Gays Forgiving Christians for Past Treatment?

Pope Francis
Courtesy, http://www.theguardian.com, photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AP

Unprecedented. Whether you are Roman Catholic or Protestant, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, no head of one of the largest churches in the world has spoken out for the LGBTQ community as has Pope Francis. Extraordinary. Because of his compassion to all human beings, no matter what their religious or non-religious leanings, I keep my eye on his proclamations.

Apparently, il Papa holds press conferences on the papal plane. On June 26, 2016, up in the air between Armenia and Rome, Reuters reporter Phillip Pullella (published in an article, entitled Pope says Church should ask forgiveness from gays for past treatment) began chronicling Pope Francis’ lists of those harmed by Christians, including asking, “forgiveness for the way it has treated women, for turning a blind eye to child labor and for ‘blessing so many weapons’ in the past.”

But, for me personally, a huge leap in human rights from the Pope was “that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should seek forgiveness from gay people for the way they had treated them,” according to Pullella.

What prompted this moment of reflection and act of contrition? Interestingly, it was the remarks of a German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Last week the Catholic church held a conference at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. According to Patsy McGarry, writing for The Irish Times, Cardinal Marx proclaimed, “The history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalise [them].” He went on to comment, “that until “very recently,” the church and society at large had been “very negative about gay people . . . It was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible.” McGarry’s article, entitled Church must apologise to gay people, pope’s adviser declares, noted that Cardinal Marx was “addressing a conference organised by Trinity’s Loyola Institute on The Role of Church in a Pluralist Society: Good Riddance or Good Influence?”

Who is Cardinal Marx and how is he authorized to say these things for the gay community? According to Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse, Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín notes “German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, a member of the pope’s “C-9” council of cardinal advisors and a major force in his recent Synods of Bishops on the family….”

Photographer Paul Haring caught this grieved expression from the Pope after Cindy Wooden, the Rome Bureau Chief for Catholic New Services asked about the church’s response to the deaths of 49 persons at the gay club Pulse in Orlando. It was Wooden’s question, referencing Cardinal Marx’s remarks, that prompted Pope Francis to request that Christians and the church offer forgiveness for its treatment of the LGBTQ community in the past.

I offer the entire transcript of the Pope’s press conference onboard the chartered papal plane: TRANSCRIPT: WHAT DID POPE FRANCIS SAY ABOUT THE CHURCH AND APOLOGIZING?

I have been unable to find any responses by other Christian groups about the pope’s comments. However, some Catholic groups have sounded out.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, turned the tables on Pope Francis by remarking to Chris Cuomo on CNN, that “I Want an Apology From Gays!’ Donohue told Cuomo that, “I’ve been assaulted by gays.” Donohue went on to state that he went on to blame a group of people at a protest parade “who watched me be assaulted by lesbians.” Donohue went on to state, “The idea of a blanket apology because you are a member of some demographic group–I mean, I don’t know. What church teaching is it that you have a problem with that maybe the church should apologize for?” The entire Cuomo/Donohue conversation can be found at: ‘I Want an Apology From Gays!’ Catholic League’s Donohue, Cuomo Spar Over Pope’s Comments

On the other hand, Barbie Latza Nadeau of The Daily Beast in her article, Pope Francis Says Church Should Apologize To Gays And Others It Has Hurt And Ask Their Forgiveness reports that New Ways Ministry Francis DeBernardo also agreed with the Pope:

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which is a 40-year-old Catholic ministry working towards justice and reconciliation for LGBT Catholics, essentially accepted the pope’s apology. “This step by Pope Francis shows that Church leaders can and should admit when they have been wrong, especially when their wrongs cause people tremendous and unnecessary harm. His message signals a major change in attitude for an institution which has a terrible history of ever admitting that it has done something wrong,” De Barnardo said in a statement. “For some LGBT people who have been so wounded and bruised by Catholic leaders’ negative messages, the pope’s statement may seem like too little, too late. While indeed we have waited a long time for an opening like this, I think it is important to rejoice at this step forward. We must work and pray to make sure that the next steps take place much quicker. Among those next steps are more dialogue between Church leaders and LGBT people.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, the Executive Director of DignityUSA, the organization of LGBTQ Catholics, remarked on the organization’s website, “This could be a very important step in healing the relationship between the Catholic Church and LGBTQ people,” she stated.  “The frank acknowledgment by the Pope that Church teachings and practices have done immense harm to LGBTQ people over the centuries—leading to such evils as violence, oppression, self-hatred, the division of families, youth homelessness, and suicide—is essential.”

Yet Duddy-Burke, along with other liberal Catholic organizations, have spoken out that the pope’s message does not go far enough to healing the riffs against the LGBTQ community. Reporter Jim Yardley writes in his New York Times article, Gay Catholic Groups Want Pope Francis to Do More Than Apologize, Duddy-Burke remarked, “But a statement of remorse is only as good as the change in behavior that follows.”

Another response to the pope’s words also came from co-executive director of Call to Action, Ryan Hoffman, who “praised Francis’ remarks but also called on Catholic officials to ‘reform teachings and practices that refer to gay people as ‘objectively disordered’ and ‘intrinsically evil,’” writes Yardley.

Interestingly to me is that, for some reason, now the leader of one of the oldest Christian sect is speaking against the constant undeclared war on the LGBTQ community which has been part of the Western culture for centuries. Did the bloodbath in Orlando at the gay night club, Pulse, instigating a tipping point? Will members of the LGBTQ community eventually be treated as just members of the community at large?

I do think that when a respected leader of a very large community makes statements against centuries of abhorrent treatment of a certain group of human beings, many people will begin to wake up and reassess their own personal issues against such communities.

What about Bob Donohoe and his statement that gays should apologize to him for assaulting him? I can understand his response if he was indeed physically assaulted. But I could not find anywhere where Donohoe reported this so-called assault. Not a word. Then when the pope asks for the Christian world to completely reassess its attitudes against the LGBTQ community, and Donohoe has a personal melt-down over being “assaulted” by “lesbians.” This sounds to me like a person whose ego got bruised. Sounds pretty narcissistic. Sounds like someone who really values himself over many people he views as not equal to him. Sounds like his comments are from a place of rage and not a place of empathy or love.

Again, I have great respect for a pope who genuinely appears to be reaching out to many people in the margins of society. But as more and more people stop blindly following hard-line religious dogma, often those people decide to become more human and react to marginalized people with more humanity than those in so many religious communities.

Shortly after the assault on the Pulse night club in Orlando, Reuters published an article from its staff, entitled, U.S. religious leaders reexamine words after Orlando gay club massacre. The Reverend Dr. Joel C. Hunter, the senior pastor at the non-denominational Christian church, Northland, made a completely clueless  statement, “I have been searching my heart: is there anything I did that was complicit in that loss?” More realistic, Robert Lynch, the bishop of the Catholic diocese in St. Petersburg, Florida, noted, “Sadly, it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”

It seems that Pope Francis is becoming even more and more human even though his dogma justifies persecution of members of the LGBTQ community. Good for him. But I’ve decided no longer follow the dogmas of religious sects. I have decided be human, to live my life under an archetypal Golden Rule. I would continue to hope that more religious persons would stop justifying their hate towards marginalized people–a hatred that was one of the biggest reasons why I have chosen to be an non-believer. I believe only in humanity and equality for all. That is reality. That is love.

GoldenRule-2
Courtesy,  Universality of the Golden Rule Graphic, http://tokresourse.org/tok_classes/areas/golden_graphic/index.htm

 

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

Orlando_Victims-1600x900
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.