Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Desmond Tutu Appeals to Ugandans' Conscience, and Another Gay Teen Commits Suicide

Josh Pacheco (1995-2012)

And (piggybacking on what I just posted about Justice Scalia and his recent response to a gay Princeton student re: homosexuality and murder) in contrast to Scalia the defender of Catholic orthodoxy, there's Desmond Tutu, the defender of humane values and human rights: at Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway publishes an editorial by Tutu in today's Daily Monitor.  The editorial appeals to the conscience of the Ugandan people as their parliament is poised to pass draconian anti-gay legislation as a "Christmas gift" to the people of this nation.

Tutu writes,

People have over many centuries devised all kinds of terrible instruments to oppress other people. Usually, they have rationalised their awful actions on the basis of their belief in their own superiority, in their culture, in their spiritual beliefs, in their skin-colour. Thus, they argue, they are justified to hate and bomb and maim the “other”. The Anti-Homosexuality legislation now under consideration in Uganda is just such an instrument.

Tutu's approach to the humanity (and human rights) of LGBT persons strikes me as consonant with that of lay Catholics in the U.S., who increasingly advocate for the human rights of their brothers and sisters who are gay at levels of support considerably above the population as a whole.  As Francis DeBernardo notes in a recent New Ways Ministry press release, a number of polls from the past year demonstrate once again that "Catholics are ahead of the average American population on marriage equality . . . ."  DeBernardo cites a Public Religion Research Institute study from last March showing that 59% of American Catholics favor marriage equality.

Scalia does not represent the approach of his own Catholic community in the U.S. to the issues of homosexuality and of gay rights.  As Wayne Besen writes on behalf of Truth Wins Out, "Scalia’s arcane bigotry invoking the intent of our slave owning founding fathers simply can’t compete" any longer with the narratives about gay love and gay commitment that are increasingly available to the American public as states like Washington begin to permit same-sex civil marriage.  Look at the pictures of same-sex couples celebrating their marriages and their love this past week in Washington: people now have information to know better and do better towards those who are gay, and Scalia's bigotry (and that of the Catholic hierarchy) are being left behind in the dustbin of history as a result.

And why is it important whether we go the route of Scalia or of Tutu, of the Catholic bishops or of the Catholic people, in our attitudes towards and treatment of those who are gay?  It's important because gay teens like Josh Pacheco are still being bullied for being gay and are still committing suicide as a result.  It's important because, as Cody Sanders writes for Religion Dispatches, 

Violence against queer people runs much deeper than physical bullying, verbal harassment, or even hate crime murder. It is a violence that takes place at the level of the psyche, the soul—at the very level at which our sense of “self” is constructed within our relation to society.

It's important because, as Sanders notes, this violence and the self-destruction it elicits in young gay people begins and ends with "rampant ministerial malpractice," with preaching and proclaiming on the part of Christian ministers and Christian bishops that assaults the dignity and undermines the self-worth of gay youth and gives signals to their tormentors that their taunts and blows have the blessing of Christ and the Christian community.

And this needs to stop.  Now.  Because no more teens need to die.

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