This letter is for all members of the religious and intolerant posse who publicly share their dislike of homosexuals like me. I first drafted this for Tim Tebow in preparation for his planned speech at the First Baptist Dallas church - an event which he subsequently cancelled, resulting in my never finishing the essay. But recent events by the Republican Party and speeches by Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have resurrected my desire to share it. Timmy and Ricky and Mikey - the next time you contemplate speaking in public on this topic, here are some thoughts you might ponder.
Like you, I grew up in a Christian household where I was taught that homosexuality is an abomination. Unlike you, as an adult, I have come to the conclusion that my church was wrong.
I recently turned 50, which is old enough to have seen the evolution of change in religious attitudes towards homosexuality. In many cases, condemnation by religion hasn't changed, but the Christian theories of the cause-and-effect for homosexuality has. It has not been a linear progression. Religion has grappled with justifying intolerance and has generally chosen a very simplified outlook on homosexuality. Same-gender attraction was mostly deemed to be a perversion in judgment on the part of weak minded individuals. Homosexuality was often defined by the pulpit as simply being a twist in rational thinking on the part of mentally ill people. Most Christian faiths believed that homosexuality wasn't an identity, but was an activity that could either be abstained from or cured by prayer. Or cured by psychotherapy. Or electro-shock treatment. Or greater amounts of prayer. The hopes that therapy could reverse sexual orientation largely fell by the wayside when the mental health profession abandoned the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970s. Still, contrary to the modern medical profession's abandonment of that belief, some religions still cling to it.
Historically, some churches preached that homosexuality is created by inept heterosexual parenting. The fact is that most gay people on the planet are the product of both good and bad parenting skills on the part of heterosexual people - a fact that is quite easy to recognize when your logic is not clouded by religious dogma. Today, the inept-parenting hypothesis sounds so ludicrous that it has largely been abandoned by churches as justification for their dislike of same-gender attraction.
Unbelievably, some religious people today still believe that homosexuality is a result of child molestation or recruitment from adults, as if there is some secret homosexual society which offers free toaster ovens in exchange for each new conversion. The suggestion is so preposterous that I can't find the words to refute it, other than to point out that the only conversion attempts I am aware of is on the part of televangelists and particular religious groups who go door-to-door in hopes that the entire world will join their churches.
Most religions today continue to advocate for larger doses of prayer in order to cure what they deem to be a perversion. I myself once believed that prayer and Jesus would cure me. They didn't. I have always known that I am not sexually attracted to women. I'm just not. Women are not sexual objects, for me. I don't know why that is. It just is. As long as we're on the topic, I should mention that Rick Santorum is not a sexual object for me, either. Neither are his children. Tim Tebow, on the other hand, could be a different discussion, if I could only get past the fact that his opinions on this subject are so ugly.
I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness - a faith that considers itself to be the only true Christian denomination in existence. Amongst themselves, not in public, they refer to their faith as "The Truth." Today, I consider The Truth to be a cult. A Christian cult, but a cult nonetheless. Most fundamentalist Christian readers of this piece will go apoplectic over my suggestion that Jehovah's Witnesses are Christian. Most fundamentalists do not recognize Jehovah's Witnesses, or Mormons, as members of their Christian fold. That logic escapes me. I've always found it fascinating that some brands of Christianity believe they own the title to Jesus and claim the right to deny the inclusion of certain other Christian faiths into their midst. Both Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons certainly consider themselves to be Christian, and they certainly fit the definition, but some Christian faiths deny the validity of a Mormon and JW belief in Jesus, which in itself is not very Christian.
Jehovah's Witnesses don't have a great track record, particularly in regards to their predictions for when Armageddon will arrive, but they once published a brilliant analysis regarding the cause of homosexuality in their book, Your Youth - Getting the Best Out of It. The book was intended for children. I was twelve when it was published in 1976, and I believed every bit of the advice that was given in Chapter 3, "Masturbation and Homosexuality."
"Should you experiment with your sex organs? Is there anything wrong with rubbing them in some way until the excitement is climaxed?
This practice is called masturbation. It is very common. Lying and stealing are also common today. Yet you wouldn't say this makes them natural and proper, would you? The "common" cold is quite universal, but this certainly doesn't mean that you want it, does it?
Weakly giving in to sexual desires by masturbation will certainly not give you strength when faced with a situation tempting you to commit fornication--or even homosexuality. Just the opposite, it cultivates wrong thinking and wrong desire. In fact, masturbation can lead into homosexuality. In such instances the person, not satisfied with his lonely sexual activity, seeks a partner for mutual sex play.
This happens much more frequently than you may realize. Contrary to what many persons think, homosexuals are not born that way, but their homosexual behavior is learned. And often a person gets started when very young by playing with another's sexual parts, and then engaging in homosexual acts." (Your Youth--Getting the Best out of It, 1976 p.35,36,39)
I would be willing to bet that a further investigation into the history of most Christian traditions would uncover similar statements. This sort of logic isn't in the least bit logical, but yet it is the path that many forms of Christianity have taken to arrive at their desired condemnation of same-sex love. Bad parenting - lack of prayer - mental illness - masturbation - lack of prayer - oh hell, we don't care how a person's sexuality is determined but we don't like homosexuals and will be sure to let you know about it. That's the history behind a religious hatred of people like me.
Most religions who still cling to this intolerance of sexual diversity give me two choices for how I should live my life. I can either marry a woman, they offer, or I can stay single and celibate. If we desire to not be alone, us homosexuals must marry someone of the opposite gender, we are told. Okay, let's run with that idea. Who will step to the front of the line and offer up a sacrificial female to be my life partner? Who will wish that on their daughter? Okay, sure, not Tim Tebow. He doesn't yet have a daughter. That's okay. We'll go with one of his sisters, instead. Tim has two of them. Okay, sure, his sisters are already married. That is not a problem. The Bible clearly approves of polygamous marriages. I'm not particularly interested in that sort of thing, but I'm just trying to wrap my head around the options that a literal reading of the Bible will give me. Would Tim like one of his sisters to marry a gay man who will always be wishing for something else? No? You don't wish that for your sisters, you say? Perhaps you hope that some other member of your church will provide a daughter or sister in the name of God?
How about you, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum? Would any of your daughters wish to volunteer? No? Okay, then I suppose I'll have to go with door number two and spend my life single and celibate. I'll make you a deal. How about if you take a crack at that first? How successful would you be? Don't answer that question unless you intend to be honest.
We are well aware of your wish for homosexuality to not exist, but what do you propose for all of the gay partners and spouses who will be left behind by your mandated break ups? If some percentage of the gay population is overcome by self-hatred and gives in to your religious views, what will happen to the people who are left behind? Loving and faithful partners shouldn't be disposable, should they? How un-Christian would that be?
But the Bible condemns homosexuality, you say. Okay, I can see that for myself. I've read Chapter 20, verse 13 from the Book of Leviticus. The Jehovah's Witnesses, like you, adore that scripture. It's a clear condemnation of men lying with men, as written by authors who lived at a time when the earth was believed to be flat. Interestingly, the Bible says nothing about lesbians. But here's the deal. If we use the Bible as a literal source for how we must guide our decisions in life or condemnation of others, we must use the whole book. There are other scriptures in Leviticus that you mustn't ignore. You won't have to look hard to find something interesting. How about this one? Leviticus 25: 44-46. "As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever."
Does your God still condone slavery? No? Your God has changed over the centuries, hasn't He? Why haven't you? I no longer believe in God, but if you wish to believe, perhaps your outlook on humanity and righteousness needs some improvement. There are plenty of dire issues in this world that you could tackle in the name of God. How about focusing on the more traditionally desired characteristics of Christianity, like love, cures for poverty, feeding the hungry, and helping the less fortunate? Those are qualities that Christianity should be known for, but unfortunately I'm having a hard time hearing that message over all of the racket you're making about people like me. The enemy is not people like me who wake up in the morning, happy to have a wonderful spouse of my own gender. Really.