I’ll give you a clue: the one on the right isn’t fictional.
Autumn Sandeen over at Pam’s House Blend has this story about a gay exorcism at Connecticut-based Manifested Glory Ministries. (You can also view the local news story or watch the original YouTube video.)
That’s right, the poor boy on the floor is being exorcized. A whole group of faithful parishioners are present, committed to removing the evil from his body: his homosexuality.
I couldn’t watch the full video. I started to cry and decided it was not worth it to see this poor boy tortured any further. I might as well have been watching a tape from Guantanamo, if not something worse.
C’mon you homosexual demon, we want a clean spirit, get out of the way!
Pretty awful, right? It’s no more awful than “Love the sinner, hate the sin!” It’s exactly the same. The message is clear: You cannot be good and be gay. It (literally) demonizes homosexuality. This sort of religious abuse (that led to the kid seizing and vomiting) is just the playing out of that message. It is hate. It is intolerance. It is unacceptable. If you are so blinded by faith that you consider being gay a sin, then you can never properly love someone who is gay. (This pathetic account from a 1997 Today’s Christian Woman is a clear example of how this point plays out.)
Right now in the name of Jesus, I call the homosexuality, right now, in the name of Jesus!
“In the name of Jesus.” I want to make a very important point with this post. Yes, this is a bizarre extremist group that does not represent the practices of most Christians. But, it does represent the danger of all religious belief. Incidents like these only happen because people put more trust in faith than in knowledge. They put more trust in scripture than in human understanding.
When I hear Christians get all uppity-defensive and say, “Well, I’m not that kind of Christian,” (Scapegoat Meme) they are missing the point. The principle is the same. By enabling faith, they are enabling extremists. Since faith (by definition) relies on no evidence, then there is nothing to distinguish the validity of one belief from another. (Any distinction they try to make actually reinforces my argument for secular values!) If you expect me to respect even your simple belief in God, I hear you asking me to respect the beliefs of these abusive people at Manifested Glory Ministries. They think they are doing good work too; I’m sure they believe it with all their heart.
We are all capable of determining right and wrong. We can learn how to respect each other, we can learn how to support each other, we can learn how to appreciate each other. Charity, good will, compassion: these are human qualities, and no creed can claim exclusive ownership. It is when we let belief systems hijack our ability to make these determinations for ourselves that we invite disaster.
If you, reader of my blog, are a person of faith, I really want you to think about why. Why are your beliefs so different than those portrayed in this story? How do you make the distinction? Why is your set of beliefs more respectable than theirs?