What if religious people started caring about issues other than sex?

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(1977) Mother Teresa of Calcutta, shown with an Indian child, worked to help sick and homeless victims in the cyclone-ravaged Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. She said her Missionaries of Charity nuns have "all the experience necessary to work in this disaster area because of previous efforts during floods." "In all these human tragedies, God is trying to teach us something. We are not able to understand Him," she said as she went about supervising the rescue operation. Religion News Service file photo

(1977) Mother Teresa of Calcutta, shown with an Indian child, worked to help sick and homeless victims in the cyclone-ravaged Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. She said her Missionaries of Charity nuns have "all the experience necessary to work in this disaster area because of previous efforts during floods." "In all these human tragedies, God is trying to teach us something. We are not able to understand Him," she said as she went about supervising the rescue operation. Religion News Service file photo

(1977) Mother Teresa of Calcutta, shown with an Indian child, worked to help sick and homeless victims in the cyclone-ravaged Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. She said her Missionaries of Charity nuns have "all the experience necessary to work in this disaster area because of previous efforts during floods." "In all these human tragedies, God is trying to teach us something. We are not able to understand Him," she said as she went about supervising the rescue operation. Religion News Service file photo

(1977) Mother Teresa of Calcutta, shown with an Indian child, worked to help sick and homeless victims in the cyclone-ravaged Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. She said her Missionaries of Charity nuns have “all the experience necessary to work in this disaster area because of previous efforts during floods.” “In all these human tragedies, God is trying to teach us something. We are not able to understand Him,” she said as she went about supervising the rescue operation. Religion News Service file photo

When I opened my browser to Religion News Service on Monday, October 5, six of the seven featured news stories were in one way or another related to LGBT issues. I don’t blame Religion News Service. I blame us.

(Me included. I did write a book on this subject. It was only one of my books. I have written nineteen others. No one much wants to talk with me about the other nineteen…)

People, this LGBT/sexuality fixation is really getting out of hand. Can it really be that we have nothing else to talk about? There’s nothing else, nothing at all, that might appropriately deserve our religious and moral concern?

Most of the world’s major religions say that they care very seriously about a wide range of moral issues having to do with human well-being. Most say they have an agenda to fight for life and prevent unnecessary death.

So what would our religion news headlines look like if our moral concerns on the afternoon of October 5th tracked more closely with the world’ s major problems?

It might look something like this:

(1) “US Religious Leaders Agree to Tackle Leading Causes of Preventable Death”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “the five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries.” CDC goes on to say that 20 to 40 percent of these deaths are preventable.

Risk factors for heart disease, cancer, and stroke include smoking, poor diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, lack of physical activity, and Type 2 diabetes — essentially, all the lifestyle-related things we know about.

Alcohol is a risk factor for cancer, stroke, and unintentional injury. Environmental toxins contribute to cancer and respiratory disease. Consumer product dangers, lack of seatbelt use, lack of motorcycle helmet use, occupational hazards, unsafe home and community environments, and prescription drug abuse are risk factors for unintentional injury.

Imagine America’s religious leaders uniting on an agenda of tackling our food problem, encouraging exercise, reducing smoking, addressing drug and alcohol abuse, improving roadway safety, addressing workplace safety and consumer product safety, and attacking the problem of environmental toxins.

Would anyone be interested if they did?

Or how about this?

(2) “World’s Religious Leaders Agree to Tackle Top Ten Leading Causes of Preventable Death in Poor Countries”

According to the World Health Organization, the top ten leading causes of death in the poorest countries are lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, stroke, heart disease, malaria, preterm birth complications, birth asphyxia and birth trauma, and protein energy malnutrition.

These are complicated problems, but we can say that they are strongly related to global environmental degradation, women’s disempowerment, inadequate health care services, lack of adequate food, and lack of accessible clean water.

Imagine six of seven of the day’s religion news stories focusing on these issues, including the efforts of a mighty global coalition of religious groups working to address them!

This is not even to begin to mention other perfectly preventable causes of death in the United States — like, say, gun massacres, suicides, and accidents. Like, say, the lingering anachronism of the death penalty, which continues to take a small, random number of lives in our country in a few states that still insist on doing it to a few of their convicts.

Actually, I am being hyperbolic. Many religious people and organizations do good work on important issues like these. But they rarely get news headlines or trend on twitter. And precisely because many of these issues actually unite rather than divide, they are intrinsically uninteresting from a news-as-conflict angle.

There is so much else to talk about. There is so much else to do. I am ready to move on from our current fixation. Are you?

  • Science not in

    Sir, you fail to acknowledge that LGBT issues are more than sexual in nature – it’s about true faith and whether or not Holy Scripture is viewed as the inerrant Word of God as it should be. What the LGBT community brought about was advocacy from “social-justice-warrior” sophist-theologians who don’t believe in the Bible. Instead, they’re eager to find accommodating explanations of why the Bible should be read selectively and cynically, often portraying it as a work of men apart from Divine inspiration:
    “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3).
    And for those who cite examples of Christian hypocrisy, please realize that just because we’ve been proven to fail at our Biblical moral ideals, it doesn’t mean we should abandon them. Our failures actually make Christ’s sacrifice and His forgiveness all the more appreciable.

  • Larry

    What you fail to acknowledge is that actions concerning your religion’s attitude towards gays are ultimately pointless and destructive.

    -Nobody has to care what your faith has to say on the subject, least of all our laws
    -Your beliefs are not license to attack gays
    -Nobody asked you or any other like minded Christian to intercede in their lives on such matters
    -Acting on such beliefs undermines any pretense your religious belief has some socially redeeming features to it.

    You are more than willing to attack other sects and faiths for not hating the way you would. Claiming your malice is divinely inspired. None of this demonstrates reasons why your beliefs should be treated kindly or that they serve some kind of greater good. It all appears self-serving and self-aggrandizing. Fundamentalism’s appeal is the delusion of being morally and spiritually superior to those who believe differently from you.

    Why work to make the world better when you can wallow in malice?

  • alison

    We do — it just doesn’t make the headlines.

  • LisaB

    Hello? ELCA Malaria Campaign? The $15 million dollar goal to fight malaria in Africa was reached last month.

    No, it’s not a headline, but your piece implies religious organizations are not trying to address other issues, therefore the lack of headlines.

  • Larry

    It doesn’t make the headlines because it is a drop in the bucket compared to efforts to legislate religious dogma.

    So how much was raised in various lobbying efforts to uphold gay marriage bans and to seek legalized discrimination against gays in public accommodations?

    About 10 times that $15M figure in the last five years.

  • The UMC (which does have a fixation on sexuality) has raised over $64 million for our Imagine No Malaria campaign with a goal of $75 million by end of 2015. Those dollars are making a real difference it Africa.

  • Bernardo

    Good point especially when only about 4% of the USA are h-o-mo-se-xual. (hyphenated because of a word or word fragment filter which also emphasizes the over concern about s-ex when said word is a forbidden word on this blog.

  • ANONYMOUS

    SEX

    homosexual

    what you talkin bout Bernardo?

  • Ben in oakland

    What if religious people started caring about issues other than sex?

    Why on earth would they want to do that? Sex is fun and exciting.

    Starving children, war, child abusing priests, disease, and bigotry– not so much.

  • Ben in oakland

    “And for those who cite examples of Christian hypocrisy, please realize that just because we’ve been proven to fail at our Biblical moral ideals, it doesn’t mean we should abandon them.”

    what a great way to change the subject.

    no, it doesn’t mean you should abandon them. what it means is that you should start living up to them yourselves before you start telling other people to live by them.

    And stop trying to use the coercive power of the state and the law to make sure that the lives of people who don’t share your religious beliefs are made as difficult, unpleasant, expensive, and dangerous as possible.

    and perhaps stop telling lies about people whom you don’t know and know nothing about to further your political, social, and religious agendas.

    I have yet to see any evidence that God has confided in and busybody, moralizing Christian about the state of relationship between god and anyone else on the planet.

  • Bernardo

    Try Moroni.

  • Bernardo

    Well Moroni barfed the system before. Strange. And so has homosexual. The vagaries of blog monitors.

  • John

    Quite the disingenuous article given that it starts out blaming us for the news and then ends with an acknowledgment that good work is being done on a host of other issues but it doesn’t get covered in the media. Laughable. You can’t have it both ways Mr. Gushee. If you want to talk about something else, then why don’t you and RNS write about something else? You seem to forget that the media can create what the news is just by what they choose to cover, so there is plenty of blame to go around.

  • Jack

    Mr. Gushee, practice what you preach for a change….and start by going back and counting how many posts of your own are about nothing but sexual issues.

  • Jack

    Maybe if Gushee would stop trying to ingratiate himself to liberal elites who aren’t even aware that he exists, let alone is panting after them for status and recognition, that would be a first step toward his getting off of sexual issues and toward less sensationalistic but equally important concerns.

  • Jack

    That’s the old “why-did-you-beat-your-dog” fallacy.

    It assumes that one has beaten one’s dog.

    In the real world, Christians of all stripes are on the front lines battling poverty and helping the sick and the poor here and around the world.

    It is that way today and it has rarely been otherwise.

    Christians can be the worst bozos on the planet sometimes, but in the long run, it’s quite clear who really cares when the worst calamities befall other people.

  • Jack

    Complete garbage, Larry. The cumulative effect of all Christian efforts against the worst scourges on the planet was and remains colossal. It is the human equivalent of being a force of nature.

  • Jack

    The obsession with sexual issues is quite evident in article after article on this site alone which talks about little else. To blame this on evangelicals is the ultimate in projection.

  • samuel johnston

    ” People, this LGBT/sexuality fixation is really getting out of hand. Can it really be that we have nothing else to talk about? There’s nothing else, nothing at all, that might appropriately deserve our religious and moral concern?”
    I am with the author on this subject. I was somehow able to get through a philisopy and religion undergraduate minor without getting sidetracked onto sex.
    Empathy and intellectual honesty, are much more important. Modesty and introspection are close seconds. Trumpeting yor particular cause of suffering is but special pleading.