Archives for category: Feminism and Religion

It’s been a long time. But we’re just gonna jump right into things.

In case you haven’t heard, the Syrian refugee crisis has EXPLODED in the news, mostly because of the Paris attack that happened  one week ago, on November 13, 2015, which ISIS/Daesh took credit for. (I will, however, mention that there have been plenty of other attacks by terrorist groups, but those did not get close to the responses to Paris.)

Syria has been experiencing a civil war since 2011. Because of this war, many civilians are attempting to flee to safety. About 3 million Syrians have fled into the neighboring countries of  Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, but there are still an estimated 6.5 million people who are displaced in Syria. They are trying to find safety in Europe and in America.

Americans, of course, are having a fucking fit. And by Americans, I mean mostly Republicans who don’t seem to realize that the refugees are running away from Daesh, not a part of it.

Many Republicans (and, yes, some Democrats too) frame their xenophobia in a way that makes it seem like they are concerned about safety (as if Democrats aren’t?). That they want the vetting process of immigration to be better (even though immigration has little to do with being a refugee.)

And, yes, of course it’s “not all Republicans”. And it’s “not all Democrats” either. Some Republicans have agreed that we should take more refugees in, because that’s what America is and does. Some Democrats -specifically state governors -have said that they will refuse refugees in their states, even though that’s not actually legal. But at this point, between the governors and presidential candidates, it’s become a pretty partisan issue.

However, if the Republicans truly were primarily concerned about safety, then Chris Christie would have no issues letting a Syrian toddler into the USA, but he does. If Republicans were primarily concerned about safety, maybe they would take actual stances on gun control regulation and want to start profiling white extremists in America, since they have killed more people since 9/11 than “Muslim” extremists have. Home grown terrorists should especially be taken more seriously if we care about safety, because many of the culprits behind the Paris attacks were citizens of the European Union.

But safety isn’t really the point. Islamophobia is. Which sucks, because Islam is probably my favorite religion, and it’s constantly being dragged through the mud by “Christians” who don’t understand how to fact check their statistics on “radical” or “extremists” Muslims, who don’t want to take credit for Christian terrorists and never seem to hear about terrorists of other religions, who don’t know that jihad has two meanings in Islam or what Sharia law is, and who probably couldn’t tell me what the five pillars of Islam are without a google search.

Obviously, terrorists are evil and need to be condemned in any and all forms. But usually when the terrorists turn out to be Muslim, it is seen as an excuse to call all Muslims terrorists. But when the terrorists are white men with easy gun access, they are seen as “mentally ill” even though no evidence supports that theory. But I guess that’s for another blog post.

I’ve also seen a lot of people conflating the Syrian refugees by calling them Muslim refugees, which is just ridiculous. Yes, Syria is a Muslim-majority country, but it is a secular state. Yes, Syrian refugees are mostly Muslim, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Christians or Atheists.

Also, this swapping of terms leads to serious implications when attempting to find sources. Searching for “Syrian Refugees” on Google gets you results that lead to facts about the crisis and the war, while “Muslim Refugees” generally lands you with fear-mongering results and anti-Islamic propaganda. It’s even worse/more biased when you do an image search.

Using the term “Muslim refugees” is meant to instill fear into people, because of very serious misconceptions about Islam in America. Playing on these misconceptions (instead of educating people about them and correcting them) is immoral and has real-life ramifications on people all over the world who are Muslim or who are perceived to be Muslim.

Aside from issues and concerns about safety, which are mostly invalid and/or irrelevant, I’ve also seen arguments that we need to fix things here in America before we help people elsewhere. Of course, it’s never stated that way. It’s more like “Americans before Illegals” or pictures like this:

homelessrefugees

Or this:

homelessrefugees2

I want to draw your attention to the “America First” part that I surrounded in yellow. It’s amazing that this phrase was used, when it was also used to criticize Americans during World War II by none other than Dr. Seuss:

adolf

(source here)

(Going along with WWII comparisons, because I’m sure some people think it’s inappropriate to compare Syrian refugees to victims of the Holocaust (Jews, Roma, Sinti, gay men, communists, etc) -even the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC has mentioned the parallels between the two groups.)

The argument that we need to take care of Americans before we take care of others is meant to silence people who want to welcome and protect refugees. It is meant to shame us -“why aren’t you doing anything for homeless vets? How unAmerican!”even though it was Republicans in 2014 that killed a Senate bill that would’ve expanded benefits for veterans. (And here’s a list of at least seven bills aimed towards veteran benefits that Republicans have voted against.)

If we wanted to help homeless people, which number over 550,00 in America, we could put them up in any one of our MILLIONS of empty houses (many of which have been foreclosed by banks since 2007.) It is literally cheaper to house homeless people (and disabled people, and mentally ill people) than to just leave them on the streets. Studies have shown this over and over again.

So if Americans really cared about homeless veterans at all, we would take advantage of the models that we can use to help these people. And if Americans cared about homeless veterans, then maybe we would talk about helping them all the time, instead of just when America is receiving Syrian refugees, or when it’s Veterans Day.

In case you didn’t click on those last two links:

GoogleTrendsVeterans

But Americans don’t care about homeless people or even homeless veterans. It’s a silencing tactic. It’s a shaming tactic.

All of this to say, generally speaking, in light of the Syrian refugee crisis, America needs to do better. Safety concerns are valid, but the way they are being used currently is racist and xenophobic, and ultimately Islamophobic. Saying that we need to “focus on America/ns” is a silencing tactic to avoid the issue of Syrian refugees, instead of actually trying to help homeless people or American people in general.

To refuse refugees at this time based solely on their religion or ethnicity is despicable. The Statue of Liberty tells other countries to give America their “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and America is supposed to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” At this time, it’s up to Americans to prove that this is still true.

Because I went to graduate school at a seminary, I am privy to many ministers (and/or pre-ministers) thoughts and issues they are dealing with involving religion (Christianity, for most of them) and their church. Recently, one person asked for advice on a group page, because they are struggling with opposing viewpoints in their church over LGBTQPIA+ equality/rights/justice.

One out of many people commented, advising that this person allow both sides to speak, saying that people can be Christians and have different opinions. This sounds very nice, but honestly, readers, it infuriated me.

Non-LGBTQPIA+ people speak from a place of privilege when they say that “both sides” should be heard in any discussion about LGBTQPIA+ rights/justice. They can say this, because they are not fighting for their own humanity in the same way that LGBTQPIA+ people are in these discussions. They say this and allow people to think that these “opinions” are equal because they are all opinions and “nothing else”, when in reality some people’s opinions are literally the reason LGBTQPIA+ people are being killed, stalked, abused, etc.

This is not an equal conversation. One side is saying that they deserve basic rights -like not being fired for being LGBTQPIA+, or being able to get married, or actually having some semblance of safety through their lives. The other side is saying that being LGBTQPIA+ is a sin, that these people are immoral, that their love is not as good as heterosexual love, and some are saying that they deserve to die because of it.

Let me rephrase and restate: LGBTQPIA+ people are literally being killed because of other people’s (heterosexual, cisgender people’s) “opinions”.

If your “opinion” contributes to the systematic inequality, dehumanization, and ultimately murder of LGBTQPIA+ people, it is not an opinion I am willing to listen to in any way.

If you are a person of authority in a church who is struggling between two sides in a discussion about LGBTQPIA+ rights/equality/justice, I want you to consider which group you think is more important, because that is the one you are going to listen to. Also consider:

Which group has been systematically kicked out of the church for being who they are -LGBTQPIA+ people or cisgender heterosexual people?

Which group has been condemned by many aspects of Christianity, making some of them reject all faith entirely -LGBTQPIA+ people or cisgender heterosexual people?

Which group needs a supportive church, who most likely won’t be able to easily find a new one if they choose to leave -LGBTQPIA+ people or cisgender heterosexual people?

We need to stop the cycle of abuse of LGBTQPIA+ people by the church. And there have been some great steps towards that goal, but dear god sometimes it is staggering how far we are from treating LGBTQPIA+ people as humans with rights and dignity. (The same can be said for people of color, disabled people, and other oppressed groups as well.) I really hope that the original poster finds the answers they are looking for, but I also really hope that they don’t do what so many other people think is ‘okay’ -to be “neutral”.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” -Desmond Tutu

Today I would like to take the time to discuss what is going on in the Supreme Court at this period of time, because everyone else seems to be freaking out about it.

First, let me give some background as to what’s actually going on.

The Supreme Court is deciding the fate of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and California’s Proposition 8. Basically, both of these oppose same-sex marriages at different levels (DOMA is federal, while Prop. 8 is within a state) and they are now being contested. Advocates for gay rights want both of these to be repealed by the Supreme Court.

It has been years since these have passed (DOMA in 1996, Prop. 8 in 2008) but now the case is finally being heard, and people are holding on to high hopes.

Now, I wanted to use this space not just for a history lesson, but in response to an article I found via a facebook friend.

The article is called “Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage are Persuasive” by a Christian pastor, Kevin DeYoung. It can be found here.

There are multiple places that I want to pick at from this article, so please read it, because then it will make more sense.

He writes that “For a long time, homosexuality seemed weird or gross. Now it seems normal.” I disagree with that -or, more specifically, I would like for him to admit that he is only talking about the American context  in very specific time periods. In COLONIZED America, homosexuality seemed weird or gross. Homosexuality and Trans* people were not always “gross” in “America”, because there were tribes of people who accepted these people in their cultures, until white people came in and basically destroyed everything. (If requested, I have actual articles on this, and I will reference them if necessary.)

And, even if we ignore the fact that this land was once filled with people who had Two-Spirit traditions going back centuries, other cultures had similar ideas too –Africa, for instance, before it was colonized, and India too. (Basically, let’s just agree that European colonization screwed everything up in every way.) In ancient Greece, homosexuality usually took place between an older man and a younger man/boy, and it was seen as healthy.

So, in short, no one should make sweeping generalizations about how homosexuality was “weird or gross” however long ago, because I assure you that there is more than enough research to prove that even longer ago than that time, people were cool with it and it wasn’t a big deal.

After he writes this very general and wrong statement, he makes a list of how gay marriage fits in to our common cultural assumptions:

“1. It’s about progress. Linking the pro-gay agenda with civil rights and women’s rights was very intentional, and it was a masterstroke. To be against gay marriage, therefore, is to be against enlightenment and progress. It puts you on the “wrong side of history.” Of course, most people forget that lots of discarded ideas were once hailed as the inevitable march of progress. Just look at Communism or eugenics or phrenology or the Volt. But people aren’t interested in the complexities of history. We only know we don’t want to be like the nincompoops who thought the sun revolved around the earth and that slavery was okay.

2. It’s about love. When gay marriage is presented as nothing but the open embrace of human love, it’s hard to mount a defense. Who could possibly be against love? But hidden in this simple reasoning is the cultural assumption that sexual intercourse is necessarily the highest, and perhaps the only truly fulfilling, expression of love. It’s assumed that love is always self-affirming and never self-denying. It’s assumed that our loves never require redirection. Most damagingly, our culture (largely because of heterosexual sins) has come to understand marriage as nothing but the state sanctioning of romantic love. The propagation and rearing of children do not come into play. The role in incentivizing socially beneficial behavior is not in the public eye. People think of marriage as nothing more than the commitment (of whatever duration) which romantic couples make to each other.

3. It’s about rights. It’s not by accident the movement is called the gay rights movement. And I don’t deny that many gays and lesbians feel their fundamental human rights are at stake in the controversy over marriage. But the lofty talk of rights blurs an important distinction. Do consenting adults have the right to enter a contract of their choosing? It depends. Businesses don’t have a right to contract for collusion. Adults don’t have a right to enter into a contract that harms the public good. And even if you think these examples are beside the point, the fact remains that no law prohibits homosexuals (or any two adults) from making promises to each other, from holding a ceremony, from entering into a covenant with each other. The question is whether the government should bestow upon that contract the name of marriage with all the rights and privileges thereto.

4. It’s about equality. Recently, I saw a prominent Christian blogger tweet that she was for gay marriage because part of loving our neighbor is desiring they get equal justice under the law. Few words in the American lexicon elicit such broad support as “equality.” No one wants to be for unequal treatment under the law. But the issue before the Supreme Court is not equality, but whether two laws–one voted in by the people of California and the other approved by our democratically elected officials–should be struck down. Equal treatment under the law means the law is applied the same to everyone. Gay marriage proponents desire to change the law so that marriage becomes something entirely different. Surveys often pose the question “Should it be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to marry?” That makes it sound like we are criminalizing people for commitments they make. The real issue, however, is whether the state has a vested interest in sanctioning, promoting, and privileging certain relational arrangements. Is it unjust for the state not to recognize as marriage your group of four friends, close cousins, or an office suite just because they want their commitments to be called marriage?

5. It’s about tolerance. Increasingly, those who oppose gay marriage are not just considered wrong or mistaken or even benighted. They are anti-gay haters. As one minister put it, gay marriage will eventually triumph because love is stronger than hate. Another headline rang out that “discrimination is on trial” as the Supreme Court hears arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. The stark contrast is clear: either you support gay marriage or you are a bigot and a hater. It’s not wonder young people are tacking hard to left on this issue. They don’t want to be insensitive, close-minded, or intolerant. The notion that thoughtful, sincere, well-meaning, compassionate people might oppose gay marriage is a fleeting thought.”

So. My first issue comes to play in his #2, where he apparently assumes that marriage is not about love between two people, and that if the USA grants same-sex marriage, then love will be confused with sex somehow. I’m not entirely sure how he makes this jump: ” But hidden in this simple reasoning is the cultural assumption that sexual intercourse is necessarily the highest, and perhaps the only truly fulfilling, expression of love.” Because gay/lesbian people and their allies are NOT arguing for the right to have sex, they are arguing that they can be legally recognized by the government as being married and get the rights involved with that distinction. Sex is not a problem here. Rights are.

Also, what is the problem with marriage being about love? Because, literally, that is the reason most people list when you ask them “why did you get married?” It’s not ‘because we wanted kids’, ‘because we wanted to have sex’, ‘because we wanted to show people socially beneficial behavior’. It’s because they loved each other so much that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. I assure you that marriage fails for a number of reasons, one being that they didn’t love each other any more, but any marriage based off of those three examples I gave above is practically doomed to failure from the start.

AND, let’s talk about kids, because I don’t think that marriage is REALLY about procreating (or that it should be at all) when more than 250,000 kids are put in foster care every year and over 136,000 are waiting to be adopted per year. So, let’s not make this a ‘kid issue’, because I am positive that some same-sex couples would LOVE to adopt and would not increase these rates about kids needing adoption. We do not have a procreating issue, I promise.

My next problem with the article is, of course, #3. DeYoung writes, “the fact remains that no law prohibits homosexuals (or any two adults) from making promises to each other, from holding a ceremony, from entering into a covenant with each other. The question is whether the government should bestow upon that contract the name of marriage with all the rights and privileges thereto.”

The question is actually if the government can recognize separation of church and state  in order to give these couples their damn rights. There are same-sex couples who have been together as-long-as or longer-than many opposite-sex couples, and they have nothing to show for it. They have no say in life-and-death matters in hospitalization, they don’t get tax benefits or social security benefits when their partner passes (or if they are disabled or laid off), and any of the other 1,138 rights married couples get.

Meanwhile, I sense a lot of hypocrisy coming from this man who is so willing to tell gay/lesbian people “you can make promises to each other and that should be good enough for you” when he benefits from all of the rights that these people don’t have and are fighting for.

In #4, he argues that legalizing same-sex marriage would forever change the meaning of marriage, so that it becomes “something entirely different”. This is crap, honestly, because the definition of marriage has changed before in history. (He should know this, especially since in #1 he was commenting on all the ‘complexities of history’ that we tend to ignore, kinda like he did in this case.)

Marriage, before the women’s movements I discussed in my first post, was about ownership. Men literally owned women -they were property. That is why the woman took the man’s name, because he owned her. It was a practice called coverture. Let me restate this: THE HUSBAND LITERALLY OWNED THE WIFE AS THOUGH SHE WAS A PIECE OF LAND OR FURNITURE. She went from having her father’s name -from being property of her father -to having her husband’s name, being the property of her husband.

Clearly, marriage has been VERY redefined since then, so I feel that the argument “We can’t redefine marriage, it’s always been the same!” is bullshit. Especially when it’s spouted by Christians, because in the Bible, marriage is rarely ever the same thing. The Bible has one man-one woman, one man-multiple women, one man-one woman-one slave, one man-lots of concubines, men-who-never-get-married, one woman-one relative; it also has remarriage (but only after death), sanctions against divorce, messages of coverture, sanctions against mixed-religion relationships, rapists marrying their victims, sanctions to remain unmarried, etc. (And don’t get me started on David and Jonathan…)

Basically, when Christians say that redefining marriage is against the Bible, or that God only defined marriage in one way, I want to slap them in the face and tell them to read the Bible, because it is just not true. (I also want to point out all the other verses that we ignore in this culture, like the kosher regulations (“but those are just for Jews!” they cry) and not wearing clothing of mixed fibers. We seemed to forget about those ones.)

I’m just sick of hearing/seeing people being bigots, because that’s what denying equality makes you. If you are so scared that someone else’s happiness is going to somehow take yours away, you need to re-evaluate what makes you happy. If you think that someone else’s marriage is going to de-value your own, you have very messed up ideas about how marriage works, and honestly your marriage is probably already broken.

I’m not even going to try to tackle the rest of his article, because it is ridiculous and bigoted and hateful. It is backwards in so many ways, and wrong in so many other ways. I am tired of people shouting with their eyes clenched shut and their hands over their ears. I want to be a person who is shouting with joy when same-sex marriage is legalized, and I want to go to my friend’s weddings when they finally legally marry their partners. I will be on the right side of history, and I don’t care if that makes me ‘part of the culture’ or whatever, because all I am working to do is make this culture a better place for everyone, and to make it more equal for people who are discriminated against.

Straight people need to check their privilege and start actually caring about people who are different from them, and it starts here.