I was watching Congressman Manny Pacquiao’s interview with Karen Davila on DZMM, and I could only sigh at his views on the most talked about social issues right now. He again asked for an apology, which is hard to accept given the ambivalence within it. When someone says they’re sorry for saying accepting same-sex marriage is worse than being an animal but then maintains they are only stating what the Bible says, that’s being dishonest and cruel in a number of ways.
As I’m writing this, the issue has morphed into something bigger. It’s no longer just about the LGBT vs Manny Pacquiao. It’s about our long struggle against anti-LGBT bigotry. Pacquiao’s opinion is a mere reflection of the anti-LGBT hatred that’s deeply rooted in our culture. There are a number of things I wish the boxing champion knew and understood.
1. Common sense doesn’t make sense if it disagrees with facts.
When Manny Pacquiao invoked common sense and claimed homosexuality was not present among animals, he made a claim that clearly was not supported by science. Homosexuality has been observed in 1,500 of animals, including mammals. Where did he base his common sense on?
2. Realistically speaking, no one follows the Bible completely.
Who follows even half the commandments in the Bible? Let’s be realistic. To fundamentalists who may be reading this, have you read the Bible entirely? If so, do you feel compelled to follow everything you have read in all its books? Most likely, you don’t. From what we can observe, a lot of verses go ignored. Why is this so? Let me try. Maybe you don’t know everything the Bible says. Maybe you don’t like some of the passages. Maybe you find them ridiculous. If you want us to follow admonitions, we expect you to follow the other admonitions. But when asked about the other passages in Leviticus, the antigay Christians usually get flustered.
3. The Senate is for lawmakers.
When Manny Pacquiao was asked about his stand on same-sex marriage, he was asked not as a Christian but as a senatorial aspirant. While his disapproval of same-sex marriage is understandable from a religious point of view, it doesn’t make sense from a secular standpoint.
When he becomes a senator, supposing he becomes one, he’s expected to approach legislative discourse secularly. We are not in a theocratic state, and the Scripture is irrelevant in legislation. If he’s going to base his decisions on the Bible, maybe he should just remain a preacher.
The law secures the rights of the people under it. Here in the Philippines, not everyone is a Christian. And if a senator bases his decisions in approving or disapproving bills on his religion, then he is being unfair and unjust towards people who don’t share the same religious beliefs. When he becomes a senator, his opinion, no matter where it is based on, no longer remains merely as such within the setting of lawmaking.
4. We don’t need his admonitions.
His Biblical admonitions only apply to those who subscribe to the same worldview. It doesn’t apply to all Filipinos, because not all Filipinos are Christian, and not all Christian Filipinos subscribe to his fundamentalism.
Why, for instance, should I care about Leviticus 18:22? Am I a Jew? Does this teaching apply to this era?
Why should I care about 1 Corinthians 6:9? Does the original passage apply to gay people?
How can I trust this verse when there are many versions of it, some containing the “homosexual” word and some that don’t? How can I trust the versions containing the word “homosexual” when this word was only coined in the late 19th century? How can I trust it when it’s only used for gay people? No one applies it to inebriates and straight guys who do casual hookups. This verse only seems to crop up on issues about gay people. Why is that so?
5. A few Bible verses do not give one moral authority.
What authority does he have to tell people what’s wrong and what’s right? I find it rather amusing that people armed with a few Bible verses suddenly proclaim moral uprightness. This is actually a problem with self-righteous, religious people. They have this wild sense of entitlement. They talk about the “sins” of other people and ignore or forget their own.
Suppose I proclaim moral uprightness just like all the Bible cherry pickers do just for purposes of fairness. Allow me, a heretic, to invoke a few quotes from the New Testament himself.
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
6. The Book of Leviticus has many awful verses.
I don’t think Manny Pacquiao ever bothered to ask a theologian regarding interpreting Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. So maybe on the same line of thinking and literalism, let’s look at some of the other passages there. Maybe let’s ask these literalists if they know of Leviticus 11:10, 21:17-23, 25:44-46, or 12:5 — and whether they follow them or agree with them.
I have yet to hear Bible literalists banning shrimp from their menu, forbidding shaving (Lev 19:27), banning tattoos (19:28), and slaying rude kids (20:9). Now if you tell me I am misusing these quotes or taking them out of context, then in the spirit of fairness let us look at the historical and semantic context of the supposedly antigay passages in the Bible as well.
Having hinted on exegesis, I’m inviting people to look at the Facebook page of Fr. Regen R. Luna, who has written notes on the historical and semantic context of the supposedly antigay Biblical passages.
7. Homosexuality exists in animals.
This has been mentioned in passing, and I want to bring it up again because homophobia is fueled by the misconception that homosexuality is unnatural. Maybe this was what Manny Pacquiao wanted to say, this old and tired naturalistic fallacy. Scientists have said many times that homosexuality exists in nature.
If Rep. Pacquiao has his own version of science and comes up with his peer-reviewed study that says homosexuality doesn’t exist in animals, then we want to see that.
8. What gay people do in private is none of his business.
It’s none of anyone’s business, and I wish everyone realized this. Over the years of talking and arguing with religious homophobes, I have observed that one of their frequent jabs is about gay sex, that it is disgusting and sinful. I’m wondering why gay relationships are reduced to gay sex. It’s as if it’s fair to reduce straight relationships into straight sex. If any of you still thinks you’re doing it because you are morally compelled, then go back to number 2 and reread everything that follows.
9. From a legal, secular, and scientific standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with gay sex.
Outside the confines of Biblical morality, which is not absolute and universal, there’s nothing wrong with gay sex. Maybe when done too much, it can cause fatigue and soreness, but other than that, nothing.
Of course, some misguided homophobes think gay sex causes AIDS. News: It doesn’t. What raises the risk of HIV infection is unsafe sexual practices. Lesbian sex, on the other hand, carries very low risk of HIV infection.
If you find it disgusting (karumaldumal), then don’t do it. No one is asking you to like it. Same-sex couples are not asking for your approval of it. Are you going to ask everyone else to stop eating shrimp because you’re allergic to it?
10. Marriage is not just a religious construct.
As much as it is a religious construct, it’s also a cultural, social, and civil construct. The idea and meaning of marriage continue to evolve, and they vary even within our culture. A group of people do not have a monopoly on its meaning. Again, Manny Pacquiao’s opinion on marriage is only so “valid” within the confines of his religious beliefs and does not necessarily stay “true” outside those confines.
I hope he and the people who echo his religious take on the issue of marriage understand that this is not about asking religious people to agree with the idea of civil same-sex marriage. It’s not like gay and lesbian couples are going to march into churches and force priests to wed them. Marriage equality advocates are after state recognition, something that doesn’t and shouldn’t need religion-focused approval.
Rafael Alunan III made a better take on the issue of same-sex marriage, separating his Catholic beliefs from his opinion as a citizen and would-be legislator. Even Sandra Cam, another candidate, made a rather palatable take on the issue. She is against it because she says we’re purely Catholic and we’re a Christian country, but she respects the partnerships. No mentions about Biblical admonitions. No mentions about finding gay relationships disgusting. No mentions about vile Leviticus passages.
Then again, Atty. Katrina Legarda posed an important question: “What has Catholicism got to do with running the government and passing legislation?”
What has Christianity got to do with running the government and passing legislation?
Can you imagine a government run by Leviticus literalists?