Monday, March 20, 2006

Religiophobia

I spoke to a group of faculty and students today at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. My original career training was in public health, and twenty five years ago, I probably would have shared the skepticism that some brought to this session with an ordained minister. I talked with them about why public health programs, including sexual and reproductive health programs, should see faith communities as important partners.

I introduced them to a word I created a few years ago, "religiophobia", the fear of religion that often characterizes the attitude of people working in the sexual health and rights field. Now, unlike homophobia or gynephobia, that fear may not be irrational. Many of the people working in sexual rights have had negative experiences concerning their sexuality in faith communities, and many are bone weary of fighting the Religious Right.

Yet, as I shared with them, there are many major mainstream religious denominations that support sexuality education, abortion rights, and marriage equality and tens of thousands of religious leaders who are working for sexual justice.

Their response was cautious but enthusiastic. And as often happens, a few people stopped at the end of the program to ask me for information about how they might find a faith community that addresses these issues. I guess you could call me an evangelical!

PS If you'd like a copy of today's powerpoint on "Reaching Out to Faith Communities" drop us an email.

2 comments:

Niels Teunis said...

More than an evangelical, you are a healer. So many progressives seek a religious place for themselves, but the context they are in make such a search very difficult. It is a relief to hear someone like you and to realize that they don't have to give up their spirituality to be progressive.

TheMalau said...

Ok, Rev, you have my attention.