In the soon to be decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, the Supreme Court is going to determine whether the Civil Rights Act applies to sexual orientation, and whether public accommodations must serve gay customers. The background, at its most basic, is that a baker refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple’s marriage, claiming that forcing him to do so would be a violation of his religious rights as a Christian. The court will likely be using precedent from Obergefell v. Hodges, and a litany of civil rights cases in making their determination, but there is one question they won’t answer: is opposition to gay marriage a sincere Christian belief? The Court has, for good reason, decided in the past that they will not question the sincerity of a religious belief. I, however, am not the Court and am happy to do so. It is my assertion that Christianity does not require discrimination against gay people, and that those who claim it as part of their religion are simply bigots attempting to justify their bigotry.
To give my background, I am no longer religious, but I was raised as an Episcopalian, the best of all denominations. First, our sect was founded because a dictator was horny, and second, we have priests that are allowed to marry, meaning that molestation isn’t an issue for us the way it is for the next closest sect to us. Finally, we are not founded in broad, racist ignorance the way that American Evangelicals are. Yes, Episcopalians are the fine wine of the Christian world. With that explanation out of the way let’s move on.
Before going into the homosexuality issue, I also would like to dispel the notion that marriage is an inherently Christian institution. Marriage has existed in thousands of cultures, both in religious form and in non-religious form. In England, our legal ancestor, marriage did not require the sanction of the church until 1215, and that requirement was removed in 1836. It was not until the Council of Trent in 1563, that marriage was even considered a sacrament in Catholicism. State marriages have existed in the United States apart from religious ceremonies since our country’s inception. Marriage has existed apart from Christianity for much of history, and American Christian’s who maneuver to claim ownership over the term “marriage” are simply incorrect to do so. They cannot claim a violation of the term marriage, because they do not have exclusive ownership over the term.
So is homosexuality anathema to Christianity? Well no, not more than anything else. The primary Biblical passage condemning homosexuality is found in Leviticus 18:22, where a man lying with a man is referred to as an “abomination.” Frankly, Leviticus is a psychotic writing. Other things that Leviticus speaks out against, and which modern Evanglicals seem to ignore, include:
- Failing to include salt in offerings to God.
- Eating fat.
- Lying about finding lost property.
- Touching unclean animals.
- Letting your hair become messy.
- Drinking alcohol in holy places.
- Eating any seafood without fins or scales.
- Sleeping with another man’s slave.
- Mistreating foreigners.
So Leviticus is basically worthless for a modern person. Not only does it recognize the validity of slavery, but it contains many laws based on necessities that existed prior to modern food handling and hygiene.
Homosexuality really only pops up in Leviticus, a book which 100% of modern Christians ignore most of. The overwhelming majority of the message of Christianity, as taught by its titular leader, flies in the face of Leviticus, or the concept of discrimination. Jesus Christ was a voice of the powerless. His message towards equality relied heavily on the idea that human beings have no place judging other human beings; that all of us are deeply flawed. Maybe it is because my Episcopalian Sunday School teachers were simply good people, but the primary message I walked away from church with was “be a decent person, mind your own business, love others, and be charitable.” At no point did a person’s sexuality enter the equation at all.
I’ve always wondered what the justification for religious bigotry is. When they hear “judge not, that you be not judged,” do they assume that this excludes homosexuals? Do they believe that a man who was executed by his own government, one who associated with prostitutes, criminals, and lepers, would be approving of the idea of state sanctioned discrimination? Where does this bigotry come from?
It is most likely a combination of sexual repression and toxic masculinity which somehow festered together. Because this bigotry, like any other, is irrational, bigots had to reach out and find some way to rationalize or justify it, and in doing so damaged the reputation of the religion that is so important to them.
Discrimination of homosexuals is not an important tenant of Christianity itself; it is a direct contradiction to the more important messages on which the entire religion is formed. So the next time an Evangelical angrily storms in to court to complain about how interacting with gay people violates their religion, just know that they are using what is at its core a loving religion to justify their personal bigotry.