Friday, November 26, 2010

Bible Belt and Gay Bashing: With Links to Surveys Showing Extensive Violence vs. Women in Africa

Timothy Beauchamp writes at Americablog Gay today about anti-gay hate crimes in the bible belt of the U.S.  He's reporting on a recent gay bashing in his home state of Oklahoma, in Tulsa.  As he notes, there is a prevailing cultural attitude in bible-belt areas that not only legitimates but actively celebrates violent assaults on openly gay persons:

There is a pervasive cultural attitude by certain segments of society, especially in the southern United States, that LGBT people deserve to be attacked. There was a time when African Americans experienced this treatment and was completely ignored by the state. Imagine what would happen on a job site had an African American been assaulted and the workers taunted the victim by saying, "The (n-word) deserved what he got for being there!" Yes, less than sixty years ago those words would have been tolerated, embraced and even celebrated as part of the Southern culture. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now, even though they've simply chosen the LGBT community as their acceptable state sanctioned scapegoat.

And, it goes without saying, there's a strong link between the fact that these cultural attitudes are strong in the bible belt and the religious justifications that, as we're now beginning to recognize, lie beneath discrimination and violence against those who are gay and lesbian.  We cannot come to terms with homophobia, we cannot address bullying of gay teens, until we deal with the religious roots of anti-gay attitudes.

This is a kind of violence designed to keep people in their "places."  And it thrives in areas in which women, too, are kept in their places by heterosexual men intent on dominating those they deem as lesser than themselves.  An article yesterday in the British newspaper the Guardian by David Smith notes that a recent survey in the South African province of Guateng reveals that more than one in three men living in that province admit to having raped a woman.  Three out of four men admit having used violence against women. 

86.7% of men surveyed and 57.9% of women surveyed also endorsed the statement that "a woman should obey her husband."  I wonder where they could have come up with that formulation?  The influence of so-called biblical norms in cultures of violent heterosexist patriarchy is beyond dispute.  These cultures cannot be changed until faith communities challenge the misuse of biblical and theological warrants used to justify oppression of women by men.

And of gays and lesbians: it is no accident that, along with many other countries in Africa and many Islamic countries, a few weeks ago, South Africa opposed a United Nations resolution that would have condemned execution of gays and lesbians.  Misogtyny and homophobia go hand in hand.  Both are all about the iron fist of men who believe they are entitled by divine command to beat women and gays (particularly gay men) into submission.

This is what the Catholic church (and the American religious right) continue to promote and defend in African when these religious groups praise traditional African culture for reminding us that men are men and women are women.  They are promoting "traditional" cultural arrangements in which gay and lesbian human beings are viciously targeted and scapegoated.  And they are promoting traditional tender arrangements in which women are expected to remain subservient to men, and if they transgress expected gender roles, can expect to be dealt with violently.

You have to wonder why many media gurus in the West, including influential religion reporters, keep seeking to remind us that faith communities in Africa have held onto the faith of the apostles while churches of the West have lost their biblical and apostolic roots.  What, precisely, are these reporters defending?  And when they are religion reporters, why do they have such strong backing from influential church leaders?

And is it any accident that these reporters are almost always heterosexual married men?

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