Friday, July 21, 2006


Watching recent events unfold in the Middle East has led me to ponder the question: How do you live alongside an opponent who wants to exterminate you? How do you reason with a group of people who believe your very existence is an abomination in God's eyes that the righteous must actively oppose with every ounce of their strength? That is the dilemma that Israel faces.

It's also a dilemma that the gay community in the United States faces. I'll add a disclaimer up front that I'm not trying to equate the two situations; obviously both conflicts are very complex and nuanced in very different ways, and it would do both of them injustice to try to claim that they are equivalent. But they are in some ways parallel.

One difference that is apparent up front is that conservative Christians (with a few extreme exceptions) don't seek the literal death of gay people, whereas many radical Muslims would quite gleefully kill any Jew who failed to evacuate the Holy Land in advance of their arrival.

But those same Christians do, for the most part, seek the total eradication of gay culture and anything resembling a public gay identity, and the complete silencing of any gay voices in the public discourse. If conservative Christians had their way, the individuals who populate the gay subculture would be forced either to go into deep hiding or to abandon their loved ones and convert to heterosexuality. Those who failed to change their orientation would still have the option of celibacy, of course, though in practice most conservative churches regard such individuals with suspicion, if they don't actually see them as inferior human beings.

To be fair there are more moderate Christians who, while holding to the belief that all gay relationships are sinful, nonetheless respect the right of gay couples to live in peace with at least some of the same legal protections that others take for granted, just as there are more moderate Muslims who are ultimately willing to coexist with the nation of Israel. Unfortunately the moderates in both cases seem destined to remain a minority whose voices are consistently drowned out by those who live and die by loud proclamations of "Thus Saith The LORD."

Conservatives might argue that to coexist with the gay community would be to coexist with a parasite or a hostile invader, since in their philosophy there is nothing natural about homosexuality and no good that could ever possibly come from it. But homosexuals have always coexisted with heterosexuals; they simply didn't have a voice in most times and places throughout history. They may have kept a low profile, maintaining a terrified silence, but they were always there, just as there have always been Jews in the Holy Land.

Of course, the Muslims who once ruled Palestine were relatively tolerant of the Jewish minority (as long as the Jews among them remained largely powerless) when compared to the church's historical treatment of homosexuals, so the parallel weakens at this point, but in both cases it was after the minorities in question found their voices that the holy wars we face today were launched.

Not that the gay community has remained above reproach in its fight for equal treatment, any more than Israel has in its fight for survival. Gay activists have been as guilty of stereotyping and caricaturing their opponents as conservative Christians are of doing the same to gays. And when gay activists lash back at the Christians who wounded them, those Christians turn around and scream "Persecution!" and redouble their own efforts to make gay relationships illegal again - and so the cycle repeats itself as tensions escalate ever higher.

(And since I know that it needs to be said again, let me repeat my disclaimer that I am not in any way equating Israel with the gay community, merely pointing out common themes in their respective experiences.)

Yet the simple fact is that both sides are here, and neither one is likely to go away in the foreseeable future. Fundamentalist Muslims are not going to suddenly stop hating Israel any more than the Israelis are suddenly going to abandon their ancestral homeland en masse. Likewise, conservative Christians are not going to suddenly abandon their deep-seated convictions any more than gays are all going to suddenly will themselves into heterosexuality (even assuming such a thing were possible). Which brings us back to the original question:

How do you live alongside people who believe that the mere fact of your existence is an evil that must be destroyed at any cost? The obvious answer is that you can't; the problem with that answer is that you must. I wish I had a better answer.

1 comment:

CrackerLilo said...

This is amazing. I didn't think of the parallels, but you did make very good points. It's hard to comprehend that there are people who actually want to root out your community like so much kudzu on "their" lawn!