By Silvia Uribe
There is no doubt that human kind frequently resorts to religion and spiritual convictions to "fight" against all that we can't accept or understand. Historically, those fights have been about land, beliefs, and lifestyles. Throughout time, nations have conquered other countries, kept their land, and imposed their religion onto those conquered -- as it happened during the Crusades. Also, during the Inquisition people were prosecuted for not practicing the main religion, or for the perception that their lifestyle was not aligned with the main religion's norms. Impossible to practice these methods in the present day! Is that what we think?
For the most part, we label these as savage, unacceptable and frankly, as fanatic expressions of extremist, radical religious groups. We have a name for these groups today: terrorists. Although we were aware of terrorism before, 9-11 was the first time that terrorists hit home. To them, their attacks were blessed by Allah; by dying during these attacks they became ‘martyrs' in their peers' eyes. These groups are powerful, and terrorism has become the plague of our days. For most, terrorism is the utmost expression of intolerance, but for others is not so. Whereas our country's explanation of the war in the Middle East is to help them achieve democracy, for them it is a holy war: they're defending their interpretation of what their religion establishes as the norm for religious and social behavior.
While we condemn fundamentalists for using religion to encourage others to die and kill, we've launched a holy war against homosexuals in our own country, against our own people, just because they do not adjust to the established norms. We are using religious beliefs as a weapon and as a tool to induce people (including our children) to judge, segregate, discriminate, hate, and harm others. Is this what we are trying to accomplish? We instill hate through pseudo-religious arguments that are mean-spirited fallacies based on some people or groups' insecurities, material interests, fears, and hunger for power.
As a Christian, I know there are three things that don't give much room for doubt or argument: love, free will, and grace.
By not granting gay rights, specifically the legal (not religious) right to marry, we aren't defending the marriage institution that really wouldn't be altered, affected or diminished by this allowance. We are discriminating against others because they're different. We don't want our children to learn about homosexual couples, but we are teaching them to judge, discriminate, and ultimately hate them. Hmm, something's wrong with this picture. In my Bible, love is the main teaching that Jesus gave us.
By some auto-claimed designation or divine inspiration we pretend to know that the God given gift of free will should be taken away from those who do not conform 100% to traditional values. Does God need our help in judging people now?
As for God's grace, I'm sure we have all been repeated beneficiaries of it. Can we be a little graceful in return?
In 1920 women were granted the right to vote. Before then, some people claimed that women would bring the country down, that our opinion didn't matter, that politics were not for women, and that we should stay home and be good housewives - nothing else. Are we going back to a narrow vision over gay rights this time? I'm quite surprised that any woman can be manipulated into opposing homosexual marriage, especially when we know so well how discrimination feels. We are still suffering from discrimination and inequity in the 21st century!
On December 18, 2008 the United Nations presented the Declaration for Gay Rights to its membership. The document was signed by the member states of the European Union. In all, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration. The US refused to sign the declaration along with the Islamic countries, Russia and China. What a shame!
Years ago the Dutch were the first to eliminate any distinction between gay and straight, striking all references to gender in the marriage laws, and Belgium did the same, soon thereafter. In the Netherlands gay marriage is also legal, and people are so used to it that nobody talks about the issue anymore. Other countries are going through a similar process. Mexico, Uruguay and Argentina are expected to soon have gay marriages.
The US have accomplished great things by being open-minded: religion and State are separate, women can vote, and we have elected our first black President. Let's not stop now! The truth is that with the social, environmental, political, and financial problems that our planet is facing we should focus on growing as human beings and overcoming the uncertain future together, instead of on fighting each other.
Let's start 2009 with a mindset that stops all forms of discrimination disguised under pseudo-religiousness and medieval ways of thinking.
Happy New Year!
Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.
Cross-Posted at Edhat.com