Thou shalt not invoke the name of your god to oppress others
Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in states like Indiana and Arkansas, passed but not signed in Arizona, and proposed in North Carolina argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech. Let us be clear that these newest incarnations of RFRA aim to provide legal cover for merchants and land owners to discriminate against people whose beliefs and ways of life they oppose.
We are seeing individuals and entire denominations framing themselves as the true victims whenever we challenge their religious justifications in their attempts to perpetuate their already pervasive Christian hegemony and social privileges, and their characterizations of others. Some proponents of these bogus and totally unnecessary laws characterize those who protest against these statutes as “religiously intolerant” and as “religious bigots.”
- I refuse any longer to allow theologians or politicians of any religious or political philosophy to use of our bodies as stepping stones for their ambitions. If that makes me religiously intolerant or bigoted, then I am a very proud religious bigot!
- I am a proud religious bigot by opposing the types of “values” they are attempting to impose on us because for me, this is no simple disagreement over religious perspectives. For me, this is a fight against oppression and a fight for social justice.
- I am proud to be bigoted against any religious denomination’s efforts to define me and members of my community as “sinners,” to deny me and members of my community the rights of self-definition and self-determination, and to deny us our integrity and our humanity by attempting to prevent us from maintaining our subjectivity, our agency, and our voice.
- I am a proud religious bigot against any denomination that attempts to deny me and members of my community the rights granted under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution to equal protection under the law, and in particular the right to marry the person of our choice, to serve our country openly in the military, to equal protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, insurance, inheritance, and to pursue happiness as we see fit.
- I am a proud religious bigot in fighting against any religious denomination’s efforts to prevent me and members of my community from gaining our rightful place in our society.
Fortunately, however, there exists no monolithic conceptualization of religion, for other faith communities’ “values” are progressively welcoming toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people, our sexuality and relationships, and our gender identities and expressions. These communities are working tirelessly to abolish the yoke of oppression directed against us.
I believe that THE prime influence keeping oppression toward LGBTQI people locked firmly in place and enacted throughout our society — on the personal/interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels — are the destructive doctrines and judgments radiating from primarily orthodox and fundamentalist religious communities.
According to the United States Department of Justice:
“Bullying encompasses a variety of negative acts carried out repeatedly over time. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more powerful child or group attacking those who are [perceived as] less powerful.”
The statements, policies, and actions taken by a number of religious denominations must be seen as nothing short of bullying. I assert, therefore, that the institutional bullying emanating from these religious factions must stop, now!
When religious leaders preach their damaging interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender non-conformity within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as LGBTQI. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these abusive actions.
When the religious/theocratic Right declares that LGBTQI people are sinners and psychologically ill, and that they must not be allowed to promote their so-called “gay agenda,” indeed, as the line between religion and government is increasingly blurred, and when we are taught to hate ourselves, each of us is demeaned, which denies us all our freedoms and liberties. Therefore, we have a right, or rather an obligation, to speak up, to fight back with all the energy, with all the unity, and with all the love and passion with which we are capable.
From our vantage point at the margins, we have a special opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to serve as social commentators, as critics, exposing and highlighting the wide-scale inequities of all kinds that saturate and surround our environment, and to challenge the culture to move forever forward and progress.
Though certain religious denominations may continue in their attempts to define us, they will fail.
A central tenet of liberation is the right of people to self-define, to maintain their subjectivity and agency over the course of their lives. With our loving allies within progressive religious communities in addition to those unaffiliated with religious denominations, we are taking back the discourse and demanding that religious institutions curb their offensive dogma and take their interpretations of scripture off our bodies.
- We will accept no longer their repugnant mantra that “We hate the sin, but love the sinner.”
- We will accept no longer their telling us why and how we have come to our same-sex attractions and our gender non-conformity, and that it is a “choice” that we can change.
- We will continue to fight against their efforts to legislate us into second-class citizenship and codify their so-called “values” into law.
- We will fight their attempts to restrict us from entering the social institutions of our choice.
Furthermore, we will not accept their framing themselves as the victims of “religious bigotry” when we challenge their Medieval, hateful, fear-inspiring, cruel, and yes, oppressive interpretations of our lives, interpretations targeted to perpetuate their domination and control.
Their time for bullying has come to an end! We are no longer intimidated. We are standing up, joining together as allies, as upstanders, to put an end to their hatred and violence, to their hijacking of scripture to serve their need to control, and to once and for all end the deaths that have taken so many beautiful and gentle spirits.
I refuse to debate my existence on religious grounds ever again with anyone, since there is no “debate,” for to quote Rene Descartes, “I think therefore I am,” period, the end.
In the final analysis, our challenge remains in no way as “religious intolerance” or “religious bigotry,” but rather, it amounts to our standing up to correct a devastating social injustice. It is not “religious prejudice” to challenge offensive, demeaning, degrading, marginalizing, persecution-resulting, violence-provoking, suicide-inducing characterizations.
We challenge their oppressive words and actions, which they often justify by invoking the name of God, as they understand God.
For in the prophetic words of Bob Dylan,
“The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be passed
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’”
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