Biblically justified hatred seems to me to be a circuitous, mean-spirited and fearful interpretation of Christianity’s main text.
But hello! This is America, home of free speech, religious liberty and sexual politics. And the contentious flaps we seem to adore that come from mixing religion, sex, and politics. Americans appear increasingly uninterested in publicly and respectfully acknowledging each other as individuals who - for myriad psychological, educational, and social reasons - hold vastly different religious views about sex with vastly different ramifications. And who have the right to do just that.
The national conversation about gay rights has been particularly strident recently, fueled by a biblically-based backlash to President Obama announced support of gay marriage. God has never been more screechingly partisan.
What I would call a particularly titillating example of hate speech credited to the Word of the Lord was reportedly delivered on Mother’s Day by Pastor Charles Worley, a Maiden, N.C., Baptist preacher, who suggested that someone “build a great big large fence, 50 or a hundred mile long. Put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can’t get out.” Pastor Worley then lobbed a clearly political statement from his tax-exempt pulpit: “I ain’t gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover! You said, ‘Did you mean to say that?’ You better believe I did!”
A video of Pastor Worley’s inflammatory (and illegal?) sermon when viral. We Americans love this stuff.
There is also recent sad video evidence of how carefully hatred of homosexuals is being taught in some churches. A video, shot at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church in Greensburg, Indiana, treats us to a very young boy singing “The Bible is right, somebody’s wrong. Romans 1 and 27, ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven.”
Again, the video went viral; the response has reportedly included death threats against the pastor of the church.
These two are the conversational extremes - at least I hope they are. I took heart, recently, when a much more respectful acknowledgment of differing religious/sexual-political views took place during my public radio station’s (WMRA) talk show, Virginia Insight. The topic was “God and Politics.” The first two-thirds of the hour went along pretty much as you’d expect; liberal folks grappling with what to do when politicians advocate less-liberal, biblically-based stances.
Then, host Tom Graham put caller Ron from Augusta County on the air.
Ron: Yessir, I’d just like to comment that religion does play a very important part of who I vote for. I am a born again Christian, and values and morals are very important to me…
…TG: I don’t know if you heard it, Ron, but we heard some data earlier that there are people who have similar views on religion to yours who do not believe Barrack Obama is a Christian. Do you have a view on that?
Ron: My personal opinion would be absolutely not. And my stance on that is that he is for gay rights. And that is an abomination unto the Lord. He burnt Sodom and Gomorrah for that sin of sodomy. And if he was a true Christian, he would definitely be against that.
That was that. Ron had had his say; his biblically-justified homophobia was allowed air-time. There were no titillating, personal attacks. God was mentioned, but nobody was threatened, no voices were raised, nobody was disrespected for either their sexual orientation or their religious/political views.
The last I heard, that particular conversation had not gone viral.
The same American Constitution that separates church from state and allows no religious requirements for presidential candidates, also guarantees free speech. The tenor of that speech, however, is on us, the citizens of today. Why are we Americans so disinterested in civility when it comes to mixing God, sex and politics? Why did Pastor Worley’s video and the video of that sad little boy go viral? Have the manners and mores of reality TV taken over?
Martha’s note: This essay is a feature of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the Web site), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.