In 2005, the leaders from three major monotheistic world religions that were often at odds with one another — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — joined in a united demonstration to protest and to prevent a 10-day international LGBTQ Pride festival planned for Jerusalem.
While the Middle East has been a flash point of conflict and warfare for millennia, this coalition between religious leaders indicated that agreement, at least of sorts, was possible. In bringing these leaders together, the international LGBTQ community should have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – an award well deserved for converting warring parties into allies and for reducing tensions that have traditionally separated them.
The prime stimulus keeping LGBTQ oppression locked firmly in place — on the personal, institutional, and societal levels — are the destructive doctrines emanating from primarily orthodox and fundamentalist religious communities.
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Fortunately, however, there exists no monolithic conceptualization of religion, for other faith communities’ policies and values are progressively welcoming toward LGBTQ people. These communities are working tirelessly to abolish the yoke of oppression directed against us.
Throughout the ages, however, individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization and persecution of entire groups of people. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege.
Prior to the concept of a single God and the creation of holy texts, condemnations against same-sex sexuality were relatively rare. This changed radically with the writing of the Jewish Bible and extended in the Christian gospels, and, to an extent, in the Quran.
Such texts related to same-sex sexuality and gender non-conformity include but are certainly not limited to:
- Jewish Bible: Leviticus 18:22: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.
- In Orthodox Judaism, same-sex sexuality, including male-male anal sex, is in the category of yehareg ve’al ya’avor, “die rather than transgress.”
- Christian Bible: Romans 1:26: In consequence, God has given them up to shameful passions. Their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural.
- Christian Bible: Romans 1:27: Likewise, the men abandoned natural relations with women and burned with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
- Christian Bible: Timothy 1:10: For whoremonger, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.
- Christian Bible: 1 Corinthians 6-9: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.
- Roman Catholic Catechism 2357: “…Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life [reproduction]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
- Quran: 26:161: Your Lord is the Mighty One, the Merciful, Lot’s people, too disbelieved their apostles. Their compatriot Lot said to them: “Will you not have fear of Allah? I am indeed your true apostle. Fear Allah then and follow me. I demand of you no recompense for this; none can reward me except the Lord of the Creation. Will you fornicate with males and leave your wives, whom Allah has created for you? Surely you are great transgressors….”
- Quran: 27:54: And tell of Lot. He said to his people: “Are our blind that you should commit indecency, lustfully seeking men instead of women? Surely you are an ignorant people.” Yet this was their reply: “Banish the louse of Lot from your city. They are men who would keep chaste.” So We delivered him and all his tribe, except his wife, whom We caused to stay behind, pelting the others with rain; and evil was the rain which fell on those who had been warned.
But what if Leviticus had not included 18? Would the Christian gospels and Quran have had nothing on which to pattern their homophobic discrimination? Would they have invented their own, or would there have never been “religious” justifications to persecute people for the past several millennia based on sexuality?
Biblical scholar Idan Dershowitz believes that 18 did not appear in the original text of Leviticus.
“Like many ancient texts, Leviticus was created gradually over a long period and includes the words of more than one writer,” Dershowitz wrote. “Many scholars believe that the section in which Leviticus 18 appears was added by a comparatively late editor, perhaps one who worked more than a century after the oldest material in the book was composed.”
Maybe God simply had not decided to condemn homosexuality on first draft and took another Earth century to come to a decision.
All religious doctrine stems from uncertainty and conjecture, from multiple gods, hybrid gods and humans, from Mount Olympus and before, to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to the Immaculate Conception and Resurrection, to Muhammad’s rising to Heaven from the Rock, they all beginning with the human creation of god(s).
“Truth” is what the dominant group declares to be “Truth.” “Knowledge” is anything the dominant group defines as “knowledge,” though “knowledge” itself is socially constructed and produced.
How many wars are we going to justify in the name of “God,” (our “God” versus their so-called “false gods”)?
When religious leaders preach their damaging interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or gender non-conformity, they must be held responsible for abetting those who target and harass, and/or murder people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer.
They must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets, and those who grow up in religious denominations that teach them to hate themselves.
Anyone can believe anything they wish, whether others find those beliefs laudable or offensive. However, when the expression of those beliefs denies other individuals or groups their full human rights, a critical line has been crossed.
That’s the realm of oppression.