What Do We Do When Love Doesn’t Win?


By Thomas Ehnert

I’m trying to absorb all that’s happened since June.

First, the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage the law of the land. I read the responses of my GLBT family with joy. I also read with great sadness the responses of religious denominations and politicians seeking the evangelical vote.

Second, I watched a documentary about Larry Kramer. It took me back to the kitchen table where I first heard the word “AIDS” in the 1980s. People like me were dying. I didn’t understand why. Our pastor in parochial school said those people (my people) were “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” Romans 1 said so, according to him.

Finally, I learned about “Religious Trauma Syndrome.” That’s a name being given to common symptoms people display who leave an authoritarian religious body. These are religions that indoctrinate people to be afraid of a god and afraid of “the world” outside the religious body.

In pondering all this, I am shocked at how far society has come in my lifetime in recognizing the natural rights of GLBT people. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come in loving myself.

My celebration however is quickly tempered by another realization.

Our society does not recognize and protect the natural rights of GLBT human beings at the urging of most religious institutions. Our society has made this progress despite most religious bodies, despite the venom spewed by mainly religious people, contrary to “deeply held religious beliefs” of my former co-religionists. Humanity is on the brink of a cure for HIV/AIDS despite the smug glee of some religious people that we were, and still are, dying. Among gay African American youth, bisexual men, and transgender women, the rates of HIV infection have never been higher.

Are there exceptions to this progress our society has made in recognizing us as human beings, against the dictates of religious authorities? Definitely. There are believers of every stripe numbered among our greatest allies. They take their morals very literally as they seek to love us GLBT people as their neighbor, and as themselves.

But our religious allies are our allies despite what their religious authorities teach them, in most cases. They have rejected their indoctrination in this matter. Why? Because they now actually know and love people who identify openly as GLBT. That’s why it is so important to come out. As more and more of us come out, people are less and less likely to hate the “concept” of GLBT. Now our lovable, beautiful, human faces are attached to the words: “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “transgender.” Your friends and family, unless coerced by indoctrinated hate, cannot hate you. They will celebrate you and love you, because you are you. It is not natural not to love. It is unnatural to hate. Hate must be taught. And let’s be honest. It is religion that teaches it, in most cases. Who first taught anti-Semitism? Who defended the proposition that women are to be obedient to men, and in most cases still keeps them out of the pulpit and away from the altar? From what book were slaves taught to be obedient to their masters? Who first taught that mixing of races was immoral? Who taught that GLBT people are an abomination?

This leaves me troubled.

Shouldn’t religion be the “horse” in fostering justice, peace, and love? It claims to be. Shouldn’t society be the “cart?” Yet why is it, in every case in western civilization, that the cart dragged the horse toward recognizing the humanity of Jews, women, other races, and now GLBT people?

Why is it “flaunting” one’s sexuality if a GLBT church-worker comes out, while a straight couple wears a big white dress and a tux to church, but that’s not flaunting their sexuality?

Why would I apologize for hiding my sexual orientation from religious indoctrinators? Would we expect a Jewish person to apologize for hiding from Nazis?

Why do most of what we consider GLBT-friendly denominations have a “conscience clause” for their clergy so that, if a clergyperson’s conscience says it is wrong to marry us, they can refuse to marry us? Why is the outward unity of a denomination more important than the GLBT human being?

Why are taxpayer dollars given as vouchers, so that religious schools can indoctrinate children that other children are evil?

Why are we OK with this? Why does religion get a pass to teach people to hate us?

Those are questions with which I am sitting. I am not at peace with this. I am angry about this. I am working through the hatred that religious indoctrination instilled in me, against me. What religious indoctrination did to me was it made me suicidal, anorexic, bulimic, depressed, a heavy smoker, and a heavy drinker — all to comfort myself over the “comfort” of religion. Since I have come out — both out of the closet and out of religion — all those behaviors have literally disappeared for me.

My spirituality, when I can handle calling it that, is gratitude. I am grateful I survived religion.

Family of the GLBT community: members of our family are suffering. Be honest. We must be honest, or more of us will be beat up, be bullied, turn to drugs and alcohol for relief, commit suicide, and be killed. Our people, our children, are suffering and dying at the hands of religiously indoctrinated hate.

What will I do to stop this?

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