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Apr 16

THE GOD SQUAD: RELIGIOUS QUEERS


Queer worship can be hell: As Easter approaches, QX’s own little secular saint, Adrian Gillan, summons UK-based LGB activists from the major world religions to talk faith and discuss a deeper love that binds.Plus: What gay humanists make of it all!

CHRISTIANITY
Reverend Richard Kirker, General Secretary, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement (LGCM)www.lgcm.org.uk

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
God doesn’t make homosexuals; those who claim to be gay or lesbian are deluding themselves and, once they free themselves from their delusion, will becomeheterosexual.
My response:
Christianity embraces God’s creation, seeing all human beings as equal and capable of giving and receiving love. Differences of colour, gender and orientation are immaterial.
Ever made me doubt my faith?
No. My view of human nature’s tendency to victimise and exploit has caused me to speculate about the root causes of hatred. It’s too simple to just blame religions!
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Make yourself visible and heard. Challenge the institutions and leaders that defend the status quo. Give way to nothing less than freedom, dignity and self-respect. The LGCMwelcomes all those exploring spirituality and sexuality. We seek to provide a safe place in which we can honestly face doubts and truths, while affirming the essential goodness of sexuality and faith.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
Like it or not, religions are set to remain a potent influence in many cultures. Religions stand more chance of being reformed than disappearing, so ignore them at your peril.

ISLAM
Adnan Ali, Muslim gay activist and Founder of Al Fatiha UK (now Imaan)www.imaan.org.uk

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
Homosexuality is a Western, white man’s disease; it’s the curse of God and wrath of Allah; it’s unnatural and is not found in Eastern society or culture.
My response:
Homosexuality has always been prevalent in the Middle East and in South Asian cultures and even today it exists in as colourful a form as in the West, albeit more discreetly. And why would Godcurse His own creation when the Koran quite explicitly claims He has created everything beautiful?
Ever made me doubt my faith?
I have reconciled being gay and Muslim. Widespread condemnation did unsettle me in the beginning, but I in fact ended up feeling more comfortable and assured of my sexuality as I embarked on the journey of examining Islamic theology and social interpretations and finding no substantial evidence of such condemnation.
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Most of the monolithic religious institutions have rejected and condemned homosexuality, mainly influenced by the human interpretation of the Word of God biased by itspervasively macho-patriarchal cultures and traditions. However, this is changing as more and more LGB believers are coming out openly to address these issues. We can only come out if we are honest to ourselvesand to our creator.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
There is an awful lot of Islamaphobia within the mainstream gay community, but that’s a lot to do with the current political scene and general attitude towards the Muslim world.

JUDAISM
Julian Harris, Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group (JGLG)www.jglg.org.uk

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
Orthodox Jews believe that physical homosexual relations are against the Word of God as per Leviticus 20:22, although they “reject the sin rather than the sinner”.
My response:
Just as heterosexuality is encouraged by our religion as a gift from God, homosexuality is also God-given, cannot be changed and should be celebrated.
Ever made me doubt my faith?
No. There are traditionally 613 commandments given to the Jewish people – in fact many more – and no one can obey them all. The fault lies with the interpretation of ancient writings rather than with the faith.
Message to fellow LGB Jews:
Fundamentalists in all religions are intolerant, but the majority are open to current thinking and accept us as avaluable part of society. Many Jews belong to non-Orthodox Jewish religious denominations that are more understanding and flexible, allowing LGB Jews to find spiritual and religious fulfilment.

HINDUISM
Rama Keshava Dasa, Director, Gay & Lesbian Vaishnava Associationwww.galva108.org

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
LGBs are sinners because they give in to the demands of the flesh and can’t control their loins.
My response:
What about heterosexuals? Do you think every time they have sex, they’re only thinking about making babies?
Ever made me doubt my faith?
Yes, when I was younger. It can feel like a double rejection: for being gay, but also for not meeting up to religious ‘standards’. I am lucky that my spiritual master takes a proactive stance on gays, and is welcoming and non-judgmental.
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Don’t hide in the closet, but don’t be in people’s faces either. Be a good example of whatever virtues your path demands. It’s possible, without compromise.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
Help us. I doubt ‘Tatchellite’ gay activism will help, but the informed voice of reason can do much to triumph over fundamentalist intolerance.

SIKHISM
Jazz Singh, Founder, Darshan (internet-based group for LGB Sikhs)http://groups.yahoo.com/group/darshan-list

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
That homosexuality does not exist within Sikhism, that it is a “Western illness” and that it is not an accepted lifestyle.
My response:
Properly understood, Sikhism is an inclusive religion with many socialist aspects, preaching equality and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, religion, caste, gender or sexual orientation.Homosexuality exists in all forms of life and, if Sikhism preaches tolerance and equality for all, then this must surely extend to sexual orientation.
Ever made me doubt my faith?
Sikhism does not prohibit homosexuality explicitly. However, most Sikhs are ethnically and culturally Punjabi,and I have at times felt alienated from my Punjabi roots.
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Recognition and acceptance from our respective ‘powers that be’ is a worthwhile cause. Anything worthwhile is worth struggling for. Persevere.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
The mainstream gay community would definitely benefit from greater awareness of various belief systems and their respective stances towards LGB believers.And it’s worth remembering: not all religions and not all followers take a negative viewpoint to being LGB.

BUDDHISM
Maitreyabandhu, meditation and Buddhism teacher, London Buddhist Centre (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order)www.lbc.org.uk; www.fwbo.org

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
Well, the worst thing must be so completely mild that I can’t even remember it. Basically Buddhism – understood correctly – doesn’t see being LGB as any kind of issue. So there’s nothing negative to say about it.
My response:
I don’t really have one. I am a Buddhist teacher. There is absolutely no reason to hide my sexuality, but then I don’t think being gay is anything special either. It is just a fact of my life – like my eye colour. I think that is how other Buddhists see it too.
Ever made me doubt my path?
No, as I haven’t had any reactions to my sexuality. However, I have at times over-identified with being gay – Ithink that might have been an important stage, but I don’t need to do that anymore. I am gay and much more than that.
Message to LGB campaigners on other paths:
If you really want to practice spiritual life you need to do so in a tradition that doesn’t make homosexuality into a problem – be it moral, spiritual or psychological. I think there is only so much mileage in trying to get certain faith groups to ‘convert’ to being happy with LGBs. Better to get out and find somewhere where you can be yourself and – at the same time – more than yourself.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
I think that many LGBs are looking for human value and meaning that doesn’t deny who they are and doesn’t stigmatise them or ask them to believe in the impossible. Buddhism, a spiritual tradition without a God, is therefore extremely suitable for LGBs. However, as I say, over-identification with being LGB – making it your whole life – can be very damaging unless just a necessary transitory stage. Such over-identification causes a kind of narrowing of horizons and rather misses the point.

HUMANISM:
An anti-religious queer view…George Broadhead, Secretary, Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA)www.galha.org

Even if they loved queers, wouldn’t any major world religion still get your goat? As a Humanist, I strongly support freedom of belief, however barmy. However, I oppose religionists’ attempts to impose their viewson others and acquire special privileges like publicly-funded schools.Which do you dislike more – religion or homophobia? Religion is certainly the main source of homophobia. It can also be very divisive and inflict terrible suffering on people – gay or straight. These phenomena are ofgreat concern to Humanists. Would LGB activists be better off losing their faith, and becoming Humanists? I can’t understand how self-respecting gays can continue to give their moral and financial support to homophobic religions. They should ditch them as many members of GALHA have. GALHA is now celebrating 25 years of promoting the rational, supportive Humanist approach to gay relationships and gay rights.How would you rank major religions regarding homophobia? Islam and Orthodox Judaism, whose adherents follow strictly the explicit condemnations in their holy books, are aggressively homophobic. The teachingsof Hinduism and Sikhism are less clear, but their spokespersons have opposed gay law reforms. Atheistic Buddhism seems relatively benign. Anglican and Catholic homophobia is firmly based on biblical teachings, which Liberal-Progressive Judaists, Quakers and Unitarians seem able to ignore.

END

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Apr 16

FOR CHRIST’S SAKE?

Easter:Season of redemption and renewal? Not for extremist Christians!ADRIAN GILLAN reviews yet another year of Christian gay hate…

APRIL 2005

84-year-old Papa Pontiff Pope John Paul II – dies; but not before musing: “It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if [gay marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”John Paul II’s fellow homophobe Cardinal Ratzinger – becomes Pope Benedict XVI!

MAY 2005

Scots Catholics – get their cassocks in a twist after a senior bishop calls for a ban on gay teachers in their faithschools. Campaigners urge that – if the Catholic Church attempts to ban gay teachers from its schools – then the Government should either return Catholic schools to secular control; or cut their public funding.Bishop Jackson Nzerebende of Uganda – rejects over £185k of funding to help AIDS victims because the money has come from an American diocese that supported the election of the world’s first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson.

JUNE 2005
AUGUST 2005

Exodus International (a worldwide umbrella group for ‘ex-gay’ ministries) – are urged by a ‘former ex-gay’ to remove his photo from their website now that he’s returned to the great queer fold (which, he admits, henever really left), quipping of the Christian quacks, “I can honestly say that in five years I did not meet oneperson that I believe had truly changed [orientation]. The harmful work of Exodus almost killed me and I don’twant others to suffer like that.”Presbyterian Minister Ian Brown – responds to claims from Belfast Pride organisers that religious groups havebeen inciting hatred in a bid to stop the annual event: “Why is it they can swear, stamp feet, foam at the mouth and shower all types of invective upon us, but the Christian is not allowed to tell them what God says concerning their sin?”

SEPTEMBER 2005

Joe Stark, father of 16 year old gay son Zach – on the decision to send his son to a Bible-based ‘ex-gay’camp: “We felt very good about Zach coming here… to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today. Statistics saythat by the age of 30 he could either have AIDS or be dead.”

OCTOBER 2005

Christian fundamentalists, Repent America – blame the death and destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans on local gay events like the annual Southern Decadence: “May this act of God cause us all tothink about what we tolerate in our cities and bring us trembling before His Almighty Throne.”

NOVEMBER 2005

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Head of the Catholic Church in Scotland – uses a four-minute Time For Reflection slot inthe Scottish Parliament to claim gays are “captives to sexual aberration”, comparing them to prisoners in the city’s jail, waiting to be “set free”.

JULY 2005

Living Waters (far-right religious group claiming to “cure” LGBs, and make them “ex-gays”) – are exposed for targeting vulnerable young people in UK youth groups, claiming – amongst other things – to offer help for those “addicted” to porn. Its chief tells a national newspaper, “We need to present what the consequence of this sort of behaviour is – infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, the breakdown of family life and fatherlessness for the next generation.”

 

The Vatican publishes its long-awaited document, Instruction On The Criteria Of Vocational Discernment Regarding People With Homosexual Tendencies – “The Church cannot admit to the priesthood those who practice homosexuality, have deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or those who support the socalled‘gay culture’.”The world’s first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire – visits the UK and attacks the Vatican, despite the Anglican Communion’s own problems: “We are seeing so many Roman Catholics joining the [Anglican] church. Ratzinger may be the best thing that ever happened to us. [Yet] I find it so vile thatthey think they are going to end the child abuse scandal by throwing out homosexuals from seminaries. It is an act of violence that needs to be confronted.”

DECEMBER 2005

Meanwhile, Britain’s top female judge – calls for gay couples to be allowed to fully marry, claiming civil partnerships are “marriages in almost all but name”.
JANUARY 2006Cardinal Keith O’Brien (at it again) – uses his New Year’s Day homily to attack civil partnerships, accusinglawmakers of endorsing “trends in society, which are ultimately ruinous of family life”.

FEBRUARY 2006

Bishop Gene Robinson – who became the world’s first openly gay bishop in 2003: “I am writing to you from an alcohol treatment centre where, with the encouragement and support of my partner, daughters and colleagues, I checked myself in to deal with my increasing dependence on alcohol.”

MARCH 2006

The UK Government – is urged by campaigners not to bow to pressure from religious groups seeking opt-outs in imminent equality legislation, which would allow them to continue discriminating against queers in any goods and services they may provide, like housing and charitable care. The Archbishop of Canterbury – is called“spineless” by the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association, and guilty of “cowardice or selfinterest” in allegedly putting the survival of a unified Anglican Communion before the safety and well-being of gay people, both clergy and lay.

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