We’ve got gays working there. If they can demonstrate long-term relationships, we make same-sex benefits available just as we do with common-law marriages. Gays are productive people. Some fly airplanes, some work in breweries.
– Pete Coors –
Looking at my Facebook newsfeed this past week, I found myself thinking: If all these people — who I call my ‘friends’ — were together in one room, they would’ve been at each others throats with machetes. The hodgepodge of their status updates, and video-and-link posts range from defiant religious affirmations to Gay Rights activists waving their fists and feather dusters. However, in my virtual living room, they are all living together in peace and harmony… If only they knew.
The main players in this week’s global media drama: God, Religion, Human Rights and the Gays. On Wednesday, 9 May 2012, Barack Obama, publicly endorsed Gay Marriage after tiptoeing around the topic for nearly 4 years:
“…for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
When I heard Obama speak those words, my first thoughts were: Ah, it’s a hat trick. The US Primaries are on their way and Obama needs to fund his campaign. He also needs votes. Gays have money and so it makes perfect sense to throw around this election red herring. Who better to tokenize than the gays? He’s done ‘Black’, now it’s time to do ‘Gay’. It makes sense. However, after watching his statement a few times over, I realised I have short-changed the man. His face was burdened with integrity as he carefully chose those courageous words he obviously had put a lot of thought into.
Obama’s announcement came a day after the state of North Carolina voted in favour of a constitutional amendment, which will define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman… slamming the door shut on same-sex marriages! Tami Fitzgerald, leader of the pro-amendment group Vote FOR Marriage NC said: “I think it [the vote] sends a message to the rest of the country that marriage is between one man and one woman… The whole point [of the amendment] is simply that you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s design based on the demands of a group of adults.”
If the North Carolina vote is anything to go on, then America may not be ready for this fundamental shift in their politics. The world might not be ready… and instead of launching his presidential campaign, Barack Obama might very well have signed his own political death sentence in the upcoming election.
The main objection against Gay Equal Rights and Gay Marriage is that, according to some (fundamentalists, dare I say), homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God and a threat to the institution of marriage… Most of us must’ve heard those Bible verses being flung around in this argument by righteous religious types and those condemning homosexuality.
However, it’s not the first time in history that the Bible (and religion) is used to force a political point of view. Not too long ago, people of colour were being classified as a lesser race and based on a few verses in the Holy Book, which were grossly taken out of context, black people were enslaved and treated like beasts of burden.
One particular passage in the book of Genesis, in the Old Testament, describes how two brothers, Cain and Abel, performed a sacrifice to God. When God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s, Cain’s “countenance fell”, and he “rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him”… “And the Lord was wroth with Cain… He beat Cain’s face with hail, which blackened like coal, and thus he remained with a black face… Abel was bright as the light, but the murderer Cain was dark as the darkness.”
God’s punishment for Cain became known as the Curse of Cain.
When the split between the Northern and Southern Baptists, in the US, arose over slavery and the education of slaves, the Southern Baptists used the Curse of Cain to justify slavery. Some 19th and 20th century Baptist ministers in the southern US even taught that there were two separate heavens; one for blacks, and one for whites. Only in 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention officially denounced racism and apologized for its past defence of slavery.
Many Protestant groups in America had supported the notion that black slavery, oppression, and African colonization was the result of God’s curse on people with black skin or people of African descent through Cain. Based on this, some churches practiced racial segregation as late as the 1990s. This certainly was the case in South Africa, where I am from. My family belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church, which did not allow any black people into the church until the early 1990s.
In South Africa, apartheid finally came to an end in 1994, and America elected their first black president, in 2008. No doubt, progress has been made! But was it because God changed His mind about people of colour? Or was it man? I don’t know. But what I do know is that it definitely was man who rewrote the passages in the Bible about Cain’s blackened skin. Recent translations read that God cursed Cain with a ‘mark’, which according to the modern (and much more acceptable) interpretation, refers to the inability to cultivate crops…
Puff!!! Just like that, racism and slavery have been written out of the Bible and the white man can now wash his hands from all guilt, sin and shame… Why? Because our understanding and interpretation of the Biblical Scriptures evolved for the greater good. Therefor, it’s wholly possible to ‘rewrite God’s design based on the demands of a group of adults’… because it has been done before, and rightfully so!
Suffice to say, whenever the Bible is slammed down in defence of an argument, the opposition has no fighting chance in hell to win. However, through the ages, by human command, God has unwillingly been forced into a tedious political career… and man armed Him with the Bible as a manifesto. In fact, God’s political entrapment began the day man first attempted to understand the meaning of His Will and words… and whatever we didn’t understand, or that which did not fit in with our own political agenda, we conveniently rewrote.
So, contrary to what the Church and staunchly religious want us to believe, the Holy Book is a far cry from being a true account of God’s Will. In fact, God only made His Will directly known, 451 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament. Not in one of these instances do God speak against homosexuality. Neither does God refer to homosexuality in the Ten Commandments. Since those 10 Holy Laws are pretty damn fundamental in governing human behaviour, one would expect homosexuality to at least be mentioned once, if it was such a terrible sin. No? Nor does Jesus say anything in his teachings in favour of or against homosexuality.
Why is it that the two main characters in the Holy Book don’t utter as much as a whimper regarding ‘the sin of all sins’?
Yes sure, Paul writes against homosexual acts in the book of Romans. This is the man who never actually met Jesus and who very obviously did not follow the same teachings of love, compassion and kindness. He did, however, support slavery and the oppression of women. If one follows 1 Corinthians 14:33-36, as law, then Sarah Palin and her tea party right-wingers must be gagged and sent to the back of the pews: “…women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says…”. And in I Timothy 6:1-5 Paul wrote: “Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed.” Taking those verses out of historical context and without considering the character of the author who penned them, we will surely be dragged back to the times of slavery. Where does that leave Oprah and Obama?
My point is, there is an intelligent and valid argument against many of the things written in the Bible, not just in the case of homosexuality. This is especially true when passages and verses are sited in isolation, taken out of context and blown out of proportion. For instance, I am sure no parent is ready to stone their fat and obese children. If you follow the Bible to the word you’d have to. For the Bible commands in Deuteronomy that you must pick up them rocks and bricks and stone children who eat or drink too much, or are disobedient, to death…
Furthermore, there are other facts the religious zealots choose to conveniently leave in the shade because when these enter the Gay Rights debate, their watertight bigoted argument becomes laughing stock. Contrary to popular belief, the early Christian church’s concept of marriage were not set in stone but constantly evolved as an idea and ritual. Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that, in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries in early Christian churches, in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies, ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” and the “Order for Uniting Two Men”, were performed regularly.
These religious rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiated in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.
Similar ceremonies were also included in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae”. At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report.
In the 1490’s, after King Henry the 8th personal physician, Thomas Lynacre, read the Gospels in Greek, and compared it to the Latin Vulgate, he wrote in his diary, “Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel… or we are not Christians.” According to Lynacre, the Latin had become so corrupt that it no longer even preserved the message of the Gospel. As a result, the Bible’s translation into English began… but not by one single person or a group of collaborating theologists. No, it was done by numerous ‘learned’ professors, doctors and clergy of which the majority were advisors to the Kings and rulers of that time, all with a vested political interest. Neither was their translation a collaboration and they didn’t work from one particular source. Some, translated parts of the Bible from using Latin sources and others used Greek transcripts… It’s also ironic, that during this time the first homophobic writings appeared in Western Europe, yet church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place. Records of Christian same-sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.
The facts and evidence are all there and cannot be denied. Based on the above, it’s safe to assume that any version of the Bible we read today is a translation of which the original texts and language it was written in have been lost centuries ago. It’s also very likely that the meaning and historical relevance of those verses that condemn homosexuality, have been misinterpreted or embellished for none other than political reasons. These crucial facts can no longer be denied and should not conveniently be ignored in the Gay Rights debate. Therefor, it’s only right and fair that the perceived Biblical arguments against homosexuality must be reviewed in the same way those passages which formed our views on racism, slavery and the status of women, were evaluated and corrected.
There is a definite watershed between what people want the Bible to say and what God actually intended. Obama, more than any other world leader, knows all too well how the ‘Word of God’ can and has been used as a political and tyrannical vice to persecute minorities. This is why it’s so painfully poignant, that a man who sixty odd years ago would’ve been considered ‘blackened’ by the Curse of Cain, took a stand as the ruler of the free world, and spoke out against the discrimination of homosexuals.
Will Barack Obama hold his ground and see this one through? Perhaps he won’t have to, because his statement was first and foremost a moral declaration before his opponents turned it into a political playing card. One thing remains certain, he cannot take back what he said. His words have been heard all over the world and it has already provoked necessary conversations around kitchen tables, in shopping malls, at the workplace and in the streets.
Above all, history has shown us that man cannot pigeonhole God with religious and self-righteous small mindedness, neither can we use God or the Bible to discriminate against others… it goes against the grain of spirituality. Who knows, once Gay Marriage is accepted as a norm and once every man, women and homosexual enjoy equal rights all over the world, maybe then God can peacefully and gracefully retire from a long and arduous political career.
Soon it’s gonna come…
Images: 5 & & FR Lubbe. Other images stock photos, no copyright infringement intended.
Text: FR Lubbe
- Same Bible, Different Verdict On Gay Marriage (wnyc.org)
- Obama’s Gay Marriage Stance May Cost Him, And That Is Pathetic (baconeatingatheistjew.blogspot.de)
- Black churches conflicted on Obama’s gay marriage decision – USA TODAY (usatoday.com)
- Obama’s ‘Cynicism’ on Gay Marriage (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)
- How will gay marriage play on the ground? (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Christian Leaders Criticize Obama on Gay Marriage Stance | Newsmax (jamespatrick1.wordpress.com)
- In Ohio, gay marriage debate may change few votes but inspires some, annoys others – Washington Post (washingtonpost.com)