“What does a decent society do with people who hurt themselves because they’re human? With people who eat too much, smoke too much, drive carelessly, don’t have safe sex – we don’t put them out to pasture to die because they’ve done a human thing.” – How to Survive a Plague
I grew up inhaling dehumanization and I didn’t even know it. Offensive terms like homosexual, agenda, lifestyle were common words. I didn’t realize how labels instantly cut you off from the humanity of people.
“We are not some network of people who just like to have sex.” –We Were Here
The people who died from AIDS in the 80s and 90s were not victims of a ‘lifestyle’. They were police officers, mutual fund managers, school teachers, baseball fans, musicians, college graduates, lawyers, sailors, waiters, volunteers, activists, parents, christians, and everything else under the sun. They were people who died because they were human.
“It’s a very human virus, a very human epidemic. It touches right to the heart of our existence.” – Frontline
The fundamentalist Christian world sets up appropriate ways for men to be masculine, women to be feminine, and doesn’t allow for any variance. And then they try to codify those expectations into law, and rail against anyone who disagrees with them.
But what do we do with people who live human lives in ways we don’t understand, ways we might even disagree with? Do we really want to be a society where only one way of life is legally protected?
When we legally discriminate against people, not only can we aid in their deaths, we are making their lives harder in a whole host of ways. This isn’t just about whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage. It’s about having a job, keeping your insurance, making medical decisions, being allowed inside a ‘family only’ hospital room. It’s about retirement, social security, financial security.
Discrimination enables suffering and death. When the Evangelical Christian Complex builds a platform on straightness and abstinence and no cost is too high to defend and legalize it, they are literally condemning people to death. I am just flummoxed by their apparent beliefs that they think Jesus would rather people die or get pregnant than wear a condom.
There are so many things about being human that people try to regulate. We ignore the human reasons why people immigrate, and pretend the structural barriers to doing so the legal way don’t exist. And then they are labeled, demonized, and we complain about feeding, healing, and educating them.
Too many people don’t understand the realities of teenage mothers, of inner-city life, of poverty, of the cyclical way patterns repeat, and behavior is learned. And it is so much easier to create labels and dismiss people for being ‘takers’ and lazy, and also, we will remove and defund as many options as we can that might make your life easier.
And it seems so easy, so simple to say ‘well if people would just stop having sex, all their problems would go away. Obviously they brought this on themselves. It’s not my problem.’ Which, fine, be that way. But if it isn’t your problem, then stay the hell away from the legal and political systems that are involved here. If all you are going to do is dehumanize, offend, and literally withhold lifesaving options, we are better off without your help.
The choice from the very beginning of time has been life or death. Not theoretical, but literal, physical, life or death. It was Adam and Eve’s choice, it was the path Moses laid out for the Israelites. When we can choose to help people be as fully alive as they can be, or let them die, why is death the default choice for so many people? So many Christians?
Yes, it makes sense that if having sex would make you sick, you wouldn’t do it. It makes sense that if smoking gave you cancer, you wouldn’t do it. If it made financial sense, then of course people wouldn’t use credit cards, lease vehicles, or rent-to-own. If it made sense that exercise made you healthier, or course everyone would do it.
But being human is so often about doing things that don’t make sense! Why do people fall in love? Why do kids whine? Why do I refuse to wear sunscreen? Humans do all sorts of things, for all sorts of reasons, safe and not safe. It’s part of being alive!
People go sky-diving and mountain climbing and we don’t discriminate against them. Half the sports in the Olympics are dangerous and expensive and we don’t ridicule the athletes for their ’lifestyles’. We’ve created an entire culture around driving cars really fast, for goodness sake.
Heart disease is largely preventable and yet our churches don’t go around shaming people who have had heart attacks and surgeries. We have awareness campaigns and a whole month devoted to it and people wear red, and heart-healthy labels are put on our food.
Everyone knows they should take care of their heart, but we don’t slam their ‘lifestyles’ if they don’t. We don’t have preachers going around talking about how people choose to have unhealthy hearts and maybe heart attacks are God’s way of getting rid of the lazy.
From the time of puberty until death, having sex is a very human instinct. And unless we want to create a society of robots, we have to acknowledge the freedom of people to behave in very humanlike ways, and not turn our backs on them when something bad happens as a result.
Scenes like this one, from the end of Longtime Companion, were preventable, still are preventable around the world, but probably not until Christians stop being dead-set against condoms, and acknowledge the human reality of love and sex.
Gays, AIDS, and the Church
My Story: Part 1
Fear and Silence: Part 2
The Religious Right: Part 3
Oh, the Humanity: Part 4
Modern-Day Colonialism: Part 5
Africa, Russia, the Past, and Now: Part 6
The ‘Gay Agenda’: Part 7
The Rest of My Story: Part 8
Resources: Part 9