By María Lopez Vigil (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – The Orlando massacre seems to me a good occasion to reflect on a country such as Nicaragua, where homophobia is a permanent reality that sparks vulgar jokes, explains political blackmail, and causes painful human dramas.
I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to speak with women and men whose sexual orientation differs from the heterosexual, confirming how much interest they have in listening to ideas that question the religious roots of homophobia and can serve as tools for debate as well as a way to feel freer.
Indignant and grieved by what occurred in Orlando and what occurs daily in Nicaragua, I want to share some of the ideas I’ve discussed with them.
Yes, “God created us, man and woman.” And in his infinite creativity, he created many forms of being and feeling as men, and many ways of being and feeling as women. All the colors, all the forms, all the faces, all the ways of expressing sexuality – if expressed with love and without doing harm – emerged from the hands of God.
Sexual diversity is a human reality. If we believe that God is the creator of all we see and know, we also believe that God has created those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual… Homosexuality is present in all species, and we are also a species – Homo Sapiens. Homosexuality is a natural thing, present in the wondrous work of God that is nature.
The Hebrew people, like other peoples in the ancient world, were homophobic. The Greek people, another ancient people, were not homophobic. The ancestral cultures of the Americas weren’t homophobic. Homophobic intolerance came to America with the conqueror’s sword that had no tolerance for the sexual culture they saw in these lands, because it contradicted their own.
Homophobia is an expression of a particular culture. Some cultures have seen it as normal; others have not, linking their condemnation and rejection to religious mandates. That’s the case of the Hebrew culture, and the books that make up the Old Testament are the expression of that culture.
The Book of Leviticus compiles three or four thousand years of that culture and its people’s laws. Taking such laws as a reason to condemn homosexuals and deny them their rights is to deny all of humanity’s legal advances, including those we value today in Nicaragua.
People who believe that everything those ancient Biblical texts say is the mandate of God and for that reason we must reject homosexuals and homosexuality should also, for example, forbid women who are menstruating to enter a church or the site of a religious celebration, because that’s also prescribed in Leviticus. Why do we no longer do this, although it’s written in the Bible? Because we also realize that the norm is outmoded, ancient, the expression of a culture we’ve moved beyond, and which distorted women’s privacy and negated their human rights.
If to sin is to consciously inflict harm on others and to harm ourselves, then we can affirm that homosexuality is no sin, because when lived with love it harms no one. The sin is homophobia, because to discriminate, reject, scorn, disdain, hate, and even go so far as to kill is to harm and harm greatly. To discriminate against another human being, created by God and loved by God, for being the way they are, for feeling what they feel, is a sin.
True, in his letter to the Corinthian Christians, Paul condemns homosexuals and even excludes them from the Kingdom of God. This is the word of Paul of Tarsus, though, not the word of God. Paul was formed in the tradition of the Pharisees, which implies a moral formation full of prejudice and severity, against women as well. This is reflected in many of his writings.
To be a Christian, whether Catholic or Protestant, doesn’t mean following Paul, but having as a reference and inspiration the example, words and ethics of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus never excluded or discriminated against anyone, not for their gender nor for their sexual orientation – he never spoke of that. And surely, in his group there were men and women with a different sexual orientation. Science has taught us that some 10-15% of the human population feels a sexual attraction towards their same sex.
The intolerance for homosexuality of our traditional Christian culture has a history. It wasn’t always like that. In 1996, the U.S. historian John Boswell published the book Same Sex Unions in pre-modern Europe. In it, he demonstrates via exhaustive research in the Archives of the Vatican that for a time the primitive church held ceremonies “of brotherhood” in which they blessed the marriage of two men with rituals equivalent to those of heterosexual marriage. At that time, female homosexuality was far more hidden, and as such there was no record of prayers to bless the marriage of two women.
We have believed, or they’ve made us believe, that God created us male and female, man and woman, principally for the purpose of procreation – to reproduce and have children. Perhaps that’s why we think that, since neither gay men nor gay women can biologically reproduce in a homosexual relationship, then their relationship must be counter to the will of God. That’s a materialistic idea, with no spiritual basis. All human couples are fundamentally together for the communication, the company, for pleasure and happiness. Offspring may or may not be born from that communication.
The basic principal of our religion and of our ethics, learned from Jesus of Nazareth, is this: where there’s love, God is present. If homosexuality is lived as an expression of love – commitment, affection, support, pleasure and shared happiness – God is there. If homosexuality is lived in a damaging, unhealthy, abusive, egotistical way, hidden behind a double standard, God is not present, but not because it’s a homosexual relationship. The same could be said of a heterosexual relationship with those traits.