By: Lori Heine
RELIGIOUS legalists have been obsessed with sex – and especially with other people’s sex lives – for many hundreds of years. Their attitudes toward Jesus’s mother have demonstrated that obsession quite clearly. I believe the Virgin Birth story in Luke points to the doctrine of Christ’s unique divinity and humanity. Though I believe in the truth of it, and see no constructive or edifying reason why anyone might need to “debunk” it, I don’t see the Virgin Birth, in or of itself, as the point.
Why are legalists so concerned about the sex life of a woman who lived on this earth 2,000 years ago? Is that really showing a reverence for Mary? This obsession with the sexual behavior of other people – living or dead – degrades us. It puts our brains in our shorts. A common lament of social conservatives is that sexual immorality (as they define it) is evil because it degrades us, dragging our minds down from heavenly things into the dirt. Perhaps, when they say that, they should be addressing it to themselves.
The way many anti-gay “moral” crusaders speak to and about gays is degrading not only to gays, but to themselves. When people like Rick Santorum, Ken Cuccinelli or Michele Bachmann say such things about love or marriage, they degrade their spouses and children, as well. They’re revealing their own darkened minds and cold hearts, and laying bare their own warped views of sex, love and commitment.
The Bible makes clear that people ought to treat others as they want to be treated, themselves. This means they should also treat others’ loved ones as they want their own loved ones to be treated. It also says that out of their mouths comes what is in their hearts.
Though these people talk incessantly about the subject of morality, they never really honestly deal with it. The disconnect between their apparent fascination with the subject – at least (and almost solely) where sex is concerned – amounts to what very much looks like a pathology. They want to control the conversation not because of what they do want to discuss, but because of what theydon’t. Every choice is favor of one thing is also a choice against something else. And the behavior of anti-gay Christians has become so glaringly un-Christian that their claim to be concerned about morality rings hollow and pathetically false.
I have a personal devotion to Mary. I firmly believe that she prays for me from Heaven, that she watches over me and that she helps to keep me faithful. I believe that all of those who are trampled underfoot by the powerful are – as her Magnificat very clearly says – especially beloved of God. Which certainly includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, both in and outside of the Christian fold.
Why the obsession, among anti-gay Christians, over whether she remained a virgin all her life? Thus may her compassion and concern for those they trample be ignored. I do believe Mary was a virgin, but I doubt she spends as much time thinking about that as she does about those who need God’s protection, and who cry out to her for help.
Not only do anti-gay Christians keep their brains in their shorts, but their hearts also seem to be stuck there. Thus do they demonize other human beings instead of reaching out to them with God’s love. “But we love the sinner,” they say, “and hate only the sin.” If it were a sin for us to fully live, and to love and be loved as we are best able, then God would hate us. That is a conclusion born not of hysterical hyperbole, as they charge when we reach it, but of honest and inescapable logic.
They may hate us, but God most assuredly does not. Nor do they get to interpret, for us, what it means for God to love us. They go right on trying to, but we won’t let them. Thus do they scream about “religious liberty” – apparently ignorant of the fact that it applies not only to them, but to us.
Pope Francis says it’s time for the heterosexual faithful to shift focus and reach out to us in genuine love – to listen to us, instead of preaching at us. Now those who claimed that the anti-gay pronouncements of his predecessors were “infallible” (and of course they did this, by implication if not by overt assertion) are falling all over themselves to assure us that this pope’s opinions are merely his own. What they really believe, evidently, is that they are infallible.
They believe that they are more loving than God “Himself.” What is becoming apparent is that they are idolaters who worship themselves, and that they would set up a counterfeit to genuine Christian faith. Thus do they want religious freedom only for themselves, and lie by omission by pretending that no other form of faith but theirs exists. In their grand crusade to protect their religious freedom, they certainly seek the power to crush ours.
I will deal with these issues more specifically in other essays. There’s too much here to do justice to it all in one. Suffice it to say that further conversation – and a deeper exploration – is urgently needed now.
We need not be afraid to have a conversation about morality, including sexual morality. Our adversaries are the ones who fear it. Which is all the more reason why we – of all people – must be the ones who insist on having it. The truth is on our side, not theirs. That’s why they shy away from real dialogue and attempt to divert it with lies.
Since the truth is, indeed, on our side, now is the time for us to stand up for it. God is on our side. Mary’s Magnificat makes that abundantly clear:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)