Homophobia hidden behind “helpful words” and guidance “to be kind” is still hurtful and dangerous, no matter who’s saying it.
Recently, the Southern Baptists held a conference they called “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” during which they met for dialogue with members of the LGBTQ community. A Facebook friend of mine, a professor at Liberty University, had gone and wanted people to know it. While I strongly disagree with this professor on virtually every social and political issue, I am nevertheless convinced that she is a thoughtful person, and more importantly someone who cares about actual human beings more than winning an argument. I decided to read about the conference to see if anything has really changed.
It has and it hasn’t.
The most striking change is that they are backing off their insistence that sexuality is a lifestyle choice. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a grudging nod to science, admitted publically at the conference that he was “wrong years ago when [I] said same-sex attraction could be changed.” This has huge implications for, among other things, the cruel and damaging practice of gay reparative therapy.
Because of this shift, the Baptists are sounding the call to deal more charitably with the LGBTQ community. This is a significant change. Even Glenn Stanton, the director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, has written a book titled Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth.
But more important than any of this is that their moral stance has not budged. Mohler made it clear at the conference that nothing has changed in that regard. Although some Evangelical leaders are calling for their followers to start being nicer to the LGBTQ community, they still view homosexuality as, in Mr. Stanton’s words, a particularly evil lie of Satan.
Practically, this means LGBTQ people within the Evangelical church have a keen awareness that they are held to be ontologically lacking in ways that others, for all their hey-we’re-all-sinners-here talk, are not—an essential and important part of their identity makes them particularly renders them vile and disgusting to the almighty creator of the universe.
For those outside the church, this language does not just perpetuate their marginalization; it tacitly condones violence against them. I am sure my Facebook friend would vigorously deny this. All she need do to find a virulent strain of what I am describing is step out of her office and walk across campus to the Liberty University Law School.
It is no surprise that Liberty Law is not gay friendly. In the wake of the 9-11 attacks, Jerry Falwell went on Pat Robertson’s television show and blamed, along with the secularists, abortionists and ACLU, “the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle.” Ignoring the historical realities of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, he said of these citizens, “I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”
More recently, Mat Staver, former Dean of Liberty’s law school and Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Liberty Council, has taken up the crusade against LGBTQ rights with an astounding blend of zeal and ignorance.
When discussing why same-sex marriage should be illegal with Jim Schneider of “Crosstalk,” he stated that, “we know male-male sexual relationships are notoriously harmful, physically as well as mentally, and also female-female, same kinds of things… It’s harmful to the individuals and those harms ultimately affect those around because they’re communicable and other kinds of serious and deadly diseases.” He said on WND Radio that marriage equality is “something that I believe is the beginning of the end of western civilization.”
During his tenure at Liberty University Law School, Staver trained Jerry Falwell’s “pit bulls,” to take the culture war into the courtrooms. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Liberty Council, where he is defending the missionary Scott Lively.
Lively’s ten-year missionary campaign in Uganda was not to win souls, but to fight “genocidal” and “pedophilic” gays. He likens gay rights activities to “the Nazis and Rwandan murderers,” and complains in “The Death of Human Rights” that the movement is trying to crush his religious liberty “under the heels of its pink jackboots.” Lively penned the book, The Pink Swastika in which he argues that the Nazi high command, including Adolph Hitler, was made up of militant homosexuals. In an open letter to Vladimir Putin, Lively offers his “heartfelt gratitude that your nation has take [sic] a firm and unequivocal stand against this scourge by banning homosexualist propaganda in Russia.”
Staver agrees. In the radio broadcast, “Faith and Freedom,” Staver praised anti-homosexuality laws in Russia, Uganda, and Nigeria, and at a “Celebrate America” rally, he made the claim that the growing tolerance for members of the LGBTQ community is literally, “moving into a direct attack on who God is.” Marriage equality, according to Staver, will be the “end of Western Civilization.”
Staver’s former colleague at Liberty Law School Matt Barber is even more offensive. He characterizes gay rights activists as “radical, hateful, intolerant, obnoxious, fascist, evil and power-crazed group of sex-obsessed anarchists who demand that we all affirmatively celebrate their deviant and self-destructive sexual sins and unnatural perversions.”
Though Staver approves of Russia’s clampdown on gay rights activists, Barber works to whip up frenzy and fear in order to bring the persecution of LGBTQ people home. His words in “The Coming Christian Revolt”:
From behind a smoking sniper rifle high atop his ivory tower peers the secular “progressive.” He surveys his many victims, strewn across the American landscape below and mockingly sneers, “War on Christianity? What war on Christianity?’ He then resumes shooting, all the while insisting that those uncooperative Christians who scatter for cover behind the word of God and the U.S. Constitution somehow suffer from a “persecution complex” (the baker, the photographer, the florist, the innkeeper, the Christian school administrator, etc.).
These men are not on the lunatic fringes of Evangelicalism; they are the leaders, and they are training the next generation of activists. They are engaged in work that destroys lives and it is unconscionable. The Southern Baptists might feel that sitting down and talking to members of the LGBTQ community was some magnanimous act. If they want it to be anything more than an empty gesture, they must call off the gay-bashing pit bulls. Before you can start dressing wounds you have to remove the cause of injury.
I wonder if my friend believes that that dialogue changed anything. I wonder what she was hearing.
Photo: Jeff Noble/Flickr
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