First openly gay bishop talks about religion and sexuality

first_imgBishop Gene Robinson (Courtesy of Todd Franson – Metro Weekly)The first openly gay Episcopal bishop is visiting Anchorage this weekend to kick off Pride Week. Retired Bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated in 2003 amid much controversy. Robinson says he decided now was the time to visit Anchorage because of local, religiously-fueled opposition to the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which protects people based on their gender identity and sexual orientation.Download AudioDownload Audio.Gene Robinson: Unfortunately the conservative religious right pretty much owns the airwaves and TV stations and so on and therefore people get this impression that homosexuality and faith are sort of mutually exclusive. And so I’m kind of a symbol of how that’s not true. I’m a gay man – out, proud – and you can’t be much more bought into institutional religion than being a bishop, right? So just by showing up I make a statement about that.Anne Hillman: So what is your argument to counter the religious right?GR: I think it’s important to remember from the very beginning that the three Abrahamic faiths – Islam, Christianity, and Judaism – all three have texts within their sacred texts that at first reading and on their face value seem to condemn homosexuality. It turns out not to be the case when you read those texts in their context. I like to say, I take the Bible seriously enough not to take it literally.Let me just tell a quick story that indicates the task at hand. Suppose it’s the year 3000 and the game of baseball has been completely lost. No one plays it, no one knows the rules. It’s just been lost to the culture. And in that year 3000 you pick up a novel that was written in 2000 and one of the characters is described as being out in left field. So in the year 3000, not knowing baseball, you would think you knew what that meant because you know what left is and you know what field is. But unless you know the game of baseball, you don’t know it has become a metaphor for being out of touch, out of the loop, isolated and so on. So the texts we are dealing with as religious people are 2,000, 3,000 years old and we cannot assume that the words we read – and let’s remember, they’re translations. These texts are not written in English. These translated words may not mean today what they meant then. And so we have to actually look at context.The second thing is to understand that – and this is going to sound completely wrong – but homosexuality didn’t exist in the ancient world. Now, same-sex behavior exisited, but the notion of sexual orientation even as a category is only about 140 years old.Bishop Gene Robinson at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage. (Hillman/Alaska Public)AH: Let’s talk about Orlando. What does it mean for the LGBTQ community?GR: I think for our community it means that we’re not as far along as we thought we were. That we are in more danger than we thought we were. We thought we had made more progress than that. That we had at least safe places to go and safe cities and safe states where our rights would be acknowledged and our safety would be assured. And this has just shown how that is simply not true.We see politicians who acknowledge the massacre and refuse to acknowledge that it was a gay community. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community that was targeted. And that most of those people were people of color. It just shows how the racism and the heterosexism are at work, even in the middle of a tragedy like this. If you refuse to name us, it is further violence against us. It just re-victimizes us.Robinson will give a public lecture Friday at 7 pm at the Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage and Sunday morning at St. John United Methodist Church.last_img