Two recent events are at the heart of this post.
First off, as I am recently transplanted to Chicago and jobless, I have some time on my hands in the daytime. I have been known to flip through the channels on a television when I’m bored (for you younger readers, a television, or ‘TV’, is an archaic device with which you could once watch ‘shows’ which were essentially longer versions of YouTube videos). On one particular day, having gotten my fill of Maury (I am not the father!), I switched channels and came across the Tyra Banks show. I find Tyra to be irritating and almost a trainwreck (not as put together as Oprah, not as much of a nutjob as Wendy Williams).
But her topic caught my eye: “Exorcisms on Gay Teens!” As this dealt with my two favorite topics, Sexual Identity and Religious Fundamentalist Gone Wild (coincidentally, the title of the most conflicted porn flick ever), I was hooked. Damn you Tyra!
Instead of trying to get too far into the background, I’ll give you a video of the exorcism, or as it is known among the fundamentalists, ‘Casting out of evil spirits’ – specifically, the Homosexual Demon.
For some of you, this video may be shocking to look at, or just funny. It certainly is quite a display. For some of you, it looks familiar. I know it’s a scene I’m not unfamiliar with, as I was witness to many ‘casting out of demons’ and ‘miraculous healings’. This video shows pretty standard issue stuff for the Zealous Christian Crazy-off.
Flopping on the ground? Check. Praying and singing interspersed with yelling? Check. Stunned/Joyful/Scared/Bemused onlookers? Check.
Tyra had the 16 boy on who claimed to no longer be homosexual, though he said he still had sexual desire for men so I’m not exactly sure what he thinks ‘homosexual’ means. Maybe he thinks it means ‘good at crocheting’? The demon of homosexuality was cast out of him, but getting rid of the thoughts was an ongoing ‘process’. Like how not believing in a homophobic God is a ‘process’.
The ministers who performed the exorcism Casting Out came on the show and defended what they did as God’s will. Later, a woman who helps and consoles homosexual teens came on and admonished the ministers. For reasons that should be obvious to everyone, the audience was not on the side of the ministers. A bunch of bitter fighting went back and forth and in the end no one’s mind was changed. But I commend Tyra for the show because there will be gay teenagers who will see it and they will realize that they don’t have to feel like sinners and evil people because of who they are attracted to.
The second event that led to this post was more personal. I recently hung out with an old friend from my Christian days. Let’s call her, Susan. She is still of the Christian persuasion, but in a good (sane) way. She told me that a few years back she had a conversation with two of our fellow Christian acquaintances, two best friends. Let’s call them Bert and Ernie. Well, Ernie confided to Susan and Bert that he was gay. Susan, being a human being, wanted to encourage Ernie to accept himself and live his life. Bert on the other hand did not agree. Homosexuality is a sin, after all.
Now, I wasn’t there for this conversation so I won’t speculate what exactly was said. But Susan told me that Ernie was essentially convinced to live a life of suppression, denying his homosexuality. Since I never heard that Ernie came out, I can feel pretty confident that this is still the case and Ernie is living a life of denial.
A trillion words have been written about whether or not the Bible says homosexuality is a sin (it does, but it calls all kinds of shit sin; the New Testament is just as guilty of ridiculous prohibitions as the Old Testament thanks to Paul). Just as many words have been written about whether Christians should condemn or accept homosexuals. I would say the vast majority of non-Fundamentalist Christians fall nicely in the middle ground where they acknowledge that homosexuality is not high on God’s Favorite Things list (what is high on that list: Paul Rudd movies), but they don’t want to condemn or banish gay people. They probably don’t even mind sitting next to or sharing a Cherry Coke with a gay person.
In my lifetime (admittedly not that long, certainly not in the cosmic sense), I have seen quite a shifting in views towards homosexuals. Other than Michael Schwartz, the general views of homosexuality have shifted greatly from disgust and hatred to acceptance and respect. Granted, I just moved from San Francisco, so my perspective may be a bit skewed, but I know plenty of Christians who would say Homosexuality is not a sin and would even say that homosexuals should have the right to marry (no brainer).
But the backwards thinking exhibited by the ‘ministers’ of Manifested Glory Ministries and my acquaintances, Bert and Ernie, show that certain beliefs just will not go away. Arguing the point will never help because it is not a logical argument, it’s a question of ‘faith’ and religion. More importantly, it’s rooted in an interpretation of the Bible. As anyone who has had any dealings with biblical teachings knows, the Bible offers up a million different interpretations (some Christians say this is because it’s a ‘Living Word’; this sounds profound, but you can get a million different interpretations of the Matrix movies and that shit ain’t even 15 years old).
No, debating this topic is pointless. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good pointless debate, but there’s a lot at stake in this one.
Instead of getting bogged down in the prattle of morons, focus on the true victims of this fight. While I think homosexuals should have a right to marry and it’s a worthy cause, I think an even more important cause is helping teenage (and younger) homosexuals accept themselves and know that they are not ‘wrong’ for being themselves. The more and more the younger generation is taught that sexual orientation is not a choice or a sin, but rather one of the many facets that make up an individual, the less this crazy religious rhetoric will be able to take hold.
(Christians will call that ‘indoctrinating’ the youth without even batting an ironic eye at Vacation Bible School and Jesus Camps.)
Believe minds can be changed. Mine was. There was true freedom when I came to understand being gay no longer as an insult but as just one of the many possibilities across the spectrum of sexual orientation.
Religion has historically been the means by which people found peace from their oppressive lives (even if it was the religion oppressing them), but there is hope in our current times that as people better understand nature and our reality, the sorts of divisions and objectifications that have been used as tools of oppression will die off. Personal peace will be the product of knowledge, not belief in something unseen.
At the very least, we’ll stop telling teenagers they’re going to hell.
Remember, homosexuality isn’t a choice. But religion is. Make the right choice.