Several months ago I got a call from one of my brothers. He was quite upset.
Normally my brother does not pick up the phone and call me. It’s not that we are close, but sometimes we have a challenge connecting with each other and finding common ground. Anyhow he was quite upset and wanted me to know what was bothering him. His topic of conversation? Uganda. He had heard about the “Kill the Gays” Bill and it outraged him so much that he had to call me on the phone to tell me just how wrong he thought this is. His concern was noted, and in my heart it made me love him more.
When I got home I started reading.
I am not normally a person who becomes political or even engages in religious or philosophical debate. One might even say I have spent much of my life and time over the past 15 plus years avoiding ever to have to have either of these conversations in my life. I am also a person who lives in a bit of a bubble from outside news/media influence as much as possible (more on this on another article soon, I hope). So when I actually take time out to read, research, chat and talk about a subject or issue be it political AND religious AND related to current news and media – it’s a big deal for me.
It’s taken the past few months to mull over exactly how to go about saying and communicating my feelings and reactions correctly. It was the hope of some Ugandan politicians that the “Kill the Gays” Bill would pass before Dec 25, 2012 and be a Christmas Gift to the Ugandan people. To say I was outraged was an understatement.
If you haven’t read up on the bill yet, here is a link for you to learn more on the subject.
Essentially, if the Bill becomes law, it would mean lifetime imprisonment for gay sex and even the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’. What do they consider aggravated homosexuality? HIV positive people who have gay sex and ‘serial offenders’ are considered ‘aggravated homosexuals’. You don’t even have to have sex. Life in jail can be given for touching another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
Sound messed up? It is. It’s also not alone. There are several other nations who already have similar laws in place.
What really bothered me was the use of God and spiritual belief to condemn others for their perceived wrongs. They seem to have the backing of some churches in different denominations and several Evangelical ministers and churches throughout the US. As an HIV positive gay man, this isn’t news to me. In my teenage years I grew up in a similar church background with some people who believed as these people do. Some churches using their system of belief to hate gays isn’t a new idea. Decades ago, they used the same idea to hate and exclude blacks from the church and women from positions of power. And then when they became ok with these groups, they were against interracial marriage – citing the Tower of Babel as precedent and that mixing races would be a downfall to all human civilization. So the gays, are the new black – so to speak.
And what is the lesson that this young, budding gay boy learned from all of this devout, religiously inclined, good intention seeking people? God hates gays. It was only years later that I came to realize that spirituality and belief is much greater and beyond that of religion.
It’s funny but to answer these questions of hate, I have to go back to my roots of theological teaching – What would Jesus Do? Or WWJD for short. Many it’s something these well-meaning Christians don’t want to discuss, but when Jesus walked the earth, he hung out with thieves, whores and homos. If he was here today, I’m pretty sure he’d be my plus one at a local gay bar’s Best Chest Contest and even try to fix me up with the hunky, tall, bearish guy across the bar that’s been eyeing my tattoo sleeve. Yup. Jesus was fun at parties. That’s one of the reasons why the religious people of his time disliked him so much. What’s interesting is that it was those believers in the letter of the law that put him to death on that cross in those days. I find that fascinating. Why? Because today, right now, it is the same people, those believers in the letter of the law, that persecute us. That say we should be put to death because of who we are and how we live our life. If Jesus were alive today, whose side would he take?
You see, he was a man who believed and lived by the spirit of the law. All of Jesus's teachings center on love, humility, and mercy. The idea that we would condemn or condone other humans who were different than us, in the name of Jesus is inconceivable, because Jesus taught people to love one another. He never supported any form of violence or dominance. Instead, He commanded the people to love, show mercy, and to forgive others. It is highly unlikely that Jesus would support homophobia. he story of Jesus defending a whore comes to mind when they were going to stone her. I could go on to quote scripture but I don’t want to preach. I am one of those thieves, whores and homos after all. I’m definitely not a saint!
The question I sit with from this always comes down to this - Is it better to be right or be kind? Who do I want to be known as? Seen as? Am I a man of judgment - right or wrong, black and white or am I a person who truly let's others be themselves. Different. Gray. Perhaps even 50 Shades of Gray!
My mother, however, is slightly more saintly than I, so I asked her opinion and feedback on the subject. It was an interesting conversation to have as my mom is a Christian herself. So I wanted to know what she thought of all of this and the use of her Lord and Saviour’s name as a basis for full scale condemnation. Her answer was that you just cannot pick and choose which beliefs you want to follow and which are condemnable. It’s all or nothing really. I mentioned to her about the story of Jesus stopping the stoning “Yes! That’s exactly the point!” She explained to me that none of us is ranked spiritually higher than the other.“So mom, what’s the answer then?” Love is the answer! Every time!” And I think she’s right.
When faced with overwhelming pressures and thoughts of the world and his friends experiencing hardship, I am reminded of what Jesus did. It's the shortest verse in the whole bible and it rings loud and true today. Jesus wept.
I think of what life would be like living under the threat of this law in my town. What every day must feel like to be threatened because one chooses to live their life openly and free. That as a country all of the other citizens, neighbours family members stand against you and say that if you were to live honestly, then you should be imprisoned for it. Or if you are HIV+ like me, put to death for it. I cried too.
How can you help? Well watch this video from Kasha in Uganda and help her get the message out. Let others know. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSkethuLI_0