Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thoughts out of season

On April 6, 2009 a devastating earthquake struck the region of L’Aquila in the Abruzzo in central Italy. A subsequent reckoning indicates that some 110,000 buildings were damaged. Many of these were medieval and other historic structures, but modern buildings--including hospitals and university facilities--suffered as well.

What is the reason for this disaster? The short answer is that this is a part of the Italian peninsula that is prone to earthquakes.

I am surprised that we have not heard of another ascription of a type that was once common. In the sixth century the emperor Justinian asserted that toleration of sodomy provoked God’s wrath in the form of earthquakes. It is well known that, despite strictures from the Vatican, Italy has become more tolerant of homosexual behavior. L’Aquila is the place of burial of the German scholar K. H. Ulrichs, the father of all subsequent gay rights struggles. Italian gay-rights activists organize an annual pilgrimage to his grave.

Fantastic, one may say. Indeed. However, the idea that toleration of homosexual behavior leads to natural disasters is not yet extinct. Only a few years ago, several evangelical homophobes claimed that hurricanes were devastating Florida because Disneyworld had permitted a gay night.

Since this is the Christmas season, perhaps it is the place to recall another lugubrious medieval legend. This is the notion that on the first Christmas eve all the sodomites had to die, because Christ would not agree to incarnate in a world that was thus polluted. This notion is found in the “Golden Legend” of Jacobus of Voragine, about 1290. It is surely earlier.

Surely these old beliefs, so vicious in their intent, have long since disappeared. So one might observe. Yet as the example of Disneyworld suggests, they have not. I would not be surprised if these aspersions were to resurface again in the climate that surrounds the homophobic legislation of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi--a trend that seems to be spreading.

It is Third World countries of this type of course that are most voracious in their demands for lavish aid from the developed world--as seen most recently at Copenhagen. Such aid should be withheld as long as they are committed to their campaigns of homophobic persecution.



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