A LGBTI Perspective of Religion and its Teachings Part 1: Religion By Gary Konecky This is the first of a series of articles

that will explore the issues of sexual orientation and religion. My goal is to help the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community reclaim their rightful place in organized religion and to help this community stand up to those who preach hate against this community. My goal is to educate you so that when someone starts to throw bible verses at you and claims to know the word of G-d, you will be able to defend yourself. To accomplish this goal, I am going to start by asking; what religion is supposed to teach us? The following are a series of quotes that I hope will provide an answer. What is our mission? What is expected of us? What does G-d want from us? “…what the L-rd demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your G-d.” – Micah 6:8 On being true to one’s self and trying to live up to one’s potential: "When I die and come before the heavenly court, if they ask me, 'Zusha, why were you not as great as Abraham?' I will not be afraid. I will say that I was not born with Abraham's intellectual capabilities. And if they ask me, 'Zusha, why were you not Moses?' I will say that I did not have Moses' leadership abilities. But when they ask me, 'Zusha, why were you not Zusha?' for that I will have no answer." - Hasidic Rebbe Zusha The Lord is my Shepherd and he knows I'm gay." - Rev. Troy Perry On our duties to each other: "Just as God clothes the naked... so must you clothe the naked. The Holy Blessed One visits the sick... so you must also visit the sick. The Holy Blessed One comforts mourners... so must you comfort mourners. The Holy Blessed One buries the dead... so must you bury the dead." - Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14a "If all the sufferings and pain in the world were gathered (on one side of the scale) and poverty was on the other side, poverty would outweigh them all." - Exodus Rabbah 31:14 On hurting each other: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn." - Hillel (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

"Not everything that is thought should be said. And not everything that is said should be repeated. And not everything that is repeated should be remembered." - Rabbi Israel Salanter On marriage: “Marriage should be available to all couples whose relationships are marked by fidelity and commitment. Those relationships should be recognized by the state and blessed by the church.” – Mark Beckwith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark On the world we live in: "When God created the first human beings, God led them around the Garden of Eden and said: Look at my works! See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake I created them all. Take care not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you." - Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13 When I look at this, I do not see preaching about sexual orientation as a priority. I do not see condemning sin as a priority. I see us charged with caring for ourselves, each other, and the world we live in. I see us receiving instructions not to do things that are hurtful to each other. We are told to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with G-d. If this is the purpose of religion, then why does organized religion single out the LGBTI community as targets to be vilified, persecuted, and hated? Why is the LGBTI community the recipients of so much pain from those who should know not to cause hurt and pain? Could the answer be a simple as hate is a product that sells and generates huge profits? Let’s look at something from the 2007-2008 GAAMC Pride Guide:
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Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network had 2005 revenue of over $236 million. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family had 2005 revenue of over $137 million. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries had 2005 revenue of over $38 million. Alan Sears’s Alliance Defense Fund had 2005 revenue of almost $22 million. Donald Wildom’s American Family Association had 2006 revenue of almost $17 million. Pat Robertson’s and Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice reported 2005 revenue of $14 million. James Dobson’s and Tony Perkins’s Family Research Council had 2005 revenue of almost $10 million. Jerry Falwell’s Jerry Falwell Ministries had 2005 revenue of nearly $9 million. Tim and Beverly LaHayes' Concerned Women for America had 2006 revenue over $8 million. Louis Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition had 2005 revenue of over $6 million.

Every organization on the above list is a right wing Christian organization that uses the demonization of the LGBTI community as a fund raising tool. This is not about feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked, or visiting the sick, or doing justice, or loving kindness as described in the quotes above; this is about using hate to generate millions and millions of dollars in sales and profits. Is this to say that every preacher who condemns the LGBTI community is saying it to make a buck? No. There are preachers who do feel homosexuality is a sin. I will deal with their beliefs in future installments. I just find it telling that those who seem to condemn the LGBTI community the loudest seem to have chosen hating us as a business model and that they are using religion to become multimillionaires. Religion is supposed to teach us how to relate to G-d and each other. Just as G-d loves us and helps us, so we should love and help one another.

In the next installment, we follow up this analysis by analyzing this business model in the light of Leviticus 19:14 and 19:16 to explore if this business model is in violation of biblical teaching.

Gary Konecky is an interfaith minister. He is available for: marriages, commitment ceremonies, civil unions, affirmation of vows; house blessings; baby naming; visiting the sick (at homes, hospitals and nursing homes); funerals, memorial services; Torah study; and speaking engagements. He can be reached at 201-791-5728 or minister.konecky@gmail.com. Please visit his blog at http://gkonecky.blogspot.com/

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