Orlando: Religion and Homophobia

Consider the facts:

  • The killer in Orlando was a Muslim, and his target was gay men. It’s been reported that he had recently been “angered” by the sight of two men kissing.
  • Across the country, another man was arrested on his way to a gay pride parade, armed with an alarming cache of weapons. He was certainly not Muslim.
  • In the USA, research has found that opposition to homosexuality is stronger among evangelical Christians, than among Muslims.
  • Across the Atlantic, in Africa it’s very largely American Christian missionaries who are fanning the flames of hostility to gay men and women, encouraging politicians to sign on to ever harsher criminal penalties for homosexuality. That  in turn is fomenting intense social intolerance, and widespread active violence against gay men and lesbians.

The real problem here is not “radical Islam”, but (along with easy access to powerful weapons), a belief by some religious fanatics, both Christian and Muslim, that persecution is part of God’s work. It is not, and it cannot be.

Even the father of the Orlando killer, in expressing his own grief, noted that especially in the holy month of Ramadan, killing is not part of the Muslim way. The question of homosexuality and it’s punishment, he said, should be left to God, not to man.

In yesterday’s post, I quoted from a CDF document which makes clear that the Catholic Church not only cannot support violence against homosexuals, but should actively condemn it – along with violence of speech (ie, homophobic language) that gives rise to it.

I also noted in that post, that up to the time of writing, I had not seen any report of responses by Catholic leaders that alongside their expressions of grief and prayers for victims, even acknowledged that this was a crime of anti-gay hatred, let alone followed the CDF instruction to condemn acts of violence against homosexuals. I’m pleased to report that has since changed. There have now been reports of such responses from at least some Catholic (and other) bishops, even admitting the role that Churches themselves have played in encouraging hatred.

In Florida, Bishop Robert Lynch of the neighbouring St. Petersburg, diocese, wrote on his blog,

“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. Those women and men who were mowed down early yesterday morning were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that. Without yet knowing who perpetrated the PULSE mass murders, when I saw the Imam come forward at a press conference yesterday morning, I knew that somewhere in the story there would be a search to find religious roots. While deranged people do senseless things, all of us observe, judge and act from some kind of religious background. Singling out people for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality must be offensive to God’s ears. It has to stop also.

Archbishop of Chicago Blaise Cupich also acknowledged that the target were gay men – and in expressing condolences and prayers for the victims and their families, he included “our gay brothers and sisters”.

And from the Church of Ireland,

The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross has condemned people of faith who don’t support the LGBT community, in the wake of the shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Dr Paul Colton says when many religious people do not “include LGBT people” in daily life, “prayers are shallow”.

-BBC News

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