I know firsthand what religious intolerance and hate in the name of God feels like. I grew up in their shadows, but I grew OUT of those shadows as well. I used the religious intolerance and hatred I experienced in my childhood and adolescence as a jumping off point in my quest for knowledge. At the time, I simply wanted to know as much as I could about the world around me in the hopes I would eventually find other people like me.
The purpose of my blog is to give readers knowledge and information. As tempting as it is to use my blog as a platform to give my own opinion of the situation involving Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, I am instead going to follow my blog’s mission of “Knowledge should not be forbidden” and provide my readers with pertinent information.
Since faith is at the heart of the Davis issue, let’s look at some religions and their views on the subject of same-sex marriages.
Davis’ faith is Apostolic Christian, which means she is a member of the Pentecost branch of Christianity. In 2011, the Pew Research Center estimated that there were 279 million Pentecostal Christians in the world. This figure equates to 4 percent of the world’s 2011 population and to 12.8 percent of the world’s Christian population in 2011.
In an article published this week in USA Today, Vinson Synan, a professor of church history at Regent University in Virginia and an expert on the Pentecostal faith, stated, “There are an estimated 15 to 20 million Pentecostals in the United States, with perhaps 1 million being Apostolic Pentecostals.”
Synan explained that the Apostolic Pentecostals are the strictest in their beliefs of all the Pentecostal groups. Apostolic Christians follow a “literal interpretation of the Bible,” which could explain the strictness found in their beliefs.
Pentecostals define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman who make a lifelong commitment.”
Other religions share the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. According to a July 2015 publication from the Pew Research Center, religions that prohibit same-sex marriages include the American Baptist Churches with over 5,200 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members across the United States and Puerto Rico; the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints with 14 million members worldwide who are also known as Mormons; Islam, which is one of the world’s largest religions with over 1 billion followers; the Orthodox Jewish Movement; the Southern Baptist Convention with its network of over 50,000 churches and missions; the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod; the United Methodist Church with congregations in the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines; and the Roman Catholic Church, which is the world’s largest Christian faith with more than 1.25 billion followers, including the Pope.
Old Order Amish excommunicate gay and lesbian members, while the Jehovah’s Witness faith has specific views on the subject of homosexuality, such as the requirement that both homosexual behavior and feelings be suppressed. Witnesses believe that gays and lesbians should remain celibate, that bisexuals not engage in same-sex behavior and that any opposite-sex behavior must be restricted to one man and one woman who are married to each other. Witnesses do not recognize same-sex marriage, but will accept homosexual followers only if the follower can adhere to the previously stated requirements.
Buddhism, which has 300 million followers worldwide, and Hinduism, with its 900 million followers worldwide, do not have a clear position on same-sex marriage.
Not all religions oppose same-sex marriage. According to the same July 2015 publication from Pew Research Center references previously, the following religions have sanctioned same-sex marriages: the Conservative Jewish Movement with 1 million America followers; the Reform Jewish Movement; the Episcopal Church, which is consists of 109 dioceses and three regional areas spread out over 17 nations; the Society of Friends, who are also known as Quakers; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with nearly 10,000 congregations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; the Presbyterian Church in the United States; the United Church of Christ, whose ordained female reverends are becoming some of the first women to minister in places traditionally served only by their ordained male colleagues; and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Churches, who have openly welcomed people of all sexual orientations and gender identities for more than 40 years.
Neither our sexual orientation nor our faith or lack thereof defines us as “good” or “bad” people; our individual characters define who we are as people. It is entirely possible to believe in a faith that does not sanction same-sex marriages without becoming a hate-filled person. It is entirely possible to have faith and to be accepting of those who are different.