During his speech at the 2013 Jewish Literary Festival in Washington, DC, Dan Savage discussed a panel that he was on with Bishop Gene Robinson. Dan said that he found it bothersome that Robinson’s point of view on religion was that if we focused more on the love message of the Bible and less on the chastising messages, that people would be less likely to use them against gay people. Dan pointed out that it was akin to a phrase from Homer Simpson; ‘Beer is the cause and the solution to the world’s problems.’ Dan felt that religion, similarly, was the problem, but he wasn’t quite sold on it being the solution. But isn’t this changing of an attitude from problem to solution one that gay people have been doing for decades for ourselves? One that is helping us to make strides toward equality?
Didn’t gay people, way, way back, internalize what the culture said about them. That there was something wrong with us. That we were mentally ill. That we had a dysfunction. Wasn’t this why our clubs were secret; had blacked out windows; why we had codes of dress to identify ourselves to others; why Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell existed–gay will effect moral and cohesion. Wasn’t this how we viewed ourselves until a group of people got together and decided, we’re not going to focus on the hate; the external hate and self-hate. We are going to focus on love and loving ourselves. We are no longer going to view our relationships and sexuality as a problem. We are going view building our relationships and showing them to the world as a solution. As something to be proud of and celebrated, not to be ashamed of. We are going to demonstrate that our love exists, and is just as valid as heterosexual love, no matter what we are told. Isn’t this the same thing that Gene Robinson is trying to do with his focus of love in religion vs. hate?
Isn’t focusing on the love message of the Bible as solution raising awareness that it is there. Isn’t that another way to change the attitudes and open hearts and minds. By speaking a message of love and acceptance through the Bible, isn’t Gene Robinson doing the exact same thing that Harvey Milk was trying to do. Isn’t Gene Robinson recruiting advocates through faith similarly to how Milk was recruiting advocates by speaking out; raising the voice; asking the question; and pointing out that the love exists.
I sense that Dan Savage is bothered by this attitude because it seems like a huge challenge; at times maybe it seems even a hopeless one. But we still have a lot of shame and self-hate within the gay community itself and we’re not giving up on us. I suggest that we don’t give up on religion or the Bible either. The same way we hope to reach those who have a poor self-esteem about being gay needs to be the same way we hope to reach those who use religion and the Bible as justification for hate. And raising our voices to show that the Bible message as love is one of the paths in which we accomplish this.