward visible things that are far from truth. The fire that guides them gives them an illusion of truth. It will shine on them with a perishable beauty, and it will imprison them in dark delight and capture them in sweet-smelling pleasure. And it will make them blind with insatiable desire, inflame their souls, and be like a stake that is jammed into their heart and can never be removed. Like a bit in the mouth, it leads them according to its own wish."

In the 1968 movie Barbarella, Jane Fonda's character was imprisoned inside a diabolical machine designed to kill her with intense pleasure. Thirty years ago, Gay men seemed to be desperately trying to find a machine like that to use on themselves. I was reminded of that this weekend, when I saw a documentary called Gay Sex in the Seventies. Its focus was New York City in the years following the historic Stonewall rebellion of June 1969.

It was the first flush of Gay Liberation; homosexual men felt free to express their sexuality openly for the first time in American history, and man, did they ever! With the Watergate hearings, Norman Lear TV sitcoms and the Disco music explosion as a backdrop, they made the "free love" hippies from the '60s look like vestal virgins! Using vintage film footage and conversations with elderly Gay men who survived those wild times, the film goes into great detail about just how wild they were.

Interview subjects speak wistfully about scoring three and four sexual encounters in a single day, about prowling the groves of Fire Island for outdoor sex, and casual get-togethers that turned into all-night orgies. They speak about dozens upon dozens of sexual encounters in Gay bathhouses, public parks, pornographic movie theatres, and even on discothèque dance floors in front of hundreds of people. They'd actually have sex standing up, and then retreat to the restrooms so they could wash off the semen and saliva . . . ugh!

An extended segment of the film is devoted to chronicling the crazed sexual activity that took place around New York Harbor. Every night, hundreds of Gay men would flock to dangerous, vermin-infested piers in order to copulate with one another in the dark. Some plunged through rotting floorboards to their deaths! It was a risk many were willing to take in order to bag a cheap thrill or two. They also risked getting beaten, robbed or killed. One man speaks of stuffing a scrap of paper with his name and address on it in his jeans pocket. Why? So the police could identify his body "if something bad happened" to him. Yet, he always left his wallet at home as a precaution against theft! It was insane!

Abandoned buildings all over the city hosted late-night Gay orgies. Meat packing plants had to make their refrigeration trucks extra-secure because hordes of horny men started breaking into them at night and staging sex parties inside the cargo holds! As you might guess, much of this behavior was fueled by illegal substances. Cocaine and angel dust were the drugs of choice back then, along with copious amounts of "uppers" and "downers" washed down with shots of whiskey. "It was great," enthuse the interviewees, "until you got obsessed and couldn't stop." It was all about obsession, or more precisely, addiction! Addiction to sex, alcohol, marathon Disco dancing, pills, poppers and powder.

Some men realized that they were falling into a death trap and managed to pull themselves up short. Many didn't. Hundreds if not thousands succumbed to overdoses, various kinds of fatal accidents and HIV infection. That's what they called Gay Liberation! In retrospect, it looks like a bunch of sad human beings spiralling out of control. Who can blame the religious Right Wing for being appalled once they learned about this sorry scene? I'm old enough to have experienced the tail end of the Gay Lib era, but fortunately, I was able to avoid its more extreme aspects.

Everybody knows that Gay Liberation resulted in the colorful Pride parades we see every year in large cities all over the world. Fewer people know that it precipitated the greatest outpouring of self-hatred the world has ever seen. That's what was motivating the fleshpot atmosphere that took hold in New York City and other metropolitan centers during the 1970s. Heterosexual observers thought they were just witnessing Gay hedonism, but they were really witnessing what centuries of internalized homophobia could do to people.

It could, and did, make people commit suicide in public. It made multitudes of Gay men act out Yukio Mishima-style hari-karis using penises instead of Samurai swords. How else can you describe what they were doing? Those unsanitary sex-and-drug bacchanals were bound to lead to something catastrophic, and everybody knew it on some level. The more tolerant social climate gave them the opportunity to uplift themselves. Instead, they chose to degrade themselves!

Most didn't consciously understand why they were engaging in such mindless, lemming-like behavior, but in the end, it didn't matter why. Gay men had to deal with serious consequences and confront some heavy life-or-death issues. Those who survived came out of the experience profoundly changed. They realized that death by pleasure wasn't what they wanted after all. They began to value life. More important, they began to value themselves.

Despite the millions of lives it snuffed out prematurely, the AIDS crisis was ultimately a good thing for Gay men. I know how terrible that sounds, but I really do believe that it proved to be a force for good. AIDS was the hard slap across the face that woke us up and turned us off the path of self-hatred. We learned by necessity how to reign in our sexuality. We began to understand that intimacy was preferable to anonymity (setting the stage for the 1990s marriage equality era). In the process, we saved millions of lives, probably as many as we lost.

Now, as more of us embrace committed relationships, faith and family, and seek full integration into the larger society, we finally seem to be on the road to self-respect. We're certainly not there yet, but thank God we're not where we used to be! Yes, there are Gay men today who still engage in degrading behavior; they claim that dangerous, unsafe sex habits are part of "Gay culture" and argue that they have a "right" to practice them. Obviously, internalized homophobia is still a force to be reckoned with.

However, I feel confident that most of us no longer harbor a death wish. Those of us with a progressive mindset know that we can never free ourselves by oppressing ourselves! Self-destructiveness is not, has never been and never will be a means to achieve liberation.

I think LesBiGay folk are still trying to figure out what Gay Liberation really is. Knowing what it isn't can be just as useful. It isn't anything that leaves us addicted, afflicted and dead! A truly effective liberation strategy would recognize that we are God's children. It would incorporate the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. The Savior's message offers us freedom from shame and self-hatred, and His Gospels reveal our direct connection to the kingdom of Heaven.

How's that for Gay culture? Something that makes marching in a Pride parade well worth the effort! To me, being committed Gay Christians makes a lot more sense than subjecting ourselves to hangovers, drug withdrawal and indecency convictions, and it sure beats having to make those anxious, repeated visits to the Free Health Clinic.