It's been an interesting week for gay rights in Europe, and not such a good one for the religious right. On Tuesday of last week, the Finnish Broadcasting Company hosted a live gay rights panel, with people from both sides gathered for a strikingly civil discussion.
What was unexpected was the aftermath. As a result of the anti-gay comments made by some of the religious panelists, 30,000 people have resigned from the state church, according to official statistics.
What makes this show of solidarity for gay rights and a demand for a progressive evolution within the church all the more remarkable is the fact that gays and lesbians in Finland already enjoy almost all civil rights protections, the only things still missing being full civil marriage and adoption rights.
But something else struck me watching this debate. And that's the fact that opposition to LGBT rights, whether in Finland or the US, seems to be singularly rooted in religiously motivated prejudice. And further, that gay rights foes seem to always cling to the same old three arguments. So, to help progress along worldwide, let me take on the religious right's greatest hits in less than one minute. Ready?
1) Being gay is a choice and against nature. Actually, homosexuality has been documented in some 1,500 species, and the most recent scientific research suggests that homosexuality likely occurs in all animals. What are we to make of all these 'unnatural' primates, birds, sheep, and even worms? Are they being just as nature intended, or are they going to hell, too?
2) Gays want to redefine the unchanged Biblical definition of marriage from one man and one woman. First of all, gays want be a part of the civil institution of marriage, which is a secular legal issue. Second, nothing would change for straights, in their churches, marriages, or otherwise. But what of this claim of 'unchanged,' rarely challenged? The Old Testament is rampant with polygamy among its patriarchs. Abraham was a polygamist, as was King David, and King Solomon was the biggest of all, with 700 wives and 300 concubines. He did apparently defy God with this -- not because of the numbers, but because he married foreigners (1 Kings 11:1-3). The Bible aside, didn't women used to be considered the mere property of their husbands? Weren't many, if not most, marriages pre-arranged at one time? The definition of marriage, like most things, has evolved over time.
3) Gay marriage will lead to the end of procreation and the human species. For starters, the world population of soon 7 billion might cause us to think otherwise. But what's actually funny here is that according to this rationale, every straight person must really be gay, merely kept in the closet by the definition of marriage, just looking for that loophole to ditch their spouse for some same sex action. Is anyone except professional anti-gays really worried about this?
4) I don't care what you say, the Bible condemns homosexuality. I know I said three arguments, but the religious right always throws in this one when everything else has fallen apart. Now, whether the alleged Biblical prohibitions are against homosexuality per se, or merely against forced sodomy (a common practice by conquering soldiers of the time) can be debated. But the Bible clearly condemns many other things that we no longer consider even mildly sinful in the same category of "abomination." Like eating shellfish (Leviticus 11:10), or women wearing pants (Deuteronomy 22:11). I also don't see the religious right following the Bible's stern edicts to stone to death their rebellious children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), to kill people for gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15: 32-36), or the proper ways of selling their daughters to slavery (Exodus 21:7-10). So what's going on, religious right? When did these things cease to be God's infallible, unchangeable word?
Above, in a nutshell, is the actual root of the civil rights debate we're still having in America. In the year 2010. What's saddest of all is that this isn't just an issue of rights. It's an issue of lives.
Both hate crimes against gays and suicides of bullied gay youths are alarmingly on the rise. In the wake of the recent surge of teen suicides, the anti-gay group Exodus International-- to its credit-- dropped its involvement in the annual anti-gay campaign "Day of Truth," where Christian students are encouraged to bully their fellow gay students with the Biblical wisdom detailed above. Focus on the Family has pledged to carry on with the campaign. Other groups, like the self-proclaimed "National Organization for Marriage," continue their own crusades to warn people about the Apocalyptic consequences of simply treating people with equality and respect.
To these anti-gay groups, congregations, their members, and their leaders, I propose this question:
What will you do on the day you will finally accept the vast body of scientific evidence that homosexuality is, in fact, completely natural, and indeed, if you so believe, created by God like everything else?
I'd start thinking about that. Today.