Church to gays: “Go to hell.” Amiel to church: “Go to jail.”
Self-hatred is a lifelong prison sentence. I know. I keep trying to make a jailbreak. My church upbringing, my family, my college—all these and more taught me to loathe myself. Since coming out as a gay man in mid-life, I have involved myself in the long process of healing from these early messages.
Fine for a church, a religious system, an religious-affiliated academic institution to preach. I expect it of them. I honor their right to free speech. But it doesn’t necessarily mean what they say is accurate. Doesn’t necessarily follow that what they’re promoting is even Christian. It’s no news that organized religion often promulgates attitudes and actions that make lgbt people out to be less-than, unacceptable, and immoral simply Go Premiumfor being who they are.
The effects can be devastating.
Jesus himself is quoted as saying, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” It’s not a new idea (what is?), but a time-honored way of testing the truth and utility of a teaching, a word of advice or system of thought.
Sogoyewapha, also known as Red Jacket, famed orator of the Seneca, made this same point is an 1805 speech in which I hear echoes of church efforts to “reach out” to lgbt people:
You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind; and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? . . .
Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.
Yeah, well. You tell me how well that worked out. Think the preaching and sermonizing really made the people more kind, honest, accepting, respectful, more Christian?
The Swiss-born philosopher, academic and poet Henri Amiel put it this way:
The test of every religious, political, or educational system, is the [person] which it forms. If a system injures the intelligence it is bad. If it injures the character it is vicious. If it injures the conscience it is criminal.
Seems to me a whole lot of erstwhile Christian institutions would be liable for criminal behavior under Amiel’s definition.
photo credit: Jason Nahrung, flickr