We Are the Mainstream

“There is broad public support for laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how data from the General Social Survey, going back to the 1970s, showed that Americans have grown out of their fear and loathing of the LGBTIQ+ community and that the remaining residue of hating is coming from a minority made up mostly of Fundamentalist Christians.
Today, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report (http://www.prri.org/research/lgbt-transgender-bathroom-discrimination-religious-liberty/ ) that backs my argument. The headline – “Majority of Americans Oppose Transgender Bathroom Restrictions” – shouldn’t deter anyone from reading the report: it’s about much much more than potty paranoia. Here are some of the real takeaways:

• “There is broad public support for laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing. Seven in ten (70%) Americans favor laws that would provide these protections to LGBT people, compared to roughly one-quarter (26%) who oppose such laws. … Majorities of all major religious groups favor nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people. … Even among white evangelical Protestants — the religious group that most strongly opposes same-sex marriage — a majority (56%) support laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.”

• “Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans agree that the bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens is a major problem in our schools.”

• “More than six in ten Americans say gay and lesbian people (61%) and transgender people (64%) face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today. … White evangelical Protestants stand out as the only [religious] group in which less than a majority (46%) believe gay and lesbian people face a lot of discrimination today.”

• “Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs. … White evangelical Protestants (56%) stand out as the only major religious group that favors allowing small business owners to refuse goods or services to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds.”

• “After plateauing in 2015, support for same-sex marriage has accelerated through 2016 and into early 2017. Today, more than six in ten (63%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. As recently as 2013, only slightly more than half (52%) the public backed same-sex marriage nationally. … Same-sex marriage now garners majority support among most religious groups. Roughly two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (66%) and Catholics (68%), and more than eight in ten (84%) religiously unaffiliated Americans and members of non-Christian religious traditions (86%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. In stark contrast, only about one-third (34%) of white evangelical Protestants and roughly half (47%) of black Protestants support same-sex marriage.”

• “A majority (53%) of Americans oppose laws that would require transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth rather than their current gender identity. Nearly four in ten (39%) favor such laws. Notably, nearly one in ten (8%) Americans report no opinion on this issue.”

There’s much more in the report, but I just wanted to highlight these points concerning the real public attitude toward gender identity and sexual orientation amid so many moves in the opposite direction. Those who want to impose their rigid prejudices on the rest of us cannot claim that they do so to serve the public good.

Regina Noctis

O farewell sunshine bright,
Welcome Queen of the Night.

Memory like the glow
of a day long ago
of a child’s lonely play
on a long summer day
Solitary she sings
of impossible things
as she walks through the meadow
all alone with her shadowsummer01
The dark forest is near
It fills her heart with fear
Is there someone in there,
does she feel their eyes stare,
does she hear whisperings
of invisible things?

The shadows grow longer
The breezes blow stronger
The whispers sound clear now
She feels no more fear now
The twilight advancing
makes a girl feel like dancing
The darkening sky
unveils stars shining high
O farewell sunshine bright,
Welcome Queen of the Night.

luna01From the shadows they rise
Moonlight shines in their eyes
Pretty creatures of night
coming out to delight
in each other’s fair faces
and ecstatic embraces
welcoming all who love
the bright queen up above
Now they dance, how they dance,
falling into a trance
where this night lasts forever
and morning will never
put an end to the joys
of untamed girls and boys.hughes_fairies

But the circling moon
knows the sun will rise soon
and the harsh light of day
will chase love far away
And then memory’s glow
will be all we will know
of the long ago night
we danced in the moonlight.

moonbeams-dipping-into-the-sea-evelyn-de-morgan.jpg

No True Christian

This young woman’s parents (and their church) had been preaching to her that God will send all LGBTIQ people to hell, quoting all the usual Bible verses condemning these things.

Quite a few years ago, a transgender teen spoke up at a support group meeting I attended about her problems at home. She was very upset, understandably so. Her parents were part of that minority of Americans I wrote about last time who believe the Bible is “is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.” (Based on the wording of a question (code BIBLE) in the General Social Survey (GSS), a massive long-term, large-scale survey conducted regularly since 1972. (Data available online at http://sda.berkeley.edu/sdaweb/analysis/?dataset=gss14).

This young woman’s parents (and their church) had been preaching to her that God will send all LGBTIQ people to hell, quoting all the usual Bible verses condemning these things. The one that seemed to damn her most definitively for her gender identity was Deuteronomy 22:5: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

The reason she found it so disturbing, she explained, was that she really wanted to be a good Christian, but she was being told that to be a good Christian, she must believe the Bible is literally true, and if the Bible really is literally true, then God must condemn her for wanting to express her deepest feelings about herself.

I found it all pretty upsetting and disturbing, too, but for different reasons. At the time, I had already been studying religion and the history of religion for several years, and I knew that many of the claims that Christian Fundamentalists make about their teachings are simply untrue. And eventually, I told her so.

“You don’t have to believe that,” I said. “Most Christians don’t believe you have to interpret everything in the Bible literally. Many of the greatest thinkers of the early church didn’t believe that – they even taught that taking the Bible literally was just wrong in a lot of cases, and you have to look for the higher, spiritual meaning behind the surface meaning.”

All of which is quite true.

For starters, turning again to the GSS, among respondents to a question about what religion they belong to (code RELIG), only about two out of five people who identify themselves as Christians give the TWOG response (The Word of God) to the BIBLE question I wrote about last time. In other words, TWOGs are a minority not just among Americans but also among American Christians. The largest number, 50 percent, are what I call INSPs (“The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word”) and about 10 percent even give the least Fundamentalist response (“The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by men.”)

Of course, TWOGs/Fundamentalists regularly claim that if you don’t agree with them on this point, you’re not a “real” or a “good” Christian. Besides being an example of the classic “No True Scotsman” fallacy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman ), if this claim were true, it would mean that many eminent church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria, Saint Jerome and even Saint Augustine (beloved by Fundamentalists for formulating the doctrine of original sin) were not “real Christians.”

The real reason Fundamentalists preach Biblical literalism (though they don’t actually practice it consistently) is, I believe, pure authoritarianism and dates to the Reformation: rejecting the authority of the Roman Catholic church and especially the Pope, the Protestants embraced the Bible as the only sure authority for religious belief and practice – but authoritative only if interpreted according to their own teachings.

There are numerous problems with the whole Fundamentalist approach, but one of the most glaring is the fact that the effort to declare the Bible an infallible authority about everything in the universe boils down to another classic logical fallacy, the argument from authority (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority ).

What that boils down to is that it doesn’t matter who makes a statement, you still have to judge whether the statement’s content is true, i.e., corresponds with reality. Alas, in many, many cases, the Bible’s statements do not. Threatening people with eternal damnation for not believing things that don’t make sense isn’t “good Christianity,” it’s just bullying.