Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Church of Exclusion

There is a movement in California to nullify the marriages of those homosexual who managed to get in before the doors of the government were slammed in their faces. This infuriates me. I was going to come on here and say that America's obsession with restricting the rights of its homosexual citizens is the single most frustrating and disturbing issue today. But that would have been pure hyperbole. Obviously there are more important things in the world right now than marriage rights for gays. Even the most ardent supporter of gay marriage must agree that the atrocities in Darfur are more important than their ability to slightly change their legal status. Widespread starvation in Africa and Asia, are more important. Terrorism and women's rights in the Middle East are more important. Poverty, homelessness and hunger in America are more important. The world is seething with misery and cruelty, so on that scale, the (largely symbolic) problems of legalizing gay marriage seems petty and paltry.

And although if seen in context, as part of the bigger picture, this issue seems fairly insignificant, it is actually an effect of a larger cause. The cause is religion, as dictated by the state. This is the problem. People ask why I care about religion so much if I'm an atheist, much in the same way, I guess, they might wonder why I care so much about gay marriage if I'm not gay. I don't care about religion, to be perfectly honest. I don't stand outside of churches with picket signs or sit around simmering with rage because of their prayers. I care when religion gets its tentacles in the government. I care when religion starts to dictate policy. Religion dictates plenty of policy in the Middle East, and while Islam is, objectively speaking, a far worse religion than Christianity, our beloved Western religion has its own share of problems, even if it no longer calls for stoning. Who but the religious would forbid the sale of dogs because they might lead to flirting? Who but the religious would give a shit if gays could marry?

I know that this may not be a globally important issue right now; I know that few (if any) lives hang in the balance here, but it really pisses me off. It angers me because it is nothing but hatred and bigotry, and it is very nakedly so. There is no reason, absolutely no reason at all, to forbid gays to marry, except for ugliness and personal bigotry. Yes, yes, your fantastic (stone age) holy book does explicitly forbid homosexuality, even calling it an abomination. But it says plenty of other things. For example, the Bible lays down rules for slavery and guidelines for dealing with rapists (he has to pay her father and then marry the lucky woman!). The Bible also tells us not to wear wool/linen blends, to wear cloaks with tassels and that so-called marriage violations are bad because they bring shame to them men involved. The Bible is a horrible, horrible book. For a good example, I recommend pretty much the entire chapter of Deuteronomy 22. I welcome explanations - and by the way, you are not allowed to use 'cultural significance' as an argument. If you can use a verse to call homosexuality an abomination, you cannot ignore the verse that commands you to bring a girl caught in adultery (rape or not) to her father's door to be stoned to death.

I take comfort in the fact that we are changing. Most Christians cherry-pick their theology from the Bible, and that is a good thing. The book is full of vile commands and bad advice. The time will come when most Christians will ignore the Bible's homophobia just as they (generally) ignore the Bible's misogyny. I wish it would happen sooner. I wish that the government would shake off the shackles of religious influence. Then everyone could live their lives and the churches could exclude whoever they wanted to for whatever reasons they wish to give. Gay? Get out! Black? Go to your own church! Divorced? Male? Welcome! Divorced? Female? We cast you out! Is that suit a wool/poly blend? Leave our sight! Just imagine how fast Christianity would crumble if churches started preach the whole Bible! It would be - dare I say it - heaven.

I don't mean to paint all Christians with the same brush. There are plenty who do not practice exclusion or preach hatred. These Christians clearly do not regard their Bible as inerrant and do not take it literally. And while I might question their reasons for believing any part of it, I do appreciate that religion may provide a positive function in their lives. I have no quarrel with these people, because these are the sorts of Christians who would not mind if religion and politics were separate.

No comments: