It irritates me to no end that headlines keep framing the Indiana flap as gays versus Christians or the “secular left” versus religion. It is no such thing.
A number of religious groups, including Christian ones, have spoken out in opposition of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law and call it plain old bigotry. Â Here’s a roundup. I’d already mentioned theÂ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Indiana Episcopal diocese, and other denominations speaking out in support of equal treatment for LGBT people include the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church USA, and theÂ Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. I’m betting the BJCRL doesn’t include Southern Baptists, but still … also the Unitarian Universalists, theÂ Sikh Coalition, theÂ Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and theÂ Central Conference of American Rabbis.
The dichotomy we’re seeing is a faction of hyper-reactionary religionists — some of whom are about as genuinely religious as the Las Vegas strip — versus everybody else. Let’s keep that straight.
Frank Bruni says a true thing that the religionistas are not ready to hear:
… homosexuality and Christianity donâ€™t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.
That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatredâ€™s pull as of traditionâ€™s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries arenâ€™t easily shaken.
But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. Itâ€™s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since â€” as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing.
It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras.
It ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable.
And it elevates unthinking obeisance above intelligent observance, above the evidence in front of you, because to look honestly at gay, lesbian and bisexual people is to see that weâ€™re the same magnificent riddles as everyone else: no more or less flawed, no more or less dignified. …
… So our debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they neednâ€™t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as theyâ€™ve jettisoned other aspects of their faithâ€™s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.
Bruni goes on to make some of the same points I made in The Book (Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World), in particular that even among “Bible believers” ideas about what is sinful and what isn’t have changed over the years. Polygamy used to be okay, until it wasn’t. Just 150 years ago southern white preachers defended slavery as not only sanctioned by the Bible but a benefit to the Africans who were sold into the West and made Christian. And so on.
The truth is, the moral views expressed in Iron Age scripture reflect Iron Age culture. Humankind has moved on. If the biblical literalists can’t accept that, they are free to run their own churches any way they like. But unless they want to be like the Mennonites and form their own enclosed communities, they need to adjust.