Manasseh
by Mario Gerada

‘Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, ‘Because,’ he said, ‘God has made me completely forget my hardships and my father’s House.’
                                                                                                    Gn 41: 51

As a gay man living in a Mediterranean country, I cannot fail to ponder on LGBT issues within the Mediterranean region. Discussing LGBT issues from ‘the Mediterranean perspective’ is no easy task. The Mediterranean, the place which saw the rise of the three Abrahamic religions, and the rest is history.

I am not an expert on the Mediterranean region. I am neither a historian nor a theologian. I am not an expert on the Abrahamic religions either. I am simply a gay man, concerned for fellow LGBT.

When discussing LGBT issues one automatically has to discuss religion/s. Religions for better or for worse have shaped civilizations, the way people lead their lives and the way most people perceive LGBT people. Legislation has been enacted based on such beliefs and scriptural interpretation.

The Abrahamic religions seem to have a common perception of God as the Creator; a God of love and mercy who cares for his children/people. Such idea is a notion which saw many changes in itself. It is a notion which is being interpreted in various different ways across countries, cultures and also within those same religions themselves. Such interpretation has also shifted across time and history on more than one issue. However there seems to be a consensus (with some exceptions) on homosexuality.

At least one can freely say that the most conservative of the three religions agree that homosexuality is sinful, abominable in the sight of God, that homosexual people are automatically called to live a life of repentance and chastity [with the exception of Jewish groups in some countries and some Christian denominations]. These beliefs are translated into legislation which punishes or kills LGBT people in some countries whilst in others such beliefs are translated into a deafening silence where it comes to protecting or defending LGBT people. Such beliefs are also translated into strong opposition towards any proposed civil legislation aimed at protecting LGBT families.

LGBT issues are often discussed from a moralistic, philosophical and/or theological point of view. The result is that the flesh-and-blood LGBT person is often forgotten; that same person who often experiences abuse, humiliation, social isolation, imprisonment or murder. All of these important and serious issues are usually forgotten amidst intellectual disputes, most of them mainly focused on the penis of gay men and its function [Such debates mostly forget lesbians and transgender people too].

It is interesting to note that religious and/or civil authorities seem to choose between ‘evils’: they focus their attention on one whilst deciding to ignore the other. For instance, in countries where LGBT people are still prosecuted, LGBT people themselves report of experiencing humiliation, physical abuse, degradation and various other sub-human acts, all evil in their nature and abominable in the sight of God. Yet very few [if any] religious or civil authorities speak of this kind of evil. It seems that this kind of evil is condoned. Why is this? When will this holocaust against LGBT people end? When are we going to start addressing this desire to annihilate LGBT people from societies, expressed in religions and societal structures without much protest? Why it is still justified to perceive and treat LGBT people as sub-humans? When are we going to start confronting these issues, honestly, genuinely and seriously?

From a religious point of view, homosexuality is still perceived as a diabolical influence, a thwarting of God’s plan for humanity. Gay people are punished directly or indirectly, overtly or in more subtle and ‘loving’ ways for it.

I believe that the real question is what is God’s, our Creator, plan for LGBT people? I firmly believe that God has better plans for us than being tortured, imprisoned, socially excluded or simply loved on paper or through lip service. I believe that heterosexual’s behaviour towards LGBT people also stands to His judgment.

One idea we Abrahamic faiths share is that God is always the same and never changes. What is also obvious in the Old Testament is that Our Creator favors the oppressed, liberates those who are under the yoke of slavery, welcomes the stranger and shows special love towards those who are weak in society. Does this change where it comes to the LGBT? Will He change His ways when relating to the LGBT person?

“ ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy,’ the angel said”
                                                                                                                Gn 22: 12

Does God want Man to keep on raising his hand against the LGBT child or is He sending His angels to tell us to stop doing this and find other ways of dealing with this issue? Is HE asking us to find life-giving solutions to organize our societies so that we can still fulfill His law without having to resort to such violent ways?

I believe the story of LGBT people reflects a bigger and much wider story. The dangers of creating a scapegoat out of us lies in the fact that deeper issues are ignored and kept in the hidden and dark corners of denial. Man seem to have this ever present desire to oppress one another: men oppressing men, men oppressing women, one religious faith trying to oppress another, one country trying to oppress another, creating a dual situation of one who is strong and the other weak, one who is the dominator, the other having to submit.

This seems the way things have always been or the way we were told things should be but are we really called to live our lives here on earth like this? I believe that learning to recognize the other as oneself, moving beyond illusory barriers and differences, will not only liberate LGBT people but humanity at large.

Maybe one day LGBT people will also utter Ephraim

“He named the second Ephraim, ‘Because,’ he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in the country of my misfortune.’
                                                                                                                Gn 41: 52

Conclusion

After this, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘This is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says, “Let my people go, so that they can hold a feast in my honour in the desert.”’
                                                                                                                Ex 5: 1


© 2009 Mario Gerada


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