The Quran, Homosexuality & that Religious Freedom Law



I saw this report the other day. Perhaps you saw it, too?

Islam, the world’s fastest-growing faith, will leap from 1.6 billion (in 2010) to 2.76 billion by 2050, according to the Pew study. At that time, Muslims will make up nearly one-third of the world’s total projected population of about 9 billion people.

Christianity is expected to grow, too, but not at Islam’s explosive rate. The Pew study predicts Christians will increase from 2.17 billion to 2.92 billion, composing more than 31% of the world’s population.

The day I first saw this report just happened to be one of those days when the headline story was about Indiana’s now amended Religious Freedom Law. The mayor of Portland and several other West Coast cities banned travel to Indiana over the RFL. Of course, once Indiana’s governor realized the economic fallout from such a law, he quickly back-pedaled his previous defense of the RFL. Can’t say I blame him.

I have come to loathe the polarization of issues that make the headlines. Social Media has made us even more ugly in the way we talk to each other and about each other online. This is odd to me because in my daily living, my friendships, my community, this is not the case. I find that people who 20 years ago might have dug in their heels and declared homosexuality depraved, are so much more willing to listen and dialogue thoughtfully in ways they (we) never could have prior.

There are plenty of reasons behind all that. You likely have formulated your own thoughts as to why Social Media has created this place of intense outrage. I didn’t write about the RFL when all that arguing and posturing was going on. Not that I didn’t have my thoughts about it all.

It’s just that I’ve come to realize that outrage rarely gives space for thoughtful discourse.

And thoughtful discourse is what interests me most.

It has taken me some time to figure all that out. Some of my worst writing has happened as the result of anger and self-righteous justification.

I’m trying to do better.

But here’s one thing that occurred to me when all the talking heads and news pundits were weighing in on the RFL: Invariably the argument over homosexuality is cast by media as a fight between homosexuals and Christians.

NPR interviewed a Southern Baptist minister and a Disciples of Christ minister in the midst of the uproar over the RFL. They took opposing positions.

Which left me wondering why NPR didn’t interview someone from the Islamic faith to talk about the RFL and homosexuality. If Islam is the fastest growing religion worldwide, wouldn’t it be important to have their voices on the RFL?

Being the curious person I am, I went searching for just that very thing. Because, let’s face it, Islam, like Christianity, has its share of fundamentalists and bigots. Happily, I found a thoughtful dialogue :

The task of confronting those who are bent on distorting Islam, Christianity or any other faith in order to hurt, harm and reject people on the basis of their race, religion or sexual orientation is a difficult one. But whether it is in Indiana, Arkansas, Syria or Iraq, the best way to counter such spiritually bankrupt ideologues is by exposing their singular political motives and manipulation of faith to amass power. Faith communities should use the debate sparked by Indiana’s law to recognize that while they do not worship the same God, they nevertheless face similar challenges.

It probably won’t surprise any of you that the Quran, like the Bible, condemns homosexuality, leading one to wonder, do God and Allah actually agree on something?  My understanding is that Sharia law teaches that homosexuality is punishable by death. You don’t suppose the culture at the time influenced that position, do you? I mean that whole “punishable by death” thing touted by the Quran and the Bible isn’t really embraced much outside of the Middle East and Texas anymore.

I keep thinking about how difficult it is to be a LGBT person of faith anywhere in the world. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in 20 years from now the biggest defenders of LGBT community are Christians opposing fundamentalist Islamics?

Perhaps before that happens, we will all come to realize faith isn’t the problem – fundamentalism is.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining how fear erodes our faith. (Zondervan).

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.



about 8 years ago

". . . fundamentalism is." Many read this post might offer that fundamentalism is not the problem but its opposite, a perceived and growing absence of fundamentals. And God vs. Allah? Same or different? We'll never get to the end of that question because we can't get to the beginning, it seems. On rare occasions, I have surprised some folks at bible studies or doing devotions at church meetings by reading John 3:16 from one of my Turkish Bibles. People do not understand a word of it until I read the word "Allah" in the older Turkish translation. from then on, they assume I am reading from the Qur'an in Arabic and almost turn red/blue in the face insisting that this cannot actually be the Bible, the actual Bible with the good news of Jesus until I show them the chapter names and the number of times Jesus shows up on the pages of the New Testament. Still, they are highly suspicious, not fully convinced that this could be so. (NOTE: Newer Turkish translations use the term Tanrih for God instead of Allah as a concession to modern hostility and misunderstanding. But just as English is filled with words conscripted from other tongues, so Turkish includes many terms from the Arabic. Allah is and always was the generic term for God, the Divine. Question for us is what we understand by God in the first place and what that means so us.) Today we face much larger questions than sexual identity/orientation. Such as: do relationships among and between human beings matter anymore, or are our primary relationships now between human beings and electronic/artificial intelligence? Do the relationships we have nurture virtues of the human community and the living systems of earth, or are they destructive of the same? Do relationships today exhibit generativity? Do they create life, discipline, health, wholeness; or is consumption their central organizing principle? What exactly do our lives worship as evidenced by how we spend our time, treasures, talents and obsessing about our stuff and our appearance? Are we in fact "free" people, or are we as enslaved by our culture as any people have ever been? Who and what has to live in poverty, who and what has to die in order for us to live in the way we have become comfortable? Are the only forms of idolatry the name we use for God and our understanding of our genitalia? When Jesus put hatred and murder together in the same box, was he being a fundamentalist, a revisionist, a heretic, a visionary or an ultra-fundamentalist?


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 8 years ago

Roger: I think the relationships between humans will never be replaced by technology. But I do worry that we have embraced the role as consumer over the role of co-creator with God. The more we consume the less we create. Creating requires a certain amount of self-reflection and I am not sure we have the self-discipline for that. Technology does make consuming a lot easier than creating. Good thoughts here. Thank you.


Geri Taran

about 8 years ago

Karen, Thoughtful discourse? Co-creating with God (or nature)? Loving relationships? And all those other out-of-fashion notions. I'm not sure where I belong any more as I seem to be a social dinosaur. Go girl! Geri Taran P.S. I remember your GAYA nomination just three years after I started Georgia Writers Association and resurrected the awards from the defunct CAJ. I loved every minute of those years until I "gave" GA Writers to Kennesaw State University. I'm tickled that you still work with Mercer University Press. They (and the university, too) were champions in their help and support of my efforts and I'll always be grateful for their spirit.


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