Every semester, I teach an introductory class on world religions. A medievalist by training who never took such a class at university, I keep tinkering with the format. One semester I taught the five biggies (Sanatana Dharma, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam), one semester we used a teaching dvd. This time, we started off looking at definitions of religion and studied the five biggies as well as Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and atheism. The last weeks are dedicated to the ways in which religions react to urgent questions of the day: Ecology, gender, and, tomorrow’s topic: LGBTQ issues.
I began by rewatching Trembling Before G-d and Jihad for Love, documentaries that share many similarities, yet are vastly different. While Trembling Before G-d following religious gay Jews, Jihad for Love flits across the Muslim world. Both tell moving stories worth exploring, stories that on their own are worthy of individual documentaries. Still, both were not really useful for my general 110 class. Living in SC, my resources are a bit limited, so I decided to go for a mixed lecture/class discussion, leading to a discussion of the blog entries the students brought in.
I don’t know what I was thinking to address such a complex topic in the second-to-last lesson of the semester. At any rate, we we will begin with a brief discussion of the terms and religious attitudes towards LGBTQ issues.
I hope that the discussion will lead us to explore the ways in which religions react to modern challenge. I continue to be amazed that anyone could think that gay rights are not here to stay. In this country, a place that has overcome so much adversity in the last 100 years, extending far-reaching rights to so many people: African-Americans, women, the “disabled”… yet people still believe that society would halt at homosexuality?! Living and studying in the Deep South where people only slightly older than myself remember the desegregation of their schools, I cannot imagine that the students would not make the connection.