In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night . . .

by Tania Carver

So Green Lantern is gay.  Or at least the Alan Scott version from Earth 2 is gay, not Hal Jordan or John Stewart. nd, judging by column inches expended on the internet in the last few days, some people still think, incredibly, that this is a big deal.

Especially One Million Moms.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them.  They’re a front organisation for the American Family Association which was set up by far right preacher Donald Wildmon, officially recognised by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as a hate group.  They took to their Facebook page to protest and eventually had to close it down because of the torrent of comments against them.  They claimed to be taking time off for ‘Vacational Bible Study’.  Victory for Green Lantern!

I hope they spend a long time studying the Bible.  It might teach them a few things.  Homosexuality is one of the list of sins in the Old Testament book of Leveticus that also includes eating shellfish, wearing clothes made of mixed fibres, planting two different crops in the same field, cutting your hair, trimming your beard or getting a tattoo.  Or my particular favourites, putting things in front of blind people so they fall over or calling deaf people names.  Somehow, these have become acceptable (apart from the blind and deaf ones, of course) but they still get overexcited about homosexuality.  There’s currently a photo doing the rounds on the internet of someone proudly displaying their tattoo of the verse from Leviticus calling homosexuality a sin, ignorant of the fact that next verse condemns tattoos as being just as sinful.  And for the record, how many times does Jesus say homosexuality is a sin?  Not one.

The main objection these people have against homosexuality is that it’s a lifestyle choice and a deliberate sin against God.  I’m continually staggered that in the twenty first century, where I have more computing power in my mobile phone that was used to send a man to the moon and bring him back, that we still hear this argument.  Homosexuality is as much a lifestyle choice as being lefthanded or having freckles is.  I used to live in a shared house in London and a couple of the guys were gay.  They were two of the bravest men I ever knew.  They came from a very rough, working class housing estate in the north of England where any kind of deviation from the norm was brutally punished.  Yet they were openly gay.  Despite neither of them being physically impressive or able to handle themselves in a fight, they stood up to threats of violence, intimidation, bullies of every stripe.  They fought for the right to be themselves.  And they even won respect as a result.     

I must admit, religious intolerance – of whatever stripe – is something of a bugbear of mine.  David spoke recently (and very eloquently) about how traumatising a strict Catholic education could be.  Linda, the other half of Tania Carver, had a similar experience at the hands of the nuns.  I’ve had far right evangelical Christians trying to indoctrinate me at a very young and impressionable age.  (They even claimed that having a sense of humour came from the devil.)  So when Wildmon’s latest hate group stunt backfired, I was very pleased. 

After all that please don’t get the impression I’m against religion as such.  I’ve known a lot of very good, strong, positive people who are religious.  And not just Christians.  One of the most inspiring people I ever met was the former Governor at Huntercombe Young Offenders Institution where I used to be Writer in Residence.  He was tolerant, kind, honest and used his Christian faith to affect positive changes in the boys lives.  It didn’t always work but it often did and it was an honour to be part of his team.  The prison chaplain was a great guy too.  An ex-biker, he had no trouble inspiring the boys in his care.  And there have been others too that I’ve know, decent men and women who follow their hearts and try to improve their part of the world.  That’s why people like Wildmon make me even angrier.

I believe that people like that and those of that other hate group, the Westboro Baptist Church are trying to use the supposed respectable veneer of religion as a shield to hide their hatred behind.  And why do they hate so much?  Especially homosexuals?  Well, I think it’s a case of protesting too much.  I wrote a short story a few years ago called ‘Love’ about a white supremacist teenage skinhead who joins in with his mates in attacking anyone with a different ethnicity or sexuality to himself but who discovers he’s gay when through having sex with a black drug dealer.  The story was nominated for an award, didn’t win, but has been well-reviewed and reprinted a few times so I guess it struck a chord. 

We fear what we don’t understand.  Or more to the point, we fear that we may become the thing we don’t understand.  And that fear, nourished by ignorance and intolerance, becomes hate.  And hate, when hidden behind something perceived as legitimate such as a flag or a religious symbol or even the colours of a sports team, becomes legitimised in the eyes of the hater.  And then it’s easier to act upon.

But this is a blog about crime fiction.  What does all this have to do with crime fiction?  Everything.  Fear leads to hatred.  Hatred leads to violence.  Violence leads to . . . what?  Hurt?  Despair?  Maiming?  Death?  And we, as crime novelists, are there to document it all.  Or we should be.  I read crime fiction – and write it – because it helps me understand the world we live in.  We have a degree of social engagement that writers in other genres often don’t have.  What makes someone want to hurt another human being because their skin is a different olour or they’re attracted to their own sex?  What makes the Wildmons of this world get so angry about the sexual orientation of a comic strip character?  I believe it’s our job to find out and write about it.  We tell stories.  As my friend the brilliant writer Stav Sherez says, ‘We use narrative to explain the world.’ 

If Green Lantern can do it, then so can we.

16 thoughts on “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night . . .

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Hear, hear!!!!!! And I couldn't agree more – it's a crime.

    I have to think (hope) a lot of this recent vitriol is because the haters know they're LOSING. Five or ten years from now the fact that there used to be laws preventing homosexual couples from marrying will be seen by thinking people as just as much of a moral and social outrage as the laws that prevented interracial marriage.

    It's not just about hatred of gays, though, there's a whole patriarchal undercurrent. The people trying to "defend" marriage are the same people who want to keep women subservient to their husbands, per the Bible.

  2. Tammy Cravit

    Love this post! Just terrific. What I've long wondered about is why minorities (ethnic, religious, etc.) – the sort of people who KNOW only too well what discrimination and marginalization are like — turn around and do to others precisely what they condemn when it's done to them. The recent condemnation of the NAACP for endorsing gay marriage as a civil rights issue comes to mind as an example.

    I also notice a certain hypocrisy in people who decry government interference with "their God-given rights" and at the same time have no difficulty trying to use the political process to legislate their personal moral beliefs. Liberty cuts both ways, after all.

    This is part of why I read and write crime fiction. I think it is in those extremes where people move outside the confines of the law that we can most clearly see these tensions: tension between outsider and mainstream, between good and evil, between criminal and legal system. Between liberty and social order, and the ways we humans have of twisting all these things into pretzels to remake the world in our own images.

    All of which reminds me of an old Jewish proverb: "We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are."

  3. Allison Davis

    When Religion is used for personal ends for men (and yes mostly men), it becomes an ugly thing that has nothing to do with God. It becomes the opposite of love. Clothed in "religiion" it is still hate or oppression (I think what's going on in Timbuktu right now).

    And you're right, what drives violences facinates us because we write about it, what causes people to hate, to do these horrible violent things.

    Nice interweaving of current events and crime fiction, while pointing out the pointy heads.

  4. lil Gluckstern

    Powerful post, and powerful comments. Hate is based on a profound lack of of belief in one's self. "…Sound and fury, signifying nothing."

  5. Karen in Ohio

    Allison D, I agree with you about religion, which I am ever more convinced was created to control women.

    Haters have to hate. They can't acknowledge their self-hatred so they have to direct it elsewhere. Since haters are often also bullies, they pick the weakest amongst us to direct their hatred to.

  6. Lisa Alber

    Great post and great comments!

    I don't get hate. I just don't. Perhaps I was lucky that I grew up in the S.F./Bay Area to tolerant parents. In fact, I know I was lucky. So, when I try–say because I'm thinking about a new story idea–to put on the "hate" cap, I find it very difficult.

    Slightly different topic. Lately I've been going to a nondenominational, "feel-good" church. I find myself telling my friends about this development in a hushed voice, a little sheepish, like a confession. Interesting to note this about myself: I don't want to be tainted by possible association with the Christian right.

    I think of organized religion as a partriarchal implement, too. A journalist friend wrote this article recently:

    What do you want to bet that most of the male commenters about women's issues are Christian right-wingers?

    (I do agree: plenty of tolerant and progressive Christians out there, but, yeesh, the vociferous, intolerant ones are so damned loud!)

  7. Fran

    As someone who's fighting that particular battle from the inside, may I just say I LOVE THIS POST!. Ahem. That is, thank you so much for being so eloquent!

    Figuring out people's motivations is always a challenge, especially when they won't admit them to anyone, including themselves. I know my marriage to my wife hasn't impacted anyone but us and our family, but to hear some folks say it, our union is the cause of famine, fire, earthquake, hurricane and bunions. Frankly, I don't want that kind of power! Well, okay, maybe over bunions. But the rest? Nope. I just want to live my life with my wife, and sell mysteries for a living. I want our daughter-in-law to have control over her reproductive rights and body, along with every other woman. All in all, I don't think that's a whole lot to ask.

  8. Karen in Ohio

    Fran, it's funny you should say that about power. I've always thought it was funny that so much power was being ascribed to those on the other end of the scorn machine; you would think that marginalizing someone would go the other way, and make them seem powerless, instead.

    I want you, and your wife, and your daughter-in-law, and my three daughters, to have control over your own selves, as well.

  9. PD Martin

    Thanks, Tania…Martyn…Linda!

    The tattoo story is very ironic. I haven't studied the bible or religion much so had no idea about the sins listed by the Old Testament.

    I think/hope Alex is right and that the tide is turning.

  10. David Corbett

    Sorry to be so late to the parade. Things have been nuts lately. I look at it thusly. If a person uses his religion like a lamp, I understand. If he uses it as a hammer or a sword, I resist. And hatred is a variety of cowardice, a cheap attempt to use rage to disguise one's fear. Wonderful post, Martyn. Thanks.

  11. Katherine Howell

    Hi Fran and everyone,
    Great post!!I too am fighting that battle from the inside. Here in Queensland, Australia, the government enabled the registration of civil unions. My wife and I took one up in March, then there was an election and the government changed, and they are now looking into repealing this legislation. Considering that one of their loudest arguments against bringing the law in was that they felt it was a waste to spend parliament's time on it, they seem blind to the irony that they are now spending time and money on trying to repeal it. The newspapers print articles about the whole mess and some of the comments there are beyond belief, but when I ask those commenters how exactly our union has affected their life, they have no reply.

    I think you are spot on, Alexandra, that in the future people will look back and wonder why people resisted so much. Just as we do now regarding interracial marriage, or when women got the vote. No doubt the haters were out in force then!

    The tide is definitely changing. Tomorrow here in Australia one of our major TV network morning shows is having a special focus on it 🙂

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