To be a member of the LGBTQ+ community is a constant struggle, at least for now. LGBTQ+ individuals continuously fight for basic rights as progressive legislations have yet to advance. And if there is one weapon constantly used against the community—whether in a mundane discussion or a Senate debate—it would be the Bible.
Senator Manny Pacquiao, who likened queer people to animals, is a staunch opponent of the SOGIE bill and same-sex marriage. Back in 2016, in a now-deleted post on Instagram, he shared Leviticus 20:13: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” But then, he also claims that he loves the LGBTQ+ community.
“I still stand on my belief that I’m against same-sex marriage because of what the Bible says, but I’m not condemning LGBT. I love you all with the love of the Lord. God Bless you all and I’m praying for you.”
Similarly, Senator Joel Villanueva, son of Jesus Is Lord founder Eddie Villanueva, also opposes the anti-discrimination bill, which he co-authored, because of his faith.
When discussions about the SOGIE bill was at its peak last year, Brother Eddie and his congregation rallied against it, saying they respect the LGBTQ+ community but appended that there’s no need for it.
“The Bible is so clear about the man marrying another man. This will invite kinds of curses that we cannot contain in our generation,” Bro. Eddie told Rappler. “As we have said, the LGBT people, they can continue [with] their lifestyle. We don’t interfere but they should not allow the non-believers of their lifestyle to accept their ways that will pave the way for eventual destruction of the Filipino culture and values.”
Spread love not hate
Although most churches view queerness as sin, there are still members of religious communities who respect and defend the LGBTQ+ community. Miss Universe Catriona Gray is an example.
Over the weekend, Catriona participated in a discussion about Pride and gay rights. When she promoted the livestream on her feed, an Instagram user questioned her faith. But Catriona stood her ground.
“My belief as a Christian does not limit me from fighting for the rights of others,” she replied. “Religion is never an excuse to hate, put down, or act indifferent to the suffering of others. I believe God is love, and I will treat everyone—no matter who they are—to [the] best of my ability, with love.”
Independent digital agency Propel Manila has a similar stance. Instead of using the Bible as a weapon against queer individuals, the agency believes it can be used to spread love. That is their goal with the #LoveVersesHate campaign.
“You know religion and the Bible verses have always been used to condemn the LGBTQ+ community when the very core of religion teaches love and acceptance. In this campaign, we turned the very weapon they used against LGBTQ+ into a weapon that protects LGBTQ+ and spreads love and acceptance,” Propel Manila creative chief and partner Raymund Sison says.
The agency has always been an active supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. Last year, it also launched a similar campaign called #LoveIsAllWeNeed, which encouraged Filipinos to send “love letters” to Senators to support the SOGIE bill.
In this chat with Raymund, Propel chief executive JC Valenzuela and creative director Aiko So, we delved into the initiative and the lessons learned while working on the campaign.
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There are discussions on whether the LGBTQ+ community and faith can coexist. Do you think religious groups can still be allies?
JC: We think dissent and agreements are important discourses to have. How we react towards the discourse is where we need to be vigilant. Opposing views can work in harmony as long as both parties respect one another. In the same breath, that is also why #LoveVersesHate was not about making people fight about religion but making them aware that they may use the same religion (if they believe in it) for love, and if they don’t believe in religion, they can find respect in it that it likewise promotes love.
Aiko: I firmly believe this is possible as long as religious groups open their hearts and accept that there are some parts of the Bible that should not be taken literally anymore. The Bible has so many more teachings that can make the world a better place to live in.
Raymund: I think the very root of discrimination is lack of understanding. Coexisting can happen when we look at each other from a more understanding lens. And what we’re trying to do in #LoveVersesHate is to make them understand using the language they’re most familiar with, the very verses they use to hate LGBTQ+.
“We discovered that there is more love than hate; and the “hate” isn’t even hate.”
What did you discover upon combing through the Bible for these verses?
Raymund: I’ve never really thought of the Bible as a weapon for equality. Until Aiko and his team showed me this wonderful and meaningful idea.
Aiko: While looking for verses, I got the validation that the Bible is indeed a rich source of love for yourself and for your neighbors.
JC: We discovered that there is more love than hate; and the “hate” isn’t even hate, i.e. they’re phrases [taken in the wrong context], or no longer applies in the 21st century as they were written (and translated) in a period when we all lived very differently.
Out of the verses you’re including in this campaign, what spoke to you the most?
Raymund: A lot of the verses resonated with me because they certainly validate what we’ve been fighting for, this time, from a religious lens. I really love 1 John 2:9: “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” I think it’s very true and very relevant today in a world where there’s just too much hate.
“Religion should not be exclusive to any particular gender. Love is for all and is more powerful than hate.”
JC: Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” It struck me the most because there’s a lot of hatred already present today. Cliché as it sounds, we need more kindness and love. We think love is a bigger idea and an idea that can solve multiple problems in the world—this issue included.
Aiko: Galatians 3:28 “There is neither [Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there is] male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse sums up what we are advocating. Religion should not be exclusive to any particular gender. Love is for all and is more powerful than hate.
“I wish the LGBTQ+ community stays strong and stands proud of who we are. Let’s also stop hating our haters and show them love.”
This Pride Month, what’s your wish for the LGBTQ+ community? And do you have activities that our friends can join in time for the celebrations?
JC: I wish two things: That we see each other as people than labels in the sense that we respect each other’s causes of happiness and ensure we protect those territories by understanding each other. And while the first may be lofty, an operational wish is for our LGBTQ+ community to have a council of champions so that all sub-advocacies within the LGBT umbrella can be systematized, aligned, to one mission, and championed in different accents as they go into their committees.
Aiko: I wish the LGBTQ+ community stays strong and stands proud of who we are. Let’s also stop hating our haters and show them love.
Raymund: I wish people would stop using religion to hate. But more importantly, I really wish we get to pass the SOGIE bill in both Congress and Senate. This is what we’re here for–to fight for equal rights. It is very important that no one should get discriminated based on gender.
Aiko: During Pride 2019, we will be giving out #LoveVersesHate placards, shirts and tote bags. Get one and banner it for the world to see. You may also buy tote bags from Laya.ph on Instagram, they are printing the #LoveVersesHate designs on bags.
Raymund: Apart from #LoveVersesHate placards and tote bags to be made available during Pride March, we are also launching another campaign supporting the Pride March. We’re still fine-tuning it, though.
Header image courtesy of #LoveVersesHate