I usually write about spirituality as it applies to LBGT people and their allies. But today, the story of the US diplomats being attacked and killed in Libya this week is on my mind. Actually, I may not be straying from my usual message.
If I remember the details correctly (and admittedly, I’m not
a journalist), the US military aided the Libyan revolution against
long-time dictator Gadhafi and as a result, the leader was toppled. It
seemed in the aftermath that the liberated Libyan nation was mostly
grateful to the United States. In fact, polls even showed that the
majority of Libyan citizens had positive feelings for the leadership of
the United States. So, the world understandably responded with shock and
dismay when US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy staff
members were murdered in Benghazi. What happened?!
and political scientists can analyze the power vacuum that may have
been created when an old regime fell. And, certainly politics and
relationships in the Middle East can seem complex even to news junkies,
and even more so to those who may not be keeping up that much.
Reportedly, the murders took place as part of a protest over a US made film that insulted Islam.
From my sideline view, it seems that an anti-Muslim extremist
infuriated Muslim fundamentalists who responded by attacking people who
were not responsible for the questionable film. What a mess!
But see, here is where we get back to the matters I usually write about.
I was relieved to see faithful Muslim Libyans holding signs saying that
they deplore the violence inflicted on the US diplomats. Some will
always use religion negatively to insult other religions, to demonize
same-gender loving people, to justify sexism or xenophobia or child
abuse. Some people will always blaspheme their religion, whether it is
Islam or Judaism or Hinduism or Christianity, by insisting that religion
causes them to hate, demean, attack, or exclude “the other.”
But the truth of almost every major religious tradition is that it
values peace, human dignity, hope, love, kindness, and compassion. Those
who are violent in the name of Islam are no more representative of the
best of their religion than homophobes, racists, or misogynists who call
themselves Christian adequately represent the spirit of Christ.
The recent attacks should not be used to promote intolerance of
religions not our own (if we happen to be religious); and, in our
pluralistic world that is smaller and more accessible than ever, we must
stop using our religions to justify our bigotries. One may hate, fear,
or not understand same-gender loving people, but she or he should not
blame their prejudice on their faith. One may distrust people from a
certain region or country or culture, but again, that prejudice
shouldn’t be dressed up in the language of religion. Hatred disguised as
values is no less hateful, nor is it any less dangerous.
am deeply sorry that faithful Muslims were insulted by anti-Muslim
bigotry. And I’m deeply sorry that innocent Americans were killed
because some people wrongly felt that having their religion insulted was
more appalling than taking the lives of people who did not insult them.
I’m sorry that religion can be misused to create division and pain. And
I call on all people of faith, regardless of what spiritual tradition
they claim as their own, to affirm the human dignity of all people and
to stop cloaking their fears and hatreds in the language of faith.
Sometimes the victims of religiously sanctioned hatred are gays and
lesbians. Sometimes the victims are Muslims, or Christians, or Jews, or
Atheists. The offending party misusing their noble religious tradition
may change and the most recent victim may be from a different community
that the one before, but the problem is always the same: prejudice
posing as piety, viciousness posing as values, rage posing as religion,
and fear posing as faith. Those of us who claim to be religious simply
must be better representatives of the basic social institution we call
No matter what our religious tradition may be, we all
are meant to live by the Golden Rule, which stated only slightly
differently from one tradition to the next, tells us to treat all others
with the decency and kindness with which we would want to be treated.
Until we can do a better job of that, we bring more shame than honor to
the word “religion.”
Durrell Watkins holds sociology and
theatre degrees from Henderson State University and Goddard College,
respectively, as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Union
Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Episcopal
Divinity School. He is the author of Wrestling with God without Getting
Pinned: Old Stories, New Thoughts, & Progressive Spirituality
(Outskirts Press, available at Amazon.com), and is the Senior Pastor of
the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale (www.sunshinecathedral.org).http://gaysofla.com/articles/commentary/268-religion-shouldnt-be-an-excuse-to-hate.html
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