Friday, June 24, 2005

Ignoring the Backdrop

When I was in university, the government was legislating gay bashing as a hate crime. The editor of the university newspaper wrote an editorial praising this initiative.

His opinion was met with death threats.

I studied music at Wilfrid Laurier University; a discipline where gays and lesbians were well represented. A classmate of mine shared with me that he carried a hard stick to fight back against those who would attack him because he’s gay. It happened once. It WILL happen again. He wasn’t going down so easily.

On October 6, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell A. Henderson entered a Laramie Wyoming bar which was known as a place where homosexuals often hung out.

The two men left the bar with the company of Matthew Shepherd, who they drove to an open field. After being tied to a fence and beaten within an inch of his life, he was left for dead in the near freezing temperatures.

The two men had also stolen his wallet and shoes. Eighteen hours later, he was found by two passing motorcyclists who thought at first that Shepherd was a scarecrow because of the way he was positioned on the fence.

Shepherd was flown via helicopter to Poudre Valley Hospital (approximately a ninety mile drive in Fort Collins, Colorado) where he remained in critical condition for several days before he died.

Baptist preacher Tony Campolo tells a story about a boy in high school who was thrown in the shower after gym class and then urinated on by his classmates. Because he way gay.

He went home that night, went off to bed as usual, then woke up in the middle of the night, went down to his basement, then hung himself.

Every gay person I’ve met tells a similar story.

These stories should provide a backdrop to the debates on same-sex marriages in the political arena and the blessing of same-sex unions in the faith communities. But they don’t. It’s as if the church has stopped hearing the pain of the oppressed.

It’s not enough to say that the bible condemns homosexuality. The way some Christians have been talking about homosexuality you’d think it was the ONE unforgivable sin.

SSM advocates are not asking folks to embrace gay/lesbian behaviour. They are simply asking folks to stop beating on them legislatively, legally, and, in far too many cases, physically.

I get why many Christian oppose SSM. But, as a Christian, I have found much of the rhetoric coming from Christian leaders on this issue, appalling. Many folk in my church who are conservative on this issue feel much the same way. Hurtful language coming from prominent Christian leaders against a marginalized, and abused group, does not further the cause of Christ.

I wonder if the best way to witness to gays and lesbians is to love them first, nursing their wounds, tending their hurts, simply loving them as Christ loves them: unconditionally. I’m not suggesting that folks betray their conscience and condone homosexual behavior. But when is it Christian to heap judgment upon judgment?

Grace, mercy, and peace. Self-giving, suffering love. These are the marks of the kingdom of God. Jesus actively sought out those who were despised, outcast, and broken. Why can’t we, who bear the name of Christ, do the same, without the condemnation?

15 comments:

Steve Bogner said...

That's a great piece. Ought to be published, and read far & wide. Thanks.

sojourness said...

You're definitely right. I can't understand why homosexuality is the unforgivable sin of our time. Christians can be gossips and gluttons, get divorces and tell lies, and a host of other things, but if a person is gay they're ostracized.

daveberta said...

Great post, Kevin!

Mike said...

Kevin,

You need to shout this from the roof tops, from the mountain tops, as loud as you can. Your voice of reason needs to be heard. Your voice of love and compassion.

Thank you for (constantly) reminding me that there are still Christians that follow the simple teachings of Jesus, rather than using the Bible to justify their pre-existing hatred and bigotry.

Love, compassiona dn forgiveness. But mostly love.

Keep it up.

Rick Barnes said...

I too have been beaten up and threaten by guys because I am gay. Though I manage a pretty stress free life, I know that when I go into a bar, to be careful. It is like a sixth sense. Always being aware of where you are.

Thanks for your post.

Kevin said...

Thanks, folks, for your kind comments...kgp

PR said...

I agree that anti-SSM people need to be careful about their rheotoric. But to bring these instances of gay-bashing into the discussion just muddies the actual issue. We're talking about a public policy issue here.

Kevin said...

Peter,

I disagree. Public Policy needs to have a human face and a background. Also, Public Policy doesn't exist in a vacuum. These types of stories provide the framework for policy discussions.

kgp

PR said...

It also emotionalizes the debate, takes the emphasis away from the real issue, and seems to make the point that anyone who opposes SSM is a cowboy-boot wearing gay-basher.

No sensible person likes gay-bashing. To tie it up in these sorts of public policy issues for partisan gain does nothing other than trivialize its odiousness.

Kevin said...

Peter,

I don't understand. What is the "real issue"? "Partisan gain"? You'll need to clarify.

Public Policy, by its very nature, cannot be divorced from human experience. Gay bashing can happen in a variety of ways, not just physically.

Also, as I suggested in the original post, there are many conservatives who oppose SSM who are also troubled by some of the rhetoric coming from some religious and political leaders.

For many GLTB folks, this IS an emotional issue because it cuts to the heart of how society understands and receives them.

kgp

Psychols said...

Great post Kevin. You added context to the debate. Sometimes in the midst of this debate we forget that gays have been the victims of hatred and violence for many years. Gay bashing and violence towards homosexuals is a by-product of a system of laws that treats them as a separate group. They deserve no less than 100% equality. In this case, equality is the right to marry a beloved.

Saheli said...

Great post Kevin!!!

I understand the general desire to avoid sensationalizing policy debates with emotional anecdotes. It happens so much, it's frustrating.

But it's highly relevant here. The campaign against Single Sex Marriage is grounded in a belief that there is something wrong with being Gay, and that a Gay romance is less than a straight romance; and the campaign for Single Sex Marriage is grounded in the belief that there is nothing wrong with being gay, and that a Gay romance is the same as a straight romance. You can modulate the strength and implications of each belief, but the grounding is there. And the extent to which you think the state can and should devalue a fellow human being's humanity and heart is going to modulate the extent to which you feel you can express the former belief in the public sphere beyond the right to free opinion--by beating someone up, urinating on them, killng them, firing them, or even just creating an unpleasant work environment for them.

seems to make the point that anyone who opposes SSM is a cowboy-boot wearing gay-basher.

Perhaps, at a shallow angle. And it's true, a lot of anti-SSM people maynot be cowboy-boot wearing gay-bashers. But that itself is an externalizing stereotype--plenty of cowboy boot wearers are gay-friendly or even gay. The dynamic here is one of "moderate" people, opposing SSM, simply at being lumped in with an un-chic group or being accused of cruelty or made to feel guilty about gay-bashing. It's a defensive dynamic, one that's more about protecting their self-ego as "quite" tolerant people than about deeply, emotionally engaging with the reality of gays in a compassionate, empathetic way, and examining the true implications of their own policy preferences. As a policitian, I could imagine looking a gay friend--a fellow human being who just happens to be gay--- in the eye and saying, I'm sorry, I'm not going to say I'm going to fight for gay marriage this year, because there's just too much to lose. But as a mere voter and citizen who informs that policy calculus, I simply cannot look a gay friend in the eye and say, I think there should be no gay marriage. Because I am then telling them--your love and your devotion to your beloved is less worthy of protection than mine. Because that is really what it means. And if you're willing to say that, and have the state say that, you shouldn't be surprised if some people are going to feel safer and better about beating up your friend than any random person.

Carl said...

Chris Glaser, quoted in The Spirituality of Men, ed. Philip L. Culbertson; Fortress Press, Minneapolis; p. 203:

"Spiritual abuse is the wounding, shaming, and degrading of someone's spiritual worth by a perpetual intent of taking control. Spiritual abuse is any attack (subtle or blatant, unintended or intentional) on our belovedness and sacred worth as children of God. This spiritual abuse is particularly keenly felt among gays and lesbians. Spiritual abuse is far more pervasive and permissible than other forms of abuse because it is perceived as ordained by God."

Kevin said...

Saheli,

Thanks for wise thoughts and input.

Carl,

Great quote. Much truth in it.

kgp

monado said...

Suppose that we all picked something else from the bible, and beat up those practitioners. Say, f'r'instance, child abuse. No, wait—that's not in the bible. How about impregnating your female slaves (handmaidens)? No, that's OK. How about working on Sunday? Adultery? Gluttony? Or is it only sins to which we won't be tempted? How about treating gays like people?

Congratulations to all gays in Canada on their new equality before the law.