“Imagine you are in a park with your young son or daughter. It’s a nice day and you’re enjoying your time with your child, when you notice a man in the park. One of the other parents tells you that the man is a homosexual. How would you feel? You would worry about the safety of your child. You should leave the park as fast as possible, and you probably wouldn’t go back to that park again.”
This frightening scenario was the introduction to a presentation one of my college students made; the proposed topic of his speech was why homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry. It’s not a position I support, but I encourage my students to be honest in their speeches, so long as they can provide a rational foundation for their positions. However, this particular young man chose not to argue in his speech that marriage was intended for one man and one woman, but instead proposed that all homosexuals should be rounded up and forced to live together on an island. His rationale for this proposition: the Bible.
Needless to say, I was disappointed by his speech. Assuming his idea was feasible and the horrible homosexual sinners could so easily be isolated, why stop there? How about the Isle of Lost Adulterers? The Strait of Whores? Pedophile Peninsula? And why stop with the sexually-based sins? Why not have the County of Persons who Fail to Honor Mom and Dad, False Witness Valley, and Coveter’s Cove? But then you start to run into problems with logistics. Where, for example, would you put the person who bore false witness against his or her parents?
Certainly, each individual is entitled to his or her beliefs. My student has every right to support a homophobic, antiquated idea of morality. Likewise, each individual is free to define sin however he or she chooses. I’m sure more than a few religious types would be disturbed by my notion of who is rotting in the inner circle of Hell, so I won’t presume to tell them whom they have to believe is there. Nonetheless, no one concept of sin or religion should be considered a mandate for a philosophy of government.
In the United States, of course, that mandate usually stems from calls for legislation based on a conservative Christian ideology. The implications of governance based on conservative Christian beliefs are far-reaching for the GLBT community. A Marriage Amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and woman is a certainty, civil unions will be banned, and protections against hate crimes and discrimination on the job and in housing would be erased. Quite possibly, a return to imprisonment or death for GLBT persons could occur.
Those who think a return to the days of killing homosexuals is far-fetch need only read Leviticus 20:13-14, which calls for exactly that (but only male homosexuals—lesbians get a pass on being put to death at least, but they too, will be persecuted). Thus, the rhetoric of the upcoming election rightly has gay and lesbian activists worried as to how far some candidates would go.
Take the words of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who announced while campaigning that Ameicans should amend the US Constitution to match “God’s standards”, not change God’s standards to match the Constitution. Or how about John McCain, who told Beliefnet.com that the Constitution founded a Christian nation (although not really, as the Constitution contains no reference of God whatsoever). While McCain has retracted his statement, there’s still the Republican Platform of Texas, which flat-out declares that the United States is a Christian nation.
But whose Christianity? There are 67 million Catholics, 16 million Southern Baptists, and six million Mormons in the United States. All three of these branches of Christianity have vastly different interpretations of the Bible, and their readings differ from those of the Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, and others. If we go with the majority, clearly then America is a Catholic nation, but try selling that idea to Texas Republicans.
Then there are the fringe Christians, such as the members of Westboro Church, better known as Fred Phelps’ church. According to Phelps, Heath Ledger will burn in Hell for playing a gay man, along with former NFL star Patrick Tillman, who died defending a country that harbors gays. In Phelps’ worldview, God may be displeased but can accept the 17,000 yearly murders, 92,000 annual rapes, and 234,000 convicted pedophiles in Phelps’ country; however, homosexuality has angered God to the point that He is willing to allow innocent people to die in war, natural disasters, and terrorist acts just to make a point. Where does this interpretation of Christianity fit in a Christian nation?
Therefore, the first challenge of this Christian nation would be to set a standard of what “Christianity” means. Its second challenge is to have a major overhaul of both its government and its economy. Currently, only two acts listed in the Ten Commandments are illegal. Constitution amendments need to be passed immediately to insure that Americans aren’t taking the Lord’s name in vain and that the next time a President gets a blowjob outside of wedlock, there will be no doubt about his fate.
Also, those Constitutional amendments outlawing slavery will have to be revoked, although the new slavery will be economically-based and not racially. The Bible is very explicit about who can and should be a slave—for instance, any one who is a daughter, i.e., all women, are game.
Of course, the greatest economic impact will be the closing of, well, everything on Sunday. No cops or prison guards working, hospital employees will get the day off, no store clerks or restaurant workers can work—which means that all stores and restaurants will be closed. No football or other sports, no newspaper, no TV broadcasts, no Sunday matinee at the movies, no zoos or museums available on this day. Americans must not ask those people employed at such places to risk their eternal souls by working on Sunday. The resulting loss of revenue to those industries is incalculable, not to mention the loss of human life when paramedics, fire personnel, and doctors fail to answer emergency calls.
The fashion industry will be hit particularly hard, as the mixing of fabrics is banned, which I find problematic as I got this really cool sweater for Christmas I’ll have to burn. The farming industry will also be hit hard, since it’s forbidden to mix seeds within a field. No more growing corn in the same field as lettuce. Both the food industry and football are in for a shake-up, as touching the carcass of a pig is prohibited. On the up side, sheep farmers will see a boom, since people will be able to offer up ewes as offerings for their sins. Likewise, the poor will prosper in this Christian nation, as the Bible commands all to be “open-handed” with them.
There are literally thousands of changes that will have to be made for Americans to truly form a Christian nation, from stoning women who don’t cover their heads in church to exempting newlywed men from military or civic duty. But suppose Americans unite under another religion, say, Islam, Hinduism, or Scientology? No matter what the religion, big changes will have to be made.
To some, what I am suggesting may seem ludicrous. No civilized Western country would engage in such practices as the ones listed here. Yet, Jesus tells us it’s an all or nothing proposition:
I tell you this: so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a stroke, will
disappear from the Law until all that must happen has happened. If any man therefore sets aside even the least of the Law’s demands, and teaches other to do the same, he will have the lowest place in the kingdom of Heaven… (Matthew 5:18 - 19)
Thus, it’s clear that one doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible will be obeyed, but realistically, that’s what happens every day. In America, mandates within the Law of the Bible that are no longer culturally acceptable, such as slavery or public stoning, are ignored, while others become political talking points.
All of this Biblical talk matters for one simple reason: many use the Bible as justification for discriminatory practices. We can’t allow gays and lesbians to wed because it isn’t sanctioned in the Bible. We can’t allow gays and lesbians to raise children because the Bible rebukes them. We can’t allow gays and lesbians to live because it makes God mad.
Yet, we allow these same “special rights” to other” sinners”. If you want to deny me my rights because I’m a sinner, work just as hard to deny the rights of every other sinner in this country. Otherwise, shut up.
Perhaps if Americans want to incorporate religion into their governing process, they should invoke the ethic of reciprocity, the one idea that is consistent across every major religion of the world. In Christianity, it’s known as the Golden Rule. The Buddhists say “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful”, while the Islamic faith states “None of you believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Native American religion tells us “What we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One”. Wicca preaches that in all things, practitioners should do no harm. In other words, if you don’t want your right to marry to be based on whether people accept whom you have fallen in love with, don’t impose that standard on others.
When you remove the religious position from the equation, there is no argument as to why gays and lesbians shouldn’t marry. Nothing in the US Constitution forbids it, and the structure of that governing document for the Country encourages equity. Sure, lots of people will posit arguments based on biased and disreputable “research” (gays are all pedophiles, lesbians can’t sustain relationships), but the truth boils down to this: there is no justifiable reason to deny GLBT persons equality under the law. It’s not about your right to believe in religion; it’s about your right to impose those beliefs on all of us.