THE COLOURS OF PROTESTANT PARADE
This time the problem isn’t persecuting Pakistanis but bigoted Brazilians, the sort that by their extremism encourage ratification of the kind of questionable laws I referred to in an earlier feature (Neither the Bullying nor the Protection, Please. See March Archive).
This Sunday Sao Paolo, the largest city in Brazil and one of the largest in the world, will be holding its gay parade. This will perhaps be the world’s largest party and for rather more than just gays and probably 3 million people will attend. 2,500,000 did so last year. Not to be outdone the evangelicals of Brazil put on a March for Jesus last Sunday which well over a million attended even if in the circumstances they appeared to be marching more to declare themselves against homosexuality and the popularity of gay parades than something, whatever, for Jesus.
Protestants, mostly evangelicals, are now a large minority in Brazil where they are worrying the Catholic establishment by having rapidly become 15% of the population. It’s noticeable that the Jesus March didn't just take place a week before the gay celebration but almost provocatively on Catholicism’s Corpus Christi day which traditionally features its own parades. Evangelicals have been successful not least because some of them have shown care and done good work in the many slums that otherwise the priests of a right wing church largely ignored. Some American missionaries have however belonged to the tele-evangelist, money making class and tales of corruption have ensued. The star couple leading the huge and successful Pentecostal church, the wealthy Estevan Hernandes Filho and Sonia Haddad Moraes Hernandes, are currently still under house arrest in Miami on alleged money smuggling charges.
It simply had to be the dramatizing Pastor Filho who initiated the Marches for Jesus in Brazil. Dubious people need scapegoats to divert attention from themselves so gays and homosexuality would be sure fire targets. By far the most distinctive and reported feature of last week's event was Pastor Andre Fabiano doing a quasi-Catholic exorcism style rant against all gays, blaring through loud speakers across the crowd “Vale retro Satan, Vale retro Homosexuality”. The object was in effect to curse Sao Paolo's party out of the country.
THE SPECIAL SCANDAL OF BRAZILIAN HOMOPHOBIA
Anyone is religiously and democratically entitled to disfavour gay parades. There are nevertheless two reasons why this Protestant chanting against gays is particularly scandalous. Brazil is the most violently homophobic society in the world, more gay murders are recorded there than anywhere. (2,680 between 1980 and 2006) so just imagine the bashings and violence that don’t end in death and are often not reported or properly dealt with by the often corrupt authorities. While it’s undeniable that some believers seriously believe gays are rejected, evil, damned souls, (a position other believers seriously question) given the social conditions in Brazil Christians are morally and spiritually obliged to express more acceptance. They should protest existing prejudice if only to stem unacceptable levels of violence which otherwise behaviour of Pastor Fabiano’s kind must be held responsible for contributing to. However, as far as one can see churches have done next to nothing in this direction so that now evangelicals can make the “Satanism” of gays part of a self fulfilling prophecy.
One doesn’t have to look far to find an answer to the question why it is that homosexuality now gets associated with “Satanism” in Brazil It’s well known that prejudice against gays is so great that many, especially in poorer districts, have joined the ubiquitous spirit house cults by way of finding spiritual self expression outside of rejecting mainline churches or even as a form of talisman and protection against the violence. Since the evangelicals will regard all trafficking with spirits as demonic, although those involved in spirit cults aren’t deliberately invoking Satan as such, they are now additionally libeled as persons in the same bracket as Alistair Crowley and Anton Le Vey who were outright Satanists (and not gay). There is no sociological awareness nor spiritual care of souls in all this, just the aggressive will of bigots to have scapegoats to condemn rather than help.
A SCATTERSHOT CHRISTIAN MORALITY
While Brazil is the epitome of homophobia whether religious or more fascist the tendencies involved are found elsewhere and the negative images of the homosexual and homosexuality they employ are so often focused around, (but not well focused on), the supposedly representative gay pride parades of modern liberal societies. The result is the woods are never seen for the trees. A good current example is the kind of insistent protest made against the San Diego Gay Parade by “ex-gay” anti-gay Republican campaigner, James Hartline. Since, (even given a few exaggerations and distortions), it’s pretty obvious Hartline has battled a seriously difficult life starting with an excess of parental physical abuse, I wouldn’t care to be a severe critic here or get into the endless arguments some people engage over whether Hartline really is or isn’t gay. All I note is the strange scattershot moral critique of the gay world, gay parades and gay values that Hartline increasingly provides and which, though lapped up and widely reported by some Christians and right wingers, raises questions. And not always because it’s wrong, just so curiously unfocussed.
I think for example that anyone could and should question as Hartline does that San Diego’s Pride Committee has encouraged the involvement of kids in the parade at the same time as it has employed former convicted pedophiles. I haven’t witnessed a San Diego parade but given how some parades (Sydney, San Francisco) will allow controversially suggestive floats or simulated sex in front of a crowd including children it’s ludicrous to make issue (as Hartline has done and some critics always do wherever the occasional straightforward, non sexual nudity of gay nudist groups is concerned) that “an almost completely naked man” (presumably one in a jock strap) was last year allowed to hand out candy to children in the crowd. The children, presumably accompanied by parents, would be unlikely to be corrupted by the sight of nudity, they would more likely be amused, but they could be rendered morbid and confused by the simulated sex that police and parade committees are less likely to censor out than simple nudity. Some plain common sense and pragmatism is needed here.
But it’s just this that isn’t the rule in the wonky modern Christian critiques of sexual issues especially as soon as anything gay is involved. Perhaps we should start talking about an unthinking “in your face” Brazil syndrome affecting attitudes and seek to critique and warn of it wherever it crops up. Unchecked its supposedly righteous wrath really can only encourage violence. Last year at the attempted Jerusalem parade one of the half mad Ultra-Orthodox Haredi, stabbed no less than three gays whom plainly he and other Haredis would like to have had killed - it seems some have stated gays should not be alive. In the spirit of this this year Haredis have already placed an eternal curse on parading gays.
Meanwhile….. this week the eminently hetero Paris Hilton who in more carefree times once fronted a Hollywood gay parade is now reading her Bible and declaring from jail that God has given her “a second chance”. A second chance is almost more than the Brazilian bigots feel that the “satanic” gays they want exorcized out of existence should have. They and much of the church have of course never absorbed that they might themselves need a few second chances since in the biblical teaching on anger as a form of, or preliminary to, murder, those who abuse others as “racah, you fool” are in particular soul danger (Mt 5:22). In the Aramaic of Jesus’ time abusing people as in effect pervert/faggot, (which is what the term Jesus uses actually means) is a serious matter, it’s almost a symbol of all the other violence associated racist and discriminatory attitudes which is doubtless why Jesus referred to it. So who’s talking to who amid the infectious Brazilian folly?
Those who find the evangelicals’ attitudes disturbing might like to support those who resist it like most notably in Latin America the rather needed and embattled Otras Ovejas (Other Sheep) society of Christian gays. They have a website at: www.OtherSheep.org