Photo: Quinn Dombrowski, CC BY 2.0
This is a rant about religion and the LGBTQ community, triggered by the news of the possible split in the United Methodist denomination of Christians. If you’re made angry by bigotry-shaming, don’t read on.
The news about a possible split in a major Christian denomination over the subject of gay rights has once again reminded me of the kind of rhetoric that surrounds, at the very least, large sectors of American protestantism (but also large sectors of worldwide Christianity). Basically put, when we “nones” criticize Christianity writ large for its hateful and bigoted views on LGBTQ inclusion (and other issues) what we get back tends to sound a lot like this:
“We’re not monsters. We have our faith, and our faith tells us this is wrong. Who are you to tell us what to believe?”
Judge not, lest ye be judged, I suppose. So: judge me by this, because you’re judging us.
The belief that being part of the LGBTQ community is sinful is a monstrous belief. It is no less monstrous than believing Jewish people are somehow less-than-human. It is no less monstrous than believing that indigenous peoples are in need of “civilization.” It is no less monstrous than believing that black people are by nature more violent than white ones. It is no less monstrous than thinking people with learning disabilities shouldn’t breed. These are monstrous beliefs. They justify the discrimination of sectors of the population as “other,” a distinction that can only lead to monstrous outcomes. They are among the roots of the tree of human suffering, and they are time and again watered by the supposedly well-meaning religious.
Every time I hear another moralistic justification of discrimination, it reminds me again of all the things I can’t stand about organized religion: the insularity, the us-vs-them mentality, the hypocrisy. Oh, I’m not a great human being, but at least I own it. My beliefs are my own, and when they’re proven to lead to negative outcomes, I amend them. But so many religious people take their beliefs not from a place of critical thinking but from a place of justification.
You can find a quote in the Bible, for instance, to support or condemn damn near anything, and every single Christian denomination makes those choices. Some can plant two crops in the same field because they found a justification for it. Some can lend money to one another because they found a justification for it. Some can let women be ministers because they found a justification for it. Every day religious people make choices about which parts of their structure of belief are worth holding onto, and which aren’t.
If you think LGBTQ people should be treated any differently from straight people — any differently — then you’re using your faith to justify it, and not the other way around. People don’t take orders from their beliefs; their beliefs take the form of their biases.
Which is why, when a religious person tells me that they can’t do anything about the fact of their religion hating gay people (because, for all the talk of love and compassion, discrimination is simply the not-so-subtle embodiment of a subtle underlying hatred), I refuse to believe them. They are lying to themselves. They are lying to everyone else. They are justifying a monstrous belief.
So when it comes to the schism in the Anglican Church or the possible split in the until-now United Methodists, there is, to me, a clear moral line. On one side you have people who would use their faith to shield their bigotry, and on the other, you have people who won’t.
One side of this divide is monstrous.
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.