Towards the end of last year (December 23rd) I was, as usual, listening to the radio on the way to work.
There was a story about some words of the Pope. The same story was included in the news headlines on television and featured in headlines on Google news.
I haven’t read the actual words that were written and spoken – my Italian isn’t up to it. So my thoughts are based on second hand accounts.
On the radio, the suggestion was that the Pope had said that issues of humanity and gender need to be addressed and dealt with just as urgently as issues of the environment.
Reports say that no mention was made of homosexuality. But people seemed to be making accusations of homophobia. The implication seemed to be that gays, lesbians and the transgendered were posing a threat to the survival of the human race that was on a par with the threat posed by Global warming.
There were two ladies on the radio sharing their views on what the Pope had, or had not, said.
The first, who always referred to the Poe as “The Holy Father”, made the point that homosexuality is patently wrong – not just because the Church says so – but because biology and science say so. If everyone was homosexual then the human race would be doomed. Where would all the children come from?
There seemed to be a certain irony in this statement. The thought crossed my mind. If every man became a priest, or every woman a nun, then the human race would be doomed in just the same way. Where would all the children come from?
Of course, I don’t think that it is expected that every man should be a priest nor every woman a nun. But, nor do I expect every man and woman to be gay.
Ma y years ago, in my born-again evangelical days, I wrote an open letter to the University magazine at the place where I was a student. It expressed similar sentiments to those voiced by the lady on the radio. It seemed obvious to me that nature didn’t design people to be homosexual. I remember a small delegation of representatives from the Anglican Society, the Catholic Society, the Christian Union and the Methodist Society dropped by to congratulate me. It makes me smile to think about this – I know for sure that we did not all agree on doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception, Papal infallibility or lots and lots of other things. But homosexuality was something we all felt the same way about.
Of course, people change - me too. And although Margaret Thatcher may not have been a lady in favour of U-turns, I’m happy enough to have made a few of them myself.
In my student days my feelings about homosexuality were strongly affected my understanding of what the Bible was. As a Bible believing Christian, all my beliefs and feelings were affected by this – in theory at least. I fell into the “typical conservative” camp as described at http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibl.htm . It was because I believed that the Bible was the Word of God and that the Bible condemned homosexuality that I wrote my letter to the University magazine.
In fact, I have always realised that the way that Nature works is not always the way that societies want to work. For example, Nature seems to select and favour the strong and allows the weak to pass away. Natures answer to high death rates seems to be to work towards even higher birth rates.
There was a time when I would have explained this contradiction between Nature and Society in terms of the “fall”. I believed that, in some ways, Nature had become broken when humanity decided to turn away from God. But not completely broken. So some aspects of Nature work in line with God’s will, but others do not.
I did, however, miss the point that it is, perhaps, disingenuous to use Nature in support of some theories and yet disregard other aspects of Nature wherever it didn’t fit in with the theories.
These days I think that Nature of itself offers little in the way of guidance on moral and ethical issues. Condemning homosexuality using Nature as the basis for the condemnation seems akin to using Nature in support of a policy that would cull the sick and elderly before they became a burden to society.
So, I’m left feeling that whatever Nature has to say about sexuality is not the final word. Societies are not obliged to condone or condemn certain aspects of human behaviour just because it appears to be natural or unnatural.
Ultimately what we condone or condemn is based on what we believe to be right or wrong. And there are many things that can contribute to these beliefs. Nature. The Bible. The Pope. Parents. Peers. Science. Religion.
My own feelings about Gay and Lesbian issues has been influenced by Indigo Girls. I discovered their music quite a few years ago when Napster was a source of vast amounts of music that you could download free. One night in a fit of nostalgia I had been doing some web searching – I almost used the word googling – but maybe Google had not yet been invented, so it may have been yahooing. I was looking for antiwar songs – or at least songs that included the word “war” in the lyrics. In amongst the results was a song called “You and me of the 10,000 wars”. I’d never heard of Indigo Girls and if Napster had not existed that would have been the end of it. However, courtesy of Napster, I was listening to the song ten minutes later – 56K modems took quite a while to download songs. In the years since then I have attended 5 or 6 Indigo Girls concerts and purchased all of their CDs – none of which would have happened with that first free download – RIAA please note!
I’d been listening to Indigo Girls music for a little while when I began to find out a bit about who they are. It was kind of surprising to discover that the love songs that they wrote were quite likely about lesbian relationships. I hadn’t been able to tell from the words. The words just seemed to express love. It’s hard to remember what it was that I’d thought before. But in lots of ways it came as a revelation of what maybe should have been obvious. Gay and lesbian love isn’t different from love. Without knowing it, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have helped me begin to understand things in a different way than I used to.
I think, as well, that as my opinions on Gay and Lesbian relationships has changed it has become possible for me to begin to accept my own sexuality. I am, like most transvestites, heterosexual. But I guess I am not 100% macho male either.
There was a time when I felt guilty about that. I hid it. I denied it. I buried it. I was, I believe, burying myself.
I was a long time coming, but I have accepted myself. I am happy with the whole TV / transgendered thing.. I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t at all understand it. But that’s ok – I don’t understand lots of things.
A song that Emily Salliers wrote has an interesting perspective on beliefs. Is it beliefs that make people – or people that make beliefs?
We're sculpted from youth
The chipping away makes me weary
And as for the truth
It seems like we just pick a theory
And it's the one that justifies
Our daily lives
And backs us with quiver and arrows
To protect openings
Cause when the warring begins
How quickly the wide open narrows
It may be that one day whoever is Pope and whoever is leading all those Conservative Evangelical Christian groups might be able to see sexuality from a different perspective. Over the years churches have learned to accept things that, once upon a time, would have been an anathema. Perhaps sometime in the future people will look back and smile and think ... “how could they ever have thought that?”