I can’t recall reading anything Jesus said about homosexuals, can you? Surely, there were some homosexuals in Galilee in His time? Or in big cities like Jerusalem? It stands to reason that in the massive crowds that followed Him, and even among the thousands that He healed, some must have been homosexuals. But, as far as I know, He never uttered a word of reproach to them.
I know there are dire edicts about stoning homosexual men to death (I don’t see anything about stoning lesbians) in the Old Testament. But the Old Testament also decrees stoning for all kinds of things – adultery, of course, and – if my memory can be trusted – not observing the Sabbath. Jesus didn’t endorse stoning. His message was one of forgiveness and tolerance.
So why has the Christian right launched such a fierce crusade against homosexuals?
I know it can be unsettling to be exposed to someone else’s sexuality, especially when it’s different from yours. But isn’t it enough to tell them to “get a room”?
It certainly was not enough for the so-called Christians who traveled from America to Uganda to agitate for laws that included the death penalty for practicing homosexuality. (The public outcry made Ugandans drop the death penalty and, as passed, the law decrees life imprisonment, not death.)
It certainly was not enough for Republican lawmakers across America who are proposing legislation ostensibly to protect “religious freedom.” In practice, such laws would give businesses and individuals the right to deny services or employment to anyone whose lifestyle violates their religious beliefs.
You can imagine how such laws could be interpreted. They would legalize discrimination not only against homosexuals but against just about anyone. One application of such “religious freedom” would allow employers to ignore the new health care law’s decree to provide birth control in employees’ health insurance. The same principle would protect restaurants that discriminate against customers – or employers who discriminate against workers – from being sued.
The latest battlefront is in Arizona, where a bill to give individuals and businesses the right to diiscriminate on religious grounds is on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk. The governor vetoed a similar bill last year and is under pressure – even from fellow-Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney – to veto this version. But even if she does, you can bet you haven’t seen the last of such legislation.
And watch for the same kind of “religious freedom” argument to emerge in Washington DC. The ghosts of Oliver Cromwell and the Salem witch burners are marching once again.
And, incredibly, they’re marching in the name of the gentlest of men – Jesus of Nazareth.