Gay Rights and the 2014 Sochi Olympics

As the host of the 2014 Olympics, Russia has been under the microscope in a way it likely hasn’t been before. This is not uncommon for host nations of the Games, but Russia, it seems, has taken the corruption cake, fulfilling what had been up till now a sleepy stereotype most of us had forgotten. (You can read about the billions of dollars supposedly spent on the Games that have “gone missing,” fattening the wallets of corrupt politicians, the unpaid workers, security issues, and long-term environmental destruction all adding up toward what Relevant Magazine rightly calls “The Hidden Cost of the Winter Olympics.”)

Many people have decided to abstain from watching the Olympics in reaction to this news, and while many others might dismiss such a reaction as worthless—“What good will it do? What change will it affect?”—I believe it is a reasonable reaction: the right thing is not always, or even often, the pragmatic thing to do. I also think it’s a personal choice and that there’s no One Right Way to respond; there is no singular Christian Response. (I probably will watch the Games when I can pull myself away from the mounds of doctoral work already piling up this semester.) To not respond, however; to not care, to numb ourselves… this, I think, would be wrong.

That Russia is under the microscope at all is, in fact, a good consequence of its hosting the Olympics (more than it’s a reason they shouldn’t be hosting). Hopefully, the global scrutiny will prompt change. Hopefully, this will prove true of wherever the Olympics are hosted, presently and in the Games to come.

Out of that long list of terrible wrongs in Relevant‘s article above, if only one thing changes in Russia, I hope it’s the government-sanctioned terrorism practiced against homosexuals.

I often hear the argument that Gay Rights is not a civil rights issue. In the US, the struggle for Gay Rights is often compared to the African American struggle in this country, particularly the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. For the most part, the large majority of the black community resent this comparison, pointing out that the centuries-long horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, and government-sanctioned vigilante terrorism far outweigh the struggles of the LGBT community.

On the one hand, this argument is spot on, especially, perhaps, in this country—the scale is not the same. This reasoning, however, is often extended (by communities of all ethnic stripes) to claim that Gay Rights is not a civil liberties issue at all. And that doesn’t follow.

On the other hand, while the scale still isn’t the same—Adam Thomason’s “5 Reasons Gay Is Not the New Black” is right: nothing compares to 200 years of slavery—when I saw the following Human Rights Watch video documenting the government-sanctioned vigilante terrorism openly, proudly inflicted upon homosexual men and women in Russia, I was strongly reminded of the horrors of the Long Civil Rights Movement (that is still, while on a different scale, is being fought) here the US.

The video below reminded me of the organized vigilante groups (including but not limited to the Ku Klux Klan) who beat, sexually assaulted, bombed, and lynched innocent African American women, men, and children with little to no fear of police interference or litigated socio-moral accountability. Onlookers in the mainstream white community watched with approval, even excitement (or looked the other way and said nothing, or told black folks to “be patient”). The vast majority of the South’s white police officers sympathized with and even aided vigilante bombings and lynchings, and when a Klansmen, for example, was indicted, he had little to fear from the courtroom: all-white, all-male juries deliberated over murder trials for a matter of mere minutes before returning verdicts of “Not guilty.”

The similarities don’t end there, and I could write a much longer article analyzing them. But for now, I challenge you to watch the video below and tell me Gay Rights isn’t about civil rights.

This kind of violent LGBT oppression is not unique to Russia. (If you can stomach it, this video documents the extreme police brutality exhibited against gay men in Kyrgyzstan.) It isn’t unique to Eastern Europe either, but that part of the world, and especially Russia is, as I’ve said, under the microscope thanks to the Olympic Games.

I fervently pray the awareness will instigate change. Even in this country where homosexuals are still violently bullied, though thankfully without government approval; and where, speaking of government approval, several states, including my state, Texas, do not offer legal protection to someone who has been fired from his or her job because of his or her sexual orientation.

Gay is not “the new black,” as catchy (and offensive) as that phrase is, but homosexuals all over the world endure very real and serious infringements upon their civil liberties, often while facing (in stark contrast to the African American community) additional ostracization from their churches and families—and that’s something Christians cannot afford to respond to with the “appalling silence of the good.”

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