Saturday, July 4, 2015

God and gender diversity

By Frei Betto (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Adital (em português)
July 3, 2015

Diego Neria Lejárraga, 48, is a Spaniard. He was born a woman. But since childhood he felt like a man. At 40, he underwent surgery to reassign his sexuality. He became a man. The priest of his city, Plasencia, accused him of being "the devil's daughter."

Diego wrote to Pope Francis before Christmas 2014. He asked what his place was in "God's house." Francis called him twice. He invited him to Rome on January 24th. Diego, accompanied by his fiancee, was received in Casa Santa Marta, where the Pope dwells. Francis showed that the Catholic Church is open to sexual diversity. On leaving the meeting, Diego said he felt immense peace.

The Pope embraces the boldness of Jesus who defended the adulterous woman from the Pharisees' attack, welcomed Magdalene who bore "seven demons" as a disciple and the first witness of his resurrection, and praised the veracity of Samaritan woman, who was on her sixth husband, and made her the first apostle.

Love and, with it, compassion and mercy, should bury prejudice and discrimination.

"Who am I to judge gay people?," Francis asked in July 2013, on leaving World Youth Day in Rio. "If someone is gay, is seeking God and has good will, who am I to judge him?"

The pope is the head of the Catholic Church in a double sense -- as its leader and because of his prophetic gospel attitude. In October 2014, during the Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome, the cardinals rejected the proposal for greater acceptance in the Church of homosexual couples. Francis, who prefers democracy to imposing himself as absolute sovereign (incidentally, he is the only one in the West), did not contradict the cardinals. He chose to raise an issue that cornered the homophobic prelates: gay couples have children. "Are we going to leave those children out of catechism?"

In the Gay Parade in São Paulo on June 7th, the transsexual actress Viviany Beleboni appeared semi-nude nailed to the cross. Many Christians accused her of "blasphemy." The same people who don't consider homophobia a sin or a crime, and haven't lifted a finger to fight the enslavement of women as body-objects, abused and exploited by men throughout the ages.

In colonial Brazil, preachers exalted the crucified Christ so that the slaves would submit resignedly to their masters' whip. When a transsexual uses the cross as a symbol of the suffering of all LGBTs, today's Pharisees "throw rocks at Geni"* ... As if the macho culture followed from the will of God. This, indeed, is taking His Holy Name in vain. And wanting to reduce social morality to sexual issues, as theologian Ivone Gebara has emphasized.

When gender diversity violence is clothed in religious garb, it raises the alarm that snake eggs are being hatched [Isaiah 59:5]. Nazism also resulted from the perverse religious ideology that accused the Jews of being "Christ killers".

Killing is a mortal sin. Killing in the name of God is even more serious. And you don't just kill by physical elimination. Symbolic death uses the weapons of prejudice and discrimination as well to demonize gay people, who are  created in the image and likeness of God -- who is neither man nor woman -- and who are loved by Him as beloved sons and daughters.

Frei Betto is a writer, author of "Paraíso Perdido – viagens ao mundo socialista” (Rocco), among other books.

* Translator's Note: "Throw rocks at Geni" is a reference to a well-known Brazilian song by Chico Buarque, "Geni e o Zepelim", which tells the story of Genival, a transvestite who was often physically persecuted in his town.

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