Saturday 18 June 2016

God’s Bigots: The Religious Origins Of Homophobia.

Owen Jones Takes Offence: Dismayed at British Sky Television's handling of the Orlando Massacre, left-wing author and LGBTI activist, Owen Jones, gets ready to disengage from the live media review in which he is participating. Owen's viewpoint, that Orlando should be seen purely and simply as a homophobic atrocity, not an Islamic terrorist attack, while understandable, is, nevertheless, an oversimplification.
OWEN JONES: democratic socialist, LGBTI activist and Guardian journalist: takes homophobia seriously. So seriously, that earlier this week he pulled off his microphone and stormed out of Britain’s Sky News studio in protest at the network’s treatment of the Orlando massacre.
To Jones, what happened in Orlando was very simple: more than a hundred people had been killed or wounded by a gun-wielding assailant because they were gay. Before it was anything else, Jones declared, Orlando was a homophobic atrocity – the worst since the Second World War. Alleged connections with ISIS; the assailant’s religious beliefs; these were secondary to the killer’s primary motivation, which was, according to Jones, the violent erasure of LGBTI identity.
Watching the video, it is easy to see why Jones became so irate. There is an unmistakeable tone of correction in the presenter’s voice when he emphasises the victims’ humanity over their sexuality. It was almost as if he felt unable to identify with the dead and wounded until they had been redefined into persons for whom he could legitimately grieve. Not queers, but “human-beings”.
Jones had been invited into the Sky studio to discuss the way the news media had presented the tragedy. This was, of course, why Jones was so angry. The dominant theme of the British and American coverage was that Orlando represented yet another Islamic terrorist assault upon the “freedoms” and “tolerance” of the enlightened and democratic West. The homophobia which drove Omar Mateen to gun down the LGBTI patrons of the Pulse nightclub was thus elided in favour of a more comfortable narrative: “They [ISIS, Radical Islam] hate us [The West] because of our freedom.”
What must also be acknowledged, however, is that Jones’ determination to keep the focus squarely on Mateen’s homophobic motivation, itself begs the question of what made Mateen a homophobe in the first place? In this regard, Jones’ determination to dismiss the killer’s religious beliefs – along with his declared allegiance to ISIS – as matters irrelevant to his homophobic actions, is, almost certainly, misguided.
If we reject the proposition that homophobia is genetically predetermined, then we must accept it as a socially constructed phenomenon. In the simplest terms: homophobes are not born, they are made.
And if homophobia is a social construction, then we must acknowledge the important roles played by powerful societal institutions – including organised religion – in its creation. The Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; all of them militantly monotheistic and aggressively patriarchal; have always dealt harshly with homosexuality and lesbianism. Those found guilty of such “abominations” were to be put to death.
It is only in the course of the last half-century that Western statute law has ceased to offer powerful secular reinforcement to these religious strictures. Meanwhile, in the overwhelming majority of Islamic countries, homosexual conduct continues to rank as a capital offence. Even where more liberal and permissive penal codes now prevail, the legacy of organised religion’s condemnation of homosexuality is a strong one. In a great many parts of the supposedly “tolerant” West, anti-homosexual prejudice – homophobia – continues to lurk just below the surface.
How disturbing the apprehension of this intolerance must be for those whose sexual orientation is other than heterosexual. In communities where homophobic antagonism is construed by family and friends, employers and workmates, as obedience to the will of God, the situation for LGBTI individuals is much, much worse. Constantly being made aware of one’s “otherness”, while not being able to either acknowledge it, or escape it, can only generate the most acute psychological stress.
Was Omar Mateen gay? Quite possibly. Patrons of the Pulse nightclub remember him, but only as a loner, someone who held himself aloof from the club’s easy-going conviviality. His first wife remembers him as an angry man, from whose violent behaviour she had ultimately to be rescued by her family. Looking at his many brooding selfies, the world will remember Mateen as someone determined to present his best possible face to the world.
And that could never be his gay face. Was this the crucial negation which fuelled his anger and twisted his perceptions? When he saw two men kissing in a Miami street, did he envy their freedom or resent it? Unlike him, they appeared to fear neither God’s punishment, nor their families’ rejection. How had they done it? How had they moved beyond sin, beyond shame? He could not be such a person. He would not be such a person. He would ask God to make him a different person – a righteous person. He would wage a jihad against his own desires.
In the end, did he despair of ever defeating those desires? Is that when he began to fantasise about martyring himself in the holy war against Western corruption? In the online communities of Islamic fundamentalism he would have found plenty of encouragement. Paradise awaited those who fell in the battle against the sinners; the unbelievers; the enemies of God.
The operator who took Mateen’s 911 call, just minutes before he unleashed hell at the Pulse nightclub, described him as sounding “calm”. In his final moments, before a hail of Police bullets cut him down, witnesses similarly recalled his calm, untroubled demeanour.
These descriptions do not conform with Owen Jones’ characterisation of the killer as some sort of enraged, frothing-at-the-mouth, homophobic thug. It does, however, sound remarkably similar to the descriptions of the early Christian martyrs as they waited to be torn to pieces in the amphitheatres of Ancient Rome.
It is what religion does to people: it transforms their world.
For the early Christian martyrs, the evil arrayed against them was not a barrier, but a portal, to the presence of God. For the contemporary soldiers of Islam, dutifully slaying God’s enemies, Paradise awaits.
On that terrible Sunday morning, where did the broken human vessel that was Omar Mateen believe himself to be standing? At the gates of heaven? In God’s favour? Or, was the Pulse nightclub simply the place where he killed himself – forty-nine times?
This essay was posted on The Daily Blog and Bowalley Road on Saturday, 18 June 2016.


Anthon said...

Chris, a truly powerful reflection. Thank you for it.

May we all reflect on the place our beliefs and our own pain have in the decisions we make. May we who lead churches reflect on how our words and attitudes can heal or harm.

Anonymous said...

My opinion ,for what its worth is that this was primarily a homophobic hatred massacre with the root cause being the religious intolerance practiced by the Islamic faith.
The Catholic church is another organisation which is anti-gay but they don't throw people off roofs, still large parts of the Christian Catholic church are intolerant.
There are also some countries which say they are Christian ie Nigeria which are extreme in there anti-gay views.

The pox and the Plague on all those practitioners of anti-gay zealots.

Life is surely challenging enough without being discriminated against because you are gay, a perfectly natural state of humankind.

Anonymous said...

Re homophoic versus Islamic, didn't his wife drop him off for the big event? If so she either a. was accepting (liberal minded)
b. was complicit in an *Islamic* attack?
Also he appears to have scouted Disney World

jh said...

Kim Hill asks her guest: "What about events in Orlando? Diversity: doesn't make sense does it?"
Diversity is supposed to be some sort of bonding agent (visionary new world order)?

peteswriteplace said...

To me it was a terrorist act, the killer used homophobia as an excuse for an Islamic attack. By all accounts he may have been bisexual. Some of the radical Islamics involved in these various terrorist attacks have twisted minds. They receive what they seek.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

The guy was obviously a conflicted fundamentalist religious gay person. If you frequent liberal American news websites, it's a common topic. We shouldn't make too much of the Islamic terrorism aspect, simply because the guy obviously didn't know one Islamic terrorist organisation from another, considering he swore allegiance to 2 totally different and opposing ones.
But being a fundamentalist, Christian Muslim or (if one can use the word in that sense with them) Jew, must be a terrifying experience. Your most fundamental beliefs tell you that you are evil. You are forced to remain in the closet, and even marry simply so you can remain on side with your family. They are often sent to some form of boot camp in order that the game may be prayed away. And if outed, they become estranged from family and friends. It must be absolutely fucking miserable.
And the problem in the US tends to be that if a white person commits a crime like this and they are mentally disturbed/on a student gone bad/quiet loner. If a black person commits a crime like this or any other for that matter their criminal background is always stressed, even if it hardly exists. But if a Muslim does something like this then it's all was characterised as Islamic terrorism. So another poor Sikh will probably be shot in retaliation.

Anonymous said...

There's something misjudged about the tone and some of the content of this. Was it really necessary to compare the calm of those who were tortured and executed for the sake of their beliefs - and there have been many over the centuries - to the psychotic calm of a mass murderer?

Anonymous said...

I've said it before, and this is another one of those columns, man when you hit the spot Chris, you nail it.

charles e said...

Is not the original meaning of homophobic, fear of oneself being homosexual? This would seem to fit this killer, combined with his narcissism. So that is so far nothing to do with religion, Islam.
But to top it off, to light the fuse, to give him the cause celebre, once again we see the horrible perverting sexual frustration so engendered by modern extremist Islam. This so called faith really does have issues to resolve.
I don't know what the answer is but I can't help thinking it significantly lies in the hands of Muslim women. It's from birth on these killers are made. Women need to revolt against the misogynistic oppressive, perverted side of this creed and reform it from birth onwards.

jh said...

I look forward to your post on Jo Cox, Chris.
Internationalists are (by definition) traitors. The editor of the Guardian has come out in favour of Brexit as he has seen the effects of immigration on local wages. This immigration mania is part of a popular delusion amongst progressives: that they are making a better world, when they are just spreading the over populated around. It is only the business sector (non-tradeables) who benefit. How many internationalist bloggers, media outlets and government and academic institutions do we have compared to nationalistic? It is very much an uneven playing field?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

FFS, by FAR the most acts of violence against gay people in the USA are committed by Christians. And a pew poll suggests that more Muslim people favour gay marriage than Christians. At least evangelicals, who as we know make up a fairly large proportion of the American population. But there you go.
I don't know what the answer is but I can't help thinking it significantly lies in the hands of Christian women. It's from birth on these killers are made. Women need to revolt against the misogynistic oppressive, perverted side of this creed and reform it from birth onwards.

Nick R said...

What a wise and thoughtful column. Thanks Chris

Galeandra said...

Trotter's viewpoint that 'Owen's viewpoint, (was) that Orlando should be seen purely and simply as a homophobic atrocity' lacks accuracy from my recollection of the interview. Jones was being talked over and down to by both a co-guest and a Sky-news interviewer of fairly indifferent journalistic skills and his reaction was understandable. I would have walked too.

The homophobia that is alleged of the shooter might be a consequence of all or none of family & cultural background, religion, psychological disorder, or other unknown factors for that matter. What is known is the naivety of the shooter is terms of his knowledge of Islamic terror organisations,and in a way way his references to Islamic terrorism seem more like a flag-of-convenience or, maybe, an indicator of a deep well of narcissism which drives him to fill the role of fantasy hero or avenging angel.

Jones took umbrage at the determination of the other commentators too seemingly minimize this particular horror as it was directly experienced by the homosexual community. As I look at a world riven by the stresses of American foreign policy blunders I am with Jones in being tired of being terrified by all the ugly consequences of the Bush/Blair inspired jihad on (islamic) terrorism. From now on,let he who is without sin launch the first drone.

greywarbler said...

Every fine idea, as in religion, gets watered or dirtied sooner or later by strong and determined actors who seize the idea and broadcast their own versions of it.

Jesus only had about three years of preaching and spreading his vision of how people could live their lives differently and better. He was a fisher of men he said, and those who believed in him and followed him continued to spread his message as they got their courage back after his violent and cruel death.
Hence, scholars estimate that Jesus began preaching, and gathering followers, around 28-29 AD. According to the three synoptic gospels Jesus continued preaching for at least one year, and according to John for three years.

It is more St Paul's words about people lying down with their own gender we hear about than what Jesus pronounced. And he knew that he could not advocate too strongly against standards of the day as he would be arrested at the drop of a hat. So 'pay the Romans what they are due' he said, and he would not have people throwing aside all the precepts of the time that were considered right social behaviour.

It seems to me that a lot of the cant that we hear from Christian religions arises from the message being skewed by decisions made in the minds of the elders and office bearers of the various churches, rather than coming from the spirit of Jesus' words. Or analogies are used as if they are literal anecdotes.

There is secular thinking in the realms of religious behaviours such as the Exclusive Brethren leaders trying to advance their chosen ideas through assisting National politically with leaflets, the prosperity churches unashamedly putting money-first as an example of being right-minded which seems the opposite to the biblical message. In their religious world, blessings of materialism flow after right behaviour, and at least one church applies a measurement developed to assess business improvement to the church takings and member growth, and number of baptisms.

In other words the religious precepts such as attitudes to homosexuality,
divorce, unmarried mothers and so on arise mainly from prejudices and dictates of those more powerful at the head of each religion, who then enforce their precepts by various means.

I think Robert Burns had to kneel at the front of his church and confess his sexual sins to all, but that may have just been a story. Taking on God's mantle and controlling our innate sexuality, which is at the base of our personal soul and identity, puts the Church and its august priests into a role which might develop into all-powerful. They can assume powers of life and death over us, calling on God's authority to themselves, which is idolatrous according to the bible, and meting out terrors for misconduct such as the Inquisition, the Apostasy, the Witchhunter, the Adulterer.

Mainly all these are involved with our sexuality, where we come closest to being gods, making a person ourselves with or without our own volition. This must be controlled to ensure that religion is seen to be pre-eminent in everything. Now, to be consistent, religion must not let us have the right to choose to evade procreation by having sex with our own gender, or worse, to do so but make other arrangements to procreate. And then there are the upstarts who wish to die at a time of their own choice. When will the world stop interfering in God's will as channelled through his earthly bureaucrats?

Anonymous said...

which was, according to Jones, the violent erasure of LGBTI identity.

I remember at High school a boy got excited about a male anatomical model (in a science class). I told my older sister about him to which she responded (sharply): "you keep away from him!". Religion had nothing to do with it. Speculating, it was more about (at a deep level) getting infected and upsetting our family arrangements.
Two boys in our class convinced me that people are born gay. I reasoned that homosexuallity is a querk of nature and i saw gays as burdened.
People of strong religious conviction tend to believe that God makes man and (therefore) God doesn't make mistakes. To believe otherwise is to insult God. But they are probably a minority since most people tend to a moderate view of their religion (religiosity)? I did some reading and there is an ongoing debate in evolutionary psychology re homophobia but nothing much has happened since that began due to the feelings the debate invokes.
Maybe it is a case of spoiling for a fight if LGBTI is seen as a biological mess (nuisance/compromise) by wider society (even while accepted). Do we really celebrate Diversity when Diversity includes being disabled?

Anonymous said...

Chris, Hi.

Have just read your June 17 opinion piece in Fairfax papers.

Here's my comment about it:

THE BLAME FOR ORLANDO - Christ Trotter’s ‘Divisive Issue’ Nelson Mail June 17

In Christ Trotter’s misaligned argumentation (Nelson Mail June 17), he blames the civil laws given to Old Testament Israel for the Orlando massacre. By that method, when a vigilante here takes it upon himself to personally punish the breakers of NZ laws, we should blame our laws! Positing two biblical Gods, one cruel and one kind, Chris fails to differentiate between the due response of the civil justice for a crime, and the personal willingness of the Christian victim to forgive the perpetrator, as Jesus commanded.

A F Jenks

Guerilla Surgeon said...

My response to people – usually fundamentalist – who claim that being gay is a choice is "why would anyone choose to be discriminated against, the subject of violence, intimidation and vile epithets?"
I put that up there with the famous gay "agenda" – which usually only has one item on it – equality. :)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"By that method, when a vigilante here takes it upon himself to personally punish the breakers of NZ laws, we should blame our laws! "
I can't be arsed looking it up, but there must be a logical fallacy in here somewhere? :)

jh said...

"The European project was always bound to fail. Europe is a continent riven by geographic barriers. It has spent two millennia not only indulging in massive and constant internal wars, but also keeping written records of them, informing each generation of all the times their forebears were wronged. Over the centuries, great empires have risen and fallen, leaving behind distinct groups of people with different histories, languages and cultures. Any project attempting to fuse these disparate cultures into one monolithic state over the course of just 70 years was by its very nature doomed. It would inevitably encounter insurmountable levels of nationalistic resistance, and eventually the project would stall. That is the point at which we now find ourselves."
So much for multiculturalism, it is criticized as being hegemonic which I think means Mother State enforces it.

Daniel Copeland said...

Once again jh blames everything on immigration, despite the fact that Omar Mateen was born in the same country where he committed his crime. Chris, couldn't you encourage jh to get their own blog instead of using your comment space as one?

Guerilla Surgeon said...


"The group's reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight. As a former recipient of their "INTEL REPORTS" (I assume someone at Stratfor signed me up for a trial subscription, which appeared in my inbox unsolicited), what I found was typically some combination of publicly available information and bland "analysis" that had already appeared in the previous day's New York Times. A friend who works in intelligence once joked that Stratfor is just The Economist a week later and several hundred times more expensive. As of 2001, a Stratfor subscription could cost up to $40,000 per year."

greywarbler said...

I think you are talking a lot of bull about the European Union. Humans are contentious creatures and we only manage to live in societies under a system of managed tension. Over there, they speak more than one language and parts of their brains light up beyond the point where it is is extinguished in NZ and old-time Brit brains.

Humans have minds that can analyse and think the pros and cons of a situation and come to a workable solution. In NZ we got round to it with the LGBT? group. If people get too entrenched so that their brains are full of oughts and shoulds with no deviation allowed, then analysis and reflection can't occur. In NZ, and probably in all countries with the bull-headed British background, we don't learn how to do that at school and not from our parents either, who have never reflected on the world they are swimming round in, like goldfish in a big bowl.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Daniel – JH seems to have an amazing facility for turning every topic around to the subject of immigration. Chris, you did say you might crackdown on this a little.

Anonymous said...


Ian Paul said...


A Muslim kills more people in the name of Islam, yet , once again, the blame is deflected onto someone else.

How lucky for the Left that gays were killed this time, so they could wring their hands over 'homophobia'. Well, Muslims of this particular ideological bent don't like anyone who strays from their Islamic theology. It just so happens that gays were the target this time.

You can hark back to Christianity and Judaism but Political Islam is driven by an attempt to impose an Islamic theocracy on whichever countries have an Muslim population. We would be better off giving voice to those Islamic voices who believe in separation of mosque and state, and freedom of speech.

We have lost our freedom of speech regarding Islam because their violence after the Muhammed cartoons etc has intimidated the West into silence. We should have responded with a show of overwhelming force in the West, turning over whole suburbs of sympathisers, so they knew freedom of speech is sacrosanct. Freedom of speech is the right to offend because on all other matters, obviously, we agree. If I offend Christians I only live in danger of them quoting scripture, whereas with Muslims I run the risk of death.

You long for Waitakere Man but your instincts are to go to standard left-wing thoughts too often to appeal to Waitakere Man.

Despite all that, keep up the good work.

charles e said...

Breaking news:
UK to leave EU adrift and isolated.
The great British gizzer on that bus has spoken.
Democracy a wonderful thing.

Anonymous said...

Diversity, no thanks said Yorkshire Pudding, get fucked and fuck off. who are you to blame them ????

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"A Muslim kills more people in the name of Islam, yet , once again, the blame is deflected onto someone else."

There is absolutely no evidence he killed them for Political Islam. And a certain amount of evidence to the contrary. I'm not saying fundamentalism didn't have something to do with it, but he was gay. That would have produced tremendous internal conflict, because his religion disagreed with it, and regarded him as evil.

But. He knew absolutely nothing about Political Islam. If he had known, he wouldn't of sworn allegiance to 2 totally opposed organisations, which essentially hate each other. And profilers have decided that his profile fits more neatly into the category of mass shooter, then Islamic terrorist. He was obviously mentally disturbed. His record of employment was pretty spotty, he was bullied at school, and he was prone to domestic violence.
And while I'm not at all sure the profilers know everything, I'd rather believe them then you.

We should have turned over whole suburbs of sympathisers? How do we know who are sympathisers? Are there whole suburbs of people who think identically? One thing we should have learned from counterinsurgency warfare is that doing that sort of thing only produces more sympathisers. From people who probably hadn't thought much about it before, until their front door is broken down by burly policeman.

If you think the West has been intimidated into silence, you need to read more widely. Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett have and some continue to speak out. Hitchens obviously not because he died. And as far as I'm concerned, it's ALL superstition.

"If I offend Christians"?

Depends on where you live. You wouldn't want to offend them by having an abortion in many places in the US. You wouldn't want to offend the "Army of God" in the US. You wouldn't have wanted to be a lesbian in Atlanta in 1997. You wouldn't want to be a Sikh in certain parts of the US, because that seems to be offensive to them as well. You wouldn't want to offend them in parts of Africa. I suspect there would be violence if you offended them in many of the Pacific Islands.

Jesus wept, sometimes I just despair.

Ian Paul said...

Dear Guerrilla Surgeon,

People who kill in the name of Political Islam don't have to be signed up, examined and full members. All they have to do is be inspired. These "lone wolves" are inspired. That their understanding of Islam is incomplete is neither here nor there. The dead are dead; they are not half dead because the killer could only recite half of, say, ISIS beliefs.

As for being a closet gay, the latest on Mateen is that he does not appear to be that but the FBI investigation is not concluded.

Hawkins, Hitchens, Harris and a small group of others have continued to blast Islam and good on them, but theirs is a small outlier.

The general flow is that the media have been subjugated, for example, with their refusal to publish or present the Mohammed cartoons in solidarity with the Danish paper or Charlie Hebdo announcing they would no longer draw Mohammed, just to name two examples. You have to practice free speech not just talk about it, and in the absence of vigilante action, the state must make it plain that they will defend freedom of speech with force. Charlie Hebdo and the others needed tanks and rifles around their offices, not hashtags and sympathy.

As Orwell said with regard to Hitler etc; bullies and thugs will take moral authority until the cows come home, but what bullies and thugs really fear is physical authority. At the moment the Muslims are winning on freedom of speech.

The Left only discovered sensitivity towards religion when Islam was being criticised, before that when Christianity was being slagged they couldn't have cared less. In fact, they took positive glee in slagging Christians and Christianity. The difference was that Christians accepted it as free speech, whereas Muslims as a bloc do not. That is their business in the Muslim countries, but in the West they must be taught to respect free speech.

As for Christian violence, I think you are picking unicorns to create a pattern and suggest a moral equivalence. I don't think that is there - compare the treatment of Muslims in the West to the treatment of minorities in Muslim countries and you will find Muslims wanting. My particular favourite is the ethnic and religious cleansing and genocide of minorities in ISIS controlled areas.

Jesus wept -he certainly did, from on high he must have seen Mohammed coming.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Christian bigotry is rampant in the Bible Belt of the US, and getting worse. They are nibbling away at a woman's right to control her reproductive processes, and trying to bring back discrimination against gay people. They are also trying to restrict freedom of speech. And these things go in cycles – not helped by the situation in Israel. But it's not so long ago that about half 1 million people in Rwanda were killed by Christians led by their priests. Muslims are persecuted in the Philippines by Christians, and in Thailand by Buddhists, so I'm not actually picking unicorns here. All people use their various superstitions to justify their actions, but very rarely do they have a solely religious motive.

Anonymous said...

Jones reminded me of the character out of Little Britain - "He is the old gay in the village".

In other words - it was all about him.

Jones needed to be asked - Why did they kill marathon runners in Boston? Is it because Muslims don't like jogging? Why the Lindt Café in Sydney. Was their chocolate not Halal? Did the London underground bombers not like public transport?

When will the liberal left realise they're attacking ALL of us? Queers, Jews Christians, Atheists, Communists, cartoonists, authors: We're all in their sights.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

When will the extreme right realise that and they say "they" they are including the huge majority of Muslims that don't attack anyone. And ignoring why Christians who walk into a church and kill nine people because "they" are raping our women or some such. That's the problem with "they".