“People of different faiths — or no faith — and those political objectives will seek to use the preacher not only to advance their agendas, but to get him to compromise his, which is primarily sharing a message not of this world. “Secretly recorded conversations between Graham and President Richard Nixon expose some of the dangers in such relationships. Graham told Nixon he thought the president should bomb the dikes in North Vietnam to help bring the war to an end. “In an embarrassing recording from early 1972, for which Graham later profusely apologized, the evangelist is heard volunteering to Nixon that the Jewish ‘stranglehold’ on the media ‘has got to be broken or this country’s going down the drain.’ “You believe that? asks Nixon. “Yes, sir,” replied Graham. “Oh boy,” said Nixon, “So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.” “If you get elected a second time,” said Graham, “then we might be able to do something.” [Taken from “The Politics of Prayer”, by Cal Thomas, in the Salt Lake City Tribune.]
Here, Cal Thomas highlights the dangers of religious figures seeking to cozy up to the President of the U.S.! Although Thomas does not deal with this dimension of the issue he raises, it does indicate that clergy are given a moral credibility and authority in the U.S. that may well not be deserved. Indeed, to not become somewhat enmeshed with religion in the U.S. might well disqualify a candidate for even being considered a candidate for President of the U.S. (All too often, people fail to recognize that we are under the Constitution of the U.S., and not under the Bible as interpreted by a given group of clergy and others who seek to impose their view of the Bible onto the rest of us.) So, we see Presidents going to church each Sunday, for to not go to church or, even worse, to be an avowed non-religious person, or an avowed atheist, is to somehow connote in the minds of most Americans a moral lapse that would make it virtually impossible for that person to be taken seriously as a viable Presidential contender. Why we even have prayers at Presidential inaugurations is a question best left for another article. However, it is not only Presidents of the U.S. who may well succumb to the need to at the very least attend church and profess some level of religiosity, but most people in the U.S. give undue credence and yield moral authority to clergy who, in reality, are no closer to God than any other person who puts God first in his or her life. As the Apostle Peter said: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34) Even despite its many sexual scandals, perhaps no one is given more respect, spiritual credibility, and moral authority, than the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It is noteworthy to realize that no Pope has an audience with any President. Rather, the President has an audience with the Pope. Hence, although it is despicable when any clergy person engages in hateful rhetoric against any group, calling members of that group “disordered,” and acting in ways that they think is “against nature,” when the Pope does it, his words reverberate around the world, and affect Roman Catholics and non-Roman Catholics everywhere, as well as those who profess to having no religious affiliation. Indeed, even atheists can’t help but be affected.
I’m sure you can imagine how it must feel to be a Gay person and have the self-defined “vicar of Christ” tell one and all that you are disordered! And I’m sure you can imagine the guilt and the self-loathing endured by so many Gay people due to those ignorant and hateful words uttered by a Pope (or any other clergy) against them! And I’m sure you can also imagine the suicides, the assaults, and the murders visited upon LGBT people because of such hateful words!
The Roman Catholic Church, except under the Pontificate of Pope John XXlll, has always been “conservative,” but under Pope John Paul ll and this Pope, Pope Benedict XVl, it has become downright Reactionary, focusing on sexuality largely in order to deflect the public’s attention from its own ephebophilia scandals. The Pope has ridden this horse of diversion by saying that even celibate gay men should be barred from seminaries “… because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder that detracts from their ability to serve as ministers.” (WorldNetDaily, September 19, 2005) And this tactic of diversion has worked! People take this Pope’s sexually ignorant pronouncements seriously enough so that he is able to exert a great degree of moral authority over Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and shift their revulsion from assorted Bishops and Priests in the RC Church where their revulsion rightly belongs to LGBT people who have provided the fodder for his cannon of hate. And we are to make no mistake: despite and behind all the sanctimonious rhetoric and convoluted rationalizations given, the basic animus behind religious and other homophobia is naked hatred, and even fear among those who are significantly insecure in their own sexuality to the point that they consider Gay people to be some sort of “error,” affirming that God makes mistakes! Very few things could be more heretical than calling an “error” anything that God has created! Regarding the Pope: Here we have a man wearing a dress, wearing Prada shoes, who is supposedly celibate, lecturing us on love and sex; lecturing us on what God wants for all people. So, the Pope is demeaning a part of God’s creation by claiming God to have made “errors” in creating LGBT people; telling us that he knows what God’s creation is to consist of, and how we all are to perform our gender roles and express our sexualities. I call that the height of chutzpa! So many clergy in the institutional Church, and certainly the Pope, are terrorists of the mind in that they largely cause the deaths and destruction of countless numbers of LGBT people by ignorantly proclaiming that they know what God wants for each and every person; use the Bible as a weapon to impose their prejudices on the rest of us; by continuously reinforcing the lie that Gay people are inimical to having a Godly life and human environment, they have had many people, including many, if not most, LGBT people, believing that lie. Remember Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, said that no matter how big the lie, if it is repeated often enough, people will come to believe it. And he was right! By clergy such as the Pope equating their ignorant, one dimensional views of sexuality and gender roles with what they consider to be in accordance with “nature,” they have caused untold damage to LGBT people and their families; created lives lived in furtiveness and loneliness; fracturing families; helped to consign many LGBT people into ghettoized subcultures where they are forced to live as second-class citizens, despised members of an “out group,” viewed as a danger to marriage, a danger to children, a danger to the traditional family, and a danger to society itself. And to add insult to injury, so many otherwise intelligent people actually believe these lies! It must always be remembered that even if one is sincere, and not all of them are, he or she can be sincerely wrong! We are to never defer to mere claims of moral or any other authority, but we must demand empirical verification of any claims made by anyone, clergy or not! We are to never let other people define our realities for us or put us into bondage to their ways of thinking. We must never blindly defer to the utterances and prejudices of another, be he/she clergy or not, without he/she providing compelling empirical evidence supporting those claims. We never hear clergy condemn people who get divorced; we never hear clergy advocate stoning to death adulterers or those who work on the Sabbath; we never hear clergy condemn supermarkets for selling shell fish; we never hear clergy advocating bringing back the institution of slavery in the U.S.; we never hear clergy condemning clothing stores that sell items containing mixed fibers. All of these prohibitions are in the Bible! So why not condemn these practices instead of focusing on one item that the Bible very rarely deals with, if it deals with it at all? (As I’ve written elsewhere, the Bible does not deal with homosexuality as we currently understand the term. See, for example, my article, “Why Every Church Must Be Open And Affirming,” in the January/February 2008 edition of “Whosoever.”) Yet, “sex” sells all sorts of products in the media; it also sells in religious institutions, and helps the participants feel morally superior, and it helps bring the money in, as it does provide material for fiery sermons that emotionally heighten the adrenaline rush that comes from both railing against Gay people as well as hearing about what is erroneously viewed as the sin of others. Indeed, sex is so powerful a topic, that it sells itself! So, it’s easy to single out as a target a sexual minority group as “sinners” who are viewed as a threat to “our way of life.” If we blindly defer to clergy, or anyone else for that matter, to tell us what to think, and what is “normal” and what is “abnormal,” we are listening to terrorists of the mind! And these terrorists have done incalculable damage to LGBT people and their families, largely due to the fact that all too many people have blindly believed their sexually ignorant pronouncements merely because they claim moral authority and have the trappings and presentation of self that denote a level of sanctity that appears, albeit all too often falsely, to justify that claim. And, to top it off, regarding Roman Catholic clergy, when an alleged celibate person dares to lecture us on love and sex, and we blindly believe what he says, be we Gay or Straight, we show a high degree of gullibility; when we blindly listen to homophobic clergy of any denomination, we are also de facto victims of terrorism, and we must never forget that fact!
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.