Please commence with the eye rolling because I’m about to use the recent fracas about Duck Dynasty as a jumping off place for this post. And yes, my post title is search engine optimized to draw in religious searchers because what I’m about to say is something I want them to read. I’m going to say it all with more passion than aplomb, I fear, but I won’t be the first person this week to do that.
So, here’s the deal: some guy with a big reality tv show went on the record in a national magazine saying that he thinks homosexuality is a big sin, among other things. His network suspended him. Religious people from Sarah Palin to everyone on Facebook who can spell “Jesus loves me” are flipping out. I’m seeing all kinds of interpretations of the First Amendment tossed out there to excuse what he said. People want to make this a case where a Christian man was persecuted by the Hollywood forces of political correctness. Phil Robertson allegedly has his god and the Constitution on his side and it’s not his fault if saying homosexuality is a sin makes people feel bad.
Margaret Cho talks about prejudice against race and sexual orientation as being judgements on what a person is as opposed to what a person does. When someone is biased against a skin color, gender, ability or sexuality they are prejudiced against unchangeable aspects of a human being. We cannot change our race. We cannot change our level of disability. We cannot change our sexuality. We cannot change our gender, be that gender cis or trans. Judging people for those things is to judge them not for what they do, but for who they are at their core. You are judging them for things beyond their control.
When Phil Robertson listed homosexuality as first among equals in terms of sin, and when the chorus of his apologists echoed his Biblical justification for prejudice, they are doing what millions of Americans do every day: they make homosexuality the only sin that is based in who a person is as opposed to a voluntary action.
Think about sins. Murder? A choice. Adultery? A choice. Lying? A choice, Idolatry? A choice. I could go on. Homosexuality is different from all of these because it is not a choice. It is a trait. It is part of the fearful and wonderful making of a man or woman. It is not something a person did. It is who they are. Phil and friends, when they call homosexuality a sin, are calling every homosexual irredeemable by their very nature.
Can you imagine hearing over and over and over and over that you, by simply existing as you do, are less of a person? And that there is nothing you can do to be redeemed because the sin you committed isn’t a commission at all but a state of being? Can you imagine hearing a bearded man held up as a prophet for our time for saying that what you are is intrinsically wrong and then hearing a chorus of his followers saying the same thing? Can you even imagine?
Don’t try and tell me homosexuality is a choice. It is not. Sexuality is infinitely complex and manifests is all ways. It is the most human of conditions. It is imprinted on us all like our fingerprints or our eye color. Saying homosexuality is a choice is like saying being blue-eyed is a choice. Attaching negative value to it is like attaching negative value to the whorls on our thumbs.
And yet. And yet there are thousands of people who will keep saying that homosexuals are sinners for simply existing then acting like what they’re saying isn’t somehow different than their condemnation of sins of choice. I’m here to say that it is entirely different. More hurtful. Crueler. Utterly insensitive to the reality of the human condition in all it’s myriad forms.
Dan Savage says that the comfort people feel with singling out homosexuality as a sin is based on the knowledge that it is a sin they themselves will never commit. Straight people can condemn gay people without having to hold a mirror up to their own transgressions. There is no chance that reveling in the judgement of gays will force them to confront an uncomfortable truth about themselves the way condemning liars or thieves or idolaters would. It is a safe sin for straights.
I’ve not changed a single mind here with these words. Bible-adherents won’t change because of me. My only purpose is to parse the idea of homosexuality as sin and get to the heart of what those words mean. Think about what you’re saying before you speak again. Think about what others hear when you say the words. If you don’t care, well, that’s that. But don’t be ignorant of what your words really say.
Photo credit: MorgueFile