Jesus christ defends homosexuals
RACHEL Homosexuals. Gays and lesbians. Some Christian churches deny them the sacraments or prohibit them from being priests or ministers. Other churches consecrate them as bishops. In the course of history they have been persecuted, ridiculed, tortured. Homosexual. Another urgent topic of discussion and another interview with Jesus Christ, as we continue our transmissions from Nazareth. Can we begin, Jesus?
JESUS Yes, Rachel, let’s begin.
RACHEL Why did you condemn homosexuals?
JESUS Me? I never condemned them.
RACHEL Well, you didn’t condemn them, but you said that they would not enter into the Kingdom of God, which is not exactly the same, but almost.
JESUS I believe you’re mistaken, Rachel. I never said that.
RACHEL Let me read what’s here in the New Testament “Make no mistake no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers…”
JESUS Who wrote that?
RACHEL Saint Paul. First Letter to the Corinthians, 6,10.
JESUS Aah, of course, but don’t forget that Paul, from what they tell me, had been a Pharisee. It’s clear that he held on to a lot of the same rigidities as the Pharisees. I didn’t make that list of sinners that he drew up. I never said anything against homosexuals.
RACHEL But God did. With fire and brimstone he punished the inhabitants of Sodom, who were homosexuals.
JESUS Well,… I think you’re wrong again.
RACHEL You mean the people of Sodom were not sodomites?
JESUS The sin of Sodom, as it was explained to me once by a rabbi, was the people’s lack of hospitality toward God’s messengers. It wasn’t a sexual sin, but a social one.
RACHEL But, Mr. Christ, isn’t homosexuality a sin against nature?
JESUS War, famine, leaving widows and orphans hungry – those things are sins against human nature.
RACHEL So, according to you, God does not condemn gays and lesbians?
JESUS Tell me something, Rachel. What does a mother do when she finds out her son is different from the rest? Does she shut the door on him when he calls? Does she throw a stone at him when he asks for her blessing? God is a mother, don’t forget it.
RACHEL So, you defend them?
JESUS Many people attack them. For many they are the very last in line, but in the Kingdom of God they will be the first.
RACHEL I really don’t know, hearing you talk like that. In your group of apostles, were there also some homosexuals?
RACHEL Maybe John, the youngest of the apostles, the one who wrote one of the gospels?
JESUS I gave John and his brother James the nickname “sons of thunder” because the two of them were very violent.
RACHEL Still, the painters always make John look very effeminate.
JESUS Because they didn’t know him! And because they didn’t understand about friendship between two men.
RACHEL What would you say to the homophobic churches that continue to repudiate and condemn gays and lesbians?
JESUS That if they are free of sin, let them throw the first stone. And that one day they will be measured with the same yardstick they are using to measure others today.
RACHEL In conclusion, Jesus, would you allow a homosexual person into your group and let him guide the community?
JESUS Why not? I never asked those who joined our movement anything about that. I didn’t worry about minor matters. I asked them if they were ready to put their hand to the plow and to fight for justice. Just that.
RACHEL And to touch on something even more delicate, … would you approve of marriage between two men, or two women?
JESUS If they are united together in love, why not? Where there is love, God is there.
RACHEL Well, today you must let me call you Master. Thank you, Master, for your words. I think that many gays and lesbians who are listening to our program will take your words to be wonderfully good news. From Nazareth, this is Rachel Perez reporting for Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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Sodom and Gomorrah
Sodomite is an old term meaning “homosexual”. Many legislative codes still speak of the crime of “sodomy” when referring to homosexual conduct. The extremely frequent use of such language associates homosexuality with the “events” that occurred in the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), with the aim of justifying homophobia and even violence against gays and lesbians.
Did Sodom and Gomorrah really exist? “Sodom” derives from the Hebrew word meaning “burnt” and “Gomorrah” from the Hebrew word meaning “crushed”. In its eagerness to find some historical basis for this well-known and much manipulated biblical narrative, National Geographic has publicized archeological investigations which examined the remains of two Iron Age cities near the Dead Sea, which appear to have been razed. According to the archeologists, these human settlements could have disappeared as a result of earthquakes, fires, invasions by enemies, or a combination of all three disasters. What the researchers consider most significant is that in this zone there are subterranean deposits of combustible gases (the biblical “sulphur”), so that it is quite possible that a fire produced by a natural disaster or other cause could have provoked uncontrollable conflagrations. Such calamitous events would have been preserved in the collective memory of the nomadic people as holocausts never before seen and would have been transmitted orally from generation to generation.
Independently of whatever happened in those cities or whether the cities themselves were real or mythological, the biblical narrative faults the neighbors of Lot for their lack of hospitality toward the “angels” of God, rather than for their homosexual intentions. It faults them for their “social sin”, not their “sexual sin”.
Paul: a Pharisee
In rejecting the very prejudicial text of Paul against homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6,9-10), Jesus reminds Rachel that Paul had been a Pharisee. Saul of Tarsus – his original name and city of birth – never met Jesus and never read any of the gospel texts about Jesus because they were written years after he had traveled through the principal cities of the empire – Athens, Corinth, Thessalonica, Alexandria – announcing his own interpretation of the life and message of Jesus, which was in all likelihood an interpretation biased by his own cultural and theological origins.
Paul’s ability to travel about and organize people was important for the spread of Christianity through the Roman empire, but was Paul’s “Christianity” completely faithful to the originality of the message of Jesus and his movement, a message that demanded inclusiveness and equality in all human relations? Nowadays there are many studies which contrast the two traditions, that of Jesus and that of Paul, and point out the contradictions between them.
Unlike Jesus, Paul was born in a middle-class family and received an excellent education, both in Greek culture and in the rabbinic traditions taught in Jerusalem. In his pre-Christian period Paul violently persecuted the first followers of Jesus because of his own adherence to the pharisaic mentality, which was severe, intolerant, fanatical and discriminatory. It was a mentality that Jesus constantly criticized and rejected in his preaching. Paul interpreted Jesus and his message from the perspective of this religious tradition and on the basis of his subsequent personal and emotional experiences. Some elements, perhaps a great many, of Paul’s pharisaic origins always stayed with him.
“The marriage of likenesses”
The U.S. historian John Boswell, head of the history department at Yale University, wrote a book called Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Vintage, 1995), in which he presents the disconcerting evidence of twelve years of research, namely, Catholic Church documents from the 6th to the 13th centuries that contain liturgies celebrating erotic unions between two men.
Boswell went to all the great libraries of Europe, including the Vatican Library, and found there dozens of original manuscripts containing the prayers, rubrics, psalms and ceremonies that were used for the blessing of homosexual love; they were liturgies performed in churches and officiated by priests. Boswell’s book shows that matrimony was not declared a “sacrament” until the 13th century (at the Lateran Council in 1215) and that not until then were heterosexual relations determined to be the only legitimate ones. It was in the 14th century that western Europe began to develop its homophobic obsession and to consider homosexuality the most denigrating of sins. In the books of ritual that he found, Boswell observed that whole pages had been later ripped out or mutilated in order to obliterate what until then had been celebrated with religious joy and viewed as completely natural.
Not “against nature”, but very present in nature
In 2006 the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, opened a surprising exposition on homosexuality in animals. Using photos and films, the exhibit presented visitors with scenes of male giraffes pairing up, female whales copulating, and male monkeys stimulating one another genitally. There was visual evidence of gay flamingos, lesbian parrots, and insects, cats, dogs, and octopuses of the same sex having relations with one another.
The zoologist Meter Bockman, one of the organizers of the exposition, explained that scientists have observed homosexual behavior in 1,500 animal species and come to the conclusion that homosexuality is a fairly frequent natural reality. Bockman refuted the idea that such behavior occurs only in zoos, where the animals are confined; he stated that homosexuality is also seen among free animals in their natural habitats, and he indicated that among birds and mammals there are gay couples that stay together for life. The exposition pointed especially to the frequency of homosexuality among penguins; in some colonies one out of every ten pairs is homosexual, a proportion similar to that observed in human beings. The exhibit also displayed cases of bisexuality: in the case of the bonobo chimpanzees – the animals genetically closest to homo sapiens – all members of the species are bisexual. There are also species of fish that are transsexual and examples of fish that are transvestite.
On the basis of such observations Bockman concluded that the idea that sex serves only for reproduction is not true, not even among animals. Just as for human beings, sexual relations for animals have more to do with pleasure and interaction than with reproduction. The organizers of this exposition were attempting to rebut scientifically all the homophobic arguments and prejudices that describe homosexual behavior as an “unnatural” perversion, a sin against nature.
Homophobia in Latin America
Luiz Mott has a doctorate in anthropology, is a professor at the Federal University in Bahia, Brazil, and is founder and president of Grupo Gay da Bahia. He is also the author of 15 books and more than 200 articles about the history of homosexuality. He gives the following historical synthesis:
When America was discovered, Spain and Portugal were going through their worst period of intolerance against those who practiced “the abominable and horrible sin of sodomy.” In that epoch the tribunals of the Inquisition functioning in the Iberian Peninsula considered sodomy to be a more serious crime than regicide or treason. In the Americas the tribunals of the Inquisition likewise prosecuted the “sodomites” mercilessly. This crime was one of the few that the early authorities in Brazil could punish with death without the need for previous consultation with the king of Portugal.
The moral theology treatises of the time of the Conquest offered ideas such as these: Of all sins, sodomy is the most lewd, filthy and disgraceful; there is no other sin so abhorred by God and by the world. Because of this sin God brought the flood upon the earth and because of this sin he destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; because of sodomy the Order of Knights Templar was destroyed throughout Christendom in its day. Therefore we command that every man who commits this sin be burned to death and turned into dust by fire, so that there will be no memory of his body or his burial.
Upon landing in the New World, the Europeans found a great diversity of peoples and civilizations, and their sexual practices were quite different from those allowed in the Judeo-Christian cultural matrix. Some of the practices were diametrically opposed to European customs, especially as regards nudity, virginity, polygamy, divorce, and especially homosexuality, cross-dressing and transexuality. Already by 1514 a book called “The General and Natural History of the Indies” was declaring that a taste for that dreadful vice was to be found throughout the whole Caribbean and in some of the mainland territories. Documents show that the conquistadors were profoundly scandalized by this practice and attributed it to the lack of knowledge of the “true God”.
The year 1513 can be considered the inaugural date for homophobic intolerance in the New World. In that year, according to a report of Pietro Martire and a dramatic engraving of that epoch, the conquistador Vasco de Balboa, upon finding a group of homosexual Indians in the isthmus of Panama, arrested 40 of them and handed them over to a pack of ferocious dogs to be devoured. The first record of institutional persecution comes from 1548: seven men were arrested in Guatemala, four of them clergy. They were saved from being burned at the stake only by a disturbance that happened to take place at the same time. Between 1591 and 1620 in Brazil 44 men and women were accused of sodomy and tried.
At the end of the 18th century 283 men and women were denounced for this offense. Of these 29 were lesbians, 5 of whom were fined or given spiritual penances, 3 of whom were banished, and two of whom were sentenced to receive lashes in public. As the result of an initiative of the International Commission of Human Rights for Gays and Lesbians, the most important international prize for homosexual rights is now known by the name of the most famous of those lesbians, Felipa de Souza. Mexico was the most aggressive persecutor of homosexuals during the colonial period: in 1658 some 123 sodomites were denounced in Mexico City and its vicinity; 19 of them were imprisoned, and 14 were burned at the stake.
The tribunals of the Inquisition disappeared from Peru and Mexico in 1820 and from Cartagena (Colombia) and Brazil in 1821, but mentalities were not changed by decrees. Homophobic machismo continues to be a prominent characteristic of Latin American culture. In the 20th century extreme secrecy, low self-esteem, marginality, murders and suicides became the daily fare of millions of gays, lesbians and transgendered persons in Latin America, as they continue to be repudiated by their families, humiliated in the streets and discriminated against in employment.
Research done in Brazil, a country with more than 17 million homosexuals, reveals that of all the social minorities, gays and lesbians are the most despised. There exists a continuum of prejudicial behavior that ranges from verbal insult to humiliating treatment in the mass media, to physical violence in the streets, to arbitrary arrests, and even to murders. Even today gays in Mexico are called “forty-one”, in memory of the 41 homosexuals who were arrested in just one night in 1901 and sentenced to degrading punishments, such as sweeping the streets of the capital and cleaning the public restrooms.
During the 1960s Cuba, identifying homosexuality with capitalist decadence, was exceptional for the violence with which it persecuted, imprisoned, and forced into exile hundreds of homosexuals. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s movie “Strawberry and Chocolate”, and Reinaldo Arenas’s memoir Before Night Falls (Penguin, 1994) reveal the homophobic intolerance of a period that fortunately is being left behind.
Until the mid-90s homosexuality was still a crime in Chile, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico. In this first decade of the 21st century there are still laws against “sodomy” in Puerto Rico. The bishops and clergy of the Catholic Church and, more recently and rancorously, the authorities of the fundamentalist churches never let up on their attacks on homosexuals from the pulpits and in the mass media.
The homophobic Catholic doctrine
Despite the many scientific advances and the progress in human rights within societies that are increasingly more pluralist and complex, the most recent Vatican positions regarding homosexuality continue to be as negative as always: the homosexual orientation is considered to be a serious disorder, and homosexual acts are a grave sin. Consequently, the Church’s official morality requires homosexuals (the official documents never use the word “lesbians”) to observe perpetual celibacy.
In the “Declaration on certain questions of sexual ethics” (December, 1975), the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to be Pope Benedict XVI) treated the topic of “the homosexual condition” and distinguished between “homosexual tendency” and “homosexual acts” – these latter were defined as “intrinsically disordered.”
Given the social advances that have taken place with respect to homosexuality, Cardinal Ratzinger addressed the topic again in October, 1986, in his “Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on pastoral care of homosexual persons.” In that document Ratzinger explained that the particular inclination of the homosexual person, although it is not in itself sinful, nevertheless constitutes a more or less strong tendency to behavior which is intrinsically evil from a moral viewpoint. For this reason the inclination must itself be considered to be objectively disordered.
The severity of Catholic doctrine derives from two ideas that are persistent in Catholic morality: that sexual activity is acceptable only if it remains open to reproduction and that sexual pleasure (“self-gratification”) is in itself negative.
Ratzinger: doctrinal bases for discrimination
As anti-homophobic legislation was being advanced in several countries around the world and people were becoming more conscious of the terribly unjust discrimination suffered by homosexuals, the Vatican in July, 1992, published a document called “Considerations for a Catholic response to legislative proposals to prevent discrimination against homosexuals”. The restrictive language of the document shows that the Congregatio