Commentary

What religion are those religious exemption laws protecting?

It is understandable that so many queer people assume that the Christian tradition is inherently hostile to queer experience and queer people. Many of us who were raised or identify as Christian have been burned by our experience of church. Most of us have some awareness of the “clobber passages” that appear to condemn same-sex sexual activity.

All of us, whatever our tradition or belief, have endured spiritual violence aimed at us by the faux-righteous. We bear on our bodies and on our souls scars that have been inflicted by people claiming the mantle of Christianity. But in the same way that those queerphobic teachings are telling a lie about us, they are also telling a lie about the true content of the Christian message.

When LGBTQ people casually assert that Christianity is inherently queerphobic, we give power to those who argue, wrongly, that Christianity is inherently queerphobic. We render queer Christians invisible, and we make it harder for religious leaders who see our inherent value to make their voices heard.

Our community has made remarkable strides in recent years establishing some measure of safety, our right to live and love openly, and even the right to marry. We have a long way to go. One crucial step that every one of us could take is to refuse to let our oppressors claim God’s blessing on their violence. Instead, we might exercise a little “religious freedom” of our own, and begin to see and proclaim just how queer the Christian tradition really is.

The Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman is an Episcopal priest and a political strategist who has been expanding people’s understanding of faith and sexuality for over twenty-five years. She has worked on the most pressing contemporary issues in the intersection of religion and sexuality, serving as an inner-city hospital chaplain to people with HIV/AIDS from 1989 to 1995 and helping to craft political and communications strategies for marriage-equality efforts. Her book, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity, goes on sale today.

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