When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared at Columbia University that “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country”, most everyone in the U.S. knew he was lying. What he meant to say is that he is doing his best to commit genocide against homosexuals in Iran and/or so terrorize them that they will deny their own identities as gay people.
This, of course, is not the only lie that Mr. Ahmadinejad tells, smirking as he does so. He lies about the Holocaust, he lies about the real lives of women in Iran, he lies about persecuting journalists and intellectuals, and he lies about his country’s nuclear program. He is helping to make Iran a liar society.
It is easy to see this pattern of being a liar society when it’s somebody else doing it. It’s also easier to see when the lies are such a bunch of big whoppers like Ahmadinejad tells. But a little deception is also bad and the thing about deception is that it tends to lead to more and more distortion so it’s hard to tell where the lies end and where the truth begins.
I’m sorry that some Episcopal Bishops are apparently yielding to world-wide and national pressure from conservatives and backing off of their courageous stance on the full equality of homosexuals in the Episcopal Church. The “compromise” position that strengthened the 2006 resolution on “restraint” in consecrating gay bishops and that explained that the Episcopal Church has no official liturgy for same sex blessing is a gentler form of deception. I have to agree with the Episcopal conservatives here (though of course for different reasons) who called this a “legal fiction.” It is fiction and it is unfortunately a step back from the truth that some Episcopalians are gay, but that all are equal in the sight of God. It also is a step back from the truth that some gay or lesbian Episcopalians have the spiritual gifts needed to be a Bishop. Bishop Gene Robinson is one of them. If you know Gene, and I do, you will quickly realize he is one of the most spiritually luminous people you will ever meet. Any church that refuses to recognize spiritual gifts for leadership is, frankly, lying to itself and no good ever comes from that.
What happens when people and societies lie about important things like the diversity of human gender preference? Well, one of the things that may happen is that some people so deny their own sexual orientation that they end up playing footsie in a Minneapolis bathroom instead of leading a healthy, self-aware life.
At the end of the day, being a liar society is fundamentally corrupting to individuals and the whole nation. There is simply no better teacher on the multiple and degrading effects of lying than Mr. Ahmadinejad.
“On Faith” panelist Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is president of Chicago Theological Seminary. She has been a Professor of Theology at the seminary for 20 years and director of its graduate degree center for five years. Her area of expertise is contextual theologies of liberation, specializing in issues of violence and violation.