Friday, June 17, 2016

"All I Hear in These Conversations Now Is Death": Queer People Continue Engaging World Religious Leaders and Their Institutions in Light of Orlando

In what I just posted about Garrard Conley's book Boy Erased, I noted that one of the important developments both in the U.S. and internationally following the Orlando atrocity is that a significant conversation has developed about the interplay between toxic conservative religious ideas and anti-LGBTQ violence. As Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry said several days ago (I discussed these comments here), 

In the Catholic world, this incident will be remembered not just for the sheer horror and tragedy of lives lost, but for the fact that it highlighted that so many church leaders still have a long way to go in being aware and sensitive to even the most basic human needs of LGBT people. 

And one can extrapolate and change "the Catholic world" to "the Islamic world," "the evangelical Protestant world," "the world of the 'liberal' Catholic commentariat," and reach a similar conclusion: even now, still, following an act of mass murder of queer human beings, many people representing various religious establishments just don't get it. They don't get the need to listen to queer voices for a change, as we testify to them about our experiences with their religious bodies and religious teachings.

They don't get the need to include us, to create structures to allow our first-hand testimony to be heard as they define our lives. They still just don't get the extent to which their religious groups and religious ideas are wildly wrong about LGBTQ people — because those religious groups have not and will not listen with any respect to the voices of queer human beings. They don't get the extent to which the real moral problem here is not the "disorder" of LGBTQ humanity, but the challenge of engaging their own heterosexism and how it stunts their minds and boxes in imaginations, diminshing their own humanity, by giving them, as heterosexual or pretend-heterosexual people, unmerited power and privilege they refuse to analyze in any critical way, refuse even to acknowledge.

In posting after posting here lately, I've been drawing your attention to statements in this developing conversation that strike me as important. Here are some more from the last day or so:

For The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood reports what a senior Church of England bishop representing that church's evangelical wing says in light of Orlando:

LGBT people have been bruised and broken by the church.

By contrast, as Ben Brenkert, a former Jesuit seminarian, observes at Daily Beast, the top leaders of the Roman Catholic church continue to be incapable even of saying the acronym LGBTQ or the word "gay" following a mass murder of LGBTQ people. Brenkert writes, 

Why doesn't Pope Francis address the gays of the world, tell them that they are accepted, that God loves them, the church loves and accepts them? Why doesn't he invite all gays throughout the world to come forward to the communion rail and receive the Holy Eucharist? Why cannot he echo the theologian Paul Tillich and say to all gays: "You are accepted"? 
How sad it was to hear Pope Francis say only this after the Orlando tragedy, "We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity." 
Could he not have shared with the world the names of some of the men and women killed? 

And the choice of Pope Francis right up to now to erase LGBTQ people from the narrative of their own mass murder makes it all the more remarkable that Bishop Lynch of St. Petersburg has said what he has said, as Jack Jenkins notes for Think Progress

The statement [by Bishop Lynch] was atypical for its bold admission of the Catholic Church’s role in propagating anti-gay positions, which includes firing church workers and schoolteachers for being openly gay and refusing to change the Catechism’s assertion that "homosexual tendencies" are "objectively disordered."

Though some important leaders of world religious bodies want to pretend that there's nothing at all to discuss here — and no language to use in discussing it, since queer people, LGBTQ people, gay people are and should remain invisible — The Guardian demurs. Here's its editorial statement about that matter:

Homophobia is alive, well and deadly in the United States. That is surely the single starkest lesson to be drawn from the tragedy in Orlando, which saw a New York-born American walk into a gay club and slaughter dozens with an AR-15 assault style rifle. The gun laws need debating of course, but the usual suspects may well thwart that discussion in the usual way. Meanwhile the avowed inspiration that Omar Mateen drew from Isis will lead to complex arguments about what it means for a terrorist group to "claim" an attack these days. But with this hate crime target, and with the killer's parents attesting to hate crime motivation – anger at seeing two men kiss – one would hope that all could agree that this was a crime that flowed from a particular spring of hostility which runs deep in many cultures around the world, including the west. . . . 
The tide of ideas is turning, to some extent even within religion: Archbishop Justin Welby on Monday asserted the primacy of love over the proscriptions of the holy texts. Yet the texts remain, and conservative belief – Christian as well as Islamic – remains a powerful driver of homophobia. The tactical support of gay rights as a tool of western soft power is an improvement over the old prejudice. But it is hardly surprising if that does not provide the community with the support it deserves and expects in its hour of need.

Understandably, here's how many of us within the LGBTQ community (and people who care about us who are not themselves queer) are choosing to respond to the refusal of many faith communities to offer us the support we deserve and expect in our hour of need: for Huffington Post, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, an ordained Baptist minister and great-grandson of social gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, writes: 

How utterly pathetic that it took 49 lives slaughtered for me to pack up my "thank you for your point of view on why queer lives are not fully human" table and close shop. 
For too long I have tolerated "Setting a big tent" and "Allowing many points of view" and "Dialogue" when talking about LGBT people as if our lives are up for debate and as if the jury is still out on our humanity, our dignity, or our being made beautifully in God's image. 
Fuck "love the sinner, hate the sin." All I hear in these conversations now is death.

And I'm right there with him in this response. Because:

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