Answering Orlando: Conservative Christians are Right; The LGBTQ Person Does have a Choice.

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The victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting at the hands of Omar Mateen, courtesy, Human Rights Campaign, #WeAreOrlando: HRC Turns Building into Memorial to Orlando Victims

It’s the same argument–the LGBTQ person says they were born LGBTQ and the conservative religions communities say that they were not born LGBTQ; they choose to be LGBTQ.

I agree that the person who lives a different sexual lifestyle does have a choice, just as conservative Christians say. However, the conservative Christian community gets the choice fundamentally wrong.

Orlando may be the beginning of the turning point that will probably take many  more years to fully mature from “hate the sin, love the sinner,” to complete acceptance. Let’s assess the situation.

First of all, the shooter, Omar Mateen was certainly a person who, by all accounts, was a ticking time bomb. Reporting for the Daily Beast, Shane Harris, Brandy Zadrozny and Katie Zavadski wrote in their article, The Unhinged Home That Raised Orlando Killer Omar Mateen, that Mateen grew up in an abusive home. When a person is brought up to question their own self-worth, the fear generated by that abuse often shows up as anger. Julie Vitkovskaya of The Washington Post compiled the transcripts of the 911 calls from Mateen to the Orlando Police Department in an article entitled, ‘You already know what I did’: Read excerpts of the Orlando shooter’s 911 calls. In the early morning hours of June 12 at the Orlando gay bar Pulse, he claimed to be guided by, “allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.” But that claim really does not wash with Mateen’s actions leading up to the shootings and appears to be a red herring. Although he, according to Vitkovskaya, “told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq,” his rants included lies, such as,

“There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.” Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they “used in France.” The shooter later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.” (Vitkovskaya)

Within these lies might be the answers as to why Mateen chose to destroy unsuspecting lives at Pulse. Mateen could have shot up a mall, as did a group of Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab did at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September of 2013, killing 63 and wounding 175. Or he could have shot up a movie theater, as James Holmes did in Aurora, CO in July, 2012, killing twelve and wounding 70 and as John Russell Howard did in Lafayette, LA in July 2015, killing two and injuring nine, then taking his own life. Instead, Mateen decided to wreak havoc on a gay nightclub–the one place where, no matter how badly the LGBTQ community member is treated and bullied during the day, that person could go to Pulse and dance and be the person that he/she or whatever in between can be. Safely, without judgement or acrimony. Omar Mateen took that away from the LGBTQ community in Orlando, including those who chose to vacation in Orlando and visit Pulse on that fateful night.

Heidi Grover of The Stranger, a Seattle publication, wrote about Pulse being such a safe place for the LGBTQ community in Orlando in her piece, Memories of Pulse Orlando. Tracey Cataldo observes that “Florida is already a really hard space to be out and to be gay and to be yourself…It was the first moment I had being out in Orlando where I was like, oh, I’m OK here—not just safe, but these people get me. Everywhere else I felt like I had to walk around defensive…” Erin Resso remarks, “I was going to Pulse when I was just coming out and just sort of exploring what that even meant and who I was. Just being around people who are like you is so fucking important. You don’t have to hide. You can actually be yourself.”

The shootings in Orlando seemed to touch a particular nerve nationwide, especially with those who have traditionally condemned those in the LGBTQ community–religious organizations in the United States.  Errin Haines Whack and Rachel Zoll of the Washington Post note conservative religious organizations response to the shootings in their article, Religious conservatives attempt balance in Orlando response, “The Rabbinical Council of America, the major association for Orthodox rabbis, decried ‘murderous attacks in the name of religion’ and said ‘no individual or group should be singled out’ the way the victims were. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, offered prayers and called for ‘ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.’ The Southern Baptist Convention, at its annual meeting this week, passed a resolution extending ‘love and compassion’ to all affected by the shooting and saying they consider the victims ‘fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors.'”

Yet, no matter how much conservative religious leaders try to make nice with the LGBTQ community, many religious communities still has the LGBTQ community in their gun sights, so to speak.

The Human Rights Commission publishes online its Faith Positions. For Mateen’s family religion, Islam, the commission notes that inclusion for the LGBTQ community runs the gamut, because, “Islam has no central governing body, it is not possible to state clear policies regarding issues of interest to LGBTQ people.” Yet even without this central authority, “It is rare that an openly LGBTQ Muslim feels fully welcome at a mainstream mosque in the United States. Cultural norms and traditional readings of sacred texts often uphold a heteronormative binary of gender identification and sexual orientation that don’t allow for the range of identities present in today’s society.” Interestingly, “Transgender men and women are recognized and accepted in many Islamic cultures around the world. In fact, the idea of a man or woman identifying as a member of the opposite gender is more likely to be accepted than that of a man or woman expressing sexual desire for someone of their own gender.”

Judaism in the United States also runs the gamut of beliefs for and agains the LGBTQ community. Both the Reformed and Conservative movements are inclusive of the LGBTQ community. The Reform movement as early as 1977, through its “…Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution that called for ‘legislation which decriminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults, and prohibits discrimination against them as persons.’” However, the Orthodox Jewish community is much less inclusive, though, just as the Islamic religion, they also have no central governing body. Still, it is believed, “Orthodox policies related to LGBT inclusion are grounded in the Torah and subsequent rabbinic teachings, which prohibit sexual relationships between individuals of same gender, and base gender roles on birth biology. Sex between men and particularly anal intercourse is deemed a violation of biblical weight. Lesbian relations are not mentioned in the Bible and are prohibited explicitly only by later rabbinic authorities.”

For the dominate religious group in the United States, Christianity is all over the board in its relationship with the LGBTQ community. Possibly the most inclusive sect is the Unitarian Universalists Church, which believes in “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” making the Unitarians an inclusive denomination to the LGBTQ community. In fact, the Unitarians have “conducted ‘services of union’ for same-sex couples since 1984.” in contrast, the Southern Baptist Convention published its “Resolution on a Christian Response to Homosexuality” in 1996, declaring that, “even a desire to engage in a homosexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted.” The SBC tells its members, “Christians can, and should, minister to homosexuals in a kind, yet firm manner,” encouraging its members to show the member of the LGBTQ community that “Christ can work through our lives to touch those lost in a world of confusion and darkness.” The largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, declared in a Letter in 1989, that, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” In the Catechism, the “Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” 

No wonder those in the LGBTQ community feel they are treated as sub-human and abominations. When their own churches, families and country have called them sick, begging them and praying for them and with them to stop being themselves and start being just like “everyone” around them–no wonder the LGBTQ person feels there are few safe places for them to live their lives. The overpowering, public display of shame and hatred toward the LGBTQ person has been the prevailing narrative in this country for so very long.

What changes this narrative now as a result of Orlando? “‘This is a time to grieve, to mourn and to consider what it means to stigmatize people,’ said the Rev. Raphael Warnock of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, who supports gay marriage as a civil right. ‘Religious communities have played a particular role in … marginalizing gay and lesbian and transgender people,’” quoted Whack and Zoll. That is a powerful condemnation on religion in our communities from a religious leader. That is brave. But not a brave as an LGBTQ person.

Our religious community do not want to align itself with the vilified religion of the shooter, Omar Mateen. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump even says of Islam, “I think Islam hates us,” reports Theodore Schliefer of CNN, fanning the anti-Muslim dialogue that is engulfing our country.

In reality, it is still the religious community–all but the very socially progressive sects–who are trying to act as if they care for our LGBTQ community members after Orlando, while still vilifying them in their worship services and in their conferences where they set anti-LGBTQ policy in black and white.

Those religious sects, denominations and organizations who preach anti-LGBTQ rights have more in common with the Islamic faith than with human rights for all in the United States.

Orlando, is a wake-up call. Omar Mateen, was either secretly gay, bi-sexual or outwardly homophobic. He destroyed lives of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and those who loved them, not the lives of random people in movie theaters, or malls or in an elementary school. We still do not know the true motives of Omar Mateen, but his attempt to steer his motives away from homophobia and onto Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS frankly makes no logical sense.

Yes, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer people have a choice. They can choose to live their own truth, or they can choose to ignore who they really are and let conservative, religious fanatics shame the LGBTQ person into becoming the person they are not. Trying to change the LGBTQ person is an invitation to a train wreck of a life. It happens over and over and over again in this country.

Perhaps one day the power of shame, based on religious dogma, will be overcome by the power of reality. All of our religious communities also have a choice–to stop fearing the members of the LGBTQ community. Being gay is not a disease and it is not contagious. An LGBTQ person knows they are sexually different before they even know the definition of LGBTQ.

Is it suddenly permissible to start loving members of the community you preached hate against 24 hours before a massacre? You might believe your own crap, but people with half a brain see through that ruse.

I personally have solved my problem about gay rights and religion. The intolerance of the gay community in the religious community is so abhorrent to me that it is one of the reasons why I have chosen–and it is my choice–to be an atheist. I am not fearful of anyone in the LGBTQ community. My sister is a lesbian. Her wife is my sister-in-law. I love them completely and the homophobia of so much religion cannot compete with my love for my LGBTQ family and friends. It appears that much of the United States feels this same way in the wake of a madman’s murderous rampage in Orlando.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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