Biblical grounds insufficient to defend hate

Elton Wong

Today is the second-to-last of the National Coming Out days. It’s a sure bet that the letters to the editor section of this newspaper will soon become clogged with people debating what this portends for American society.

Some of the letters will no doubt be well-reasoned and articulate, and others will say that homosexuality is immoral and wrong. In any case, the entire discussion will soon degenerate into half-hearted repetition of the same old points accompanied by personal insults.

In my previous two years as a student at Iowa State, this has been the case. I see no reason that it will change soon.

I’ve observed there are two main schools of thought that have a problem with homosexuality.

One is the good, old-fashioned, male locker room, hate-people-who-are-different-from-us mentality, which any American male who has had gym class can discuss at length. People who espouse this view can be recognized by their use of the word “fag” and their general lack of intelligence.

This mindset, much like mindset of all fools, would be laughable if not for the deadly serious consequences it can have.

The other mindset is more mainstreamed. The general force behind it is religion. People who argue against homosexuality on these grounds generally appeal to traditional values or quote the Bible. I haven’t found either of these approaches terribly convincing.

Tradition can be a fine thing, but if we had always gone with tradition when debating social policies, our nation would still endorse slavery and the limitation of suffrage to rich white landowners.

If you’re going to endorse traditional values, why not go all the way?

The other alternative, appealing to the authority of the Bible, is also not very useful because just about any view one could hold is defensible on Biblical grounds.

For example, there is right now in this country an organization that calls itself the Phineas Priests.

This group of men takes inspiration from chapter 25 in the book of Numbers, in which a man named Phineas kills an interracial couple with a spear.

God rewards Phineas and his descendants with a “covenant of a lasting priesthood,” because Phineas was “zealous for the honor of his God.” The modern-day Phineas Priests are devoted to killing interracial couples.

Now, I am by no means saying that most people who believe in the Bible approve of the Phineas Priests and the killing of interracial couples. Most Christians condemn racism these days, and rightly so. But if your only authority is the Bible, how can you make a convincing case against the Phineas Priests?

According to the bare meaning of the text, God likes it when people kill interracial couples.

This attitude was once more widespread. For a good part of this century, interracial marriage was illegal in most of the United States.

I’m willing to bet that in the 1950s, the majority of students on this campus believed interracial dating to be morally wrong. I imagine that they would have employed many of the same arguments that are now being used to attack homosexuality.

Segregation too was defended on religious grounds. It is true that Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister and that his ideas of equality and brotherhood were grounded in his ideas of Christianity.

However, King was a renegade. The religious establishment, especially in the South, was largely indifferent or openly antagonistic to the civil rights movement, mirroring the stance of most established churches in the gay rights movement of today.

Ames even has its own renegade pastor in this movement: the Rev. Steve Sabin.

The analogy is revealing. Homophobia, like racism, is best understood not as a stance based on religion, but as a prejudice that people use religion to defend.

After considering all this, what is the best attitude for us to have with regards to homosexuality? Well, who says we need to spend time developing a special attitude? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve thought it was arbitrary that people chose homosexuality to get all worked up about.

There are many activities I don’t engage in, like dipping french fries in soft-serve ice cream or buying expensive shoes and running around my neighborhood for no apparent reason. You don’t see me trying to pass laws against dipping fries in ice cream or acting self-righteous towards my friends who go jogging, right?

Homosexuality is exactly like heterosexuality except for certain physiological differences on the part of the people involved.

No one who thinks it through can hold this minor difference to be important.

The joys and difficulties of any relationship, gay or straight, are so universal that they reduce these minor differences to unimportance. Homophobia is nothing but rationalized superstition, but it can be overcome by education and activism.

At ISU, this role has fallen primarily on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Alliance. We should praise this organization for the good work it does to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. At the same time, we should work toward the day when that organization becomes obsolete and unnecessary. Hopefully, that day is not far off.

Elton Wong is a junior in biology from Ames.