Religion and queerness are not mutually exclusive

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Pastor Terry Murphy on stage delivering a sermon regina victory church

Combatting the normalization of homophobia through community, solidarity, and true faith

The response to Regina Victory Church’s (RVC) queerphobic sermon honestly made me feel grateful in a lot of ways. With a rally around the church, a human rights complaint made, and a great public statement from UR Pride, it was clear that not only do these messages not fly under our community’s radar, but that there is no room to be apologetic towards them. I wondered if the same thing might have happened years ago, when I was a child most vulnerable to this rhetoric from a faith leader. Would the response have been as overwhelming?

I think that, even in my lifetime, there are a great many people and organizations we have to thank (both locally and otherwise) for making the hurtfulness of these remarks so widely understood. A short while ago, this may have been considered a “fringe” issue, but queerphobic outbursts in places of faith are finally being acknowledged as public issues. For the sake of everyone inside and around the community of RVC who may have internalized these messages which harm others and themselves, I really celebrate the way we refused to normalize this any longer.

UR Pride made a good point in their public statement, which was that the hateful messages themselves do not deserve attention – they amount to little more than “clickbait” from the perspective of everyone sharing them. While it must have taken some sincerely-held transphobic and queerphobic views for Pastor Murphy to say what he did, I also wonder to what extent he even thinks about 2SLGBTQ+ people in his day-to-day life. For a lot of people propping up queerness and transness as “sinful lifestyles,” we are just rhetorical devices. It would be generous, probably, to assume that Murphy has any real-life experience knowing one of us, let alone hating us personally.

This absolutely does not diminish the harm that faith leaders do when they use their platforms for hate speech – these messages get received regardless – but it does allow me, and others, I hope, to realize that nothing they are or have done causes these remarks. If it weren’t us, it would be some other marginalized group. In fact, it’s very rare for people like this to have only one “lifestyle” they won’t tolerate. 

On the relationship between faith and queerness: I’m fortunate enough to say that my relationship to my faith has vastly improved since I came out, as I realized this rhetoric could simply exist as one opinion among many. While not all of them were religious, some of the first people who I felt connected to by tradition were Jewish lesbians. While there is ignorance among people of all faiths and of no faith – social bias will follow you anywhere society exists – I realize that this can be different from the Christian cultural associations with queerness, many of which I have been exposed to myself.

I want Christian readers to know, however, as UR Pride mentioned in their statement, that there are Christians who are trans, who have same-gender relationships, and who maintain a full and rewarding relationship with their faith. There are also faith leaders who are fully affirming in Regina (the Wesley United and Knox-Metropolitan United churches are good places to start if you’re curious). 

Regina Victory Church shields its remarks by saying they are “Bible-believing,” and I also want people to challenge the idea that any religious text has any message of discrimination at its core. I will share a story from the Talmud that I often think of: a non-Jew once said to the scholar Shammai, “make me a convert, and recite the entire Torah on one foot.” Since Shammai had told him before that there were two Torahs, the written (the Old Testament in the Christian canon) and the oral, he thought it would be impossible. But instead of reciting it all, he stood on one foot and said, “what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.”

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