Leslie Cannold: Writer, Commentator, Ethicist, Researcher
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Hating Gays is a Choice, Not a Biblical Dictate

Their strength is waning, but there is still a depressingly large number of powerful men in the west, spread across a range of denominations, spewing raw hate and naked prejudice at gay people. All in the name of Christ.

We are talking about the sort of hate that gives rise to claim that homosexual “inclinations” are an “intrinsic moral evil” that, if acted upon, preclude gays from taking communion, occupying any official role in the church and, ultimately, entering the Kingdom of God. The sort of prejudice that led the Australian Anglican Archbishop to forbid any parish in his archdiocese to welcome the openly gay American Bishop Gene Robinson, and to declare that if Robinson was invited to a crucial meeting of the world’s Anglican bishops in Lambeth, then the Australian Archbishop would not be attending.

I am sorry, but someone seems to have had a fundamental misunderstanding of the core insights of the Gospels, and it isn’t me. It was precisely this sort of attack on social outcasts of Jesus’s time by the powerful men of the day-the Temple Priests-that inspired Jesus’s mission and the birth of Christianity. Precisely this sort of exclusion of vulnerable and minority groups from society that saw Jesus enter the Temple to challenge the Priests’ authority to decide who was cast out, and who included in the circle of God’s concern.

There’s a joke about a pamphlet entitled, “What Jesus said about Homosexuality.” When you open it, the pages are blank. As far as I can tell, even the lunar religious right in America admits that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.

But even if the Bible did advise us to shun homosexuals or stone them (as it suggests for adulterers), we don’t have to listen. After all, we ignore its command to wed our virginal daughters to their rapists, and refuse its permission to purchases the children of foreigners to serve us as slaves.

The point is that even those who claim absolute obedience to scripture are selective in the scripture they obey. They know as well as anyone that there is much in the Bible that is irrelevant, outdated or just plain barbaric.

And spare me the Bible-made-me-do-it crap. It didn’t work for the Nazis at Nuremberg and it won’t work here. Acting pursuant to orders by superiors of any sort doesn’t relieve an individual of responsibility if a moral choice is possible.

Powerful Christian leaders have a choice. They don’t have to vilify and discriminate against gay people, they choose to, and for this they can – and should – be condemned.

What sort of leader makes this sort of choice? Neither the word “Christian” or “ethical” spring to mind.

Perhaps one day both our spiritual and political leaders will get it through their heads that taking potshots at people because of who they are, not what they do, is stupid, wrong and not very nice. That everyone deserves respect and a fair go no matter the colour of their skin, their marital status, if and how they worship or who they love. That individuals have a moral right to be judged on nothing more nor less than what Martin Luther King Jr. called, “the content of their character.”

And if the powerful men who yearn for the good old days when they could stimatise and exclude whoever they liked while calling themselves holy refuse to change their prejudicial ways, they should have the courage to source this decision in their own dark heart, not an ancient book.

Publication History

Hating Gays is a Choice, Not a Biblical Dictate, Sydney Sun-Herald
22 Jun 2008

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