This is not your parents’ religion

In September 2007, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, spoke to an audience at Columbia University. During his speech he said, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country.”

The New York audience laughed. Ahmadinejad’s denial was laughable.

This week, some religious organizations reacted to Dalton McGuinty’s statement to the Ontario Legislature: “We’re going to require that, at every school where students request that this be put in place, they be permitted to organize themselves with a gay-straight alliance.”

In the past, several Catholic school boards have resisted such groups. This week, a Rabbi from a Toronto synagogue reacted this way: “This legislation proposes that children be indoctrinated to reject their parents’ faith and their parents’ family values, and that’s an affront.”

Their denial is laughable.

Homosexuality is. It just is. Hasn’t the denial of it has caused enough damage?

Can we stop discriminating against people for being what they were born to be?

The same major religions that denounce homosexual activity also teach that God is omnipotent and all-powerful, the creator of all. You can’t blame homosexuals in these faiths for being confused. If God created them as homosexual, and homosexuality is wrong, then it would follow that God must have messed up somewhere. There was a glitch on the assembly line.

But wait. God (the Universe, the Source, whatever you choose to call it) creates people. Humanity creates religion. Which of those two entities is more likely to mess up?

Many homosexuals find release and comfort when they embrace this simple idea. God made me, so I am perfect just the way I am. Humanity made religion. Maybe it doesn’t have all the answers.

The next generation of children will belong to a global village.

School education will only be a small part of their life learning. They will connect with people of all faiths. They will meet and love people of different sexual orientations. Their life experiences will show them that the morality of relationships doesn’t rest in gender, but in the love and compassion shared between two people, no matter what form they take.

They will see that, for too many years, major religions put the name of sin on something that is love. They will see homosexual relationships built on deep love and compassion and wonder, “How can that be wrong?”

They will see negative and damaging heterosexual relationships built on intimidation, power struggles and abuse and they will ask, “How can that be right?”

They will grow tired of watching friends die due to gender-based discrimination—whether it be honour killings or homophobia-driven attacks or suicide.

These global village children will know that basic human rights trump religious rights.

The rituals and traditions of religion provide spiritual nurture to people; traditions keep people with their faith. Many Catholics find solace in the beauty and mysticism of their rituals even though they wish that the church would ordain women and allow priests to marry. (The Catholic church demonstrates all to well the dangers of misdirected sexuality.)

But will the next generation continue to be as patient? Will they continue to live with teachings that are an affront to human rights? Perhaps they will reject their faith, as the Rabbi suggested, but it will be because damaging things bear rejecting.

Some religious organizations already get it.

On the wall of my church, there are portraits of every minister that has served since the church began almost 50 years ago. The first several frames feature black-and-white portraits of severe looking males in black robes with white collars. No same-sex marriage for those men. No ordination of homosexuals. Only by-the-book rules.

As the years go by, women appear in the frames. Smiles, too. Suits replace robes on the men. Then there is an ordained homosexual female. We have had homosexual male students and interns bless us with their gifted spirits. I have wept with joy at same-sex marriages performed in our sanctuary. Our church embraces questions and doubts, mysticism and meditation. Our church feeds the spirit without causing the damage. Our church is evolving to life, toward greater compassion for all.

If religions want to survive, they had better start constructive evolution now.

If religions want to survive, they had better start feeding the spirit without causing the damage. Humanity creates religion: we have a responsibility to shape it in a way that respects basic human rights. Let’s start now.

With any luck, the major faiths of our world will evolve so that when the next generations come along, they will say, “I am a person of faith, but this is not my parents’ religion, and that’s a good thing.”

Because we can do better than Iran.

“. . . the Christianity of the future will be mystical, or it will not be at all.”
—Karl Rahner, Catholic theologian
from Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith, by Marcus J. Borg

3 thoughts on “This is not your parents’ religion

  1. Jeannette Monahan

    What you said is so true. My boys are part of the global village. Homosexuality doesn’t even make them blink. They accept, though many others their age still do not. Thanks so much for your eloquent words.


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