“Love cannot be defeated.” as said to rock vocalist, Bono by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA)

The political group I belong to – the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) – noted the passing of longtime Rep. Tom Lantos in a press release on Monday from complications due to esophageal cancer. Chances are, most of the transgender community was unfamiliar with congressman Lantos – but they should’ve been. Our press release characterized him as a “hero for the oppressed and voiceless of the world” and a hero specifically for the transgender community.

Those superlatives were not merely rhetoric.

The San Francisco-area congressman was honored in a memorial service on Capitol Hill yesterday, with an emotional farewell that encompassed both conservatives and liberals, from the U.S. Sec. Of State, Condolleeza Rice, to Sec. Gen. Of the United Nations, Ban-Ki Moon to ambassador of goodwill, rock group vocalist, Bono (Paul Hewson) of U2. Holocaust Survivor, Death Camp Escapee, a Penniless Émigré from Hungary to the United States, Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, champion for human rights causes around the world.

“Tom Lantos was a true American hero. He was the embodiment of what it meant to have one’s freedom denied and then to find it and to insist that America stand for spreading freedom and prosperity to others,” — Sec. Of State Condolleeza Rice.

Indeed I was blessed to have had the opportunity to lobby Lantos’ office on a couple of occasions. Unlike some supposedly trans-supportive offices, they were more than merely perfunctory. The staff always exhibited concern that felt genuine, even being candid with us (something that doesn’t happen as frequently as one might presume). This year’s visit was a perfect example as Lantos was not signed on as co-sponsor for the inclusive version of ENDA (HR 2015), to which I questioned his Judiciary Committee Asst, Michael Beard. Merely an oversight, was his response – and sure enough, Lantos was shortly thereafter a co-sponsor. They “walked the walk.”

(As I’d mentioned, it’s time to move on from the previous discussion. I admit, I probably wouldn’t have reacted as badly if the debate hadn’t touched on something that was freshly raw for me personally, but as it is still a raw nerve, we’ll leave the HBS thing be. I thought I’d go with something far less controversial. Politics is being overdone right now, what with all the stuff on the primaries, so I thought I’d take on Religion. — Mercedes)

Modern churches do an excellent job of creating an equation between the questioning of fallible teachers, preachers, copyists and translators, and the questioning of God Himself. You can do one without necessarily doing another. But “all scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Timothy 3:16) is usually used to rebuff any inquiries about the many interpretations of those scriptures.

Assuming that all scripture was given by inspiration of God, it should also be kept in mind that all scripture was also interpreted and worded by a myriad of authors, then recopied by hand for thousands of generations, passing through different translators and copyists, each with differing biases. All New Testament scripture was additionally collected at the Council of Nicaea, where it was decided which books (and which specific versions of them) to keep and which ones to ignore or destroy. This was done under the guidance of an appointee (Eusebius Pamphilus) of the first actual Pope (although they later retroscribed themselves back to the apostle Peter), the Emperor Constantine I, who wished to forge a new religion that was a synthesis of Mithraism, fledgling Christianity, and Constantine’s own worship of the sun god, Sol. He also intended to set himself up to be portrayed as the returned Christ (although it did not quite end up working out that way), which was understood at that time to mean an earthly King-level saviour.

And in addition to the hands that scripture passed through being imperfect, so too are those of the preachers who deliver it on Sunday. Religious leaders have repeatedly abused and misused scripture for their own ends, right into modern times — sometimes innocently but other times specifically for the acquisition of money, political power and fiercely loyal masses. 150 years ago, the church used scripture to justify slavery, alleging among other things that Black people had no souls. 100 years ago, scripture was used to resist emancipation, re-establishing womens’ role as a subservient one and portraying them as not worthy or intelligent enough to be able to vote. Even today, scripture is twisted to assert the subordinance of women. Can we question the church’s teaching while relying on our heart to sort the truth from the centuries of spin-mongering that has tainted it? I’d think we’d have to.