Priest & Imam United In Hate

imagePriest John Dickson, Islamic Cleric Sheik Farrokh Sekaleshfar, you preach the same hate.

It would be very easy to write this piece motivated by the kaleidoscope of feelings and emotions that many of us have felt over the last week. It would be easy to vent my rage at the religion I believe inspired this targeted attack on our LBGTI community. I could further vent my rage at Christian clergy and general haters who have delighted and celebrated “God’s wrath being visited on the Queers”.

One strong feeling I have felt, as have many others I have spoken to, has been, is it possible to really be part of the community? We have in the past hidden ourselves and dressed in the veneer of social normality to avoid vilification. We built walls around our nightclubs and safe places to shield us from the scorn and disapproval of the straight majority.

What straight people often see as a sex fuelled space, we see as a place to remove the pretence society demands of us to protect its heteronormative sensibilities. It’s fundamentally a safe place to be ourselves while trying to create a mood, a mood that provides some relief. It’s a place free of straight judgment and social restraint. It’s our place where we are the majority even if it’s just for a Saturday night.

On Facebook I have to admit to thinking out a loud this week, and better than to paraphrase I will repeat it here.

“Although I am not talking about straight people with your character it also makes me wonder as a gay person am I really fully part of the community when people want to do this to us. Why am I hated for my nature? Why is it so hard just to be and have equality? How much damage the plebiscite will do. Sorry having a day of mixed emotions.”

This reply came from someone I have never met personally but value due to our Facebook interactions and our mutual struggle against Religious Instruction in State Schools.

“A lot of people have got your back Stephen, and those of the rest of the LGBTQI community. Don’t let the noisy minority make you think they outnumber the supporters of equality. I don’t pretend to understand what you’re feeling, but I hope you can find a way to focus on that rather than the bigots.”

I replied with this:

“I hope it doesn’t sound self indulgent. I was angry earlier but now more reflective. It wasn’t one of my friends killed and compared to the families of the victims…. well.. it must be hell. You know I value you personally as I do many here. I am really highlighting here that ideas and dogma fuelled by religious authority have consequences.”

This exchange really qualifies for me the two main points that should be highlighted after this rollercoaster week of emotion and distress. Firstly that we ARE part of the community! We contribute far in excess of our numbers and now, unlike when I was young we have more allies than detractors. The last poll on ME would suggest 70% of the community are our allies. Our allies include people like Daniel Andrews the Premier of Victoria who I think rates a special mention. Its mothers like Shelley Argent and all the other Australians who have taken time to get to know us and consider us friends.

The next issue is one that needs to be addressed, and I think this battle is going to take a sustained effort to prevail. To quote Catholic Bishop Robert Lynch

“Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.”

It’s the undeniable truth, religion is the greatest source of homophobia and it has very real consequences.

In another Facebook discussion with a Christian friend I expressed my thoughts about this. Again I will not paraphrase.

“You need to know I am not attacking you personally. I am having a day of mixed emotions and trying to Socratic-ly think this through. It’s hard to not be affected by the “legion” of hate and satisfaction expressed by AU and US evangelicals and Islamist’s.

How can these people who say “Jesus is Love” suffer from such a basic and obvious cognitive dissidence? This is a result of all the Gays are dirty, disgusting, groom children and other more sedate but insidious slander you read on a FB page like (Anglican Priest John) Dickson’s.

In the Anglican Priest John Dickson’s book designed for Scripture or Religious Instruction in State Schools and having been in use for over a decade, “The Sex Factor: is sex more like a Porsche than a Datsun?” he states

“Then there’s Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Surely if anyone knows how to bring sex to the masses it’s these guys and gals. It’s the largest annual ‘cultural’ event in Australia, and it’s all about sex. There’s groovy music, bright costumes, risqué choreography, and a message that booms out loud and clear to the whole country-sex is about the freedom to do and be whatever you want!”

He goes on to say the Mardis Gras is “promoting sexual selfishness, triviality and unfaithfulness” or what he really means is sin! He further gives the analogy that women with a sexual history in particular and gay people by default are like an old Datsun he doesn’t mind lending out to friends, used and dented, whereas a virgin he equates to a European sports car he will not lend out. Look at his statement here,

“The media ‘sexperts’ can fool us into believing a Datsun view of sex. Lend it out. It’s not that special. But in God’s eyes, sex is more like a Porsche. It is valuable.”

The real kicker for me is after slandering our community, he wants to be seen organising a grandiose memorial service in Sydney, complete with Prime Minister and Right Wing Fundamentalist Sydney Anglican Archbishop Davies in what I can only see as an act of cynical self promotion. After all this is very faction of the Anglican church and its priests were as little as 15 years ago recommending gay reparative therapy to parishioners, which has since been outlawed in some US states due to the harm it causes.

Then we get the likes of Sheik Farrokh Sekaleshfar, which we are so angry about we send him packing from the country for his views. He states because homosexuality is a sin, “If judges were sentencing a man to death for that reason it would be an act of love” and according to his logic, if his world view was correct he is right. He states:

“We love you like any other person and (the death sentence) is in your own best interests.” (By killing you) “you will sin less and in the next life not be accountable.” And “how fortunate you would be to be in the here-after…. We saved you”.

Just remember the bible instructs gay people to be killed too.

“Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Don’t think this sick logic just exists in the Islamic scriptures.

I have to ask at this point why our Prime Minister who said: “I can say to you we have zero tolerance for people to come to Australia who preach hatred. Zero tolerance”, why this ‘Zero tolerance’ not applied to Eric Metaxas and Dr Jeffery J Ventrella from the Alliance Defending Freedom, Blackstone Legal Fellowship, who have a hand in the “Kill the gays” laws in Uganda, who visited for the Australian Christian Lobby Conference? Maybe because your evangelical mate Morrison appeared on the same stage to attract their votes?

Sin as defined by religious texts is the fundamental poison present in both Priest John Dickson’s vulgar sex-ed lesson inspired by the Christian bible and the Islamic cleric’s message. Sin and the consequences based on their almost identical world view. They ‘both’ want to save you by killing who you really are, one literally and one by what can be even crueller means. Christians often say to me there can be no morality without “god” but I believe these world views and their proponents have actually been moderated and disciplined by the Secular state and people like us.

Morality or right and wrong should be defined at a state level by the rule of law and on a personal level morality should be subjective and relative as defined by the individual. Not by someone’s sin plagued, guilt producing bronze aged scriptures written without the knowledge of a circular planet and the earth revolving around the sun. They can no longer escape responsibility, their sin based ethics and world view hurt real people in the only place that matters, the here and now.

It’s a good illustration of why the Sin concept is so damaging to kids and adults alike but in particular children and why organised religion targets them. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about condemnation and viewing yourself as being corrupted in a way you can never escape without buying the Church’s indulgences and dogma. No longer am I prepared to accept this mentality and its sick definition of sin inspired by a masochistic form of love. I am certainly not prepared to accept this teaching has a place in State Schools in curriculum time.

LBGTI people ‘are’ part of this community and we are not going away. If the Abrahamic religions in particular cannot modernise, remove the poison from their texts, accept, welcome and embrace LBGTI and women’s rights and keep their belief a private reflective matter not to be imposed on others and especially the young, then it’s time the Secular community disciplined them very harshly.

Religious privilege, sin judgments, producing guilt, repressing someone’s true nature and imposing dogma with divine authority have real effects and cost lives. Its better your Religion die than one more LBGTI person and from my point of view it’s not negotiable.

About the author

Known for his advocacy on LGBTI issues, such as Safe Schools and Marriage Equality, & raising awareness of issues around special religious education in public schools, Stephen is a gay parent of two currently living in Brisbane Australia who has worked in a variety of roles from manufacturing, sales, consulting, and residential youth work.