Many thoughtful evangelicals insist that they are not against homosexuals, that they don’t hate homosexuals. For all I know, you may be such a person. If you are, I don’t pretend to know your heart, and I try as much as possible to accept people’s self report. If you say you’re not against homosexuals, I believe it, unless there’s some reason to wonder.
I once interacted with a conservative Nazarene student at Point Loma Nazarene University who said, “I know you think I’m a homophobe, but I’m not. I don’t hate homosexuals. I don’t hate anyone.” I replied, “I’m sure you don’t hate gays and lesbians. I’ve never met a Christian who actually hates them.” He was surprised. I suspect that he’d never interacted with someone like me who didn’t casually use black & white language like “hater” and diagnose people as having a psychiatric pathology called “homophobia.” I must acknowledge that, like it or not, there is political and rhetorical value in this sort of verbal bullying. [No-Brainer Disclaimer: The fact that I haven’t personally met any genuine haters (unless you include counter demonstrators at the Pride parade) doesn’t mean they’re not around, that’s certain. I have, however, met some homophobes, but I still avoid name-calling.]
Decades of Anti-Homosexual Government Policy
I don’t hate anybody. I believe that homosexuals should be treated with the same dignity and respect that anyone else is. I have never spoken to a homosesexual derisively or disrespectfully.
The problem with insisting on one’s own lack of personal malice goes back to 1) a simple case of “Actions speak louder than words,” and 2) “You will be judged by the company you keep.” Nothing extraordinary there, something most people have heard before graduating from elementary school.
You may know gays and lesbians, work side by side with them, and say you feel no personal animosity or dislike whatever. But I’m sure it comes as no surprise that many people don’t believe you. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it is difficult to reconcile “Sorry, you’re a nice person, but you’re going to hell,” with professed feelings of love and regard. Second, in recent history (we’re talking about decades, not years) punitive legal statutes and the coercive levers of power have been used to persecute and prosecute gays and lesbians over and over again. And since the late 1970s, those political persecutions have been led by a coalition of Mormons, Evangelicals, the Unification Church, and Catholics.
I’m not saying that Mormons, Evangelicals, the Unification Church, and Catholics shouldn’t exercise their rights in a democratic republic. That’s foolish. And I admit the word “persecutions” is not as neutral as the word “campaign” might be. What I am saying is that evangelicals shouldn’t be surprised when people describe them as anti-homosexual, despite their own protests. They say, “I’m not against homosexuals,” when the churches to which they belong are leading a decades-long campaign specifically aimed at homosexuals, to remove any protections from arbitrary firings, keep gays and lesbians from having a normal family life, serve openly in the armed forces, and put them in prison if they make love to their partner.
You are free to vote in accordance with your beliefs, whether they are rooted in science, religion, or philosophy. You are free to believe whatever your leaders tell you is necessary to remain a member in good standing in your religious community. You are free to say anything to your neighbors and co-workers that is appropriate in a given setting. Just don’t be surprised if gays and lesbians don’t believe you when you say you’re not against them, that’s all. And don’t be upset when I characterize standard-issue conservative evangelicals as anti-homosexual as I did recently in the case of the Rev. Dr. Frankie L. Perdue, no matter how genuinely concerned and sensitive they are to LGBT folks they know personally.
These waves of anti-gay fervor remind me of several historical episodes. First are the sporadic persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire, instigated at politically opportune times. Second are the old European pogroms whipped up by princes in order to drive out their Jewish neighbors, to whom they were financially indebted. Then there are the apparently territorial purposes of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. In each case political leaders stirred up popular prejudice and gave people an opportunity to satisfy a base human instinct to dominate, even humiliate, a weaker group of people.
Two of my children reminded me, in a kind and gentle fashion, recently of how I sometimes used humiliation to discipline them, which caused me to reacquaint myself with that “dark side” that takes me down a notch, for a while at least. For some of us (me, for example), occasions to impose our wills on others are uncommon, yet provide a rather dark satisfaction.
Jesus, however, told us that we were not to lord it over one another like the gentiles do, he told us to love our neighbors. For some of us, unfortunately, love and servanthood don’t energize the party base. They don’t give us the juice. In a situation of conflict, though, like the conflict Jesus and his disciples entered into with Jewish theologians and pastors who misrepresented God to the people, love and servanthood do give us the juice.
In 1953, three months after his inauguration, President Dwight Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, forbidding homosexuals to be employed by the federal government. There are people living today who were fired as a result of President Eisenhower’s decision, because they were gay or lesbian. Many people remember the Briggs Initiative (1978), the various state legal struggles over anti-sodomy laws, involuntary psychiatric commitment of gays and lesbians when homosexuality was officially a mental disease, DOMA, DADT, and gay and lesbian adoption, not to mention marriage equality. The long history of anti-homosexual laws, ballot initiatives, and government policies stretches back over sixty years, much of which I remember clearly.
Following the template painstakingly crafted by Republican strategist Paul Weyrich and Baptist minister Jerry Falwell, powerful, well-placed conservative Christians are quite experienced at harnessing the moral energies of their constituencies on behalf of the Party. If they could, they would turn back the clock, stemming the tide of what they term “homosexual acceptance,” and make homosexuals unacceptable again, just like in the old days.
Texas is the second most populous state in the union at over 25 million. In the lead up to the Republican primaries, only eighteen months ago, the following planks were included in the Republican Party platform of Governor Rick Perry’s homestate.
- No homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child.
- Marriage Licenses – We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such.
- Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.
- Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.
So what do we have? In June 2010 the Texas Republican Party advocates, in the name the fundamental, unchanging truths of God, policies to 1) forbid gays and lesbians to have foster children or to adopt, 2) make it a felony to marry same-sex couples, and 3) recriminalize sodomy in order to put homosexuals in prison. Invoking God, hounding gays and lesbians out of Texas, during a primary season where Gov. Rick Perry was a major contender. That was certainly strategic timing for such purely symbolic party planks.
These policies are against homosexuals. Sounds to me like Christian Republicans in Texas don’t shilly shally around. There’s no need to “demonize, malign, misinform, misconstrue and mislead” anyone regarding the merging of the Christian right and the 2010 Texas Republican Party platform. The Christian Right in Texas says that not only are they against gays and lesbians, but they are willing to use the power of the State apparatus to place what they consider God’s revealed will at the center of Texas anti-homosexual policy. Personally, I suspect that at least one of their goals is simply to drive gays and lesbians out of their state. They are the majority, after all.
Some people say they don’t hate homosexuals, that they’re not against homosexuals, that they love homosexuals. But they don’t want special privileges for them, no special protections. My friend, homosexuals have been specifically, repeatedly targeted for special legal restrictions in every state. My goodness, if they have been targeted with special restrictions, extending to imprisonment, involuntary commitment to state mental hospitals, and dismissal from jobs, then why wouldn’t they want specific protections codified into law? I sure would!
Recriminalize sodomy? Honestly, they can’t be serious. Good grief. My wife and I have committed sodomy, not often, but there it is. Guilty. And the Texas Republican party would put us in jail? Please don’t be offended, but it is odd how “we” can talk about “their” sexual intimacy in some detail, talking about unnatural acts, abominations, using various plumbing and baseball metaphors we learned in the streets, debate criminality and prison sentences and the likelihood of hell fire, but we get all “TMI!” if we talk about the sexuality of straight couples. Don’t kid yourself–all your talking is personal.
Actions speak louder than words. You don’t hate homosexuals? You’re not against homosexuals? That really all depends on your higher-ups, the current political climate, and where you live, my friend. Some years they need a wedge issue to boost voter turnout in Iowa, then it’s California’s turn, and then Colorado. I don’t know where the wedge issue will be needed next. But believe me, when they decide which state and when, you’ll find yourself saying, “I don’t believe in discrimination against homosexuals, but we need to protect our children from danger in the classroom,” or “I’m not against homosexuals, but young children need male and female role models,” or “I have nothing against homosexuals personally, but we must protect Biblical values.”
You’ll be fed all your lines in advance. It’ll all be scripted ahead of time. They’ll use focus groups to find out what frame works best for which audience. I don’t know when it’ll come or in which state, but if you live there, you’ll probably hear it first from your pastor, then on the radio, then your friends, and eventually you’ll be saying it. “I’m not against homosexuals, but–“
Please know that the legislation is indeed targeted against gays and lesbians, and also be aware that the homosexuals you love so much know that, too, no matter what you say.
Does it cut both ways? Of course it does. I have highlighted the alliance between conservative Christianity and the Republican party because that alliance has, in my opinion, corrupted Christianity more than any other political/religious admixture.
The great Biblical themes that resonate for me most include love, servanthood, suffering with the oppressed, the Spirit, forgivenesss, and reconciliation. Another set of values can also be found in the Bible, and this other set includes values like nationalism, power, might, dominion, control, militarism, and hierarchy.
Both sets of values have considerable Biblical precedent. In my judgment–yes, thank you, I do make judgments–in my judgment the first set of values is more in line with how Jesus lived his life, and Jesus said that when disciples are fully trained they will be like their teacher. Suffering, servanthood, and the other values led Jesus inexorably to a fatal confrontation with groups focused on hierarchy, dominion, status, and power.
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For a list of posts on the Cessation of the Law, go here.
If you want to Demolish the Strongholds of shallow anti-gay slogans, click here.
If you want to respond to the Clobber Passages, click here.