When “Religion” Is Just Bigotry

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Obama Administration

Conservative Christians live to feel persecuted. It’s what inspires them to get up in the morning.

What would it look like if an objection to same-sex marriage really were purely religious and not bigotry? Let’s take a look —

Did the Dalai Lama Endorse Gay Marriage?

Generally there are no particular prohibitions against homosexuality in Buddhism, and as far as I know only the Tibetans have a canonical text containing such a prohibition, and that text only mentions men. Whether it’s considered to apply to women also, I do not know. As I explain in the article, from the Dalai Lama’s perspective, if a man has received the Precepts and taken vows to uphold them, he would be obligated to not engage in homosexual sex. But other than that, His Holiness doesn’t have a problem with it.

Larry King:What do you think of the whole emerging gay question?

HHDL [His Holiness the Dalai Lama]: That I think is a personal matter. Of course, you see, people who have belief or who have special traditions, then you should follow according to your own tradition. Like Buddhism, there are different kinds of sexual misconduct, so you should follow properly. But then for a non-believer, that is up to them. So there are different forms of sex—so long as it is safe, OK, and if they fully agree, OK. But bullying, abuse, that is wrong. That’s a violation of human rights.”

Larry King: What about same sex marriage?

HHDL: That’s up to the country’s law.

Larry King:What do you think personally about it?

HHDL: That’s OK. I think it’s individual business.  If two people—a couple—really feel that way is more practical, more sort of satisfaction, both sides fully agree, then OK …

Just from a Buddhist doctrinal perspective I disagree with the prohibition on homosexual sex. The only mention of homosexual sex in early scriptures is in the Vinaya, in lists of prohibitions for monastics. But the monastics weren’t supposed to have heterosexual sex, either, so it’s not exactly discrimination. The sexual prohibitions for laypeople are extremely vague and boil down to not causing harm. Over the centuries this has been interpreted to mean following local moral norms, whatever they are, so homosexual sex is discouraged by Buddhism in some parts of Asia, but in other parts nobody cares.

The prohibition against sex for monastics is not about “sin,” but rather is about dropping away distractions from realizing enlightenment. Although you can find the word “sin” in some English translations of Buddhist texts, the concept of “sin” as it is understood in Christianity doesn’t exist in Buddhism.

The point is, though, that His Holiness doesn’t seem to harbor any ill will toward homosexuality. It’s just that he’s obligated to honor a canonical text by a guy named Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), who was a great patriarch of his order. He doesn’t have the authority to override Tsongkhapa unilaterally but must have the agreement of other high lamas to change a canonical rule, so he has a duty to uphold it. This is what it looks like when somebody is honoring a religious rule but is not personally bigoted.

Compare/contrast most conservative Christians, who want to be given the power to dictate terms for everybody. As Sarah Posner wrote of the Duggars, “In their family, they police sex outside of marriage. In politics they police sex between consenting adults, sex between people of the same sex; they are “pure” and “godly” because they police and condemn other people’s sexual lives.”

See also what happened during a recent “panel discussion” on Fox News:

Sean Hannity began by playing a clip of Marco Rubio’s recent remarks that “we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech.” He then asked American Atheists President David Silverman if there was any truth to that.

“There’s nobody out there trying to get Christian preachers to marry people against their will,” he replied. “What this is really about is bigotry, and you and I can both agree that bigotry is wrong, bigotry is ugly, and bigotry is stupid.” After a moment of what was, for Hannity, unsatisfying cross-talk, the host turned to Pastor Robert Jeffress.

“If a priest does not want to marry a gay or lesbian couple because they’re following their religious belief, is Senator Rubio right?” he asked. “Are we at the water’s edge?”

Not surprisingly, Pastor Jeffress said Rubio “is absolutely correct,” and proceeded to rattle off what he called a “fact” — an interaction at last month’s Supreme Court hearing about same-sex marriage. Jeffress claimed that U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s answer to Justice Samuel Alito’s question about the legal difficulties that states with same-sex marriage bans might face if the Court deems such bans unconstitutional proves that “the Obama administration is sending us a signal that they are going to come after those who believe in traditional marriage.”

That it does no such thing — it being an answer to a question during oral arguments at the Supreme Court — went unchallenged, as Hannity allowed Jeffress to continue to talk over Silverman before passing the conversation to Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, who began by noting that he “completely agrees with Senator Marco Rubio.”

“The moment in our nation when biblical truth becomes hate speech,” he said, “America as we know it will cease to exist.” He compared the “legislative persecution” of Christians in America to the executions of Christians by ISIS, claiming that the former “always” proceeds the latter. “Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity!” he said.

Such over-the-top hysteria doesn’t come from a reasoned, devotional observance of scripture. It comes from fear and bigotry. It also strikes me as a violation of the Commandment against “bearing false witness.” The most conservative Christians will throw “God’s law” under the bus every time when their own biases are on the line (a point I address in The Book).

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8 Comments

  1. grannyeagle  •  May 29, 2015 @10:05 am

    “The moment in our nation when biblical truth becomes hate speech, America AS WE KNOW IT will cease to exist.” Hooray!!!!!!! It’s time for a change.

  2. Tom_b  •  May 29, 2015 @10:39 am

    Next thing, the GOP will propose separate drinking fountains for gays. And then not build them, because that would be spending government money to build infrastructure.

  3. c u n d gulag  •  May 29, 2015 @10:44 am

    JAYZOOOOOOOOOOOOOS!!!
    No one is, or will ever be, forcing ministers and/or priests to marry gay couples!

    Only if the church allows gays to get married, will a minister/priest ever have to marry a gay couple.

    I’m old enough to remember that, even a decade after Loving v. Virginia – which prohibited any bans on inter-racial marriages – “Christians” were still whining about how inter-racial marriages are against “God’s Law.”

    Why?
    I don’t specifically know. But, my guess is Leviticus – AGAIN!
    ‘Keep my decrees. “‘Do not mate different kinds of animals. “‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. “‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”

    So, I guess maybe they looked at black people as either animals, seeds, or articles of clothing, that shouldn’t be mixed with the pure Aryan race.

    Ah, the victimhood!
    It… It smells like… Victory!

    Rubio’s an ass with an empty-suit, and an even emptier head and heart.

  4. goatherd  •  May 29, 2015 @3:09 pm

    It really is hard to escape the fact that they are soiling their own brand and as hard to believe that they don’t realize it. For some inexplicable reason, the “mainstream Christian belief” that we hear the most about is the belief that we hear the most about always seems to be that homosexuality is an abomination. The rest seem to be lost in the political shuffle.

    If I remember correctly, there is some contention that, aside from Leviticus, the objection was that in some rival religions, priests sometime dressed as women, and the patriarchs certainly had to nip that one in the bud!

    Still, as Hercule Poirot would say, “il y a quelque chose qui cloche.” Aside form the political advantages of using hyperbole and assigning victim hood, there really is something about self reflection that makes many fundamentalists uncomfortable. But, then it is difficult to come up with a sound argument that denying a class of people equal protection under the law is no worse than running the risk of being labeled a bigot.

  5. maha  •  May 29, 2015 @5:41 pm

    Something else I wrote in The Book:

    When you understand that much of “morality” is about rudimentary emotions and biases, you might also understand why conservative and dogmatic religions of all persuasion tend to get hung up on sex and on keeping women under control, often going way outside the teachings of revered founders as they do this.

    For example — going by the Gospels, Jesus said very little about sex and nothing at all about homosexuality, abortion, or birth control. And we know that there was homosexual sex, abortion, and attempts at birth control going on in his time, and he must have been aware of these things. But it appears he didn’t bother to address them.
    Instead, he went on and on about loving God and everybody else, including your enemies. He was also big on feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and visiting prisoners. The episode with the money changers in the Temple suggests he was not keen on people trying to make themselves wealthy on other peoples’ piety. For a man of his time and culture he was extraordinarily courteous to women, sometimes speaking to them in public (which was a tad scandalous, I’m told) and telling Martha that Mary didn’t have to go to the kitchen to make coffee and sandwiches if she’d rather listen to his sermon.

    Flash forward to today’s right-wing Christianity. See the difference? Do I really have to point it out to you?

  6. goatherd  •  May 29, 2015 @3:12 pm

    Sorry guys, I haven’t used this IPad in a while and I accidentally submitted the comment before completing it or, obviously proofreading it.

    Greetings from ‘Frisco.

  7. Dukkha Earl  •  May 29, 2015 @4:34 pm

    @cundgulag

    Here’s a juicy bit of god-wisdom from a Commonwealth of Virginia criminal miscegenation case (later overturned by the SCOTUS in the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia):

    Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

  8. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jun 1, 2015 @1:53 pm

    Goatherd, I reckon they have to risk damaging their “brand” because they’re not trying to help Christianity be a force for good, but using it as a source of power. And that its power is waning is what most excites (and scares) the followers. Time was, gay marriage would be crushed by Christian Opposition, and now, it’s rolling over it.

    They face a choice. They can change by viewing the world as it is, not as it was back in the day, and realize that there’s a great deal of good they can do, or, they can suck the last remaining drops of power from the veins as long as they can gain benefit from doing so. Which do they choose? Well, remember they’re allies of the fossil fuel industry.

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