Religious Characteristics of New Zealand Homosexually Active Men
What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.1
Historically, homosexuality has been characterized as pathological, criminal, and sinful. The two previous chapters have examined, in part, the effects of medical and legal proscriptions on homosexuality. This chapter examines the effects of religion and the traditionally negative stance adopted by Christian churches toward homosexuality. With the majority of New Zealanders acknowledging some form of Christian heritage and/or allegiance,2 the effects of this heritage on the lives and spirituality of homosexually active men becomes an important issue in regard to both religious practice and homosexual identity formation.
With respect to religious practice, little has been documented empirically on the religious practice of homosexually active men, although anecdotal observation suggests that many in the gay community perceive the Christian churches as oppressive and/or irrelevant to their lives. As one pastor noted, "When a man 'comes out' to me, it seems only to be a matter of time before he lapses [from the church]."
The influence of religion on homosexual identity and formation has been researched without any clear consensus being obtained. In