Miscellany - Embrace Faith to Overcome Religious Hatred
December 19, 2008
by Jay Randel
A gay man watches The 700 Club. The show’s host prays for homosexuals and tells them to go to their local pastors and tell them that they have Jesus in their hearts and to seek counsel. The man follows that advice and is told, “We don’t have room for fags at this church.”
Situations like this make me sick to my stomach. The sadness that I see in many people’s relationships with their religions is heartbreaking. But I find some people’s actions in response to such intolerance troubling as well.
Here’s one example: At the Mount Hope Christian Church in Michigan, gay protesters interrupted a Sunday service in November. They screamed and threw fliers that said “It’s OK to be gay” at the congregation. Protesters also made out in front of the pastor.
Here’s another: Last week I saw the film Another Gay Sequel, in which the irreverent “Perez Hilton” (in my opinion, Perez is a slob who has no business in the public spotlight) gave oral copulation to a priest in an airplane bathroom while the priest said the rosary, puked up a rosary, constructed a sand sculpture of the Virgin Mary that was defecated on by a bird, and appeared throughout the film as a “saved” person spouting incoherent statements about repentance. This movie was meant to be in fun, and it takes a lot to offend me, but frankly, I was disgusted. I would never call for censorship, but I do call for responsibility. We aren’t godless. We shouldn’t characterize ourselves that way.
It is tragic to see that there is so much hate spread under the auspices of religion. According to my religion, being gay is not a choice, but a trait. However, it is seen as inherently wrong for gay people to act on it. That is sometimes really hard to hear. Also, according to my religion, I am going to hell, which is also not an easy thing to hear. Pope Benedict XVI, aboard the papal plane en route to visit the United States, made the important distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia. He then tainted his action by implying that homosexuals are not “sound people.” OK, so that’s a lot to take.
Where am I going with this?
Generally speaking, right now in our culture, homosexuality and religion are at odds. Yet it is important to make the distinction between faith and religion. Many are abandoning their faith because of their religion. This is troubling for our cause because of the pain that it has inflicted and the spiritual fulfillment that has been lost.
Faith is belief. It is the hope in something more, something beyond what we see here and now. No matter what your belief, your faith is extremely personal and it is your personal destiny to fulfill it, however you may interpret fulfillment.
Religion, on the other hand, is the vehicle for that faith, the manifestation through which many choose to practice their faith through worship.
The loss of faith because of religion is rampant in our community, and that is something we must overcome so that if we choose to believe, we know that there is hope.
Associating your faith with your religion is easy to do. But the two are different. The power that people give to their religion or religious leaders over their faith can be damaging. Your faith is yours. No one can take your faith from you. They may strip away your rights, call you names, excommunicate you, or tell you that you are damned to hell, but your relationship with your higher power will always be there. Times like those are when your faith is most important.
We can show them the strength of our faith. We can show them that there is spiritual beauty in all of us. They choose to focus on the family. We choose to focus on the rights of everyone. I have a hope, because of my faith, that one day they will elevate themselves beyond these elementary interpretations of Scripture and see that all are equal and that all are accepted and loved. That time, unfortunately, is not now.
We must not lose sight of what attracted us to religion in the first place. Our faith must blossom despite the dry soil of religion.
We can’t stoop to their level and smear religious icons with bird feces. That is them, and we are us. We can overcome this hate with grounding faith that is an example of maturity, soundness, beauty, and most important, love.
At this time of the year, many celebrate an important religious holiday. Let us be reminded of our faith and strive to know that no one can take it away.
Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, when his character spoke of music and hope, said, “there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. There’s something inside ... that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. It’s yours.”
Peace to you and yours in this holiday season.