Christians claim they’re being persecuted, but are they the real bullies?

“As Christians, we have had our way for such a long time that we don’t even recognise that being criticised isn’t really persecution.”
By Chris Csabs

Christian Churches in Australia are having a tough time. Numbers are down, abuse, hypocrisy and prejudice are rife and, as a result, public opinion of Christianity can tend to be critical rather than embracing.

For Christians, this can be hard. After all, in Australia, we have had the monopoly as one of, if not the, key influencers of societal opinion for many years. Issues such as the role of women, gender, sex and sexuality have largely been discussed, even in the secular community, with Christian beliefs as an assumed shared morality for decades. But this is changing.

In the SBS documentary Christians Like Us, where I shared a house with nine other Christians for a week discussing issues like this, the first thing that divided us was the idea of Christian persecution.

“It’s not easy being a Christian in this society,” said one housemate, to murmurs and nods of agreement. “It’s not easy being a Catholic!” said another.

Chris Csabs

Chris Csabs will appear on new SBS documentary series ‘Christians Like Us’.

My instant gut reaction was of anger, and I couldn’t help but to stick my two cents in. “It’s not that hard either.” I interrupted, seeing nine sets of eyes turn to face me.

I am a Christian, but I am also a gay man who experienced years of ‘conversion therapy’. I know why my housemates feel that they are persecuted, but I also know that the reality is:  I have experienced far more persecution as a gay man than as a Christian…and most of it has come from the Church. For this reason, I no longer go to a church, even though I retain my faith in God and my relationship with Him.

I am a Christian, but I am also a gay man that experienced years of ‘conversion therapy’.

As Christians, we have had our way for a long time. In fact, it could be argued that up until recently, the Church has been one of the most powerful influencers of societal norms in Australia. However, public opinion is now far less influenced by the Church. This is evidenced, amongst other things, by the overwhelming support for marriage equality, which probably didn’t exist in such a strong majority a decade ago. Unfortunately, the reaction from the Church has largely been to claim that they are now being ‘bullied’ and ‘persecuted’.

Christians in Australia do cop some criticism. I mean, we really do make ourselves easy targets. Are people laughing at us? Sometimes, yes! Do people like us? Often, no! But perhaps we need to ask ourselves, why? And the answer is – because Christians do and say things that completely warrant criticism.


“I’ve got homosexual friends,” said one housemate, “…but I get called a homophobe because I may not agree with something. That’s not a fair cop…”

As Christians, we have had our way for such a long time that we don’t even recognise that being criticised isn’t really persecution… often, we are simply being disagreed with. But after many decades of having a monopoly on influencing societal norms, we are finding ‘changing with the times’ tough. It is not easy to wake up in 2019 and realise that your views are no longer shared by the majority, and it’s even harder to accept that your system of belief no longer holds the same power over society as it once did.

As Christians, we have had our way for such a long time that we don’t even recognise that being criticised isn’t really persecution…

The Church has a long history of real persecution against LGBT+ people. ‘LGBT conversion therapy’ has the spotlight now, and the ideology that gay and trans people can be ‘fixed’ or ‘healed’ is still clung to in more churches than you would like to think. The belief that being LGBT+ is a perversion of the natural order has made them the target of abuse, violence and discrimination for a long time in Australia. Although not all discrimination has directly come from the Church, the influence of the Church’s stance on homosexuality has often perpetuated and even condoned the homophobia and transphobia in the Australian community. LGBT+ people working in Christian organisations still fear loss of employment, and those who go to non-affirming churches are often declined roles in ministry and, in some cases, are asked to leave.

In 2017, the Australian government used a nationwide survey to determine public opinion on same-sex marriage. This was a traumatic and damaging time for LGBT+ Australians, as their fellow countrymen were given permission – no, were encouraged– to give their opinions on whether homosexuals should be considered equal when it comes to marriage law.

Fear-mongering and homophobia were tactics of the ‘No’ campaign.  Advertisements during the debate implied that children were being taught to be gay and trans, and claimed that marriage equality would take away parental rights.

I am truly sick of hearing Christians complain about being ‘persecuted’ for their beliefs. Historically, we have been the bullies. How dare we claim to now be the ‘bullied’ ones, simply because the majority of society has decided that they don’t like the way we treat others.

Chris Csabs appears in the SBS program Christians Like Us, which airs over two nights at 8.35pm, Wednesday April 3 and 10 on SBS.


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Orlando shooting: It’s different now, but Muslims have a long history of accepting homosexuality

Orlando shooting: It’s different now, but Muslims have a long history of accepting homosexuality
Muslim societies have ignored their own history of accepting homosexuality, latching on to a twisted colonial legacy instead.
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Mateen had boasted of links to the Islamic State, Islamic State as well as Hezbollah. While all three groups are well-known West Asian insurgents, they are also at war with one another and represent widely differing theological views. US investigators said that Mateen did not seem to understand the distinction between the groups – a point that makes it difficult to square with the charge of Islamist terror that was considered in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Mateen was killed by the police on Sunday after he opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in a tragedy that was among the deadliest mass shootings in American history.

The 29-year-old was reportedly a regular at Pulse and even used a gay dating app. Reports of him having asked men out have surfaced over the last few days, with his ex-wife claiming she believed he was gay. She also said that Mateen’s father, an immigrant from Afghanistan, had mocked him for his sexual orientation. One of the first statements made by Mateen’s father after the shooting was, in fact, that homosexuals can be punished by God.

Stigmatising homosexuality

Could the attack, then, have been driven by Mateen’s sexual orientation and the shame associated with homosexuality amongst Muslims today – rather than Islamist terror? “Transgressive sexuality and conservative religion can be a toxic mix,” writes David Shariatmadari in the Guardian. “If Mateen felt conflicted about his interest in gay men, it could have been because he believed his faith would condemn him for it”.

While a clear motive is yet to be established, it is a fact that modern Muslim societies condemn and shame homosexuality. In most Islamic countries, Muslims cannot come out as gay without risking stigma and bodily harm.

It is, however, important to point out how recent this homophobia is. For much of history, Muslim societies have been incredibly permissive of same-sex love.

Golden Age

At the height of the Islamic Golden Age – a period from the mid-8th century to the mid-13th century when Islamic civilisation is believed to have reached its intellectual and cultural zenith – homosexuality was openly spoken and written about. Abu Nuwas (756-814), one of the great Arab classical poets during the time of the Abbasid Caliphate, wrote publicly about his homosexual desires and relations. His homoerotic poetry was openly circulated right up until the 20th century.

Nuwas was an important historical figure – he even made a couple of appearances in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (known in Urdu as Alif Laila). It was only as late as 2001 that Arabs started to blush at Nuwas’ homoerotism. In 2001, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, under pressure from Islamic fundamentalists, burnt 6,000 volumes of his poetry.

Most modern Muslims, therefore, have little knowledge of what the Islamic Golden Age was really about, even though they keep on wanting to go back to it.

“ISIS have no idea what restoring the Caliphate actually means,” a tweet by Belgian-Egyptian journalist Khaled Diab said. “In Baghdad, it’d involve booze, odes to wine, science… and a gay court poet.”

Baghdad was, till the time the Mongols invaded and destroyed it, the cultural capital of much of the world – the New York City of its time. If Nuwas and his homoerotic poetry could represent the height of Baghdadi culture, it is natural that other Muslim societies would also be quite open to homosexuality. As historian Saleem Kidwai puts in the fabulous book Same-Sex Love in India, “Homoerotically inclined men are continuously visible in Muslim medieval histories and are generally described without pejorative comment.”

Writing on same-sex love

In fact, far from being pejorative, Muslim societies once openly spoke of same-sex love, even celebrating it at times. Mahmud of Ghazni, a towering sultan of his time (971-1030), was actually held up as an ideal for, among other things, deeply loving another man, Malik Ayaz.

Mughal Emperor Babur wrote of his attraction to a boy in the camp bazaar in his 16th-century autobiography – a celebrated work of literature in the medieval Muslim world.

In the 18th century, Dargah Quli Khan, a nobleman from the Deccan travelling to Delhi, wrote a fascinating account of the city called the Muraqqa-e-Dehli (The Delhi Album), which described just how mundane homosexuality was in Indo-Islamic society. At the public bazaars, male prostitutes solicited openly and Khan spoke admiringly of how “young good-looking men danced everywhere and created great excitement”.

Till the 19th century, Muslims treated homosexuality as a part and parcel of life, so much so that students were exposed to romantic stories of homosexual love – a position untenable even today across parts of the Western word. Kidwai writes:

Sadi’s classic Gulistan, containing stories of attraction between men, was considered essential reading for Persian students. Ghanimat’s Nau rang-i ishq, a seventeenth century masnavi describing the love affair between the poet’s patron’s son and his beloved Shahid, was a prescribed text in schools.

Islamic law

Of course, theologically, Islam did consider homosexuality to be sinful, based on the Quranic story of the people of Lut (Lot in the Bible). Interestingly, though, the Shariat, the umbrella term for the various legal codes and schools governing Muslim societies, have no punishment for homosexualty per se – sexual relations between men are outlawed under the larger rubric of adultery. Even then, convictions for homosexuality could only be carried out if the sexual act was testified to by four eye witnesses. This was such a high bar that commentators on Islam such as Hamza Yusuf have characterised the outlawing of homosexuality in the Shariat as a sort of “legal fiction”. Indeed, unlike medieval Europe, instances of homosexuals being punished are rare in medieval Muslim societies.

So what caused Muslim societies to go from coolly reading homoerotic poetry to outlawing and stigmatising same-sex love? It’s tough to nail down an exact reason but here’s an interesting coincidence: there are five Muslims countries where being gay isn’t a crime. All that the five – Mali, Jordan, Indonesia, Turkey and Albania – share in common is that they were never colonised by the British.

Colonial influence

In 1858, in fact, the Ottoman Empire decriminalised homosexuality (a status inherited by Turkey). This was two years before the British Raj created the Indian Penal Code, Section 377 of which proceeded to outlaw homosexuality in modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

So deep was the influence of the 1860 penal code in India that conservative Hindus continue to hold homosexuality to be immoral and in the nearly 70 years since Independence, Parliament has not been able to overturn the law. Subramanian Swamy, Member of Parliament from the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party even went so far as to claim: “Our party position has been that homosexuality is a genetic disorder.” This is near-bizarre given that Hinduism, unlike Islam or Christianity, does not even have any textual condemnation of same-sex love.

It appears as though Muslim (and Hindu) conservatives, without knowing it, are actually copying the Victorian mores of 19th century colonialism, while ignoring their own history. This at a time when even Western European cultures have pulled up their socks and gone on to ensure that human rights are available to their people irrespective of random externalities such as the gender they happen to be attracted to.


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The Continuum Of Violence: Homophobia Didn’t Start With A Mass Shooting In Orlando

(Image: gaelx, Flickr)
The Continuum Of Violence: Homophobia Didn’t Start With A Mass Shooting In Orlando

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The mass shooting Florida is at the extreme end of the scale of violence against the Queer community. But the source is bigotry, something that is actively promoted in Australia, writes Nick Pendergrast.

It is horrible to hear what has happened in Orlando. More information on this terrorist attack is becoming available as time passes, however, it seems clear that the attack was inspired by homophobic outrage at seeing two men kissing.

In order to address extreme acts of violent homophobia such as this, we have to tackle homophobia all of the way along the spectrum of the ‘continuum of violence’.

Image from the chapter ‘Disability and the Continuum of Violence’ by Dr Andrea Hollomotz – from the book Disability, Hate Crime and Violence.
Image from the chapter ‘Disability and the Continuum of Violence’ by Dr Andrea Hollomotz – from the book Disability, Hate Crime and Violence.

This continuum of violence, outlined in the image above, is one that is explained by Dr Andrea Hollomotz, a lecturer in Disability and Crime, in the book Disability, Hate Crime and Violence (from pages 53-55).

She explains that this notion of a continuum demonstrates a broader understanding of the term “violence” to not only include physical harm but also discriminatory language and other forms of bigotry, such as segregation.

She notes that such actions also have profound effects on the targeted group.

Hollomotz is focusing predominantly on violence against people with disabilities, but notes that this notion of a continuum was first suggested in relation to gendered violence. It is very useful in understanding hate crime generally, including homophobic hate crimes like the attack in Orlando.

While such attacks are certainly at the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of homophobic violence, they should not be viewed as totally separate to other forms of discrimination against queer people, such as homophobic language or stigma around certain sexualities.

All of these actions are based on the same homophobic thinking, and all have the same effect in terms of maintaining existing power imbalances and keeping queer people marginalised.

(IMAGE: Guillame Paumier, Flickr)
(IMAGE: Guillame Paumier, Flickr)

Those individuals who become victims of hate crime are also likely to have been victims of other forms of discrimination along the spectrum, such as discriminatory language, stigma and exclusion.

Likewise, those carrying out hate crimes often start with “lower levels” of bigotry, which are still very harmful, before escalating further down the spectrum of discriminatory violence.

Malcolm Turnbull’s Response and Safe Schools

I have been following Malcolm Turnbull’s response to the attack. He has condemned the attack and while arguing that this is “an attack on all of us” he has acknowledged that this is “a murderous attack on gay people” specifically.

It is not enough for Turnbull to only condemn the violence at the extreme end of the continuum, especially while his government has attacked the Safe Schools Coalition.

This program aims to support queer youth and overcome issues such as stigma and social inclusion in schools. If we are genuinely concerned about stopping attacks like the one in Orlando, it is vitally important to address homophobia all of the way along this spectrum.

Turnbull’s comments that the attack “certainly appears to be motivated by a hatred of the freedoms, the free society which all of enjoy” do nothing to address the root cause of such homophobic hate crimes.

Instead of this empty George W. Bush-type rhetoric about terrorists hating our freedoms, we need to oppose not just this attack but the marginalisation of queer people in all forms.

This means not only supporting programs like Safe Schools, but also opposing homophobic comments from some right-wing politicians and groups in Australia following the Orlando attack.


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Priest Condemns Homophobia as Anti-Christ, Religious Right Freaks Out

Religious Right calls priest who condemns homophobia anti-Christ

Is the Very Reverend Gary Hall a tool of Satan?

Jennifer LeClaire, who writes for the conservative Christian magazine Charisma, quotes Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), as saying “Gary Hall of the National Cathedral is sinning when he claims that opposition to homosexuality is a sin. This is counterfeit Christianity in action—transferring the guilt before God from those who are committing sins (of which homosexuality is one) to those who oppose those sins.” LaBarbera calls this an example of a new heretical ‘sin-affirming Christianity’ that poses a danger of spreading within the evangelical Church. Jennifer LeClaire adds that she thinks LaBarbera is “spot-on” and declares she is shocked by the kind of deception the Very Reverend Hall is perpetrating.

Yesterday (Oct. 22), Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (another hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center) added his two cents worth in the FRC’s Washington Watch Daily Commentary. He compared the Very Rev. Hall to one of the “false prophets” from the biblical Book of Jeremiah: “they encourage those who do evil, and as a result, no one turns from doing evil.”

So what did Gary Hall say that has the Religious Right so upset? Here’s a sample:

“We must now have the courage to take the final step and call homophobia and heterosexism what they are. They are sin. Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin. Shaming people for whom they love is a sin. Only when all our churches say that clearly and boldly and courageously will our LGBT youth be free to grow up in a culture that totally embraces them fully as they are.”

“It’s more than tragic—in fact it’s shameful–that faith communities, especially Christian ones, continue to be complicit in putting our children at risk and abetting the attitudes that oppress them, thereby encouraging the aggressors who would subject our children to pain, humiliation, and violence.”

And after same-sex marriages became legal in Washington DC earlier this year, Hall announced that the National Cathedral would begin to perform the wedding ceremonies.

Is Some Homophobia Self-Phobia?

Is Some Homophobia Self-Phobia?

Over at Science Daily, a report on a study that suggests that the answer is yes:

Homophobia is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires, a series of psychology studies demonstrates.

The study is the first to document the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, including self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, implicit hostility towards gays, and endorsement of anti-gay policies. Conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara, the research will be published the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves,” explains Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study’s lead author.

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