Traditional scripture readings sometimes nudge your mind beyond traditional interpretations. Hubby and I began our Sunday with Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS; a favorite weekly show. Today, there was a report from Africa called Gay Rights in Uganda. Two hours later, I sat in church and listened to a well-known reading from Genesis. God spoke to Noah after the flood,
This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9: 12-13)
Who doesn’t love a rainbow? From Rainbow Brite dolls and Care Bears, to Lucky Charms cereal, rainbows are marketed to children as symbols of happiness and hope. A rainbow after a storm makes every one stop and marvel at its beauty. A double rainbow graced the sky on the way to our honeymoon, and again during our 25th wedding anniversary celebration. We took it as a sign not only of God’s love, but as a blessing on our own covenant.
Today, the rainbow has also become a universal symbol for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) rights. It’s a perfect symbol for promoting a world where diversity can be accepted; where equality and diversity can walk hand in hand.
Uganda attained international notoriety in 2009 for proposing an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that not only outlawed homosexuality, but allowed for the death sentence in cases of “aggravated homosexuality”. The PBS report shows how this deeply entrenched intolerance is rooted in and rationalized by references to scripture and fiery evangelical sermons.
Uganda might be a poster-child for extreme homophobia, but we are far from innocent here in North America. For example, to the south of us, Rick Santorum proudly confesses his anti-homosexual beliefs as part and parcel of his Catholic faith. He, and others of his ilk, believes that this makes him a “good Catholic”. He continues to push the culture war agenda, siding with religious and political conservatives in the hopes of garnering their vote. But doesn’t everyone have a right to their beliefs, and a right to share those beliefs?
Tell people often enough, and in harsh enough language, that homosexuality is evil and a sin then the need for understanding and compassion is removed. Couch religious beliefs in battle terminology of good vs. evil, then you can expect judgmental extremism. You can expect hatred. You can expect persecution meted out in the name of religion. You can expect cruel bullying in schools and work places. You can expect suicides from those who feel they can no longer live in a world that doesn’t accept them as they are.
We are blessed with dear friends who are actively part of the GLBT community. They refuse to believe that being a gay Catholic is an oxymoron. As faith-filled women and men, they refuse to live a secretive existence and refuse to be pushed out of the church they love. They work to promote an open, welcoming, inclusive, truly catholic church, for this is a social justice issue; following in the footsteps of Jesus who welcomed all around his table.
Uganda forces us to open our eyes to the evils of intolerance. Being a gay Catholic or supporting gay Catholic rights is not an oxymoron. Being a Catholic or Christian homophobe is.