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Hindus concerned at Hindu temple vandalism in Ontario

Radha (right) - Krishna (left), surrounded by ...

Radha (right) – Krishna (left), surrounded by gopis, in Mayapur Chandradoya Mandir, 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Hindus are highly concerned after reports of vandalism of Shri Ram Dham Hindu Temple in Kitchener in Ontario (Canada).

There were reports of smashing of windows of Shri Ram Dham Hindu Temple on November 15 night by vandals with large rocks.

Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that it was shocking for the hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Hindu community of Canada and worldwide; who had made lot of contributions to Canada and the world; to receive such signals of hatred and anger.

Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged administration for swift action; and Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to contact the Kitchener area Hindu community to reassure them.

Shri Ram Dham Hindu Temple, whose tagline is “Wisdom Love Service”, opens and conducts two aartis daily, has services on Sundays-Tuesdays-Thursdays and organizes festivals-kirtan-discourses-special services year round. It contains the murtis of Hindu deities of Sita Ram, Radha Krishna, Shiv Parvati, Durgaa Maa, Ganesh and Hanuman. It offers classes in yoga, Sanskrit, Bharatnatyam and vegetarian cooking; Hindu culture course and yoga camp for kids; and consultation on spiritual-religious issues and rituals. Chaitanya Jyoti and Haripriya Parivrajika are Head Preacher and Preacher respectively.


Is Islam incompatible with modernity?

Asma Afsaruddin, Indiana University, Bloomington

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, political leaders have lined up to denounce the acts as inhuman and uncivilized, unworthy of our day and age.

French President Francois Hollande denounced them as “a barbaric act,” while President Obama called them “an attack on the civilized world.”

Unfortunately, the horrific actions of ISIS – done in the name of Islam – often get attributed to Muslims as a whole. There is the underlying assumption that there must be some core aspect of the religion that is at fault, that the religion is incompatible with modernity.

It hasn’t helped that some non-Muslim thinkers have conflated ISIS with mainstream Islam. They’ll often point to ISIS’ desire to return civilization to the seventh century as further proof that Islam – and its followers – are backwards.

Yet many leading Muslim thinkers are going to some of Islam’s earliest texts to actually promote reform. Contained within these texts are ideas many consider progressive: peaceful coexistence, the acceptance of other religions, democratic governance and women’s rights.

Indeed, Islam and modernization need not be at odds with one another. And in the aftermath of tragedy, it’s important to not lose sight of this.

A single model of modernity?

The question is posed, time and again: will Muslims ever be able to reform and modernize and join the 21st century?

Yet the subtext is almost always that the Western paradigm of modernity – the one that developed in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, that firmly embraced secularism and the (sometimes ferocious) marginalization of religion – is the only one worthy of emulation. Muslims, the thinking goes, have no choice but to adopt it themselves.

However some scholars have increasingly challenged the notion of a single model of modernity. According to them, there’s no reason that religion and modernization must inevitably be at odds with one another for all societies and for all time.

In 16th-century Europe, the priesthood had achieved considerable wealth and political power by often allying themselves with local kings and rulers. The Protestant reformers, therefore, regarded the Church as an impediment to political empowerment.

But Muslims, due to their unique religious history, continue to view their religion as an ally in their attempts to come to terms with the changed circumstances of the modern world.

Muslim religious scholars (ulama) never enjoyed the kind of centralized and institutionalized authority that the medieval European church and its elders did. The ulama – from the eighth century’s al-Hasan al-Basri to the 20th century’s Ayatullah Khomeini – traditionally distanced themselves from political rulers, intervening on behalf of the populace to ensure social and political justice.

Such an oppositional role to government prevented the emergence of a general popular animosity directed at them, and by extension, toward Islam.

For this reason, today’s Muslim thinkers feel no imperative to distance themselves from their religious tradition. On the contrary, they are plumbing it to find resources therein to not only adapt to the modern world, but also to shape it.

Islam turned on its head

Yet 21st-century Muslim religious scholars have a challenging task. How can they exhume and popularize principles and practices that allowed Muslims in the past to coexist with others, in peace and on equal terms, regardless of religious affiliation?

Such a project is made more urgent by the fact that extremists in Muslim-majority societies (ISIS leaders currently foremost among them) vociferously reject this as impossible. Islam, they declare, posits the superiority of Muslims over everyone else. Muslims must convert non-Muslims or politically subjugate them.

As a result, many have accused these extremists of trying to return Muslim-majority societies to the seventh century.

If only that were true!

If these extremists could actually be transported miraculously back to the seventh century, they would learn a thing or two about the religion they claim to be their own.

For starters, they would learn to their chagrin that seventh-century Medina accepted Jews as equal members of the community (umma) under the Constitution of Medina drawn up by the prophet Muhammad in 622 CE. They would also learn that seventh-century Muslims took seriously the Qur’anic injunction (2:256) that there is to be no compulsion in religion and that specific Qur’anic verses (2:62 and 5:69) recognize goodness in righteous Christians and Jews.

Most importantly, fire-breathing extremists would learn that peaceful non-Muslim communities cannot be militarily attacked simply because they are not Muslim. They would be reminded that only after 12 years of nonviolent resistance would the Prophet Muhammad and his companions resort to armed combat or the military jihad. And even then it would only be to defend themselves against aggression.

The Qur’an, after all, unambiguously forbids Muslims from initiating combat. Qur’an 2:190 states, “Do not commit aggression,” while Qur’an 60:8 specifically asserts:

God does not forbid you from being kind and equitable to those who have neither made war on you on account of your religion nor driven you from your homes; indeed God loves those who are equitable.

Extremist groups like ISIS are often accused of being scriptural literalists and therefore prone to intolerance and violence. But when it comes to specific Qur’anic verses like 2:256; 60:8 and others, it’s clear that they cherry-pick which passages to “strictly” interpret.

Going to the source

Not surprisingly, Muslim reformers are returning to their earliest religious sources and history – the Qur’an and its commentaries, reliable sayings of Muhammad, early historical chronicles – for valuable guidance during these troubled times.

And much of what we regard as “modern, progressive values” – among them religious tolerance, the empowerment of women, and accountable, consultative modes of governance – can actually be found in this strand of Muslims’ collective history.

Like 16th-century Christian reformers, Muslim reformers are returning to their foundational texts and mining them for certain moral guidelines and ethical prescriptions. For one reason or another – political upheaval, war, ideological movements – many had been cast aside. But today they retain particular relevance.

As a result, the reformers are distinguishing between “normative Islam” and “historical Islam,” as the famous Islam scholar Fazlur Rahman has phrased it.

But unlike the earlier Christian reformers, Muslim reformers are hardly ever left alone to conduct their project of reform. Their efforts are constantly stymied by intrusive outsiders, particularly non-Muslim Western cultural warriors who encroach on the Muslim heartlands – militarily, culturally and, above all, intellectually.

Such a multipronged assault was particularly evident during George W Bush’s presidency, during which the neoconservatives championed a “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Islamic world, a theory popularized by political scientist Samuel Huntington.

Western Muslim reformers are not immune to this onslaught, either. They are frequently derided by self-styled “expert” outsiders for subscribing to what they characterize as newfangled beliefs like democracy, religious tolerance and women’s rights. According to these “experts,” there is supposedly no grounding or room for these beliefs in their religious texts and tradition.

One wonders how effective Martin Luther would have been in 16th-century Europe if he had to constantly deal with non-Christian “experts” lecturing him about Christianity’s true nature.

Meanwhile, there are a number of pundits who are eager to tie the actions of Islamist terrorists to mainstream religious doctrine.

Journalist Graeme Wood’s alarmist article in The Atlantic is a most recent example of such intrusive punditry.

“The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic,” he wrote. “…the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”

Caner Dagli, a well-known scholar of Islam, rejected Woods’ argument:

All of this puts Muslims in a double bind: If they just go about their lives, they stand condemned by those who demand that Muslims “speak out.” But if they do speak out, they can expect to be told that short of declaring their sacred texts invalid, they are fooling themselves or deceiving the rest of us.

Despite such formidable challenges, reformist efforts continue unabated in learned Muslim circles. Sometimes crises and the subsequent marshaling of moral and intellectual resources can bring out the best in an individual and in a community.

The Qur’an (94:6) promises that “Indeed with hardship comes ease.” Committed Muslim reformers who take the Qur’an’s injunctions seriously (unlike the extremists) are working toward the easing of current circumstances of hardship – and calling on others to help, not impede, them in this global human endeavor.

The Conversation

Asma Afsaruddin, Professor of Islamic Studies and former Chairperson, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, Bloomington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Circumcision Bans Are Unhealthy, Unholy And Unwise For All Males

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

People who hate religion in general, or Islam and Judaism in particular, often attack circumcision as a cruel, barbaric ritual lacking any positive outcome. Others attack circumcision for hidden political reasons of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

And some attack circumcision on secular humane grounds as a needless, cruel procedure. For example, in September 2011 the Dutch Medical Association discouraged the practice of circumcision, calling it a “painful and harmful ritual.” (This advice as we shall soon see, was unwise medically.)

So it is good news for Jews and Muslims that on October 1. 2015 PACE-The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nullified its earlier recommendation that European countries ban ritual circumcision, when it passed (73-6) a resolution on religious freedom.

PACE did not reverse its earlier recommendation due to recent scientific discoveries which explained the health benefit of circumcision; but due to the active political pressure of an alliance of Jewish and Muslim organizations.

Yet in the last two decades several major medical studies have shown the positive effect of circumcision; and this led the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support male circumcision procedures for male newborns and teenagers in the US, according to federal guidelines released 12/2/2014.

Clinical trials and observational studies have found that men who are circumcised are less likely than their uncircumcised peers to acquire sexually transmitted infections during vaginal sex. Being circumcised reduced the risk of infection with HIV from a female sexual partner by 50% to 60%. It also reduced the risk of getting genital herpes by up to 45% and of getting cancer-causing strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) by 30%.

Studies have also found that sex with circumcised men is safer for women. They are less likely to become infected with HPV, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, the CDC guidelines state.

The CDC also states that the risk of adverse events from circumcision is low, and that minor bleeding and inflammation are the biggest problems. The CDC also says minor complications arise in less than one-half of 1% of newborns and about 5% of adults. So being uncircumcised is unhealthy and unwise for all males.

As I stated above Muslims and Jews do not circumcise their children for medical health reasons. For Jews and Muslims ritual circumcision is a sign of communal loyalty and acceptance of God’s will. Christianity, Islam and Judaism all teach that circumcision was already practiced by Prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims to this day.

Christians do not believe circumcision is still a required observance. But, even during Medieval times, Christian governments never prohibited ritual circumcision for Jews and Muslims living under their rule. Equally, Jews and Muslims never tried to force Christians to circumcise their children.

Only pagan governments like the Greeks and the Romans, or anti-religious secular governments like Communist Russia, have done this.

These governments are led by people who believe that their own humanistic, rational philosophy is on a much higher level than what has been taught by traditional religions, which they do not believe in.

For Jews, the ritual dates back to God’s covenant with Abraham. The Torah declares:
(Genesis 17:7) “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…

(17:8-11) “And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God. God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

(17:12) “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,”

Jews have observed this commandment for almost 4,000 years. More than once, attempts to prevent Jews from circumcising their sons led to resistance. In 132 CE a revolt was started by Simon bar Kochba, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian forbade circumcision.

For Muslims, circumcision is connected to Allah commanding Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to follow the religion of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). When Allah says (Qur’an 16:123)  “Then We inspired you: ‘Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith’.” And part of the religion of Ibrahim is, as is evident from the verses cited above, to practice circumcision.

Abraham was an old man when he circumcised himself, thus becoming a good example that one is never to old to do God’s will. As a Hadith says: Prophet Muhammad said: ” Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe.” (Related by Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad.)

Prophet Muhammad himself selected the 7th day after birth to circumcise his own grandsons: Abdullah Ibn Jabir and Aisha both said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) performed the Aqiqah of al-Hasan and al-Hussein (the prophets grandsons) circumcising them on the 7th day. Day.(Related in al-Bayhaq & Tabarani)

Another Hadith also demonstrates further the importance of male circumcision: The Prophet told a man who had just embraced Islam, “Remove the hairs from the time of disbelief from you and get yourself circumcised.” (Related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

Thus, for Jews circumcision is a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants for future generations. For Muslims it is a sign of their close connection to Abraham, which is also celebrated each year at the annual Hajj ceremonies.

For both Muslims and Jews, ritual circumcision is a sign that one who submits to God’s commandments and covenant cannot expect a life without some pain and suffering. But when endured for the right reasons, duty to God’s commandments always leads eventually to great spiritual, and even physical benefits. This is true wisdom.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is:

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Hindus ask Utah school apology for reprimanding student on Hindu dreadlocks

Rajan Zed pic3

Rajan Zed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Hindus are critical of Lincoln Academy of Pleasant Grove (Utah) for reportedly reprimanding a student and removing her from class for wearing dreadlocks, which she links to her spiritual journey in Hindu beliefs.

Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that school should offer a public apology to the student and her family who had to unnecessarily go through this harassment, which appeared to be a case of religious infringement.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged Utah State Office of Education, which oversees this school, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Brad C. Smith to institute an enquiry into this incident.

Rajan Zed indicated that the harassment of eighth-grader Caycee Cunningham should be immediately stopped and her religious/spiritual rights be restored.

Zed stressed that following minority religious beliefs by students should not be “distraction” for any school.  Hinduism was oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it deserved the same respect as any other religion.

Rajan Zed explained that many Hindu ascetics sported dreadlocks as a part of religious practice, a sign of renunciation and disregarding vanity.  Lord Shiva, who along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, formed the great triad of Hindu deities, was depicted as wearing matted hair. Rig-Veda, the oldest existing scripture of mankind, talked about “mighty Rudra, the god with braided hair”.

Lincoln Academy, launched in 2005 whose tagline is “inspiring children to excel”, serves students in kindergarten through ninth grade.


Love Thy Neighbour: A Look at the Relationship between Modern Christians and the LGBT Community


equalpeple1.jpgHomophobia and transphobia are serious issues within Canada and yet majorly overlooked due to this country’s reputation of acceptance and multiculturalism. It is reported that both gay and lesbian Canadians are two times more likely to be victimized and bisexuals are four times more likely to be victimized than heterosexual Canadians (Statistics Canada). This statistic is the product of many factors, but in the following essay I will take a look at the involvement of contemporary Christianity in regards to support for and hatred against the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) community. While I hope to represent the whole of the LGBT community, I will be using examples mostly about male and female homosexuality due to the lack of reputable sources on bisexuality and transsexuality. I hope to demonstrate that while the sources of homophobic discrimination from Christian groups are plentiful, their lack of ability to change and progress ensures that the voice of the supportive Christian groups will inevitably become consensus opinion. First, I will identify the Christian roots of homophobia through exploring biblical passages, the fear aroused from the church’s subordination to the state, and the apocalyptic attitude that oversees it all. I will explore the community of openly homosexual Christians and the methods used to cope, and lastly, I will identify the roots of support through the fear of a larger threat, post-Enlightenment critical thinking, and also the Eastern influence on Western religion and culture.

The foundation of homophobic sentiment in the Christian faith lies within the bible. In order to remain focused, I will be only referring to the New Testament as it is the defining text of Christianity and also the most frequently read. It is a common misconception on the part of LGBT defenders that the New Testament, unlike the Old Testament, is free from homophobic passages. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While the authorship is debatable, Paul was said to have written a few passages in his epistles regarding the unholiness of same-sex intercourse. Regarding homosexuals, he states that “God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another…and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26-27). The key issue with this passage, and to all biblical passages regarding homosexuality, is its allusion to the unnatural. This is where sayings like ‘pray the gay away’ come from. Instead of accepting that LGBTs are born with their own personal gender identity that strays from the socially constructed ‘norm,’ it is perceived as a choice that stems from corruption of the soul. The idea of God’s abandonment of these people to their seductive desires and their impending punishment creates an atmosphere of punishment that begins here on earth. Nowhere does the New Testament say that they should be punished by humanity because it is commonly known that divine judgement is only for God to dole out. That being said, the message marginalizes this group of people and leaves them open to scrutiny.

The New Testament does more than solidify the idea that any sexuality other than heterosexuality and asexuality are abominations. It manages to put same-sex relations in league with other sins in order to emphasize how completely monstrous it is. Paul states, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 5:9-10). This method of incorporating homosexual relations with truly immoral actions such as adultery and theft is used even today. A common argument against same-sex marriage is that if it were to be legal, then we would have to let people marry multiple partners, children, and even animals. The serious issue is that the act has been deemed to be a vile sin and the people involved in the act have been stripped of their agency as cognitive and moral beings. They are seen as puppets being controlled by their sinful desires and because of this, the hateful Christian parties can pretend that they are completely separate and subordinate entities.

Not all that long ago, the Church had a monopoly of power over the people of the Western world. It is unclear whether the reason behind this is that the authority of the church was unquestioned for that many centuries or if the public was merely afraid to rebel. It is clear, however, that eventually religious rule was seen as an inappropriate method of governance. In Canada specifically, “a sedate inquiry awakened in the minds of a progressive people in respect to the result of a Separation of Church from the State,” and the government officials agreed that it would be beneficial to remove Christianity as the governing body (Stimson 198). The subordination of the church to the state meant many thing for Christians including the idea that God was not an all-encompassing, political force. Ever since the inception of Christianity, it has always been common for various groups to validate their causes through the use of God. The early Christians fought Roman rule and became martyrs because they believed that God was on their side. Constantine made Christianity the state religion because he believed that God would support his army. The early ascetics made their way into the desert and lived minimalistic lives of suffering because they felt God wanted them to. What has changed between then and now is a growing sense of human autonomy and responsibility. Subscribing to Christianity is not the only way to live or succeed anymore. The separation of the church from the state is a definitive example of humanity taking fate and morality into their own hands. This is quite possibly where the fear of the hateful Christian groups began and it only grew as the government became more and more secular.

Eventually, in 1985, the Human Rights Act came out and proclaimed in Section 2 that:

all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status… (“Human Rights Act”)

This passage not only acknowledges sexual orientation as a basis of discrimination, but it also serves to humanize the parties in question by explaining that they have their own hopes and dreams, and they also have every right to live their own lives in accordance with their own ideals. Hearing such a proclamation forces a Christian to either accept and incorporate such a decree into their lives, or resent it. Those who resented this statement and the secularization of the government that lead to it, share the same emotion from which hatred stems: fear.

Fear in Christianity is noticeable in the form of apocalyptic thinking or apocalyptic literature. Like eschatological thinking, they tend to focus on God’s ultimate plan or conclusion for the world and humanity; however, apocalyptic thinking goes further to expect punishment for the wicked, rewards for the righteous, and often the destruction of the world as we know it. In any case, it is common for fearful people to live apocalyptically and this theory is seen in the works of René Girard. He came up with four stereotypes of persecution in his anthology of religion and violence known as The Scapegoat. According to him, it all begins when a select group perceives themselves to be in a time of crisis. The crisis is deemed to be a crime instead of a natural event. Due to this conclusion, it is only natural from there to need a criminal who caused the crisis and this ends up usually being a small group of people who are already “susceptible to persecution” (Girard 12-25). From here, violence is used to restore the natural order. In the case of modern day secularism, we have a group of Christians who are confused by the power being taken from the church and laws being put in place that counter sacred, biblical passages; this is conceived as a crisis. Then we have the LGBT community which is already susceptible to persecution and is, for all intents and purposes, much smaller in number. They have become the criminals who caused the crisis and only by eliminating them, shunning them, and shaming them, will the balance be restored. Violence is often used against them as was previously mentioned, but regarding Christians specifically, there are other measures that can be more detrimental than violence. The methods of social exclusion are endless: telling strangers and even loved ones that they will go to hell because of whom they love, creating camps to convert homosexuals back to heterosexuality, verbally abusing them in public sermons, Christian parents disowning their own children, etc. This reaction to crisis is primitive and detrimental to a growing society where it is becoming harder and harder to put people into separate, neat categories.

Apocalyptic attitude is not mutually exclusive to Christianity and therefore, it is noticeable even in groups who support homosexuality. In times of crisis, violence and scapegoating are not the only reactions. Sometimes Christians feel that the crisis is a call to being better Christians. Yes, this mentality can lead to the rejection of homosexuality, but it can also lead to the acceptance of it. According to Laurence Freeman, a renowned Catholic priest and monk, “We re-enact the Cross, as victims or as crucifiers, many times each day. When we gossip, spread rumours, slander or lie we are crucifiers. When we mock cruelly, strip others of their dignity, denigrate, humiliate or marginalize others” (Freeman 256). Here we can attribute the negativity in the world and within ourselves to the cruel actions that we put out into the world. This minimalizes the sense of Christian exceptionalism that is very much prominent in the more strict groups. What I mean by Christian exceptionalism is that these groups hold a sense of entitlement because they have chosen the ‘correct faith’ and from there, they can justify their decisions and actions based on that superiority. Seeing one’s self as the crucifier, however, allows every Christian to be accountable for their own actions. While it may do very little against homophobic thought, it does ensure that these Christians will refrain from outwardly putting down anyone based on their sexuality or otherwise.

There is also an apocalyptic outlook regarding the events of war and conflict happening all over the world. In times of war and violence, it does seem as though the world might end and that humanity will never reconcile their differences. In such a scenario, it makes divisions such as that of sexual preference seem silly. There are bigger battles to fight and unity is what is needed right now. This can be seen in a statement by the United Church of Canada:

The United Church of Canada is among many faith communities locally and globally that celebrate sexual and gender diversity. We as a society need to actively work for positive and safe spaces that celebrate diversity…Ours is a message of solidarity and support to the LGBT community in Saskatoon. (Kim-Cragg, 2013)

Unity and support are being offered to the formerly rejected groups and this is a very good sign. Once such acceptance is offered and considered, it is difficult to go backwards from there. Apocalyptic outlook is common in humanity as a whole, but it does manifest in different ways. This sense of unity and kindness in light of the very real terrors that exist in the world, whether physical or spiritual, is certainly the more constructive path to choose.

Ever since the Enlightenment, we have challenged ourselves to explore the inner workings of society and dissect what is commonly deemed to be the ‘norm.’ From Marx’s theory of religion as an opiate to Nietzsche’s theory that God is dead, religion has become a topic of discussion to which we can employ critical thinking. Critical thinking does not need to be used to degrade religion, but it can explore and help it grow by allowing the practitioners to see the flaws and the human contributions that have been imposed over time. According to Carter Heyward, “we no longer have to wage our campaigns for ‘rights’ on the basis of being homosexuals who can’t help it because it’s just the way we are…whether we are heterosexual or homosexual, we expect our society to offer basic conditions of human worth and self-respect to all people” (Heyward 41). Through critical thinking, we are able to transcend our biases to question our personal motivations. As Heyward says, the question of homosexuality being a choice is immaterial now because there is an understanding and expectation that as humans, we all deserve the same respect. The line gets blurry when discussing rights such as marriage and adoption, but the existence of homosexual humans has been accepted for the most part. Through critical thinking, we have been able to come this far even considering that homosexuality was still a very much taboo subject as little as twenty years ago and this very fact illustrates that we, as humans, will only explore ourselves more thoroughly from here on in.

The acceptance of homosexuality in Christian circles is effectively seen within the very people known as homosexual Christians or gay Christians. First, the fact that this term exists shows that there is an avenue of acceptance within the church; logically speaking, gay Christians have always existed, but only now do the practitioners actually feel comfortable announcing it. Understandably the realisation of one’s homosexuality is a stressful experience and it does not always happen that the person chooses to accept both their sexuality and their faith. There are generally four different strategies that one uses to come to terms with their identity. They can reject the religious identity, reject the homosexual identity, compartmentalize, or integrate their identity (Rodriguez 334).

First, rejecting the religious identity is certainly more of a modern solution. Now that Christianity has been lowered to a level where it is deemed to be contestable, it is believed that “as many as 62% of gays and lesbians feel that religion is not an important aspect of their lives” (Rodriguez 334). Some of this statistic can be seen from the standpoint that many people in general, gay or otherwise, are choosing to not adhere to a religion simply because they do not believe in it. It can also be seen as the product of rejection. The rejection of Christianity is partly a disbelief in a God who could possibly hate someone for being exactly who they are; it is a disbelief that God could create a large population people just to say that they are damned.

Second, the rejection of the homosexual identity can range from ignoring one’s own urges and choosing to marry someone of the opposite sex to undergoing therapy in order to change one’s own sexual orientation. This is quite possibly the most unfortunate choice as it forces a healthy human being into believing that they are corrupted and that they will not be pure in God’s eyes until the Christian community around them agrees that they are.

Third, compartmentalization is a “compromise between conflicting identities” (Rodriguez 334). This is perhaps not the most constructive way of meeting homosexuality with religion, but it is a start. Here, they are not violently opposed to one another. Rather, they are seen as two different parts of an identity that should never mix; be gay at home and be religious as church. The issue with this mentality is that there is still room for internal conflict and self-loathing due to the fact that neither identity is necessarily positive. Compartmentalization provides rather a sense of cold tolerance.

Fourth and last, the integration of one’s identity is the most constructive way for a person to amalgamate their religion and their sexuality. According to Rodriguez, “Such individuals hold a positive gay identity, a positive religious identity, and do not feel conflict between the two” (335). It is quite possible to hold this view without any outside influence, but it is more likely to happen when a person is surrounded by a loving community of family and friends. This is the very mentality that is seen when Christian groups speak out for the LGBT community and when individuals of the LGBT community fervently claim that God made them the way that they are and therefore they know God loves them. This is the most beneficial belief that reflects a positive church sentiment and an inner acceptance on the part of the LGBT community. The most wonderful thing, is that this mentality is clearly growing as seen through an increased number of Christian gay rights protests and public apologies from specific church communities. What I will be exploring next, however, is the reason behind this growing positivity.

The twentieth century is unique for its incorporation of Eastern culture and religion. It is not only that people in the Western world are discovering religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism, but also that they are incorporating them into their own faiths. If you look at Buddhism specifically, its essence has become so engrained into culture that it is hardly noticeable. This can be seen through exploring the first four steps of the Noble Eightfold Path, a text that is one of the first pieces of dharma (teachings) that was said to have been brought to the world through Buddha when he reached Enlightenment. The first four steps are the following: right understanding, right mindedness, right speech, and right action. We do not need to have memorized this list to accept that the meaning underneath it has been assumed into our culture. We have right understanding by realizing that everyone suffers as we do; we have right mindedness when we refrain from thinking cruelly; we have right speech when we refrain from using harsh language and succumbing to self-involved thought; we have right action when we abstain from violence (“The Noble Eightfold Path”). We have entered a paradigm where it is not merely good enough to be polite externally, but we are expected to hone principles of kindness and patience into our very personalities. Such an outlook when combined with Christianity reaps very positive results. It does not change the principles that Christianity is focused on in any way; it merely allows Christians to focus more on the positive teachings and the kindness shown by Christ.

Another influence of Eastern tradition can be seen in Christian meditation. An example of the fusion of Christianity and Buddhism can be seen in the following excerpt by Laurence Freeman, “We should say the mantra without impatience, without force or any intention of violence. The purpose of the mantra is not to block out thoughts. It is not a jamming device. If thoughts attack us while we are meditating we turn the other cheek. In saying the mantra gently we learn from Him who is gentle and humble of heart” (Freeman 256). The Buddhist concepts of patience and non-violence complement the Christian belief of turning the other cheek or not letting your anger consume you to the point that you hold ill will against another. The meditator uses mantra in a similar way to their Buddhist counterparts; however, instead of learning from within oneself and contemplating the emptiness of the universe, the meditator opens themselves up to the grace and teachings of Christ. This shift in the communication between God and humanity needs to be celebrated because it is embracing God’s changing ‘nature.’ God is changing; it can be seen even from comparing his loving and forgiving self in the New Testament to his wrathful and angry self in the Old Testament. Meditation allows the meditator to feel at peace and strengthen their faith through human emotion instead of through archaic laws. Essentially, having a stagnant idea of God and a stagnant relationship with Him is simply not convenient for anyone and the introduction of Eastern elements into Christian practice has certainly contributed to the expanse of kindness seen in many modern day Christian groups.

With the way that society has been described thus far, it may be wondered how it is that these anti-homosexual groups continue to survive. There is one aspect within Christianity that allows these groups to continue on with a sense of entitlement: the belief that God is constant. While God did clearly change between the Old and New Testament, it is written in the New Testament that “the gifts and the calling of God is irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). It also refers to “the unchangeable character of his purpose” (Hebrews 6:17). Unfortunately, there is some legitimacy to the archaic and hateful messages within the bible and due to this inclusion, there will most likely always be a group of people who cannot let go of the homophobic passages. Fortunately, it is also this very inclusion that ensures that Christian support will undoubtedly become consensus opinion. It is as simple as knowing that this world is changing very quickly and we naturally adapt to survive in it. We must adapt or get left behind. This homophobic mentality that has been engrained into select Christian groups by an old text and approved of by the unwavering nature of God cannot keep up with the ever-changing expectations of the nature of humanity.

Supportive Christian groups are grounded in progress and change. It is not only a sense of kindness and acceptance that makes it so, but also that we have realized the inefficiency of discrimination. The youth of today, if cultivated, will go on to be successful and prosperous. If we degrade them, then our country and culture will go nowhere. An optimistic view is given by Calvin B. Ball when he states:

We can see our younger generation offering warming approval of inclusion for those in the LGBT community… those of us who believe that education, particularly higher education, is the gateway to opportunity, the great leveler that can unlock doors of the imagination and the future, should be able to see the urgent, vital importance of ensuring inclusive campuses now. (Ball)

Acceptance of diversity can be seen in many changes such as gender-neutral washrooms, gender-neutral vocabulary, etc. While some see these changes as Band-Aid solutions, it is better to see them as manifestations of the positivity that is slowly working its way through the world. When this positivity meets religion, together wonderful things will be possible.

Homophobia has many roots and causes, and among them is the root of religious thought. Thus, violence toward the LGBT community cannot be said to be mutually exclusive with the relationship between Christian groups and homosexual people. That being said, Christian support is a good sign of communal acceptance and perhaps the foreshadowing of decreased violence in the future.

Works Cited

Ball, Calvin B. “Institutions must Ensure Inclusion of LGBT Community.” Diverse Issues in Higher Education 29.26 (2013): 23. ProQuest. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Canadian Human Rights Act. (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-6). Section 2. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Freeman, Laurence. “Dearest Friends,” WCCM International Newsletter, January 1997. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Freeman, Laurence. “Steps in Relationship,” Jesus: The Teacher Within. New York: Continuum, 2000. 256. Print.

Girard, René. The Scapegoat. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1986. 12-25. Print.

Heyward, Carter. Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God. New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1989. 41. Print.

Kim-Cragg, David. “Supporting LGBT.” Star – Phoenix. Sep 21 2013. ProQuest. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Meeks, Wayne A., and Jouette M. Bassler. The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993. Print.

Prebish, Charles, and Damien Keown. “The Noble Eight Fold Path.” Buddhism – the ebook: An Online Introduction. 4th ed. Pennsylvania: Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, 2010. 52-53. Pdf.

Rodriguez, Eric M., and Suzanne C. Ouellette. “Gay and Lesbian Christians: Homosexual and Religious Identity Integration in the Members and Participants of a Gay-Positive Church.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 39.3 (2000): 333-345. Print.

Statistics Canada. Sexual Orientation and Victimization, 2008. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Stimson, E. R. “Conclusion.” History of the Separation of Church and State in Canada. 3rd ed. Toronto: n.p., 1887. 198. Print.

 About the Author

My name is Jessica Wayner and I am the primary editor of Elemental Editing (, and my area of study was Religious…

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