Integrity Quest ... in pursuit of a cooperative global consciousness
[ Originally published in March of 2011 ]
“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation ...
What’s done in private between two consenting adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”
~ Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada (1968/1979)
Uganda's newly proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" has received a worldwide outcry of condemnation, both online and through the more traditional media channels. The complete text of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill can be viewed as a PDF document at Warren Throckmorton's website (please see "Resources" page for the link).
Numerous world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, as well as various watchdog organizations, such as Amnesty International, have denounced this recently proposed legislation as being deeply flawed vis-a-vis the most fundamental principles of human rights. Here's what Amnesty International has said on the subject:
"The Anti-Homosexuality Bill ... would, if enacted into law, prima facie violate international human rights law and lead to further human rights violations ... If passed, the bill would institutionalise discrimination against those who are, or who are thought to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It would reinforce the existing prohibition against consensual sex between individuals of the same sex—legislation that is itself contrary to international norms. The bill would go further, purporting to criminalise the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, compelling HIV testing in certain circumstances, imposing life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage, introducing the death penalty for ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, and punishing those who fail to report knowledge of any violations of these sweeping provisions within 24 hours. The confidentiality clause would compromise the right to fair trial. ... The bill would have lasting deleterious effects on the lives of individual Ugandans who are thought to run afoul of its far-reaching provisions, and it would significantly hamper the work of human rights defenders and public health professionals. In sum, the bill would violate the principle of non-discrimination and would lead to violations of the human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, liberty and security of the person, privacy, the highest attainable standard of health, and life. These rights are guaranteed under Uganda’s Constitution and in international and regional treaties to which Uganda is a party ...."
The Perspective of the "Religious Right"
Based mostly on Old Testament biblical passages, religious persecution has been used for centuries as a way in which the powerful deal with those categories of humanity they fear might encroach on their God-given authority to arbitrate right and wrong. The Church Inquisition persecuted "suspicious" women (this being any woman who was not obedient to male authority) as witches ... probably because women were the healers, and also because they could perform the one essential human function a man cannot perform (that is, bear offspring). Fascists persecuted the Jews during WWII because they feared their economic/international power.
It has come to the world's attention that certain prominent US Christian fundamentalist (right-wing) church interests have been instrumental in crafting the content of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Without resorting specifically to the term "Christian" in its articulation, it is quite clear .... considering both the religious orientation of its crafters and the phrasing of its content (for example "the legal, religious, and traditional family values of the people of Uganda") .... that the bill is intended to represent a Christian view of what constitutes acceptable moral/ethical/social behaviour.
What is the instigating factor in the case of the modern Christian fundamentalist attitude to homosexuality? Gordon J Wenham is an Old Testament scholar who has been awarded several scholastic awards in connection with Old Testament studies, and has studied in Germany, America and Jerusalem. In his essay "The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality" he wrote the following:
"That the Old Testament condemns homosexual acts is well known. Why it does so is a mystery. ... Israel's repudiation of homosexual intercourse arises out of its doctrine of creation ... [ that ] God created humanity in two sexes, so that they could be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Woman was man's perfect companion, like man created in the divine image. To allow the legitimacy of homosexual acts would frustrate the divine purpose and deny the perfection of God's provision of two sexes to support and complement one another .... [However this] Old Testament rejection of all kinds of homosexual practice is apparently unique in the ancient world. Most of the ancient Near East adopted an attitude to homosexuality very similar to that of classical Greece and Rome, which simply accepted it as long as it was done among consenting adults. Indeed Greeks and Romans often approved homosexual acts between adult men and youths where it was part of an ongoing educational relationship."
It should be specifically noted that Wenham is speaking at all times here about the Old Testament (not New Testament) viewpoint on the subject of homosexuality. Though the Religious Right doggedly points to the Bible in support of their belief that homosexuality is condemned by God, the original spirit of Christianity, as consistently taught by its founder Jesus of Nazareth (and as recorded in the canonical Gospels), has not a single word to say on the subject of homosexuality. Indeed with the exception of the Apostle Paul, there is nothing whatsoever included in the entire New Testament on the subject ... a fact which would lead one to suspect that, just maybe, homosexuality was much more of a "thorn in Paul's side" than anything worthy of serious consideration from Jesus's viewpoint. Then too, Paul was not one of the twelve disciples who knew Jesus, but only a "Johnny Come Lately" convert who claimed he had met Jesus on the road to Damascus, after Jesus had died on the Cross. Thus it could well be held that Paul was never privy to Jesus's expressed opinions on this subject.
As Wikipedia points out : "[Paul's] specific references to Jesus' teaching are .... sparse, raising the question, still disputed, as to how consistent his account of the faith is with that of the four canonical Gospels ..... The view that Paul's Christ is very different from the historical Jesus has been expounded by Adolf Harnack, among many others."
The only references to homosexuality in the Bible (other than those by Paul, as just discussed), are Old Testament references, and the Old Testament is a Jewish sacred book (Torah) ... not attributable to the teachings of Jesus in any way whatsoever. While the contents of the Old Testament do reflect the cultural and religious milieu of Jesus upbringing and ministry, they categorically do not reflect His stated views on spiritual matters. On the contrary, Jesus said " ... Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these." He did not itemize any exceptions (such as "people you don't agree with", or "people whose behaviour you don't approve of").
Jesus was a spiritual rebel. On one occasion, at great peril to His own safety, He contradicted the orthodox priestly position on adultery by saving the life of a woman publicly accused of this act :
... So when they continued asking Him, He lifted Himself up, and He said unto them: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" ... When Jesus had lifted Himself up and saw none but the woman, He said unto her: "Woman, where are thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?" She said: "No man, Lord." And Jesus said unto her: "Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more."
The last three years of Jesus's life were devoted, above all else, to a ministry of love and understanding and compassion, forgiveness and non-judgmentalism ... not to the ignorance and discrimination and hate of the modern Christian fundamentalist movement. And as He has said "Judge not, that ye be not judged ... For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
Discrimination As a Reflection of Judgmentalism
William Blake wrote: "All that you behold , though it appears without, it is within, in your imagination of which this world of mortality is but a shadow". If a person observes something he or she considers to be evil, the event seen is certainly out there in the external world, but the evaluation of the event as "evil" is within that individual.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry or knighthood originating in medieval England, and is the pinnacle of the present-day royal honours system in the United Kingdom. It's motto is "Honi soit qui mal y pense" ... which in Old French means "Evil to him who evil thinks". One useful interpretation of this motto is that retribution will revert (whether spiritually or materially) to any person who ascribes an unacceptable act to another. This Western expression of the concept of cosmic justice is highly analogous to the Eastern Sanskrit concept of karmic retribution.
It would appear that both cosmic law and social civility agree .... it is not up to us to judge the form which love takes, but only the intent of its expression. Many loving couples are homosexuals. All expressions of love are God's gift to humanity, as long as the associated acts are offered with caring and concern for the wellbeing of the other individual, not just oneself.
Dealing With the World Aids Crisis ~ Hope On The Horizon
Compounding the aforementioned attitudes of religious intolerance in the last 50 years, anti-homosexual fervour has been fanned to outright conflagration by the HIV/aids crisis. It is generally historically accepted that the aids virus originated with the sexual practices of gay men in the mid-1900s. [Yet the actual fact is that those specific sexual practices which spread the aids virus are also (and have always been) practiced by heterosexual couples as well. Moreover the aids virus has often been transmitted in other ways, including drug use with a contaminated needle and blood transfusion with infected blood.] Yet unfortunately, religious and social intolerance has been conflated with fears related to HIV health risk.
"HIV-related stigma and discrimination remains an enormous barrier to the fight against AIDS. Fear of discrimination often prevents people from getting tested, seeking treatment and admitting their HIV status publicly. Since laws and policies alone cannot reverse the stigma that surrounds HIV infection, AIDS education in Africa needs to be scaled-up to combat the ignorance that causes people to discriminate. The fear and prejudice that lies at the core of HIV and AIDS discrimination needs to be tackled at both community and national levels."
In the 21st century we now absolutely must focus on far less dogmatic and more pragmatic approaches to serious worldwide societal issues. In the case of the HIV/aids crisis, the most crucial requirement is to ensure advancement of effective and proactive health care programmes (most of which will no doubt entail specific measures for limiting/eliminating the existence and impact of risk-intensive sexual practices). This is necessary ln order to benefit the lives of both homosexuals and heterosexuals equally, and most urgently to stem the tide of the worldwide pediatric aids crisis.
Far more productive and less discriminatory approaches are available right now. Indeed according to an article published just last month, a completely new approach (one that has absolutely nothing to do with either religion or sexuality) is now being proposed by world health officials:
"Blanket HIV testing 'could see Aids dying out in 40 years' Health officials consider routine checks followed by lifetime course of drugs for everyone with the virus. Health officials are considering a radical shift in the war against HIV and Aids that would see everyone tested for the virus and put on a lifetime course of drugs if they are found to be positive. The strategy, which would involve testing most of the world's population for HIV, aims to reduce the transmission of the virus that causes Aids to a level at which it dies out completely over the next 40 years."
It's interesting to speculate that a proactive approach of this kind could very well have been considered a "no brainer" were it not for the world's intense judgmental focus right from the beginning on one particular seriously marginalized demographic group. If this kind of a health crisis had been about small pox or bubonic plague (or whatever) then a blanket testing strategy would most probably have been undertaken well before now. Our collective prejudices have caused us great harm.
There is an old Sufi wisdom passage (author anonymous) which goes as follows: "Past the seeker as he prayed, came the crippled, and the beggar, and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into a deep prayer and cried, "Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?" And out of the long silence, God said, "I did do something. I made you."
In the words of William Blake, the renowned English poet and mystic, "You are what you behold".
This article was originally posted March 5, 2011. The integrityquest.net website has since been entirely redesigned (January/February 2013).
While the content of this article is identical, the format differs from the original.