Sign Post Moments: Kathryn Elizabeth’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

Kathryn Elizabeth blogs at The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person.

I don’t have a single lightbulb moment, my views gradually changed over time as I read and paid attention to the world around me. Although they certainly wouldn’t agree with all of the conclusions I’ve reached, I have to give part of the credit for my belief system to my professors at Covenant College, who taught me to question and who emphasized the importance of doing justice and loving mercy to thinking Christianly about the world. There are two moments in my life, however, that stick in my head as sign posts, moments, coincidentally, that have converged again over these last weeks with the renewed confederate flag debate and the marriage equality ruling.

The first sign post memory was the debate over the old Georgia state flag—the banner that flew as a memorial to the confederacy and an emblem of Georgia’s fight against integration and civil rights. Growing up as I did in the part of Florida that’s more north than south, and so attending college in north Georgia during that time was a real eye-opener to me.

I couldn’t understand why the topic was so hotly debated in campus discussion boards at my Christian college and why so many Christians were turning a blind eye to the messages this symbol of bigotry and discrimination was sending to our African American brothers and sisters.

Watching the Georgia Republican party line up and support the confederate flag was the first time I realized that whatever political affiliation I might have at home in Florida, I couldn’t justify registering as one if I stayed in Georgia. That’s when I started questioning my political affiliations and whether the accusations of racism levied against the party were correct, because here was this issue that seemed like a no-brainer, and yet here these people who were part of the same party lining up to support something so noxious.

To make matters worse, the state representative from my district in Georgia, Rep. Brian Joyce, was a member of the PCA church down the road from Covenant, the church just before the point that African American students were warned not to venture beyond, for their own safety. Brian Joyce, the good Christian PCA member, who was supposed to have all of the right doctrine, was busy pandering to his district in support of the flag, going on about heritage not hate in a district that everyone knew was overrun with the Klan. There was no way you could pretend it wasn’t anything other than a heritage of hate in Dade County, GA, and yet here was this supposedly godly man insisting just that. Whether because of political expedience or because he was part of the racist streak that still hasn’t been fully rooted out of the PCA, that episode cost me respect both for him and the church leaders who should have stopped it and didn’t.

Any idealism I still had left was gone by the time the flag fight was over.

My second signpost memory comes from my time working in Vietnam. By that point my politics had shifted more, and I was supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race. As an aside, there are few moments in my life more surreal than teaching my classroom full of foreign relations students that morning the election results were announced. Anyway, like a lot of other Americans, my elation at President Obama’s election was tempered both by California passing Prop 8 and my home state of Florida passing a similar constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

That made the email the pastor of the international church in Hanoi sent out to the entire congregation a few weeks after the inauguration all the more frustrating. In the email the pastor, a Chinese-South African gentleman—or in other words, not an American—told the congregation that we needed to pray for the coming persecution of American Christians, and be prepared to take in Americans fleeing the inevitable crackdown lest they be thrown into camps. The evidence of this coming persecution that would be so bad Christian Americans would have to flee to whatever places in the developing world would take them? Barack Obama’s election and the backlash against Prop 8.

That email broke something in me.

There I was, halfway around the world, in a country whose relationship with non-Catholic Christians was rocky, to say the least, where I was supposed to be thankful that I even had a church to worship in. Here the pastor was proclaiming that the president I campaigned for and the backlash to the ballot measure I opposed were proof that my homeland was going to start persecuting me. No sense of proportionality whatsoever.

I’d expected the American religious right to flip out, but I didn’t expect a message like that to be sent to a congregation filled with people from around the globe. Not when many of them were from countries where Christians really do face government persecution. I certainly didn’t expect it from a pastor who had spoken about his church bravely standing up against the Apartheid South African government. How are people getting angry about their rights being voted away and picketing corporations that funded the measure even in the same ballpark as Apartheid or actual persecution of Christians?

And yet somehow, the American religious right managed to export their paranoia about non-existent persecution to Christians halfway around the world.

I suppose the moral of this story is that everyone is good for something, even a bad example, and both the fight to keep the confederate flag and the imagined persecution over an election are examples of a Christianity so myopically focused on narrow political debates that it misses the big picture. If your version of Christianity leaves nothing but distasteful memories of racial division or persecution fantasies, is it really God who you’re honoring or is it yourself and your own worst impulses?

Lisa Cherry and Frontline Family Ministries: “‘Gay’ Marriage is the New Roe v Wade”

Image from YouTube: Lisa Cherry and her son Lucas Cherry, authors of Not Open.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Today, on the heels of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, Lisa Cherry and her organization Frontline Family Ministries sent an “OFFICIAL STATEMENT” to their email list. The statement begins with a large image comparing yesterday’s marriage equality decision with the infamous 1972 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion:


The statement (which you can view in full as a PDF here) begins with declaring full opposition to the Supreme Court ruling:

It is with heavy hearts we write to you today. For the public record, Frontline Family Ministries strongly opposes the ruling on “gay marriage” and stands for biblical marriage between 1 man and 1 woman. This is a critical moment in our history and how we respond could alter our grandchildren’s future.

Lisa claims that those celebrating the ruling are celebrating no less than “the demise of our nation”:

We are sure you are like us watching your news feeds for commentaries ….and sorting out which Facebook friends are sharing congratulatory posts and which are grieving the demise of our nation.

Now, you might be wondering how Obergefell v. Hodges could possibly compare to Roe v. Wade, especially since in the minds of conservative, pro-life Christians the latter has literally led to the genocidal massacre of millions of innocent children. Jurisprudential comparisons aside, how on earth does allowing same-sex couples to marry (even if you think that is immoral) reach the terrifying heights of million of babies being slaughtered? Remember, to people like Lisa Cherry, abortion can be compared to the Holocaust. So this is no small comparison.

What is important to remember here is that, to Lisa Cherry and Frontline Family Ministries, LGBT* people are not simply immoral. They are, literally, sexual predators that threaten your children. Last year, during Cherry’s “National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week for Homeschoolers,” I systematically reviewed her books and website materials because I believed that her and Frontline Family Ministries’s approach to abuse prevention missed the mark. And part of that involved her redefining of what a sexual predator is.

Since Cherry has now returned with comparing marriage equality to Roe v. Wade, I figured it would be a good time to reprint my examination of and response to her earlier comparison of LGBT* people to sexual predators. This is from Why I Cannot Support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week: Part Five, Unmask the Predators.


b. Redefining sexual predators

The most irresponsible aspect of Unmask the Predators is that Lisa Cherry redefines the meaning of “sexual predator” in the context of teaching sexual abuse prevention. The following image (which Libby Anne discussed yesterday) from page 2 demonstrates this:


Text is,

The predators are not just the psychiatrically diagnosed pedophiles. The middle-school sex-education health teacher, the friendly cohabitating young couple next door that your daughter babysits for, and the clean-cut homosexual teller at your bank who just adopted a baby from Africa are chipping away at our core values and beliefs while we naively think our kids are still with us in the Sunday school. Until we mask the spiritual forces working behind those “nice people” and dismantle their spiritual weapons, we will continue to lose our children. 

What is vital to note here is that Lisa is not saying that these people could be predators — in the sense that anyone can be a predator because predators transcend any particular demographic group. If that was the message, I would agree. Predators can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, white, black, young, old, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, and so forth. But that’s not what Lisa is saying.

On the first page of the book, Lisa says a “sexual predator” nearly destroyed their daughter’s life. She warns there are other predators threatening children as well. She then gives the examples above. The predators “are” (not “could be”):

  • The middle-school sex-education health teacher
  • The friendly cohabitating young couple next door
  • The clean-cut homosexual teller at your bank

Now you might wonder, how on earth are these people categorically defined as “predators”?

The answer is, disturbingly, that Lisa is redefining what “sexual predator” means. You can see the beginnings of this in the above citation, where Lisa says they are predators because they are “chipping away at our core values and beliefs.” On page 3, she elaborates on this:

“Sexual predators are not new. Their stories fill chapters of our Old Testament history books; their names were called harlot and adulterer in Proverbs” (3).

“Harlots” and “adulterers” are “sexual predators”? We clearly are no longer talking about what normal society means by sexual predator, i.e., “People who commit sex crimes, such as rape or child sexual abuse”, or “A person…convicted of a first-degree felony sex crime, or two second-degree felony sex crimes”. You know, the actual definition of “sexual predator.”

But still, you might ask, how are these people “predators”? The answer is that Lisa has redefined “sexual predator” by spiritualizing the concept. In her worldview, predators are anyone and everyone who (1) act in a way that Lisa believes is sexually immoral and/or (2) teaches people sexual morality in a way Lisa believes is sexually immoral. Thus anything or anyone hinting of non-Christian “culture war” is predatory. As Lisa explains, “Predator forces can attack our children through sexual molesters or through a host of cultural invaders” (13, emphasis added).

Lisa makes this most clear in two online articles found on Frontline Family Ministries’s website. Those articles are entitled “Predator Calling Cards, Part 1: Found One in My Mailbox” (archived PDF) and “Predator Calling Cards, Part 2: What is a Predator Anyway?” (archived PDF). In the first article, Lisa expresses some of the most horrid anti-gay sentiments I’ve ever read. These sentiments really shine a light on Lisa’s statements in Not Open where she said LGBT* people often receive “icy stares” in church and that’s a bad thing. I mean, if this isn’t the equivalent of an icy stare, I’m not sure what is:

“I sat down the other day for a rare moment of relaxation with my new issue of Country Living. It’s the one women’s magazine I subscribe to.

I looked forward to dreaming up some unachievable new interior design as I flipped my mind over to unwind mode.

Featured on page 92 and 93 was a quaint 19th century house in upstate New York.  But I had trouble figuring out the heading…

My mind did a double take as I re-read the article’s opening line… Jesse and Gus have forged a surprisingly modern home…. I turned the page to find a picture of this “couple”—two men and their five-year-old daughter.

What?!  I was accidentally taking a tour of a homosexual couple’s house? I dropped the issue on the floor in disgust.”

Yes, Lisa dropped an issue of Country Living on the ground “in disgust” because it featured a gay couple. Now, ignoring for the time being the message communicated to LGBT* people by this, note again the title of the article: “Predator Calling Cards, Part 1: Found One in My Mailbox.” In other words, just the image of a gay couple is a “predator calling card” to Lisa.

She received pushback on this article from people saying that it’s irresponsible to say this because not all LGBT* people are child molesters (e.g., the actual definition of sexual predator!). Lisa responds to this in the second article:

“In the world today we have Micro-predators (actual persons) and Macro-predators (global thoughts and forces). They are very much inter-related. Think about it. A child “macro-groomed” may more easily be “micro-groomed.””

In other words, LGBT* people — simply by being LGBT* — are predators in Lisa’s worldview. Their very existence is a perpetual state of “macro-grooming” children for abuse. In fact, anything and anyone that is sexually immoral is a “macro-predator.” This is why the list from page 3 of Unmask the Predators says that: people living together before marriage are predators, sex education teachers are predators, and LGBT* couples are predators. They aren’t necessarily child molesters; they’re spiritual sexual predators. So, I guess, they kind of are child molesters, but rather spiritual child molesters.

In fact, nearly every single passage in Kalyn’s Secret that referred to something like “spiritual forces of darkness” is changed in Unmask the Predators to be called “predators.”

Which just blows my mind.

We live in a world where 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will sexually abused. We also live in a world where sexual abuse prevention is sorely lacking. The last thing we need, when teaching about prevention, is someone redefining the word and teaching families to fear the wrong people. Teaching families to fear non-predators — in the context of teaching about predators — is the most irresponsible thing I’ve seen in a long time. There is no excuse for Lisa’s dangerous and sloppy irresponsibility here.

c. Throwing LGBT* people under the bus

As I just pointed out, Lisa calls gay people “sexual predators” on the very second page of Unmask the Predators. She continues to do this throughout the book — as well as in Not Open, where she refers to LGBT* people as “sexual offenders.” She even pulls out the tired trope of LGBT* people wanting to legalize child rape, saying “the homosexual lobby want[s] to see the age [of consent] lowered” (161) — which is particularly ironic in this context, considering that conservative Christian leaders have been the ones most recently advocating for child marriage. In fact, at one point in the book Lisa herself mentions that Kalyn throws this fact in her face (184-5) by pointing out that popular homeschool fiction character Elsie Dinsmore was a young bride married to a much older man:



Remember the problem with this sort of language? I mentioned this yesterday, but it’s worth reviewing the facts:

• First, and most importantly, children who will later identify as LGBT* are at a higher risk for sexual abuse: “Children who grow up later to identify as LGBT are more at risk of sexual abuse as children… LGBT adults report that their behavior and interaction with others was often atypical in childhood when compared to their peers. Being or feeling ‘different’ can result in social isolation / exclusion, which in turn can lead to a child being more vulnerable to the instigation and continuation of abuse.”

• Second, feelings of social isolation and rejection are statistically linked with experiences of abuse. In fact, abusers specifically use isolation as a tool of abuseand target people vulnerable to isolation.

• Third, LGBT* youth are far more likely to be rejected by their families: “Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States.”

• Fourth,  numerous studies indicate that LGBT* individuals “are likely to be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. One study found that GLB groups are about two-and-one-half times more likely than heterosexual men and women to have had a mental health disorder.”

• Fifth, supporting LGBT* individuals reduces the risk of mental illness. According to the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Specific parental behaviors, such as advocating for their children when they are mistreated due to their LGBT identity and supporting their teen’s gender expression, were linked to a lower likelihood of depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.”

Now let’s add a few more facts:

• Sixth, people who sexually abuse children are more likely to be fixated on children than any given gender identity: “Many child molesters cannot be characterized as having an adult sexual orientation at all; they are fixated on children.”

• Seventh, people who sexually abuse children not only fixate on children, but specific children: those in their personal networks. The Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute has noted that, “90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends.”

• Eighth, among child sexual abusers who do appear to have an adult sexual orientation, heterosexuality is far more common: “A child’s risk of being molested by his or her relative’s heterosexual partner is 100 times greater than by someone who might be identified as homosexual.”

So let’s put these above points together:

By teaching homeschool parents and families that LGBT* people are inherently predators, Lisa Cherry is isolating and targeting the group more at risk of being the target of abusers and ignoring groups of people who are more likely to be abusers. This is completely backwards. This is fundamentally flawed sexual abuse prevention.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow gives a helpful and important synopsis of what all the above points ought to suggest for us:

“What the data shows us indisputably is that people who will later identify as LGBT have disproportionate rates of having been victims of child sexual abuse. So there are two ways to think of that — one of which I completely disagree with and one I agree more with.

“On the one end, the abuse is making these young people LGBT. The science for that is completely flimsy. I completely disagree with that idea. On the other side … children who will eventually identify as LGBT are more likely to be targets of sexual predators. If you think of it that way, it changes our concept of how we need to nurture and care for children who are different.”

 “It changes our concept of how we need to nurture and care for children we are different.” This is true, and some Christian homeschooling communities must begin to understand.

We are setting children up for abuse by how we are treating LGBT* people — and we are ignoring the actual abusers in our midst.

Which One of You Have We Wronged?

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Hugo. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Hugo. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published in December 2014. It is a guest post that Sophie Anna Platt wrote in response to James Dobson’s recent statement that marriage equality will lead to a civil war.

To the James Dobsons and Mike Farrises of the world who literally want a civil war over gay rights and gay marriage, I ask this. In fact, I should ask certain members of my own family. I ask the same thing Jesus once asked.

Which one of you have we wronged?

Which one of you have we cheated or stolen from or harmed in any way? I’m not saying we are perfect, but what did we ever do to you that could make you hate us so much that you literally want a civil war over us being allowed the same rights that you have? What could possess you to put us through the things you have? How can you bring yourself to hate another person – much less a whole group of people- to the point that you force us even as children into “reparative therapy” which is just a fancy word for psychological and physical torture? I’m not even speaking metaphorically here.

After everything you have done to us one might expect we would be the ones with hatred in our hearts. That we would be trying to outlaw the religion that has been used in such vile ways against us. The truth is that many, many of us still believe in God, and we certainly support your right to do so. We do not support your right to use your religion as a weapon against us, and that really shouldn’t surprise you.

How can you say that we and those who love us and support us should be killed? That is what war is. Killing the ones you are against. If you are without sin, then cast the first stone by all means. But don’t forget it was this Jesus you purportedly follow who stopped people like you from casting stones at people like us when he was on Earth. Don’t forget that He said that whatever you do to “even the least of these my siblings”, you do to Him. Don’t forget that in Christ there is no male or female. You like to take the rest of the Bible so literally. Why do you try to explain away verses like that? In fact, what makes you think you can explain away the second greatest commandment – to love your neighbor as you love yourself – just by saying, “Well, my neighbor is gay and that makes them imperfect in my eyes so that doesn’t count”?

So next time before you promise to go on a killing spree, think about whether you are really serving the wishes of the one you call “Lord”.

Doug Wilson and the “Gaylag Archipelago”

Doug Wilson

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 19, 2014.

When a federal judge struck down Idaho’s gay marriage ban last week, fellow blogger Kathryn Elizabeth tweeted the news at Christian pastor and author Douglas Wilson. Wilson is well known for his anti-gay views, and he and Kathryn Elizabeth have sparred over the issue before. Wilson’s response won’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with his work, but it illustrates a problem among religious opponents of LGBTQ rights.


Yes, you read that right—Wilson is worried about being sent off to “Gaylag Archipelago.” But don’t let the obvious hyperbole lead you to miss the point—it is mainstream within evangelicalism today to speak of being “persecuted” or “hated” for being anti-gay. A WORLD magazine article titled “‘Haters’ and the Hated” made this point last year:

The word has come down a lot. Once it applied to Adolf Hitler; now to Chick-fil-A. The “haters” of today, as defined by popular rhetoric, are those who argue with current wisdom. . . . It’s easy to attach the hate label to opponents of the issue du jour, and only a slight stretch of the imagination to picture today’s haters stringing up the issue du jour to lampposts in the devilish light of bonfires. This is convenient: If all your opponents are haters, righteous indignation is a valid response. Haters barely deserve to live, much less shape public policy. They must be defeated, by any means necessary.

But let’s talk about the real thing. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). . . . To the extent that you abide in Christ, the world will hate you. It will even project its hatred on you.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association was even more clear:

We’re hearing a lot about the reinstatement of segregationist Jim Crow laws these days, as homosexual activists fling this accusation at the state of Arizona. They argue that SB1062, a bill which simply protects religious liberty in the Copper State, is tantamount to the reinstatement of discriminatory laws.

As so often is the case, the situation is actually the reverse. It is in fact the bullies and bigots of Big Gay who are reinstating Jim Crow laws, only this time the marginalized and segregated Americans are Christian businessmen. Faith-driven vendors are being told that unless they submit to the owners of the liberal plantation, they will be punished by their homosexualized overlords and sent to the margins of society.

Hence the “Gaylag Archipelago.” I was a child in the 1990s, before marriage equality took the center stage it has today, but even I remember hearing that with the direction the country was heading Christians would eventually be put in jail for believing that homosexuality is a sin. The “Gaylag Archipelago” fits this mentality perfectly—it imagines a world where gay people are the oppressors and evangelical Christians are being robbed of their rights and will ultimately be rounded up and put in internment camps.

Wilson has put it like this:

The same sex marriage crusade has nothing whatever to do with what people can do sexually in private, and it has everything to do with what you will be allowed to say about it in public. We are not talking about whether private homosexual behavior will be penalized, but whether public opposition to homosexual behavior will be penalized.

But you know what? I’ve been involved in the movement for marriage equality for some time now, and I have yet to hear a single person call for those who believe homosexuality is sin to be jailed or sent to work camps. I also haven’t heard anyone calling for banning people from stating that they believe homosexuality is a sin. In actuality, the belief that homosexuality is sinful will go the way of the belief that black people and other minorities are lesser than white people. No one is put in jail for being racist, or even for publicly airing their racist sentiments (unless those sentiments involve threatening physical harm). There are no gulags where racists are rounded up and imprisoned.

But let’s take a look at what these self-prescribed “victims” have in store for their “oppressors,” the LGBTQ community. This from the same Bryan Fischer I quoted above:

We do not believe that homosexual behavior out to be normalized. We don’t think—I don’t think it ought to be legalized. It should not be promoted, it should not be endorsed, it should not be sanctioned, it should not be subsidized. And, in fact, this is the way it was in America for the first 342 years of our existence, well the first 357 years of our existence, from Jamestown in 1607 until Illinois in 1962, the first state in the union to lift sanctions, criminal sanctions, against homosexual behavior. It was still sanctioned in 49 states until 1972, it was even sanctioned according to Antonin Scalia in about 24 states in 2003 when the Lawrence v. Texas ruling came down I counted up about 12 or 14 but somewhere in that neighborhood still had public policies that prohibited homosexual behavior, did not give it legal sanction, it was prohibited, it was against the law under their state code. And so, we believe, I believe, I’ll just speak for myself here, I believe that homosexual behavior should again be contrary to public policy, to put it bluntly it ought to be against the law.

So then the question comes in, what sort of sanctions are you prepared to impose? If it’s going to be against the law, and the law is going to be applied, somebody is apprehended in a way that calls into play this law, this public policy against homosexual behavior, what should be done? What should be done with those defenders? And that’s a legitimate question. Do you put them to death, like they did under the Mosaic law, do you lock them up, do you fine them, what do you do?

Well I want to suggest something, and this just absolutely ticks off homosexual activists, but it makes perfect sense to me. Remember, we’ve talked about this before, but according to the CDC . . . 91% of all of the males in the history of the [AIDS] epidemic either contracted HIV aids through having sex with other men or through injection with drug abuse. Now we have policies in our culture to deal with injection with drug abuse. . . . So here’s my suggestion, very simple, very straightforward, that our sanctions for homosexual conduct should be the same as they are for drug abuse. In other words, whatever we decide are appropriate public policies to deal with drug abuse, those ought to be the same policies that we use for dealing with homosexual behavior because the risks are the same. If we’re concerned about the health of people involved in injection drug abuse, we want to protect them, we want to liberate them from this, and we’re going to have certain policies in place to deal with that, it could involve fines, it could involve incarceration.

We’re seeing a real trend for people who deal in the drug issue to move away from incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders toward rehabilitation. Let’s put these people in therapy, let’s get them in a drug treatment center, rather than lock them up let’s get them help. Now frankly, I am sympathetic to that. . . . Here’s what I’m getting at. . . . What I’m talking about is taking the same policies that we use for drug offenders, because we know it destroys people, it hurts them, it damages them, and since the same health risks exist with homosexual behavior, then it seems to me that we ought to take the same policies and apply them to homosexual conduct, that we ought to direct people toward rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration. Let’s not lock them up, let’s get them therapy, let’s get them help. I mentioned Nicolas Cummings, former president of the American Psychological Association, he says look, it works, conversion therapy, reparative theory, whatever you want to call it, if people are motivated, they can change, they can redirect their sexual energy. . . . This approach fits with conservative principles.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason people like Bryan Fischer are convinced that LGBTQ activists want them stripped of their rights and imprisoned is that they are projecting what they in fact want on their opponents. In other words, Bryan Fischer wants to make “homosexual behavior” against the law, and wants to give “offenders” a choice between prison and reparative therapy, so he assumes that his opponents want to make “true” Christianity against the law, and to imprison or “reeducate” offenders.

And what about Doug Wilson, of “Gaylag Archipelago”? Wilson has increasingly refused to fully nail down his position on what should be done with gay and lesbian individuals, among other. This may be in part because some of his earlier forays on the subject resulted in widespread outcry. For example, Wilson had this to say in a 2003 interview:

The Bible indicates the punishment for homosexuality is death. The Bible also indicates the punishment for homosexuality is exile. So death is not the minimal punishment for a homosexual. There are other alternatives.

Then in 2009 he put his position like this:

Wilson says he rejects the Reconstructionists’ political tactics and distances himself from the label, claiming that his view of Old Testament law is more subtle than theirs. But when I asked what he thought of the death penalty for homosexual acts suggested in Leviticus 20:13, he did not shy away from the theonomic hard line that disturbs many Christians. “You can’t apply Scripture woodenly,” he says. “You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery.…I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”

There’s also the matter of Wilson’s magazine, Credenda/Agenda. Wilson is both founder and editor of the publication, and some years back he published an article titled Your Eye Shall Not Pity, by Greg Dickinson. This article is less ambiguous.

The civil magistrate is the minister of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom. 13:4). God has not left his civil minister without guidance on how to exercise his office. The Scriptures set forth clear standards of judgment for many offenses. Capital crimes, for example, include premeditated killing (murder), kidnapping, sorcery, bestiality, adultery, homosexuality, and cursing one’s parents (Ex. 21:14; 21:16; 22:18; 22:19; Lev. 20:10; 20:13; Ex. 21:17).

In contemporary American jurisprudence, none of these offenses is punishable by death, with the occasional exception of murder. The magistrates have dispensed with God’s standards of justice. Some Christians believe this is an improvement. They would be horrified to think that the “harsh” penalties of the law should still be applied. Sometimes this is the result of the mistaken belief that the Old Testament has no further application after the advent of Christ. This is an exegetical problem. Too often, it is the result of a sinful view of the criminal. This sin is called pity.

. . .

Thus, the Bible teaches that pity is not an option where God has decided the matter.The magistrate, God’s minister, is to faithfully execute justice according to God’s standard, not man’s.

What the Bible does not teach is that the preaching of the gospel and repentance have no place on death row. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a place where there is a more immediate need of grace, and a presentation of the gospel should be the first response of Christians to those who are condemned. But condemnation still must come if we are to be obedient to God’s Word.

We must respond to the wrongdoer biblically in both judgment and grace. This means that we must return to an obedience which confines pity within the bounds which God has established for us.

It’s worth noting that no one has put either Doug Wilson or Greg Dickinson in jail for what they have said. Indeed, neither has been arrested for their comments, or fined. Just as there are no laws against racist comments, there are no laws against calling homosexuality sin—nor are there likely to be. Contrary to Wilson’s reference to a “Gaylag Archipelago,” Wilson and his friends are free to go on saying these things if they so choose. But while they are legally free to call down all the divine judgement they please, they do not get a free pass from popular outrage.

I suspect that Wilson’s references to a “Gaylag Archipelago” may stem from some of his recent experiences when speaking on college campuses. In 2012, Wilson was heckled and shouted over during a speaking engagement at Indiana University. I suspect Wilson blurs the line between popular anger over his views on homosexuality and legal oppression. Of course, that problem goes beyond Wilson. The WORLD magazine article I quoted above claimed that “The ‘haters’ of today, as defined by popular rhetoric, are those who argue with current wisdom.” In other words, the author is under the impression that evangelicals are “hated” simply because they disagree with the popular consensus. It’s as though she cannot see the very real pain and damage evangelicals cause by their opposition to LGBTQ rights and their belief that same-sex attraction is sinful, and the anger that pain might inspire.

I don’t want to give the impression that every evangelical Christian wants gay people to be executed, rounded up, exiled, or sentenced to reparative therapy. In 2013, 59% of white evangelicals said that homosexuality should be “discouraged” but 30% said it should be “accepted.”  Also in 2013, 49% of white evangelicals supported some form of civil union. But there seems to be a fairly high correlation between evangelicals who claim to be persecuted by the push for LGBTQ rights and evangelicals who believe homosexual behavior, as they term it, should come with legal sanction. And that correlation makes Wilson’s reference to the possibility of being sent to a “Gaylag Archipelago” incredibly disingenuous.

The “Homosexual Agenda”: Libby Anne

The “Homosexual Agenda”: Libby Anne

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on March 21, 2012.

I was (probably unwisely) perusing the conservative Catholic blogosphere, and it has started to get to me. I’ve read numerous blogs talking about the “homosexual agenda” that is taking over the country and oppressing everyone else. I remember being taught this growing up, to the exact minutia. Reading about it now, though, it makes me angry.

You know what the “homosexual agenda” is? Gay people want to be able to live their lives without threat, hold jobs without fear of being fired for their sexual orientation, and be legally allowed marry people they love. Right now, they can’t do that. The “homosexual agenda” is not about “oppressing” Christians, it’s about letting gay people be full human beings. It’s not about giving gay people more rights than everyone else, it’s about giving them the same rights as anyone else.

I think the reason reading about the evils of the coming “homosexual agenda” has been bothering me is that I have numerous gay friends. They’re great friends who are always ready to help me in a pinch, they have their own dreams and ambitions, and they have crushes and relationships just like anyone else. And so when I hear about the “homosexual agenda” and then think of my friends, I get mad. Mad, because those who speak with fear of the “homosexual agenda” want to deprive my friends of the right to hold a job without fear of being fired for who they are and the right to marry who they love. I feel mad because in some parts of this country my friends might still find their lives under threat, simply because they are sexually and romantically attracted to members of their own sex

I remember believing the whole “homosexual agenda” thing. Back then, I was afraid of gay people. They were different and scary. They were pedophiles who should not be trusted around children. I wonder if that’s how the people writing the blogs I was reading feel when they talk about the “homosexual agenda” – fear of something different, scary, and “unnatural.” But that fear does not excuse the actions anti-gay activists take, actions that seek to deprive my friends of their basic rights and to relegate them to second class citizens.

I was willing to change my views when confronted with actual gay people, and in response to additional information (for example, the fact that gay people are statistically less likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual people). I rather suspect, though, that the individuals whose blogs I read probably aren’t ready to change their views when confronted with contrary evidence.

When reading predictions of the takeover of the “homosexual agenda,” the common theme seems to boil down to “gay people want to force us to accept them as normal.” Well yes, yes they do. Because they are. But in actuality, the actions gay activists tend to take are directed not so much at personal beliefs as at physical actions that harm them.

Remember when I said that “religious freedom is not a get out of jail free card“? Well that’s what’s going on here too. Your religious freedom is violated if someone forces you to believe that gay marriage is okay or forces your church to perform gay marriages, but it’s not violated if gay people are allowed to get married. Your religious freedom is violated if someone tells you what you have to believe about God’s view of gay people, but it’s not violated if teachers are required to stop students from bullying gay kids and to explain as school employees that being gay is not considered a disorder by the scientific community, or if people are not allowed to fire someone just for being gay just as they are required not to fire someone just for being black. What’s at stake here is people’s actions, actions that do real harm to gay people, not their beliefs. You are free to believe as you like, but if your actions will do actual harm to others, you are not allowed to act as you would like.

Now sure, I’d really like to change people’s beliefs too. I don’t like beliefs that see some people as lesser than others, especially when these beliefs are based not on any evidence but simply on specific interpretations of a stone age text. I seek to oppose misogyny and homophobia both through fighting actual discrimination and through working to change people’s minds. Wanting to change people’s minds, however, is not the same as legislating what people are allowed to think or putting people in jail for their views, though those decrying the “homosexual agenda” don’t seem to realize that.

I’ve decided not to browse the conservative Catholic blogosphere. It’s not good for my blood pressure. But will continue to fight for LGBTQ rights and I will continue to work on countering homophobia by changing people’s minds.

From Homophobe to Gay Rights Advocate: Libby Anne

From Homophobe to Gay Rights Advocate: Libby Anne

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 16, 2012.

I didn’t meet a gay person growing up. “Homosexuals” were talked about in tones of disgust and sorrow, and we children knew that it was wrong for “men to kiss men” and “women to kiss women,” and that the Bible condemned homosexuality, but it was all in the abstract. It was about those depraved people who were out there trying to ruin marriage and subvert youth, not about any actual people we knew.

This is the story of how I met gay people, heard their stories, realized that they were human, and changed my position on homosexuality.

I met my first gay person in college. I didn’t know he was gay when I met him. Bobby was just the clean-cut, fun-loving guy who hung out in the dorm lounge and cheered everyone up with his words of encouragement. Bobby was smart, compassionate, and encouraging, he was there for everyone and everyone loved him. He came from a good family and was extremely successful in school, headed toward a career in computers. Halfway through freshman year Bobby came out as gay. This was completely unexpected.

Growing up, the most important things my parents and church had emphasized about homosexuality was that it was a choice, and that it was a horrible, ruinous, depraved lifestyle. Bobby challenged the later of these two teachings, for I could not understand how this wonderful, loving, compassionate young man could be holding such depravity inside. I had expected every gay person I met to be sporting piercings, tattoos, outlandish clothing, foul language, hedonism, depression, and likely several incurable diseases leading him to his grave. Bobby challenged this expectation because he did not fit it, not in the least.

Later in college I met a biology graduate student, Eric, who was openly gay. Like Bobby, Eric was clean-cut and respectable. I enjoyed talking to him about evolution, global warming, and other science-related issues. Because I knew him only ephemerally, I felt comfortable enough to ask him how he first figured out that he was gay. He explained to me that when he was nine or ten a friend of his showed him a playboy magazine he had found, and that was when he first realized he was different, because that magazine was doing something for his friend that it didn’t do for him. As he went through adolescence, he was never sexually attracted to females. Instead, he was sexually attracted to other males. This was not, he explained, something he had chosen, and it was not something he could change. After all, being gay had cost him his entire family, which had rejected him when he came out.

Eric thus challenged the second thing I had been taught about homosexuality, that it was a choice. Eric explained most emphatically that being gay was not something he had chosen and not something he could change, not anymore than I could change being sexually attracted to males.

In graduate school, I had a gay coworker, Doug. His background was similar to mine, growing up in a conservative religious family very involved in the church. Doug explained that being gay was never something he asked for, and that as a teen he prayed that it would disappear. He heard the teachings of his church about the evils of homosexuality, and he came to despise himself, to wish that he were dead, to feel that he and his family would be better off if he were dead. Finally, halfway through high school, he attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle full of pills. This left him violently ill, vomiting blood, but did not kill him. In college, after years of hiding it, he finally came out as gay, and for the first time the depression lifted and he felt that he could truly be himself. For the first time, he was truly at peace, truly happy, truly fulfilled.

Meeting gay people thus threw into question the things I had been taught about homosexuality as a child: that it was a choice and that it was a depraved, hideous lifestyle. Yet even with this, I had been taught that the Bible condemned homosexuality. I knew that if this was the case then whether or not homosexuality was a choice and regardless of how nice or loving or normal-seeming gay people might be, it was wrong. Yet it was during these same years that I realized that I could not take the Bible literally, and and that I must understand it in its proper cultural and historical context. I soon learned that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is not at all as clear cut as I had been raised to believe it, and I did not see how a God of love could create people with homosexual attractions and then condemn them for it. As I began to see God’s love as more important than his judgement, and his ways as less black and white than our narrow understandings, I reevaluated my theological position on this issue. A few years later I became an atheist, which made what the Bible says or does not say about homosexuality irrelevant.

Today, I feel completely comfortable around the gay people I meet and befriend. They are people just like me, with their own hopes, dreams, and interests. They are not defined by their homosexuality any more than I was by my heterosexuality. Today at long last I can accept gay people without any remnant of my earlier inside squeamishness or disgust.

Furthermore, stories like Doug’s have turned me into a big of a gay rights activist. Something like 30-40% of gay youth attempt suicide just like he did, not because being gay gives them depression but because the homophobic messages they receive from their families, churches, and communities make death seem more attractive than life. Last week on NPR I heard the story of a gay young man whose mother suspected he was gay when he was only ten, and took him out into the woods, pointed a loaded gun at him, and told him that this was the place she would shoot him through the head if he ever became a “faggot.” There is also the story of my bisexual friend who was rejected from her religious community when she came out as bisexual, even though she had been raised in that community from infancy.

There is also the fact that if Bobby, or Eric, or Doug wanted to marry their partners (two of the three are in long-term relationships), in the states where they currently live they could not. They would not be allowed to visit each other in the hospital or make medical decisions, they could not file joint tax refunds or have any of the other benefits that go to married couples. I hear people like twice-divorced Newt Gingrich condemning gay marriage as a threat to the institution of marriage, and I become angry inside. Bobby, Eric, Doug, and the other gay people I have befriended are not bad people. In fact, they are some of the most loving, accepting people I know. They deserve to have the right to marry the person they love just as much as I, or Newt Gingrich, or any heterosexual person can.

I understand where people like Newt Gingrich are coming from. I understand that they believe God has condemned homosexuality and that they harbor a veritable library of destructive myths and stereotypes about gay people. They are my parents. They are the church I grew up in. I get it. It’s just that I no longer agree with them. Today, I believe in equality.