I waited to see the outcome of the Arizona anti-gay bill before writing this. I wanted to use that title for a post since I saw that whole insane debacle over Ted Nugent (and then got into a truly implausible argument with someone who insisted that there is nothing racist in the term “mongrel” not even when modified with “subhuman”), but since Nugent didn’t actually say anything of a religious nature it was a stretch to make it fit.
On the other hand, it would seem all of a piece with that insane bit of hate-mongering going on in the Arizona legislature. Of course, here in Missouri—my home state, yay—something similar is wending its way through the committees.
I once had an unnerving conversation with a practicing Muslim who explained to me in very reasonable tones and with more than a dollop of sadness that while she had many gay friends and felt no personal animosity toward any of them, if she lived in a Muslim state then she would have to support the death penalty for them since that is what Allah decreed. She even allowed that perhaps this would be wrong, but she could not deny the words of Allah.
Need I go into an explanation about compartmentalization? People create rooms within themselves and put contradictory things in separate places. So the Mafia enforcer can, in fact, appear to be a loving husband and father and even give generously to the poor, but when the boss says “kill this one” that room opens and a different set of ethical protocols comes into play.
Let me here offer a disclaimer: in answer to a hypothetical WWJD question, I don’t for a minute think Jesus would give his blessing to any of this stuff. This isn’t about him or even really about Christianity, which surely is being thoroughly mangled in all this. Much of this nonsense would make it appear as though Jesus is the above-mentioned mob boss sitting in a dark, heavily leather-appointed office somewhere, pointing and saying “kill that one.”
What this is about is people taking advantage of some very old (presumed) sayings in an allegorical book in order to foist their own intolerance onto a world they see changing in ways that make them very uncomfortable. It’s obvious that the general ethical direction of the country, possibly the world, is moving away from the limited and limiting strictures of a worldview that is no longer viable.
In Uganda a law has been enacted that will criminalize homosexuality in the extreme. Even a cursory look at it shows that it has been written and enacted out of fear. Abject fear. The fear of someone who may well have nightmares about being forced to engage in homosexual activities. The sheer terror evident in the law should cause anyone with a modicum of rationality to back up and look at the fear rather than what it’s about.
Insofar as this has anything to do with Christianity as we find it in the New Testament, this is about fear of losing power. It’s fear of sex in its most inappropriate manifestation, as an exercise of power. In the case of Uganda, all one need do is look at its history since Idi Amin to see that it has suffered terribly through practices of warfare that include rape as a normal tool of state oppression and more than a little child abuse in the form of child soldiers. Idi Amin himself died of syphilis. Sexual abuse would seem to have been institutional in Uganda. Fear must be rampant.
So they pick a representative victim onto which all this fear can be projected and try to vitiate their pain by inflicting even more.
What’s our excuse?
Governor Brewer, yielding to pressure from within and without Arizona, has vetoed senate bill 1062. Even if her sentiments inclined her to support it in essence she must realize the damage such a thing would do to her state.
But what about the sponsors of it and all those in the state legislature who voted for it?
The freedom to refuse service to gays due to religious conviction.
Why this should have to be explained to anyone, that it is wrong, astonishes me. Why anyone thinks this has anything to do with religion dismays me. Why anyone would adhere to a set of beliefs that promoted this kind of hatred and bigotry saddens me. Why other people keep putting these hatemongers into office baffles me.
I wrote about this several years ago during Missouri’s attempt to establish a constitutional amendment regarding gay marriage. I won’t rehash my arguments here, but if you wish, they’re here. Cherry-picking the Old Testament is common enough and automatically discredits any argument based on biblical principles that asserts literalness and infallibility. It just does. For those of you who think otherwise, think harder. It’s hypocrisy. Plus, as I’ve said before, we live in a Post Levitical world. Most of the people supporting Bill 1062 wouldn’t for a second consider selling their daughters or charging someone for deflowering them. Nor would they stone them or any woman for the “crime” of being raped.
But some might.
This is an example of trying to do something odious and making it seem moral by wrapping it in a shroud of piety. Change the parameters and ask these folks if they would support a law that allowed them to discriminate against blacks or Hispanics on religious grounds. If they look at you funny, you can point out that most hate groups who regularly refer to minorities as “mud people” and, ahem, subhuman mongrels do so based on a notion of racial purity proferred by god. They take the whole notion of “chosen people” very seriously, while of course completely failing to understand anything at all about the history, the mythology, or the use of that term. They are generally very vocally pious and think because of their devotion to a crack-brained notion of WWJD they have a good bead on what is or is not morally acceptable.
I suspect a great deal of the fear expressed in all this goes directly to an erroneous yet powerful concept of ownership. They’re afraid something they think belongs to them is about to be taken away. Maybe not even the same thing, but I’m willing to wager that it is something within the same compartmentalized space of preconceived and misconstrued assumptions about what is “naturally” theirs.
But maybe it’s something simpler. Maybe it’s just a consequence of exhaustion. Thinking back, I can tell you that the world in which I came of age is in so many ways just not here anymore. Every year, every decade has brought massive changes that for many people seem utterly confusing, destabilizing…frightening. Maybe their only defense, in their view, is to build a wall and shout “No more! I can’t handle anything else!” After dealing with being told to think differently than their parents and their grandparents for all this time, they’ve latched onto anyone or anything that tells them they don’t have to change.
If Jesus were going about today, preaching, and he encountered the young man who kept nagging him about what more he could do to serve, I doubt Jesus would tell him to give up his wealth. Not today. Today, I think he would turn to him finally and say “Give up your fear and hatred. Stop being afraid of people who are different.” “Wait—can’t I just write you a check?” “No. You have to change.” And that young man would step back, eyes wide, and for a few moments look at the vast store of things he has grown afraid of. He would then lower his head and walk away. He might give away his wealth then—to a group working to ban gays (or minorities, or women) from equal rights.
But he might cling to the forms he had been following all along which had brought him to tag along after the coattails of the Man from Galilee. He’d become an asshole for Jesus. Because giving up wealth would be easier than facing fear and defeating it.