The churches have a history of persecuting persons who fall outside their rigid concept of normality. Consequently, many MAG members are disturbed at coming to terms with their religion and their sexual proclivity. Many have known that they were gay from an early age and that gayness is a part of their nature. Yet the churches say that they can be cured and then they can return to the fold. Many faiths including the Christian church have a horrendous record of persecution of gays down through the centuries and this rubs off on to many aspects of secular life today.
The high price of Heaven
David Marr gave a fascinating, well-researched and entertaining talk to a very full meeting on the topic of his "current obsessions", the study of the religious bigotry against gays. He made the important point that the churches are the last body left in Australia preaching that gays are evil-not all of the churches, and not all of the time. Moreover, the churches are exempted from Australian anti-vilification legislation. David felt that the attacks from the churches would get a lot worse before it is all over. This is because, for the first time, there is a public debate on the nature of homosexuality. Previously, over the last two thousand years, the issue has been presented in a one-sided way without effective opposition, but this is no longer the case. This new state-of-affairs casts in doubt not only the church's teachings on homosexuality but also its fundamental doctrines on sexuality.
To understand these doctrines, it is necessary to go back to their philosophical origins in the Jewish sexual purity teachings in Leviticus, including chapter 20 verse 13, the Greek Plato's teachings on the supremacy of the ideal over the actual, and the Stoics teachings on discipline of the mind over the body. The early Christian church had to decide what sections of the Old Testament should be required for the new Christian converts. The arrangement that St Paul worked out was that the dietary laws could be dropped but that the Jewish sexual teachings would be kept. It is this philosophy that is under challenge by the queer community. (I should add, parenthetically, that Jews, themselves did not always treat the Old Testament teachings in the cut-and-dried fashion that is so common amongst the religious, fundamentalist rightwing of all persuasions. For example, Josephus reports how Alexander the Great was welcomed with open arms by the Jews, and especially the chief rabbis-high priests-despite the knowledge of Alexander's very open, homosexual proclivities!)
David Marr's thesis is undoubtedly one of the most significant, no-holes-barred, studies on the origins and causes of society's bigotry against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and tranys. Murray and I have videotaped David's talk, and some copies will be placed in the MAG library shortly after I have added titles. Much of what he had to say at our meeting is elaborated in his brilliant book "The High Price of Heaven" a steal for $25. This book details with extreme thoroughness the concrete situation in Australia. David's mix of research, biting irony and his own inimitable brand of humour, make this book a must read-take it from me, whether you agree with every word or not, it is a book that once started cannot be put down. Read it and spread the word-it is, in David's words "ammunition" in our struggle for justice and human rights!