Gays, blacks and the disabled and the curse of the gods

By Hermes C. Fernandes

In some ancient societies like Greece, children with physical disabilities were sacrificed as soon as they were born. There was a practical reason for this and religious justification. According to their belief, the gods would only have created perfect people, and therefore only these people deserved to live. Such children were believed to be freaks, cursed beings. To kill them was to render a service to the gods. At least, that was how they appeased their conscience after murdering their own children. However, the real and not always confessed reason was that letting them live would be detrimental to society since they would not be productive, they could not fight a war, and on top of that, they would hinder others in an eventual escape. Thus, such helpless beings were seen as an extra weight that they should get rid of as soon as possible. Saving them would jeopardize the survival of others. Therefore, in the name of the common good, the maintenance of order, they only had one thing left to do: eliminate them.

For centuries we have lived with the shame of slavery. Certain ethnic groups were entitled to enslave others, using their beliefs as justifications. Whites claimed to be superior to blacks and even questioned whether they had a soul or were just irrational beings, similar to animals. Biblical verses were devised to justify the use of slave labor. Setting them free would jeopardize the social order. For this reason, abolitionists were accused of progressives, of subversives, of enemies of the order who conspired against the well-being and prosperity of the nation. Genocides were perpetrated and justified by mistaken beliefs. Biblical episodes like that of Jericho and the Canaanite cities conquered by Israel were evoked. Entire societies like pre-Columbian have been decimated“In the name of God”. 

Who would be the victims of our prejudices today? The women? The gays? Muslims? What biblical passages would we be using to justify them? Whose side would we be on if we lived during the time when slavery was seen as a divine right? How would we stand about killing disabled children if we lived in Ancient Greece?

God did not create the disabled! Some shouted.

Black people are a freak! They have no soul! They deserve to be enslaved. 

In the name of this same fundamentalism, many cries out God created male and female! He didn’t create homosexuals or transsexuals or anything like that! So, what special rights should they have? They want is privileges! 

An American pastor declared in a warm sermon that homosexuals have no right even to exist. According to some, their existence would jeopardize the traditional family model that we cherish, just as the existence of disabled children jeopardized the security of ancient Greek society, and the freedom of slaves would implode the social order in force at the time.

In fact, God did not create gays, nor did he create blacks, whites or yellows, nor the disabled, nor the hermaphrodites. He created human beings, subject to various conditions, circumstances, contingencies, and limitations. Nothing is more complex than the being whom the Bible calls “the image and likeness of God”. 

I watched a news story about a transsexual child and his struggle to be able to use his school’s women’s bathroom. Your twin brother is a boy like any other. However, since he is understood by people, he perceives himself as belonging to a gender distinct from his anatomy. Dress like a girl. Speak, feel, think, and act as such. What to say to this child? Was she possessed of a demon? Would an exorcism solve your problem? Would it be that simple? Or would it be the education received at home? So why didn’t your twin behave the same way?

I was touched by this child’s story. I imagined how difficult it must be for parents to face a hypocritical society that claims to believe in biblical precepts, but they use them to justify one of the greatest sins committed by members of our race: prejudice. My soul cried. This little human being may be condemned to the limbo of existence.

Not even society, least of all churches, is prepared to deal with this. Some societies that adopt a more radical and fundamentalist type of Islam give the problem the same solution that the Greeks gave to disabled children: homosexuals and transsexuals are condemned to death, thrown from buildings or stoned.

It is worth making a distinction here. The homosexual usually has no problem with his anatomy. He seeks to reconcile his homo-affection with his biological sex. Transsexuals, on the other hand, experience a crisis, because they feel like a woman in a male body or vice versa. Many choose to undergo sex-change surgery.

How would we react if an operated transsexual converted to the gospel? Would we accept his new condition or would we pressure him to reverse his operation? And how to reimplant a male organ that had been removed? Many other questions arise from there and demand honest and frank answers. However, the first step that needs to be taken is to become aware that such people are human beings created by God and that they live in an endless crisis, not so much with their impulses as with the prejudices of society. Should we welcome or discriminate against them? Would it be ethical to impose any conditions so that they are received? What condition did we impose to receive other types of people? How do we welcome a dishonest businessman who exploits his employees without giving them labor rights and still evades taxes by issuing cold notes? Are we condescending to them? Why are we so radical when it comes to sexuality, but so malleable on other issues? What are we afraid of, anyway? Is homosexuality contagious? Would our children’s sexuality be at risk if the church welcomed such individuals? Were there any of us poorly resolved on this issue? after all? Is homosexuality contagious? Would our children’s sexuality be at risk if the church welcomed such individuals? Were there any of us poorly resolved on this issue? after all? Is homosexuality contagious? Would our children’s sexuality be at risk if the church welcomed such individuals? Were there any of us poorly resolved on this issue?

The truth is that there are already homosexuals in our churches, however, they remain veiled, fearful of being discovered, exposed, and excluded. I have the impression that we value hypocrisy more than sincerity and transparency. Everything that happens under the cover of clandestinity only promotes all kinds of promiscuity and perversion. There are people harassing and being harassed in the churches. But as long as it doesn’t go public, that’s fine. The important thing is to avoid the scandal, some would think.

We have taken the opposite of what Paul presents as being ideal for the worship environment. According to the apostle of the Gentiles, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. In an environment devoid of prejudice, each person is free to be exactly what he is, presenting himself to God “with his face uncovered” [1]in order to be transformed into the image of Christ. The transformation brought about by the Spirit has as its starting point what we are and not what we pretend to be. However, in an environment steeped in legalism and moralism, people prefer to use religious masks, keeping their inner conflicts confidential. The problem is aggravated when the church pressures the homosexual individual to marry. The purpose of façade marriage is to prove that behind the effeminate antics there is a closed-in straight. I know the case of an “ex-gay” who married to prove his conversion. A year later, his wife came to the pastoral office to confess that she remained intact. He had never touched her. I would love to believe that this was an exception.

Homosexuality cases even affect pastoral families. I recently learned of a pastor who sent his only 15-year-old son out of the country after he confessed to being a homosexual. Worse than this was the case of the son of a renowned American preacher, who after admitting his homosexuality, committed suicide by shooting himself in the heart.

I must clarify that at no time do I defend any kind of promiscuity, whether of a homosexual or heterosexual nature. If there are six biblical passages that condemn libidinous acts between people of the same sex, there are more than two thousand verses that denounce social injustices and condemn the abuse of economic power. It seems that the Bible is more concerned with social issues than with sexuality. Nor would Freud be able to explain our obsession with issues of this nature.

How about being more compassionate? How about letting go of our stones instead of throwing them? Before we arrogate ourselves with the cure for homosexuality, I suggest that we seek in Christ the cure for our own prejudices. The remedy has in its formula two components: grace and love. Grace to forgive. Love to welcome. The rest, let us leave it to the Holy Spirit.

[1] 2 Corinthians 3:18
PS So long after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, blacks are still discriminated against. Apparently, a pen on a piece of paper is not enough to abolish one of the cruelest human ills: prejudice. What happened to journalist Maju Coutinho, the time girl at Jornal Nacional is sad proof of that. And by the way, even if homosexuals manage to guarantee all their civil rights, they will still have to deal with prejudice for a long time. It is the type of stain that is only removed with the continuous application of the most powerful bleach: love. It may take a few generations before we get rid of this curse that has been with us since the dawn of humanity.