Is the Christian right really all that bad? I used to think that most devoutly religious groups were against LGBT rights, but as I'm meeting more religious, right-wing people...I'm noticing that not all of them are actually that horrible. Should I be more open minded?
--Finding Faith Followers Friendly
Your question is pretty straight forward, yes. Religious people, (or people of faith as it seems to be the politically correct term) can indeed be decent human beings. Because, believe it or not, they are, in fact, human. Being a community that has often been on the receiving end of a lot of religious violence at the hands of pastors and faith followers, it can be easy to hate people who put their dogma before their friends. But it's important to realize that no religion is completely uniform along its entire axes. Well, aside from Scientology, but that's a bit off the deep end for me.
Depending on what kind of denomination or religious affiliation a person may identify can wildly effect their views on queer rights and queer people. And while some denominations as a whole may be anti-queer, there are always deviations from the norm. So it's important to engage religious people on an individual level and get a grasp on their theology and how it translates into their life.
In my experience, there are three primary types of religious attitudes towards queers:
- The no-holds barred, unconditional accepting These are the creme de la creme of religious folk. You'll most likely find them running in Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, American Buddhists etc. crowd. Unfortunately, those that hang with more conservative denominations like the Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Mormons, Conservative and Hasidic Jews, etc. will be few and far between, and often are silenced by their fellow parishioners/congregation members. It's important to find people who not only accept you as a person, but celebrate it.
Now, they might not be as sex positive as a radical feminist lesbian separatist, but... a group of good faith-based friends is ideal for exploring ones faith in a safe and inclusive environment.
- God Hates Fags You know them, you hate them. In fact, you probably love to hate them. Of the ilk of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Church, who protested at the funerals of victims of HIV/AIDS, American soldiers, and god knows what else; these right wing religious fundy nutbags are the bane of everything decent in faith communities.
I probably don't have to tell you to steer clear of these folks, but it's important to remember that propagators of Religious violence against queer people aren't always the scary Pride parade protesters. They can be people like Billy Graham, James Dobson, and other evangelical faith celebs. And those seemingly more sensible and innocuous folk have a deep hook in the evangelical community in this country. The systems of lies and hate-mongering propaganda that they've been pumping into the hearts and homes of evangelical Americans is simply astounding.
- Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin Somehow this phrase has become the golden rule of the modern Christian evangelical movement. How it went from Christ's self-described "greatest commandment" of "Love the lord your god with all your heart, body, and mind. And Love your neighbor as yourself," to this messy paradoxical infusion of hate with love, I'm not entirely clear on.
I actually find these people the most infuriating. I know when to raise my shields when I see a crazy gay-hating Christian advocating complete dehumanization of queers everywhere. It's those darn friendly, smiley, cupcake offering, Stepford Wives of the faith community that draw you in with a claim of love, only to later reveal that it's a very conditional kind of love. Read the fine print, people.
While they claim to love you as a human being, but hate an animating part of your identity as a person... that's not love. That's like a mean cheerleader who smiles and gives you a hug but then trashes you as she rounds the corner. It's fake love.
Now, being a person who has been a victim of real, personal, and traumatic religious violence (all I'll say is that it involved "Straight Camp"), I can say that I have had a life-long skepticism and guardedness when it comes to religious folk. And I think that gay people have every right to be skeptical and guarded when it comes to religious folk. We have been wronged, for hundreds of years we have been wronged. These are the same institutions that tossed us on the witch-burning pyres, sent hundreds of volts of electricity into impressionable teenagers in attempted conversion "therapy", and have systematically sought to use their position over the souls of their constituencies to disenfranchise everyone who doesn't match their white, middle and upper class, heterosexual, Western family model.
FFFF, I'm really pleased that you've found some religious folk who you find to be good people. There are plenty of them out there. But I don't blame queer people in the slightest for pushing these people away. We are the ones who have been wronged. And it's their turn to come to us, olive branch in hand, on our terms, to begin reconciliation.
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