Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Living with Church (3): politics

If you visit progressive political blogs like Pam's House Blend, or Daily Kos, you will find any thread that discusses LGBT equality to include a substantial fraction of posts decrying religion, invoking the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Invisible Pink Unicorns, and ultimately devolving into an attack on anyone who lifts their head above the parapet and defines themselves as Christian.

It gets so bad at times that I'm often derided as a Christian apologist. And need I remind you that I'm an atheist scientist.

A case in point is over on Counterlight's blog, where a man named Tristan is tarring all Christians with the common brush, in his outrage and anger at being denied his civil rights by so-called Christians, who use their faith as a justification to oppress him. In one post he mentions he studied for the ministry, so further I think he's one of those angry atheists I mentioned earlier, who has literally been driven away by the heterosexism of much of Christianity and he is deeply, deeply hurting as a result.

I have lived some of Tristan's conflict, as I think any gay person has. In my case, I'm a non-believer, yet married to one who is quite devout, and trying to reconcile my anger at organized religion that so relentlessly attacks us.

Case in point: the shady National Organization for Marriage (NOM) which acts as a money-laundering organization for the Roman Catholic church and the Mormons to attack equality around the country-- not just marriage equality, but civil union legislation and other equality efforts too.

NOM is run by conservative Catholics, fronted by Maggie Gallagher, whose testimony in Maryland was so demonizing that it flipped one state senator into the pro-marriage column. NOM is an active donor to the campaigns for anti-marriage amendment now heating up in MN and NC. Its arguments are vicious, based in lies, and justified by their view of religion.

Heck, just read any online comments following a newspaper article about LGBT equality and see how it devolves: any statement in favor will be followed by critics citing the Bible to oppose marriage and calling LGBT people perverts, which will generally be followed by someone deriding Chrisitanity and demanding civil rights. And round and round we go.

Is it any wonder the LGBT community is so anti-religion?

We talked a few weeks ago about Dan Savage's challenge to the NALTS, whom he calls one of the two barriers to marriage equality.
[A]ll those quiet, timid, and cowardly NALT Christians out there who support marriage equality but have allowed their conservative coreligionists to hijack Christianity. ("NALT" stands for "not all like that," the phrase you hear from liberal Christians whenever you bitch about conservative Christians, i.e., "We're not all like that!" Yes, yes, NALTs—we know. You're not all like that. Don't tell us. Tell Tony Perkins, tell the pope, tell Maggie Gallagher.)
That's because right now, the Christian Right has succeeded in defining "Christianity" and the terms of the debate. They have established the Them vs Us definitions that the media uses. Telling the LGBT community, that is hurting so much, that there really ARE Christians supporting them, is of limited help, if you don't fight the lies. Recent polls from HRC and PRR show "Christians", particularly (yes) Roman Catholic laity and mainline Protestants, are really quite positive about LGBT rights including marriage. Those people need to speak out. It's why the HRC Clergy Call is important-- boots on the ground, so to speak, as diverse clergy including our own Susan Russell speak out on Capitol Hill.

I too was subsumed by a lot of anger against religion, particularly against the patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic Roman Catholic Church in which I grew up. But yet I found myself with a woman of passionate Catholic faith, whose intelligence I deeply respect, and who was not going to give up her faith even as the church abused her. In a classic example of NALT, the majority of her RC friends were very supportive of us personally, and of our marriage. But even so, they saw no problem in asking BP to live a don't-ask-don't-tell life to remain there.

So I set myself the task of finding out how that conflict could be resolved, and thanks to Gene Robinson's consecration, that led me to the Episocopal blogosphere, and the rest, as they say, is history. My wife 's Catholicism is now joyfully expressed in an Anglican flavor. And as part of her journey, I've learned the nuance-- and tamed a lot of my own anger in the process. But we're not done yet.

So here I stand, trying to bridge the communities and bring us together for a common cause. I have a series my blog Gay Married Californian, called Voices of Faith Speak out, where I hope to show the LGBT community that they have allies. And here, I needle you about equality so you can do your share too. The Episcopal Church has done a great job in many places of binding the wounds of hurting people. As Gene Robinson says, though, you can't just pull the people out of the river. You have to go upstream and stop the person who is throwing them in.


Counterlight said...

I think the NALTs are making plenty of noise out there. The problem is that the far right is such a freak show, and Tee Vee loves freaks.

Maggie Gallagher's poisonous paranoia is so much more telegenic than a reasoned and friendly appeal from someone like Gene Robinson.

Our enemies serve us well by being obsessed and unhinged. Unfortunately obsessed and unhinged make great television to boost ratings and sales of commercial air time.

IT said...

I'm not thinking so much of the NALTs here but people like BPs RC friends some of whom are not open in their support.

Though you are right about the grim attraction of the freak show.

Erika Baker said...

It's the "not open in their support" that really puzzles me. I can see why people employed by the church as priests or bishops might be publicly silent. It could wreck their careers - well, it could in Britain where I'm writing from.

But normal people in the pew without that kind of professional investment in the church - what is stopping them? Why do they support us in private but will never step out of line in public?

Is it fear of being ostracised? Do they genuinely believe that private support is enough?

Is it a misguided sense of wanting to be fair and balanced about those who "hold different theological views"?

Is it about not sticking your head up against the hierarchy and the establishment?

I wish I knew what to do to make these people see their true religious, political and human responsibilities.

IT said...

I sometimes wonder what would happen if the 55% of RC laity who are pro-equality stood up and told their church where to get off (the RC is funding much of the political activity against us).

When BP was still RC, One of her friends a Eucharistic minister, offered to be sure she still got Communion in case the priest found out about her. Which was well meant but failed to understand what it costs to tell someone to live in the closet. Well the priest never found out (no one told him) and BP stopPed taking Communion by her own choice because she felt "out of communion" with the RC and had started her journey towards TEC.

I realize that many RC live a don't ask don't tell life WRT gay rights, contraception, etc but their silence within church has a human toll.

Anonymous said...

As a former RC I have a particular sensitivity to the issue you are raising. What led me to the exit door was the fact that I couldn't bear the cognitive dissonance any longer. But most of my former co-religionists have succeeded in building little safe compartments to put their church that perpetuates nonsensical teaching on sexuality. They (the very vast majority) practrice contraception without shame or guilt, yet cling to a church that labels them as "sinners" for behaviour that the KNOW is not a sin. I finally couldn't do it any more. So I suspect that "don't ask, don't tell" is the standard modus operandi for most American Catholics and thus they remain silent as they vote their consciences and live their lives outside the boundries their bishops preach. Go figure...
Lou Poulain, Sunnyvale CA

JCF said...

I'd love to hear more from Fran on this (not to put her on the spot, but she is our one practicing RC "Friend of Jake").