In the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community today, we sense, increasingly, that we have lost our way. We feel less of a sense of unity with one another. We bicker not only over big issues, but about matters we ourselves sense, with nagging frustration, are nit-pickingly petty. Even as we continue to be cartoonishly stereotyped by our larger society, we realize what a diverse group we are. But instead of glorying in this diversity, taking the sort of pride in it for which our festivals are named, we are letting it divide us — while our adversaries seek, with a vicious vengeance, to conquer us.
There are members of the GLBT community at all points on the political spectrum. But whatever our personal politics may be, our fight for equal rights stems from the progressive movement. Which itself, without question, sprang from Judeo-Christian roots. Over the past century and a half, liberal progressivism has become increasingly secular. This has happened mainly because of the way conservatives have taken control of organized religion.
Not too long ago, progressivism’s spiritual basis was better-recognized than it is now. Which is why social-Darwinist conservatives, like H.L. Mencken and Ayn Rand, were blatantly and defiantly atheistic. They hated everything having to do with religion, knowing all too well that our tradition abhorred everything about their cynical, “dog-eat-dog,” human beings-as-farm animals philosophy.
The Mencken-Rand brand of conservatism believes people must be “useful” to the overall society if they are to deserve to live. Those who are weak, or just plain “different,” are misfits who, according to this view, have no inherent rights, no intrinsic value, and must — for the sake of the larger society’s strength and vigor — be allowed to die off. In the last century, we saw the most horrible fulfillment of this philosophy in the Nazi’s near-conquest of the world. Which showed that when the “misfits” refuse to conveniently die off, some of social Darwinism’s most ardent advocates are willing to speed the process along.
In that time of crisis, Christians and Jews stood opposed to such inhumanity. Not only because the millennia-old tradition they share condemns it, but because (especially in the case of the Jews) it threatened their very existence. Which is why people of traditional faith were themselves seen, by the Nazis, as liabilities — among the “weak” who had to be eliminated. This attitude accounts, as well, for the hostility with which American social Darwinists regard religious people — albeit in a somewhat milder form.
In recent years, however, American conservatives have bought into this “Survival of the Fittest” mentality, and in an increasingly big way. Their opposition to gay rights (aside from the “religious” reasons they so often give for it) stems largely from the fact that same-sex-oriented people fail to fit into a neat scheme in which human coupling can be controlled and regulated for breeding purposes. We are concerned with deeper matters than that, and we see love — rather than pragmatic rules and regulations — as primary. We insist that human beings be valued as more than mere livestock to be bred and rigidly regimented.
Many of us do not realize that we owe these deeper concerns to the Judeo-Christian tradition. We have become so alienated from that tradition (as it has been twisted against us) that we don’t see the connection. Even those of us who are religious often fail to recognize it. And this works, very sadly, to our detriment.
The reason for our confusion is that the Right Wing claims for itself not only social Darwinism, but traditional religion. They fail to see the contradiction. And because they don’t see it, few others do either. The only bright spot — our sole hope — is that a precious few liberal Christians do understand this inconsistency. And in the great, progressive tradition that brought an end to slavery, won women the vote and stopped the Vietnam War, they are beginning to speak out against it.
Unfortunately, many other liberal Christians now seem concerned with little more than their own comfort and self-satisfaction. This malady, in fact, seems to have overtaken the Left in general. Liberals who are Christian seem content to let their secular counterparts call the shots. In many progressive churches, the Gospel now seems to have been reduced to a call to vote Democratic. While secular liberals have largely allowed their contempt for the Right Wing to degenerate into an ugly prejudice against all traditional religion — failing to realize how gullibly this surrenders to the conservative’s claim that they “own” religious faith.
What is often not recognized is that throughout history, the powers-that-be have always hijacked their society’s predominant religion to use toward their ends. Religious faith is the most powerful motivating factor in human life. Indeed, what better way for those who wish to manipulate us to keep us all under their control? But Jesus Christ stood up against The System and its tyrannizing, spirit-crushing force. His Gospel is about liberation and equality for all — and though this true tradition has been sublimated by every political power to come down the pike, it still shines through.
Just as liberal churches play the harlot to secular progressivism, selling out their very mission to interests that are sometimes at odds with the Gospel, conservative churches are busy transacting the same sort of sell-out on the Right. At least (in a watered-down form), progressivism attempts to keep some Gospel ideals alive. The Right, however, in its current swoon over social Darwinism, has abandoned nearly everything Jesus taught. It is conservatism, as it now exists in this country that is antithetical to the true Judeo-Christian tradition. At some, deep level, I think this twinges the conscience of many Right-Wingers, which explains the very death-grip they keep on religion — insisting that they alone hold the copyright to it. (“Methinks,” to paraphrase Shakespeare, “they doth protest too much!”)
What are we to make, for instance, of the peculiar paradox that the very crowd that loudly opposes the teaching of biological Darwinism in the schools is so enamored of Darwinism in every area of modern life? Oh, we all know the claims they make to attempt an explanation. The teaching of evolution, we are told, will urge impressionable young people to believe that because we descended from “mere” animals, we must behave like beasts. But in reality, evolution teaches the very opposite: that since we have risen so far above the amoeba and the ape, we have a moral obligation to act more like humans — whatever that might mean — than like amoebas or apes. And, all their vehement clamor to the contrary, this is exactly why Right-Wingers don’t like it.
These are the folks who want us to think that we must behave like jungle animals, and be “tamed” to serve as farm livestock, because, after all, “that is the way God made us.” The Almighty just went “zap” and there were Adam and Eve (not Adam and Steve) — like figures of divine “claymation.” Thus we are excused from any sense of higher human responsibility. Men “must” be selfish, violent and jealously territorial, women must be submissive, children must be mindlessly obedient, and homosexuals must all conveniently disappear. It is a matter of supreme inconvenience to these people that Christ called us to a standard so much higher, it makes nonsense of such claims — but, if possible, maybe they can keep up enough of a racket against scapegoats like same-sex love to distract us from all that.
The problem with secular progressivism is that, cut away from its Judeo-Christian roots, it cannot effectively fight this social-Darwinist onslaught. When we forget that the call to progressive action was issued by none other than Jesus Christ, we begin to lose our way. Secular liberal progressivism will inevitably degenerate into a passive, pragmatic acceptance of social Darwinism — and the Right Wing will strangle the life out of Christian energy to answer Christ’s true call — unless we’re able to find out way back home. It is scary to see how close to this nightmare scenario we have already come. And for nobody would this spell greater disaster than for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender populace.
Taking the lead
Liberal Christian and GLBT churches must stop trying to appease secular liberals. We must realize that there is — by necessity — a huge distinction between Judeo-Christian progressivism and its secular offshoot. Christians must once again take the lead in the progressive movement by leading it back to its religious roots. We must no longer be content merely to follow. For, separated from those roots, progressivism — in all its manifestations, causes and concerns — will continue to wither and will eventually die. God must have a keen sense of irony — as “He” has given those of us who are sexual minorities the greatest need for reconciliation with the very force so many use against us.
Far from being our enemy, the church has the potential to be oppressed people’s greatest ally. Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. realized this, and the civil rights movement used this realization to transform society, so, too, can we. The powers-that-be hope that we don’t learn enough about history to understand that the very Bible that liberated African-Americans from slavery was the one that, for centuries, was used against them. Think how it would transform the thinking of many in our world — black and white, gay and straight, Right and Left — if we were to realize that the same con-game is being perpetrated against us all today!
Those of us in the GLBT Christian community must educate others to this necessity — both in the Christian and the GLBT worlds. We — and we alone — hold the key to bridging that crucial divide. The other forms of religion to which many in our community are drawn — paganism and the Eastern religions, for example — cannot really connect with or motivate very many of the people in our culture. Especially not those most inclined to oppress us. It is critical that we fight for our own stake in our common, Judeo-Christian social heritage, for that is our birthright, just as much as it is anyone else’s.
God, as the saying goes, “doesn’t make junk.” God made each and every one of us for a purpose, often known to “His” mysterious wisdom alone. Despite what our enemies so often tell us, we are not “mistakes.” As we find our way home to our spiritual center, we will be able to lead others back to healing and wholeness with us.
Could it be that this is exactly what God has in mind?
A self-described “Libertarian Episcopalian lesbian,” freelance writer and the author of Good Clowns, a young adult novel published in 2018, Lori Heine published a blog called Born on 9-11 and was a frequent contributor to the website Liberty Unbound. A native of Phoenix, Ariz., she graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1988 and spent much of her life in the insurance industry before turning full-time to writing as a freelancer, blogger and author.