As anyone who has read my novels knows, I have no love for the traditional western religions. Mainly because they have no love for me. To be sure, Moses himself brought down no Commandment against homosexuality from the mountain, and Jesus never made a single utterance on the subject. But religion, alas, has ever been practiced according to the edicts of commentators, preachers, prophets, rabbis, imams, and their holy books. These are virtually unanimous in their condemnation.
Judaism: Leviticus, 20:13 (God speaking): “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”
Christianity: Jesus’ main publicist, Paul (Saint, apparently) wrote to the Corinthians (Cor. 6: 9) that “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards,… shall inherit the kingdom of God,” and to the Romans (1:26-27) “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.”
Love, Paul (Saint)
Islam. The Hadith (sayings attributed to Mohammed) are damning as well. They announce, “When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes,” and hold multiple condemnations of “what Lot’s people did.” For the biblically uninformed, Lot’s people tried to bugger angels.
On the basis of these Scriptures, homosexuals have been tortured and murdered throughout history.
But, you say, that was then and this is now. And surely modern liberal believers do not take these proscriptions literally. I agree. In fact, liberal Christians, Jews and Muslims take very little of Scripture literally. Some religious scholars also re-interpret the original Greek or Aramaic documents to develop an alternative theology. And yes, some churches/temples now have gay clergy. That’s all very well and good. It is also self-evident that some gay people want and need religion, for the same reasons that everyone else does, for comfort and community/identity, for rules of behavior, or in the hope that a divine power is looking after things. I do not begrudge this need.
But western religion has an ugly centuries-long record of mistreatment of women and dissidents of any sort, regarding faith, social behavior, sexual desire, and even dress. For the insidious element of most religions is the concept of purity. Purity of faith, of thought, of behavior and body. We are not pure. We are animals that do animal things – and most animal of all, we lust, and religion cannot abide this. The ritual bathing, baptizing, ablutions, and slicing off of ‘unclean’ infant private parts, arise from religion’s obsession with sex.
It is strange. Religion proclaims a Creator of the Universe, who crafted the galaxies, star systems, black holes and the unfathomable depths of space. Yet this same deity peers into our bedrooms and bars, even into our thoughts, ever on the lookout for impurity. And that’s just rude.
On behalf of all of us whose lusts are particularly ‘impure,’ I take issue with this. If God reproaches me for my sexual habits and partners, I reproach Him for His cruelty. If I have to answer for sodomy and cunnilingus, then God has to answer for birth defects, childhood cancers, and the suffering of countless billions of animals and other innocents. I particularly accuse Him of callous indifference for the earthquake in Haiti, and for the tsunami of 2004 that in a single day killed over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, nearly all of them believers. If there is a divine authority that intervenes in our lives, it is surely malevolent.
With this kind of deity on offering, we should not feel grateful when a church or mosque or temple withdraws its condemnation and allows us to put on its costumes and join its rituals. While they grudgingly make a place for us at the table, I have concluded that it’s not all that great a meal.
How much better to look into the cosmos, or the biosphere, or the living cell, or the atom, and see ourselves as part of life’s infinite variety, and never, never, ask for forgiveness for what we are and who we love. We are the newest, most complex children of nature. Eons of evolution have developed animal caring in us and so we have the makings of a moral foundation already in our genes. It does not come from on high.
And yet, we have our tales, our parables, our visualizations of perfect love and martyrdom and meaningful suffering. We can’t erase them from the cultural landscape and we shouldn’t. But we can examine them, put a rational stamp on them, and make them mesh with our modern understanding of ourselves.
Sarah, Son of God is such a re-telling of a story we thought was set in stone, but it never was. It weaves through the shifting fabric of culture and anyone can change the threads. I have simply rewoven it now for us.
Here endeth the lesson.