Gay intolerance more like Pontius Pilate than Jesus

October brought a chilling, homophobic wind into my peaceful, lesbian household.

It began with an Oct. 10 guest column by Lindsay Brown, explaining that the Bible is very clear about condemning homosexuals to hell. It gained force when an unprovoked police officer brutally beat lesbians at a lesbian bar in St. Paul and was then allowed by fellow officers to leave the scene. Now, the political genius among the leaders of Maranatha Christian Fellowship at my University has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit to keep non-Christians, and more specifically gays, from its ranks.

Now, at 33, after 20 years of dealing overtly with my sexuality as well as my fair share of firsthand violence and discrimination, I find that even when I view my immediate world as stable and loving, I can never fully escape others’ preoccupation with my private life.

While I can offer nothing more than my condemnation of the abuse of power displayed by the St. Paul police officer, I feel compelled to address this recent Christian assault on gays.

Brown is correct that the Bible does refer negatively to men having sex with one another. I will point out that sex between two women is never specifically addressed in the Bible because women, at that time, did not have a sexuality of their own. Although I should be relieved at being left out of the debate, I know Brown and Maranatha intend to include me under some comprehensively damning loophole that speaks of the unnatural use of women or nonprocreative sex acts. It is tedious and ultimately fruitless to battle with Bible verses on an issue like this. There are churches that openly welcome gays into their communities and still call themselves Christian; there are also Christians who seem disappointed that “we don’t stone homosexuals” (Brown) anymore because of that pesky New Testament.

Gays who want to be part of a Christian community will hopefully find the loving, Christ-like variety, because gays are still stoned, Brown. One must be very cautious when using the Bible to buy an agenda of hatred and intolerance.

The practice of marginalizing little-understood groups to rally “Christian” support against a common “enemy” has a long, infamous history. This remarkably simple tactic has been used successfully to justify the Holy Crusades, the Holy Inquisition, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the extermination of untold numbers of indigenous American “pagan heathens” and centuries of anti-Semitism. It is even being used today by President George W. Bush, another fundamentalist Christian, to equate the Iraqi people to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists.

To Maranatha Christian Fellowship: It is the unsolicited, pre-emptive nature of your lawsuit that warns me you are using this very political device. Jesus was neither an imperialist nor a bigot.

There is a biblical figure who provided a model for your tactics. His name was Pontius Pilate, and he was a clean-cut Roman procurator who condemned a charismatic, marginalized, subversive leader to death. When I looked at your Web site I saw a familiar collection of rhetoric set squarely against gays, witches and women who have abortions. While these groups are not historically known for their successful coups against the ruling, Christian hegemony, they have historically been used to terrify the masses to join the larger, fundamentalist cause.

I think what disturbs me the most, however, is your name. “Maranatha” appears only once in the Bible. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha” (I Cor. 16:22). “Anathema” is an ancient Jewish designation or judgment of an object or creature, including a person or group of people who is so hated or accursed that it is quite permissible to exterminate them. It is used like excommunication but stronger. “Maranatha” is an excited exclamation of the second coming, the judgment day.

I think you have a vision of your intolerance being gloriously vindicated one day by a head-patting patriarch. My vision involves the day when all the people, once villianized and harmed by your words, stop hating one another and realize that together, we greatly outnumber those who actually oppress us.

Tara K Yule is a history of philosophy and religion student. She welcomes comments at [email protected]