In Part 1 of this series, I postulated that anti-homosexual prejudice survives within pockets of like-minded citizens who take comfort in an illusory moral consensus within their communities. In Part 2, I explained why Biblical scripture is the major justification of anti-gay sentiment around the world, and that this problem has been largely swept under the philosophical rug by gay-tolerant Christians. In the final part of this series, I conclude that to convince others to evolve past such hateful teachings, religious moderates must emerge from an ignorance of their own holy book to either dispel or defend the Bible’s position on gay rights, rather than pretend that scripture is inconsequential in this persecution.
To understand the critical role of religious moderates in this battle for civil rights, one must have a firm grasp of the predominant contributors to the anti-gay rights movement that have masked their intolerance under the mantra “preservation of marriage.” A few recent examples:
The Mormon Church and Christian organizations were among the major financial contributors to a ban on same-sex marriage in California (Proposition 8). Christian and other faith-based organizations contributed approximately 65% of nearly 1.2 million dollars used to support Amendment 1 in NC, which prohibited same sex marriage (90% of funds if the nonprofit “National Organization for Marriage” is counted as a faith-based organization). The Christian organizations Florida Family Action, Focus on the Family, Florida Baptist Convention Inc, Stand for marriage Inc, The First Orlando Foundation Inc, and National Organization for Marriage contributed over $1.2 million dollars, or 80% of the $1.6 million dollars raised in support of Florida’s Amendment 2 (limiting marriage to one man and one woman). In Arkansas, the Christian organizations Family Council Action Committee and Family First Action Committee contributed $136,757 – nearly 100% of money raised to support the prohibition of unmarried couples from adopting children, a measure designed to “blunt the gay agenda.” These are merely a few examples. This faith-based trend has been inseparable from the inception of the gay liberation movement in the US.
Yet most moderate Christians seem to be only passively fighting for civil rights, as they have been ignoring their own book, God’s own instructions that are the primary justification of this intolerance and persecution. When clergy stand behind the pulpit to stress that homosexuality is a sin, these teachings are quite consistent with scripture. Of 31 popular English translations of the Bible, 25 (80.6%) outwardly command intolerance against homosexual behavior, using Corinthians I 6:9-10 as a reference. The six remaining Bibles have, for the most part, decided against using a form of “homosexual” in their translation (19.4%).
King James (1611)
The Message (1993, 2003)
JB Phillips New Testament (1958)
Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (1899)
American Standard Edition (1901, ‘95)
Worldwide English (1969, ’71, ’96, ’98)
These divine instructions motivate millions to act on anti-gay prejudice. Thus, if religious moderates are to credit the Bible with its inspiration of good deeds, it is only fair that they award credit when it is used as a justification for persecution. It may not be the historical source of anti-gay sentiment, but it has surely become the major justification for such thought. And several who act on this thought are our legislators, who won a popular vote to take office. In this fight for civil rights it is insignificant that there exist religious communities that do not support this creed; what is significant is that there is a critical mass of believers that do, and as we speak money is being raised to lobby for laws that intend to degrade my friends, and seek to demote them to the status of second class citizen.
Many Christians worldwide ignore large parts of the Bible such as the story of Noah’s Arc, or Jesus’ alleged miracles, or outwardly arcane behavioral instructions. Few believe that a wafer is the actual body of a man born in Nazareth long ago. To them, these teachings have been comfortably replaced with a laissez-faire attitude toward scriptural instruction. In this case, the need for miracles and specific holy mandates can be discarded.
Founding father and atheist Thomas Jefferson did just that. He created The Jefferson Bible – with Bible in hand, he discarded the entirety of the Old Testament, and from the New Testament he removed any mention of supposed miracles, removed all preaching of hatred toward fellow man and included only positive, non-violent teachings. After this, a deity was not necessary to provide, absorb, or proliferate such teachings. Man was able to decide right from wrong simply by using his own intuition, based on wise teachings from a philosopher Jesus Christ who only reiterated messages that had existed long before his time.
The Bible remains an interesting recording of pre-second century history that was written by several unknown authors and pieced together by men long after the death of Jesus. It deserves to be studied as the most influential philosophical text in history. However with every political quarrel that has shaped its pages, with every human decision that has pieced together its content, with every emotional bias that has been instrumental in forging its message, and with every translation that has altered a passage’s original meaning, its divinity has been slowly degraded and a looming cloud of doubt surrounds its demand to control the personal lives of those living two-thousand years later.
Of course, there is a simpler method of concluding whether homosexuals should share the same rights as others, and it does not demand knowledge of Greek, Latin, or Aramaic, and does not require written permission from first century men. Rather, this answer becomes amazingly simple when the Bible completes a pilgrimage back to its vacant space on the bookshelf. For whatever good teaching or advice lay within, the Bible has hijacked a transparent civil rights issue and has managed to cloud it with confusing bronze-aged philosophy and cryptic messages that have been either manipulated or lost in translation over several centuries.
For most secularists, the issue is hardly debatable. Allow homosexuals every right that is afforded to all people because we are, in fact, part of the same biological club – human beings. Clergy are not needed for that conclusion, nor is an ecumenical degree required for that analysis, nor am I required to interpret the opinions of first century missionaries and what they believe a divine power was instructing them to do.
Allow me to propose an exit strategy from this Bible-inspired persecution of homosexuals. Moderate Christians should 1) have the courage to seriously question teachings within the Bible, 2) educate themselves as to how, why, and by whom the Bible was written, and 3) be willing to stand by the book if they believe it to be divine, and be willing to discard it as man made philosophy if they view the teachings to be outdated and immoral. Inevitably, 4) abandon ancient instruction and fight vehemently against those who embrace fear and use pages inscribed with intolerance to persecute our friends and family.
This is the next chapter in civil rights history. The battle is now. Will you make any difference at all, or will you be insignificant in the fight for one’s right to pursue happiness? Like many wiser than myself have said, the choice is yours. Choose to embrace love, or choose to submit yourself to fear.
Gay-tolerant Christians are the critical mass that will turn the tide in the struggle for equal rights in their communities, but it won’t happen until they confront Biblical history.
Article published by ology.com on 6/19/2012
By Brian T. Murphy
Roots of Prejudice, Part 3:
Evolution from Intolerance