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On The Christians and The Gays, and Keeping the Flock Together

October 15th, 2007 · 4 Comments · Activism, Blogs, Culture, Journal, LGBT, Music, Politics, Religion, Spirituality

pink flockSo there was a new study written up this past week, supplying evidence that young people in America are rejecting Christianity because they see it as “hypocritical, judgmental, and anti-gay.”

The vast majority of non-Christians — 91% — said Christianity had an anti-gay image, followed by 87% who said it was judgmental and 85% who said it was hypocritical.

Such views were held by smaller percentages of the active churchgoers, but the faith still did not fare well: 80% agreed with the anti-gay label, 52% said Christianity is judgmental, and 47% declared it hypocritical.

Kinnaman said one of the biggest surprises for researchers was the extent to which respondents — one in four non-Christians — said that modern-day Christianity was no longer like Jesus.

“It started to become more clear to us that what they’re experiencing related to Christianity is some of the very things that Jesus warned religious people about,” he said. “Which is, avoiding removing the log from your own eye before trying to take the speck out of someone else’s.”

One of the problems here is that right-wing fundamentalists have spent decades appropriating the term Christian, defining it as if it applied only to themselves and their narrow views — and the media have not only allowed them to do it, but actively assisted. Liberal and progressive Christian traditions have been silenced and marginalized in political discourse. And so the result is that the term Christian has developed unfair connotations of bigotry and small-mindedness that it doesn’t really deserve.

Here in Chicago, you can find Protestant churches of just about every denomination, from Baptist to Lutheran to Presbyterian, proudly displaying rainbow stickers on their marquees to affirm their gay-welcoming spirit. And of course the gap between how American Catholics feel about homosexuality versus the edicts of the Vatican is well-covered ground. The American Episcopalian church has made so much progress overcoming homophobia that they’re now on the verge of schism with homophobic Episcopalians in Africa, who alas, have much further to travel on the subject.

Fortunately, we do have some smart, progressive Christian voices in the blogosphere these days — and maybe over time they’ll manage to help get the good news out that being Christian doesn’t have to mean being homophobic.

I can’t help thinking of my first Joan Baez concert, at the Peoria Civic Center circa 1985. At the end of a brilliant concert, peppered with Joan’s drolly hilarous anecdotes and pointed political commentary, she led the whole audience in singing “Amazing Grace.” As the last notes died away, she waited a beat and then fired off, “Take that, Jerry Falwell!” before stalking offstage to thunderous applause. I’ve been in love with her ever since.

I was a college freshman at the time and probably at or near my peak of atheism and religion-rejection. I’d kicked Christianity out of my life around the time I came out to myself, and Joan’s concert was for me a powerful demonstration that there was a vibrant Christian Left tradition alive and well in America — a strain of Christianity that seemed more in sync with the actual teachings of Jesus himself, with whom I felt I’d never quarreled. After all, to be a right-wing conservative Christian, you have to pretty much ignore Jesus’ teachings on war, peace and violence, poverty and wealth, the death penalty, and compassion for criminals and society’s outcasts — and for that matter, not care too deeply about being good stewards of God’s creation.

Nonetheless, they’ve controlled the microphone in America’s religious discourse for a long time now. You have to listen a little harder to hear the voices of the Christian Left through the corporate media’s filter, but they’re there, and they help keep me grounded.

In other news, I’ve always been a big fan of Barney Frank, but I’m so disappointed in the congressman from Massachusetts this week, as he continues to aggressively defend the attempts to pass ENDA without coverage for transpeople. His lack of comprehension about this is downright baffling. This is not 1997. Back in the 90s there were still plenty of gay people who didn’t “get” the transgendered thing, but there’s been a lot of learning done over the past decade. Even those of us who don’t personally know transpeople have seen Boys Don’t Cry, we’ve watched Moira turn into Max on The L Word, and for pete’s sake Anna Madrigal is one of the guiding saints of our community.

We are one LGBT community now, and you can’t peel us apart. An attack on one of those letters is an attack on all of them, and if it takes a little longer to protect all four of them than it would to protect an elite subset of three, so be it — because our solidarity is our power, and there are no back seats on our bus.


4 Comments so far ↓

  • Scraps

    Roz Kaveney has been doing great work talking of the history of anti-trans sentiment within the gay community, and the ongoing rewriting of gay history to exclude transfolk.


  • Ocelopotamus

    Yes, Roz is very cool. Hadn’t looked at her blog in a while, though, so I’m glad to hear her voice on this issue and thanks for the pointer.

  • Aaron

    I can’t believe how many otherwise (at least I’d believed) grounded and rational gay people I’ve heard say that they’re “torn” on the transgender issue.

    I have to remind them, look, there’s nothing to be “torn” about: we’re either all in this fight or none of us are. Yes, there are gulfs in our understanding sometimes (particularly between lesbians and gay men), but do we honestly believe that we’re going to curry favor with right-wingnuts if we turn our backs on a portion of our number? Ridiculous.

  • Steve Sturm

    While certainly there are many hypocritical Christians (as there are hypocritical straights, gays, liberals, conservatives, etc.) there is not necessarily a link between being conservative, right-wing, or Christian and anti-gay. As in any other group, sometimes it is unfortunate only the loudest voices are heard. And you are very correct that there are far too many Christians pointing out the specks in others’ eyes while ignoring the plank in their own. So many Christians ignore that the Scriptures they point to regarding homosexuality have a few things to say about adultery, fornication and divorce as well.