Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
December 17, 2010
Religion Splitting Families Apart
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
The September issue of Harper’s contains an article by Jeff Sharlet called Straight Man’s Burden. It starts by mentioning Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. If you would like to see homophobia taken to its fearsome extreme, read this bill. You’ll read hate like this: If you know a homosexual and don’t report him or her, that’s three years in jail. If you ‘”promote” homosexuality—Sharlet does not explain what that is, we think he means fighting for equal rights—that’ll be seven years. Get caught doing a single homosexual act and go to jail for life. And it is the death penalty for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” for example, gay sex while HIV positive, gay sex with a disabled person, or being a “repeat offender.”
Though not yet law, the bill already has had dire consequences: ministers outing their LGBT members from pulpits, violent persecution of LGBTs, and lesbian “corrective” rapes. Sad though the violence, sadder is the bill’s connection to religion. Sharlet writes that one David Bhatia introduced the bill and that this Bhatia is a member of the Ugandan branch of an American evangelical movement called the Fellowship. Uganda’s homophobic bill has roots in America.
The Fellowship is an American religious and political organization begun in 1935 and perhaps best known for its annual National Prayer breakfast. It promotes Christian leadership and decision making informed by the bible. And it is implacably homophobic. Their homophobia is scary because they are politically well connected; their membership includes elected legislators, ranking government officials, and top business leaders, not only in America, but all over the world.
Here it is again, Christians against LGBTs and opposing equal rights initiatives with such vigor that the only conclusion we can draw is that they hate. How can this be? How is it that the loving and compassionate God our mothers read to us about when we were small from the mouth of others becomes hateful and vengeful? We have an unscientific hypothesis. God is about love and compassion, that’s it, that’s the sum total of His teachings. But then people got involved. There were meetings, conclaves, discussion groups: “This is what He said!” “No, that is what He said!” “Actually, this is what He meant!” Of course, rules were made. Gradually there came into being a church and the bright light of love and compassion dimmed because of the confusion and conditions heaped upon it. We sometimes think the light is extinguished.
We have stories in our archives of LGBTs expelled from individual churches, of families expelled because one of theirs is LGBT, and organized church’s checkered reputation on human rights is well known. This is a church valiantly trying to be come irrelevant. It wouldn’t be the first time: the practice of medicine was thought to interfere with God’s will; sacraments and a Christian burial were denied to those who charged interest on loans; slavery had a biblical justification; witches were burned, and Galileo was excommunicated for thinking thoughts against doctrine. It is a wonder that for so many the church is not only still relevant but necessary.
We would be remiss not reporting that some churches get it right. California has close to 700 churches that embrace the LGBT members of their congregation and even welcome more. This is the way it should be. There will come a time when all churches recognize that the rock that anchors any church is love.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org