god told me to hate you
one of the more virulent and despicable manifestations of hardly-ever-right wing bigotry comes out in the fundamentalist insistence that it's not only all right to despise homosexuals, but it's downright holy to do so.
the latest case in point: a young woman is suing for her right to be intolerant. the latimes:
ruth malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.
malhotra says her christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. but the georgia institute of technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.
malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. so she's demanding that georgia tech revoke its tolerance policy.
with her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. the religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.
this latest trend, while alarming, is certainly not a new approach; at least, the premise on which is it based is nothing new.
we won't bother getting into the crusades, and we assume you don't expect us to mention the spanish inquisition (nobody expects us to mention the spanish inquisition!), but the modus operandi of fundamentalist interpretations of the bible twisted to fit a particular brand of hate is not new on the american scene.
father charles coughlin, the pre-cursor to today's hate radio, was one of the first evangelists to broadcast his sermons in the 1930's. he has also gone down in history as a man who used his national pulpit to spread anti-semitism, regularly calling jews "christ-killers" and reprinting the hoax "elders of zion" in his weekly paper "social justice."
more recently, the christian identity movement somehow manages to justify aryan supremacy of the white race with belief in jesus. religious tolerance.org describes this twisted journey of biblical interpretation, which holds:
that adam and eve were white. many other "pre-adamic" and non-white people were already in existence when adam was created. this leads to the belief that anglo-saxon protestants are the "true identity" of god's chosen people of the hebrew scriptures. non-whites are considered sub-human. these biblical beliefs confirm their concept of white racial superiority. as a minimum, they call for racial separation; some call for extermination of what the call the "mud races" (non-white races).
that the commandment which forbids adultery does not refer to extra-marital sexual relationships. rather, it forbids "racial adultery"; i.e. inter-racial marriages. their reasoning is that the 10th commandment which forbids coveting one's neighbor's possessions already bans adultery; one of those "possessions" is the neighbor's wife. and, god would not have repeated himself.
so the re-interpretation of biblical text to further one's own agenda is not a new device in debate. nonetheless, it's still quite effective. if god is on your side, how can you be wrong?
here's how: ruth malhotra and her lawyers' premise in her attempt to sue for the right to be intolerant has structural problems, and those problems are threefold: theoretical, legal, and contextual.
first, theoretical: the idea that disallowing ruth to argue loudly against homosexuality limits her religious expression is something of a straw man. the conservative religious right's opposition to homosexuality is not inherent in the christian religion. what ruth is arguing is not dogma, but doctrine.
dogma is a basic tenet of a religion, which is accepted as true without proof. examples of dogma are: christ being son of god, the omnipotence of god, the existence of the holy spirit.
doctrine, however, is a law or set of laws, teachings or instructions. examples of doctrines are: orthodox jews not eating pork, the eucharist of the catholic church, the refusal of the amish to use electricity, and, fred phelps' belief that god hates fags.
more times than not, these instructions are subject to various interpretation throughout history. granted, conservative evangelists are not the only christians to denounce homosexuality. the new pope fester is adamant on condemning homos to hell (and we hear he's working on re-ex-communicating galileo, while he's at it).
but still in all, the catholic church does not actively preach intolerance of homosexuality, at least not as much as ruth and her lawyers are insisting she has the right to express. and that brings us to the second problem we see in the premise for ruth's lawsuit, contextual.
many more knowledgeable scholars than we have successfully debated the narrowly-focused parameters that the conservative evangelicals use to justify their hateful actions. some of those whose work we enjoy reading are found at the cathedral of hope:
what does the bible really say about homosexuality? actually, very little. most significantly, jesus said nothing at all. considering the relatively small amount of attention the bible pays to the subject, we must ask ourselves why this is such a volatile issue. other subjects about which the scriptures say a great deal (e.g. judgment, pride, hypocrisy) receive much less passionate attention. before looking at specific passages, it is important to note that everyone understands the scriptures based on, and through, the light of what they have been taught. the bible was not written in a cultural void, and many of its instructions and laws are simply classified as less relevant today (e.g. prohibition against eating pork).
nowhere does the bible actually address the idea of persons being lesbian or gay. the statements are, without exception, directed to certain homosexual acts. early writers had no understanding of homosexuality as a psychosexual orientation. that truth is a relatively recent discovery. the biblical authors were referring to homosexual acts performed by persons they assumed were heterosexuals.
the cathedral of hope also discusses the leviticus code, which
is not kept by any christian group. If it was enforced, almost every christian would be excommunicated or executed.
we have often maintained the irony of evangelicals insisting on the ostracizing of homosexuals, but not worrying at all about the rest of leviticus, with its admonitions against sex during menstruation, the wearing of different types of cloth at one time, and the eating of seafood. if the bible is to be taken literally, why aren't these fundies petitioning for a constitutional amendment against red lobster?
dr. loren l. johns, academic dean of the associated mennonite biblical seminary, asks a pertinent question in his discussion of homosexuality and the bible:
christian ethics is for christians: ethical discernment and discipline (based on biblical principles) are appropriate primarily among people who claim to follow jesus. it doesn't make much sense to ask, "what is god's will for people who have chosen not to submit to god's will?"
but of course, that's the very nature of evangelicals: to insist that their view of god is the only view of god. luckily for us, there is precedent to keep their holy noses out of our business, which brings us to the legal.
we have no idea how the lawsuit will come out, especially in these days of sam alioto's supreme court. however, suffice it to say we believe that, as with your right to swing your fist ending at my face, ruth's right to be intolerant ends at other's civil rights.
justice holmes maintained that one cannot yell "fire" in a crowded theater, regardless of a first amendment right to do so. it follows therefore that one cannot use religious expression as a "get out of jail free card" to disobey the laws of the land.
the polygamists of mormon utah are still not allowed to marry more than one person, and tho those laws are not enforced to an extreme, that doesn't mean they are not enforceable. even if polygamous arrangements are still around, the law does not recognize such. the supreme court has held that christian science parents may not refuse life-saving medical procedures for their sick children.
marci a. hamilton, in her book god v. the gavel, maintains that "it is now well settled that religious motivation is no defense to illegal conduct."
we hope that the laws of the land will be upheld against this new onslaught of self-victimized "christians." the insistence that recognizing another's rights violates one's own rights is patently absurd, and obviously egotistically-motivated.
how ironic that the fundies are so enamored of the cult of christ that they don't ever bother to actually read his teachings.