Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Religion and Homosexuality

After Watching But I’m a Cheerleader in class yesterday, I began to wonder: How does the role of religion affect gender roles and gender/sexual norms within our society? Although the United States has declared a separation of church and state, the influence of Christianity, and particularly Protestant values, is prevalent within our government, media, and “moral” social norms. Politicians have taken up moral reform as a platform for their campaigns, and issues such as gay rights have become matters of political concern. Do these issues have a place in public policy? From where do the roots of these concerns stem? I think that America’s history of passionate and at times extreme religious sects cannot be separated from our political history. In fact, religion is one of the very reasons for the colonization of this country. Although we have evolved and developed in many ways since colonization, these religious roots are still shaping the lives of many American citizens. Christian religious morals and America's history of strong religious influence have the ability to impact laws ranging from deciding what qualifies as “appropriate” gendered clothing, the limitation and punishment of certain sexual acts outside of the heterosexual norm, and the rights to cohabitation and marriage.


  1. Aquinas argued that people need to be able to see the divine law, so that they can be able to make man's law similar. The divine law qould create the best and most just system. Aquinas argued that unless a person is a christian they cannot see the divine law. Many people make these same arguments today. Politicians who are not christian have there morality called into question. They think that they may not be just. These people are the ones who usually vote in force.
    Many religous peolpe would argue that religion is definately neccesary to create just laws. Look at it this way. MLK used religion to help end Jim Crow and take a huge step towards ending the oppression of Black people. Would you be willing to say that Martin Luther King was wrong to use religion to reform politics. I think religion does play a role in our politics

  2. As a person of faith, I find that my faith definitely influences how I view the world. Similarly, some politicians are people of faith. Often times, it is very difficult to separate the notion of what you believe is right or wrong from your faith. However, I believe that within a country where every person does not have the same faith tradition, it is very important to make sure that laws do not oppress people who do not follow a particular faith tradition. I believe that using religion to "improve" the world is something very different from using religion to oppress people.
    Note, I do notice that improve is a very loaded word. What I consider improvement may not be considered improvement by another person. Therefore, improvement should be measured by the constituents when it comes to creating laws that affect them.

  3. My mother was raised in a strict catholic family. Because of this experience she has not raised our family on catholic principle but rather a spiritual liberality. The few experiences she shares with us are often of the vicious nuns and traumatizing experiences. Yet, the one belief she has maintained is that sexual intercourse before marriage is wrong. My senior advice in high school, “Catherine I would rather you shoot acid in your eyeballs than have sex before marriage.” That seems a bit extreme. I question why this one belief out of an entire faith is what resonates so strongly for her. I think that Viece is correct in the onslaught of media being a catalyst for influences gender roles and developing sexual social norms. The promiscuous society conflicts with our parent’s generation. I understand that not all parents fall into this category but I believe the inability to meet in the middle over gender and sexuality issues often causes children to deviate from their parent’s advice. Awareness on both parties needs to be established for both healthy family situation and political and social standing.

  4. Yes, I don't think the point is to see the influence of religious ideology as wrong or right, but to recognize its power. The specifics are subject to their own criticisms, as Jared suggested. Also mentioned by Jared, though in a separate blog post, Dewey's focus on critical intelligence in recognizing the origins of one's habits pinpoints an ability of humans to consciously alter their behavior in light of provisional ends-in-view. If we choose to accept the denunciations of homosexuals by Megachurch demagogues, we have to recognize ways in which these beliefs will warp our interactions with those around us. I think it was Rhianna that said today, "I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe certain things…" Her religious background necessarily influences her decisions, as none of us is separate from our environment, but whether she chooses to reflect on the individual precepts of those religious ideas transmitted to her in youth (as she obviously does) will have a major impact upon the ways in which she treats the ideas of homosexuality, homophobia, what is "natural," or how inclusive we should be toward homosexual individuals. (I don't want to single out Rhianna, but I think any person professing to be religious should, as many do, reflect upon the potential detriment of accepting the received experience of others as gospel. I'm mostly glad that she made that comment in class.)

  5. Viece, you say "In fact, religion is one of the very reasons for the colonization of this country." I want to point out that it was not so much "religion" as the desire--and need--for religious freedom that was part of the underlying basis for founding this country. Of course once here the colonizers proceeded to convert the Native Americans and consequently subvert their own beliefs with hypocrisy. The practice of pushing the beliefs of the majority onto those in the minority is one of the earliest American traditions, as you suggest.

    Yet many of our "founding fathers"--signers of the Constitution--and 3 or 4 (sources disagree) of the first 5 presidents were not Christian but Unitarian, a tradition that values beliefs of the individual. Christianity was not necessarily one of the founding principles yet you are correct that even 200 years later it has come to control the choices of so many people, many of whom do not adhere to it.

    I personally am not religious, and I wholeheartedly belief in ethics without the influence of the laws of "God" or a god-like figure. What I really don't understand is how it is acceptable in the current time for "Christians" to advocate and enact violence against homosexuals (not necessarily physical violence but exclusionary violence as dictated by laws and policies) when the man they claim to worship was so stoutly against violence in any form. (New Testament scholars feel free to refute this generalization.) I am not aware of any passage in which Jesus speaks negatively about homosexuals.

    *I say Christians because it is the dominant ideology in America, not because I am singling anyone out or excusing or forgetting about the anti-gay policies that may exist in other societies and traditions.

  6. This is a hot topic for me because I consider myself religious or spiritual or whatever you'd like to call it, I am the daughter of an Episcopal priest and he is homosexual. From what I understand, there are actually very few places in the Bible that homosexuality is even mentioned. Honestly, I think it all comes down to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of difference. Religion and politics have become so intertwined it's difficult to see where one ends and the other begins at times. I agree with Ciara that yes, your morals and religion (if you follow one) definitely influence who you become. However I think that respect and understanding or lack thereof is where more conservative sects of religions get so extreme with their beliefs. Because my dad is gay AND a priest, my sister and I had to stay in the proverbial closet with him for over two years and could not tell a soul because if someone in our church were to find out and be upset about it, my father could loose his job and potentially be publically outed to the whole world.

    Fortunately for both my dad and my sister and I, our church was totally ok with him being openly homosexual and only a few families have left our church. (And this actually just happened last month) I can't explain what an incredible weight was lifted off of us! Religion is supposed to, as I understand it, guide you and help you make the 'right' decisions in life. I don't see how pointing fingers or telling others how 'wrong' they are is helpful or something good. Christianity at least is supposed to be about love... so how come so many Christians seem to have so much hate for 'the other?'


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