How religion can incite homophobia (part I)

14 Mar

Time and again over the years many minds far better than mine have discussed how religion can incite homophobia at great length. Actually I’ve had this same discussion over and over as it hits home for me in a very personal manner, I’m a lesbian. Not just that I’m a lesbian hailing from a very strong religious upbringing involving Catholic school, teaching catechism, and for some reason I don’t fully understand in retrospect I was very active in the church community, before coming out of course when everything changed. That doesn’t make me an expert on the topic but it did provide me with plenty of first hand experience as to how religion can incite homophobia.

I readily admit I’m not against religion, I think having faith in a higher power is a good thing. When I examine within my own mind and life the connection between homophobia and religion it isn’t God i point an accusing finger at nor is it the bulk of the congregation. It is the religious leaders that choose to stray from the path of love and tolerance to the darker side of exclusion and hate that I take umbrage with. That is universal across all faith systems. What follows are some ways I have personally seen religion incite homophobia.

As early as I can remember, at least by eight years old, nuns and priests pointed out homosexuality to us as not just being something they disagreed with, but that the church and by extension God viewed homosexuality as wrong, evil, and definitely sinful. The constant reminders at a young age sets into developing minds and plays a huge role in fostering a child’s attitude toward the subject that often carries over to adulthood. It wasn’t just homosexuality that was described as this, but being gay was something we had drilled into our heads with such repetition as being bad it was unavoidable even for me to believe it was true.

Later in life I at times attended church with my Southern Baptist stepmother. What always struck me as odd was that there was a part in the service where the minister asked the congregation for prayer requests. That wasn’t odd to me, what was though was that when everyone had finished shouting out their requests he always added “And let us pray for all the sick in the world that they get better, for the non-believers that they find God, and for the infirm and blackened souls of criminals, sinners, and homosexuals that they too see the error of their ways and come to God.” This wasn’t a now and then thing, this was every service, every prayer group, every single church function. Citing homosexuals as being people devoid of a relationship with God paints them in a negative light with believers making them seem to be a menace when in actuality we are just people. If you hear of a person likened to a criminal with a blackened soul over and over again and see everyone around you agreeing, it does effect your attitude towards them even if only on the subconscious level.

Why this can incite homophobia is fairly evident. A religious leader, a person viewed as a person of whatever God is being worshiped carries power within that religious community. People look to and accept whatever they say as gospel basically, as if it were straight from God’s mouth, through their lips, to our ears. They often go unquestioned and if they are questioned they often fall back into some archaic jumble of text taken from whatever reference they base their faith on to to defend their position, usually interpreted out of context. When and if this happens you can challenge them all you like but in the eyes of the flock their spiritual leader is almost always right. They have to be right or everything they have said falls into question.

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