Making Religious Homophobia Illegitimate

Making Religious Homophobia Illegitimate February 19, 2016

RainbowHeartWithCross.svgI have a dream that someday, religious homophobia will be as illegitimate as flat-earth cosmology and young-earth creationism.

B.o.B. and Ken Ham notwithstanding, no one gives any real credibility to claims that the earth is flat or that it is only 6,000 years old. Sure, those people are out there, and you can even visit the Creation(ist) Museum in Kentucky. There are plenty of biblical texts to support an argument that the earth is flat and that it’s only 6,000 years old. That doesn’t mean they are true.

These ideas and beliefs are marginal at best in the 21st century. They don’t affect state law. They don’t infringe on a person’s rights to use public places and frequent local businesses.

Religious homophobia still does.

After the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision ensuring marriage equality across state lines, conservative opposition to civil rights shifted to the realm of religious freedom rhetoric. Kim Davis was only the beginning. In 28 states “it’s not against the law to discriminate against a gay person who’s looking for an apartment, applying for a job, or buying something from a store.” Several states have pending legislation “that would exclude transgender people from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity and outward gender expression.” My home state of South Dakota is poised to become the first to enact such a law, unless the Governor (to whom I am in fact distantly related) vetoes it.

Related to protecting gay and lesbian citizens from discrimination, the religious freedom question is this: “Should these laws make exceptions for religious individuals and organizations that object to employing and providing services to gay people?”

No. No they should not.

Because religious homophobia should not be legitimized by state or federal law.

It isn’t even legitimate within many religions at this point. (See a list of links to faith-full supports at the end of this piece.)

This weekend I’ll be attending the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference at Purdue University. There, I am leading a workshop titled “The Bible Does NOT Say That: Empowered to Respond to Religious Homophobia.” I’ve spoken on this topic before, and will continue to do so until it is as illegitimate to permit religious homophobia as it is to permit flat-earth creationism. Of course, the Bible sits in the background if not the foreground of these claims.

Among other things, I quote Daniel Helminiak who states that “Taken on its own terms and in its own time, the Bible nowhere condemns homosexuality as we know it today.”

When it comes to some of the specific texts, here is a piece of the argument:

danielLeviticus 18 & 20 are about homogenitality (same genital activity) and not homosexuality (including orientation, emotion, attraction, identity, and so many other things), in the context of the Holiness Code (see also the laws of kashrut), in an ancient world where understandings of man and woman were specific to genital differentiation and procreative activity.

Romans 1 is a carefully crafted rhetorical statement designed to make a larger theological point, playing on the Jews stereotypes about Gentiles, where Paul eventually calls them all out for their self-righteous judgmental ways, finally emphasizing in 2:11 that “God shows no partiality.”

1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy are not condemnations of gay sex; they are replicated stock lists of vices incidental to the author’s larger point.

Genesis 1 and 2, the creation stories, are mythological (they do not recount historical events), descriptive (the authors describe simply what they saw as the norm), and not prescriptive (they don’t claim to say how all partnered human relations must be, even within the Bible itself).

So, anyone who clings to their homophobia needs to do it on the basis of something other than the Bible.

Then, perhaps, states and courts will be less likely to give them legitimacy.

Click here to read “On Being Black and Queer at a Black Baptist Church.”

Religious Communities as LGBT Supporters:

Human Rights Campaign Round-Up on Faith Positions

Integrity USA (Episcopal)

Dignity USA (Roman Catholic)

More Light Presbyterians

Reconciling Works (ELCA Lutheran)

Union for Reform Judaism

Muslims for Progressive Values

 Rainbow Heart with Cross image via wikimedia commons.


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