Sunday, May 27, 2007

Adam and Steve

For the second year running, violence has marred the Moscow gay-pride parade. Riot police apparently stood by and failed to intervene while marchers were attacked by hooligans shouting slogans such as "Moscow is not Sodom" and "homosexuality is satanic". (The religious allusions are a nice touch here -- what better way can there be to defend your faith than to wade into a crowd of strangers who have done you no harm and start beating the crap out of them? That'll show Satan who's boss!)

The reaction to this parade was particularly severe because it was taking place in Russia, a country currently in the midst of a general regression to barbarism. But we don't have to look too far from home, unfortunately, to find more examples of this kind of mindless ignorance, even if they are more refined in their expression here than elsewhere. This morning I attended a Catholic church service at the chapel of a well-regarded Canadian university, about an hour's drive from my home. A young priest visiting from the U.S. delivered the homily, during which he denounced homosexuality (along with various other modern phenomena) as "evil"; this prompted some of the students present to walk out in protest, but also led to vigorous nodding and murmured "amens" from the older and discernably more rural people in the front rows.

Naturally, I don't expect any priest to differ from the doctrines of his church. But even from a Catholic perspective this one could have treated the matter with more consideration. The modern Vatican position is that homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered" in its nature but not something that is freely chosen, since God in his mysterious wisdom apparently creates some people with a same-sex attraction that they are not permitted to act upon; in other words, it is not a sin to be gay, but only to commit homosexual acts. By obscuring the Church's own distinction between action and orientation with the blanket term "evil", the priest was at the very least being deeply uncharitable to any gay people unfortunate enough to have found themselves in attendance.

In any event, I find it all depressing beyond measure. Surely we should know by now that homosexuality has appeared in every part of the world, even in those places where it is dangerous or even fatal to be gay; that it has appeared in every recorded era of history; and that it even occurs among animals, who according to theologians lack the capacity for moral choice. Perhaps there is a semantic confusion between something that is statistically abnormal and something that is morally so. I have no idea. I don't understand the apparently desperate need of many Christians to vilify people who they have never met and who pose no threat to them whatsoever, on the basis of what has been written in an erratic and highly fallible two-thousand-year-old book. I just don't get it, and on days like today I can't help but wonder if I am simply too kind to be religious.

No comments: