I grew up with a religious family, religious by faith, not out of tradition. Like my parents, I would describe myself as a charismatic or pentecostal Christian like you mostly find it in America and in young, rock-music playing mega-churches. Most of those churches, despite their modern look, unfortunately have a problem with homosexuality and are even in the extreme founders of the so-called "ex-gay" movement that, against all scientific evidence, seek to "repair" individuals with "unwanted same-sex attractions" (which largely results in living life in denial, self-harm and even suicide).
I go to the Australian Hillsong church's offshoot in London. I like the young, ethnically-diverse people, energetic and joyous atmosphere, the uplifting music and the general feeling that you come because you like it, not because you feel obliged to. I've heard that the Australian mother church is somewhat-linked through it's pastors to ex-gay activities, but just because of one disagreement with my church's doctrine, I won't leave.
This Sunday, however, I had quite a stirring experience that made me reflect and pray a lot. Christine Caine, from Sydney was giving the four o'clock afternoon sermon.
One aspect that might be remarkable to you if you come from another denomination or religion is that yes, women are fairly equalised and allowed to preach within protestant churches. I am proud that my church overcame the century-long tradition of oppressing women that still affects today's religious practises. The Catholic, Mormon and Orthodox church don't ordain women, or in Islam, women sometimes aren't even allowed into the mosque, or are kept from the men-only main rooms.
This Sunday, Chris Caine was talking about devotion of one's personal life to God's cause (in her case, fighting prostitution and evangelism). Being an orphan, she said she had a difficult childhood, that she grew up in "a culture that demeaned females" but that she eventually broke out the oppressing culture with the help of Jesus to realise her aspirations. Christine went on:
"[I was] abused by four men for twelve years almost weekly. (...) People with my kind of background don't normally end up doing what I am doing, they end up with the drug-dependant or alcohol-dependent or two or three different kids to two or three different fathers, or gay or at the VERY least confused about their gender identity. That's what normally happens" (get the mp3 here)
Drug and alcohol addiction are negative, OK. Divorce and several husbands is what least women desire but she adds two more things to the list: "gays" and (as I understand it what she thinks is even worse) people that are "confused about their gender identity", by which she might also refer to gays and/or transsexuals.
The message to the thousands of church-attendants is that homosexuality and transsexuality are:
- comparable to drug-addiction and
- the result of an unfortunate past.
With just one sentence, Chris Caine reinforces negative stereotypes in listeners, teaches that non-heterosexuals have something like a sickness and leaves the attendants with the thought that gay people are damaged inside. She continues the religious tradition of teaching other people are inferior and is another proof that humans forget history and repeat the same pattern of oppression again. This is severe because by this, the killing of Matthew Shephard or more recently the suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover are caused. What she and many others don't understand is that sexual orientation is nothing chosen, just like nobody chooses to be born black, green-eyed or as a woman.
It makes me sad to see the oppressed oppressing others themselves. What happened to blacks in the US didn't stop them from protesting passionately against gay-marriage a week ago in Washington (the video of it here that will sadden you).
The century-old oppression of women that even held on to affect Christine Caine's life in the late 20th century didn't teach her to respect differences and finally understand that God's creation is so big and diverse. Just like we delight in the many differently-coloured flowers of God's nature, we should cherish God's richly diverse array of humankind in which none is inferior to another.