One thing is clear be it the supposed celibacy in the Catholic Church, the draconian restrictions placed on Islamic women, or the harsh conservatism among evangelicals. Religion sure does love to control the sexual behavior of its followers. It makes sense, in one respect. If a religious organization can get a person to abide by a set of prescribed standards of behavior concerning the most personal aspect of life everything else can be easily attained.
Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old hate-filled killer in and near Atlanta this week, is the latest example of what happens when sexuality is used as a tool by religion so to meet an organization’s own desired ends. One of the deadly results of such attitudes being pressed upon congregants is the self-loathing man we are reading more about as reporters gain access to fresh information.
While his parents pressed their version of faith Robert was taking a dangerous dual path of sexual loathing alongside what is being termed “religious mania”. His church strictly prohibited sex outside of marriage, and as a young man, he was distraught by his failed attempts to curb his sexual urges.
The guy was probably normal and natural for his thoughts and urges. It was the constrictive social influence of that church and the impossibility to live up to its standards that are an issue worthy of examination. Now, do not in any way construe that to mean I let this man off the hook, by any degree. The monstrous, racist, and hate-filled crimes he committed can not in any way be minimized. I am merely stating that it is most probable one of the routes that led to his criminal behavior started with the crazy nature of his family’s religion.
The fanaticism of his parent’s church is as much a problem in this case as the lax gun laws that allowed a clearly troubled person to obtain a weapon. Let us not forget how these evangelical and pentecostal churches often use their attacks on the likes of the Delilahs, Jezebels, and other “temptresses” in the Bible to underscore how a “good man” can go bad.
We know the Bible is not the only religious text to make such charges, or Christians the only ones to level such an absurd argument.
As the news was starting to come over the wires about the shooting sprees in Georgia I was reading a book by Karen Elliot House. Her account of decades of reporting and background in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia gives further insight into a nation strictly controlled by Wahhabism. That is, simply put, a most austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. (What can go wrong with a literal interpretation of any religious text?) In Saudi Arabia, it creates awful outcomes from decreasing interpersonal relationships, lack of economic output, and of course sexual tensions and many damaged people as a result.
The former publisher of The Wall Street Journal writes in On Saudi Arabia about a man, who many years younger as a teenager, masturbated during Ramadan and has felt guilty as a result. Yes, if you can control a person’s sexuality you can control a person.
For decades I have faulted fundamentalist religions–wherever they may be preaching to the faithful–that failing to address humanity in realistic terms is a profound mistake. It should concern everyone to know that there are churches pumping the idea that it is a serious sin even to think about sex. Teenagers, especially, are being placed in a most troubling place about how not to think about sex. Add in the failure to do so means being captured by Satan.
The horror in Atlanta has opened discussion deeper into racism against Asians, and how words used by national leaders have deadly consequences. But it also opens a door on how very conservative churches are using extreme views on sex to damage some of their followers.