By Bruce Christian, Aug. 28, 2014.
A new Gallup Poll “reveals” that LGBT Americans are “under represented” in religious organizations and churches.
Really? Is this a surprise to anyone? If anything, shouldn’t the big reveal be that, despite decades of being shunned and persecuted by U.S. churches, one in four people who identify as LGBT still acknowledge they follow a particular religious faith?
The study, which Gallup released earlier in August “suggests” the low numbers of LGBT could be because of “a number of possible causes,” such as where they live or their age.
Nope! There is only one cause for this: Church policies and doctrines have disapproved of our sexual orientation for centuries. Until recently, churches simply accepted blindly that homosexuality is a sin. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard a follower of a religion repeat: “I love you; I hate your sin.” Well if loving another human being, who happens to share my same gender, is a sin, well then I embrace sin.
Because religions are in a battle for their institutional existence to remain relevant in a world that is becoming more accepting of LGBT people, they have to adapt to a more modern attitude.
They are, after all, moneymaking institutions. Every once in a while a single church or leader of a church within a particular faith may actually stand out from the crowd and show genuine Christian compassion, but by and large it’s all about raising money to build the biggest and most ostentatious edifice.
Most Christian institutions — as well as right-wing conservative politicians — enrich their coffers by collecting tithes, offerings and donations by demonizing LGBT people.
That’s why I’m surprised nearly 25 percent of LGBT people consider themselves religious. Still, I understand some people need religion. It is a way to accept that which we cannot know and to explain phenomena we cannot explain. Some people simply accept, through “faith,” that a cause, principle or a system of beliefs is real, regardless of how illogical it may seem to others.
Even LGBT people sometimes need faith in something. For example, I place my faith in my happy hour bartender every day. By handing over a certain amount of money, I have faith he will serve me.
Religion has bothered me for decades. I have had family members who believe that because I’m openly gay I’m also afraid to step inside a church, to pick up the Bible or even to pray.
Churches are simply buildings. The religious may call them a “house of worship,” but they are simply buildings where people gather and listen to someone attempt to “interpret” the stories that appear in the Bible. I’ve never been afraid to step in or step out of one. I don’t believe an almighty being is going to strike me with lightning because, as a “sinner,” I’ve ventured into its “house of worship.”
The Bible is nothing more than a collection of stories. Some are good, some are just bad and some make no sense, which allows for the person leading the church service to interpret it anyway he or she wants. On any given Sunday, the same biblical story can be interpreted hundreds of different ways by hundreds of different preachers representing many different religions.
I’ve read the Bible from front to back on several occasions. Every time I pick it up, it strikes me how anyone can follow it so closely and still not understand the basic core principles of Christianity spelled out throughout the New Testament: forgiveness, unconditional love and renunciation of violence.
These are things that often seem very prevalent within the LGBT community. But in the U.S. Christian community, the core principles seem more to follow these principles: censor anything that depicts sex, abstain from sex outside marriage, oppose abortion and homosexuality, endorse and protect the concept that women are subordinate to men and raise more money by demonizing “sinners.”
Is it any wonder that LGBT people have such low participation in religion?
Bruce Christian is a former managing editor of Echo Magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]