Monday, July 30, 2007

"Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right" by Mel White

I wanted to read this title because I have gay/lesbian friends in my life and because I, too, have been concerned by the political actions/leanings of several figures of late. This was an eye-opening work, but not in the way I expected.

Mostly Mr. White talks about the leaders of several fundamentalist Christian groups, men like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, etc. These are the gurus that have been urging their flocks to vote for (or against, as the case may be) legislation they deem "immoral". Basically, this is anything that goes against a literal interpretation of the Bible, since fundamentalists believe the Bible is "inerrant" and that everything that is written in it are factual events. This would include things such as homosexuality being a sin, and that people engaging in that sort of "lifestyle" should be put to death (eventually - White is quick to point out that while that may be the ultimate goal of these groups, they're not crazy enough to try for it straight out of the gate).

Mr. White's interest in such things is personal; he's been out of the closet and in a committed relationship with his partner Gary for 25 years. Previously, he was married, had children, and was a pastor. He also waged war on a daily basis with his "sickness", trying to "cure" himself through therapy, electroshock, and various other devices. Obviously, he finally saw that he wasn't "sick", never had been, and that in denying who he was, he was also denying that God had made him that way. After coming out, he was ostracized and shunned by many of his former evangelical friends and peers. He also saw the growing danger to the gay and lesbian community by fundamentalist Christian groups, people who want several things changed to reflect "God's law", but seem to have an unhealthy obsession with denying basic rights to the homosexual community at large.

This book goes into great detail Mr. White's crusade to protect those rights, as well as pointing out several similarities between the American fundamentalist Christians and other fundamentalist groups. That part of the book is particularly disturbing, as the groups here have called for the death of such groups abroad (think Al Queda). Also, there's a whole section comparing the groups now to the groups that popped up in WWII, Hitler and fascist Germany as well as Italy. No, Mr. White doesn't go so far as to call anyone the new Hitler, but he does uncover some very disturbing similarities, which is probably inevitable; anytime you have one group of people trying to humiliate/destroy another group, there are bound to be similarities.

The surprising things I learned in this book were about Jesus and the Bible. I have to admit, I am not a religious person. What Mr. White pointed out is what I have, to some extent, felt in my heart, that to be a "good person" and follow a moral life, you should show mercy and kindness to others, take care of those less fortunate than yourself and seek justice for those oppressed. I'm glad to know that that philosphy IS in the Bible, a book I probably should read, as the only parts I hear about/know are the ones quoted incessantly by the fundamentalists. And remember, scripture can and has been twisted to promote any variety of ills, including slavery.

Bottom line, I found the book interesting, if a bit heavy-handed. Then again, I'm not in the homosexual minority that this book is probably being marketed to. I will state, for the record, that I have never believed that legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians is a threat to my marriage, and I just don't understand how others can feel that way. The only threat to my marriage would be my taking it for granted, a thing done on a daily basis by thousands, something glaringly obvious by the divorce rate in this country. Don't forget, marriage was and is still evolving; once upon a time, it was all about property rights and had very little to do with love. I think in this day and age, if you're lucky enough to find a person that you love with all your heart, a person that you'll respect and work towards building a committed relationship with, you should have every right to marry that person. True love is nothing to sneeze at, and it's hard work once you find it. I tell my hubby every day how lucky I am to have him, and how much I love him. I hope others can be so lucky.

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