Arguing with evangelicals: waaaah! They’re calling me names!

I happened to recently read this piece on CNN’s website, “When Christians become a ‘hated minority’” (even though the piece itself is from a month ago). It tries too hard to be even-handed, I think, and ends up feeling unreasonably flattering to the “your intolerance of my bigotry is the REAL bigotry!” standpoint that conservative evangelicals love to adopt. Anyway, I’m going to visit my conservative evangelical relatives in a couple of weeks, so I felt the need to get this out of my system.

We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot.

Break out the fainting couches. Being called a bigot is obviously far worse than being denied housing, jobs, marriage to the person you love, the opportunity to adopt, or custody of your own children. Hurtful names are absolutely the worst!

Hey, you know who also gets called hurtful names? Gay people. In fact, they get called hurtful names by people like you. Isn’t that what this whole thing is about? Used to be, you could call gay people hurtful names and get away with it. Now you call them hurtful names and get called a bigot. Lawdy, what is the world coming to!

As proof, Sprigg points to the backlash that ESPN commentator Chris Broussard sparked recently. Broussard was called a bigot and a purveyor of hate speech when he said an NBA player who had come out as gay was living in “open rebellion to God.” Broussard said the player, Jason Collins, was “living in unrepentant sin” because the Bible condemns homosexuality.

“In the current culture, it takes more courage for someone like Chris Broussard to speak out than for someone like Jason Collins to come out,” says Sprigg, a former pastor. “The media will hail someone who comes out of the closet as gay, but someone who simply expresses their personal religious views about homosexual conduct is attacked.”

More courage? Well, let’s see — how many NBA players have come out as gay? One, pretty much? And how many right wing religious types have come out as gay haters? Dozens? So, which act looks more courageous on the face of it?

And if we’re talking courage, let’s look at likely worst-case outcomes. The NBA player has to face other players and fans every day. Do you think the world of professional sports is traditionally friendly to homosexuality? Just a few years ago, it’s possible that something like this could have killed Collins’ career. So what’s the worst thing that is likely to happen to Broussard? Well, I guess killing his career is the worst thing likely to happen, so maybe they are a little bit equivalent. Except Broussard doesn’t have to share a locker room with guys who are seven feet tall. And, it could be argued, since Broussard is a commentator, the things he says while on the air are directly related to his job in a way the sexual preferences of an athlete are not.

And the actions are still not equivalent. Collins made an announcement about his own sexual orientation. Broussard, on the other hand, took it upon himself to point the finger of condemnation at somebody else for failing to adhere to the sexual taboos of Broussard’s religious sect. Broussard wasn’t expressing his personal religious views, as Sprigg tries to claim here. Broussard was putting himself in a position of negative judgment against Collins, condemning him for his sin (according to Broussard’s religious beliefs) and his “rebellion” against Broussard’s version of God. Then other people judged him negatively for these statements.

Right wing evangelicals aren’t merely trying to claim the right to say what they want. They have that right already. They’re trying to claim the right to say whatever they want WITHOUT PUSHBACK. They’re trying to claim a special privilege to judge others, but not be judged themselves.

Hmm… there was something relevant in a book I once read… what was it…

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
— Matthew 7 V 1:5

Now, I know how evangelicals argue, and I’m betting many of you are right now trying to claim that homosexuality is a beam and bigotry is a mote, and somehow that negates the main point, which is that you shouldn’t be too eager to go around judging other people, because you’ve got your own stuff to work on. Leave the judging to God.

If people expect you to keep your judgmental anti-gay mouth shut, that is not you being oppressed. That is you being expected to act like a polite, civilized, non-asshole. Why do you think the world needs to hear so badly that you think the Bible condemns homosexuality? Did anybody ask you what you thought? Are you in a context where Bible teaching is called for? Is expressing your opinion going to make the world a better place? Are you speaking up to keep someone from getting hurt?

No? Then the rest of the world has every right to expect you to keep it to yourself. You aren’t in the closet. Everybody in the world can know you’re a Christian. You can wear a cross around your neck or one of those WWJD? buttons or whatever you want to do to make sure that people can spot you instantly as a Christian. I mean, back in the day, I learned to sing “they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” but if you’re not capable of love, sure, you can put a little fishie on your car.

But guys, really. Stop it with the melodrama. You aren’t being oppressed. You haven’t the faintest idea of what oppression is like, or what it really means to be in the closet, and all this self-important whining isn’t helping your case any. Trust me, for every like-minded person who reads such an article and goes, “yeah! right on! preach it brother!” there are a dozen more who point and laugh. You are the modern face of evangelical Christianity, and it is the face of a clueless, privileged, narcissistic, crybaby. And also a bigot.

What’s wrong? Does it make you feel bad when people call you a bigot? How exactly do you expect people to react when you make your anti-gay feelings known? Is the NBA player supposed to feel chastised, to hang his head in shame and say, “you know, I was fine with being gay, until this guy on TV said I was living in open rebellion to God, and wow, the fact that some people believe in a God who disapproves of homosexuality had literally never occurred to me, so now I’m celibate forever, because I am super keen on ending up in the same afterlife as this guy who just said all those mean things about me.”

Yeah, right. That’s totally going to happen. Way to evagnelize, Broussard!

But here’s the thing — would Broussard or Sprigg think it was reasonable for Muslims to try to ban pork or uncovered female heads? For the Amish to try to ban electricity and automobiles? For the Mormons to ban coffee or force everyone to wear special underwear? For Jews to try to force all commercial activity to cease entirely from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday? Suppose there was a Muslim or Jewish sports commentator who never missed an opportunity to say something like, “Those people eating pulled pork sandwiches in that stadium, they’re offending God with every bite.” Would all you “oppressed” evangelicals think that was appropriate? Would you think they were being oppressed if people wanted them to knock it off?

There is a difference — our culture doesn’t have a history of banning pork or coffee, but it does have a history of criminalizing homosexuality. The larger society used to share a taboo with you that the larger society is rapidly abandoning. You know why they’re abandoning it? Because, once they started to take a closer look at it, they realized it was cruel and arbitrary.

Even among other evangelicals, I believe there were many who at first could be tricked into thinking a personal revulsion — at the thought of sexual desire foreign to their own — was actually moral revulsion. But eventually they realized that social justice wasn’t about whether they, personally, wanted to kiss a man, or about whether they wanted to see a man kiss another man, or even whether they thought it was appropriate for a man who happened to be a member of their own religious sect to kiss another man. Social justice is about what’s fair for everyone.

Yes, this is the 60s coming to bite you again — the same questioning spirit of “hey, why exactly do we have all these weird taboos anyway?” has played itself out over more than a generation, and the taboo against homosexual relationships is dying, more quickly than many of us dreamed it would. I’m cheering. You’re weeping.

I know how evangelicals think, and I expect some of you are really enjoying building up this melodramatic narrative of yourselves as “persecuted for your righteousness.” But your complaint is actually privileged distress — you’re upset because you sense that you are no longer the default. You can no longer take for granted that you can say certain things in mixed company and have society as a whole back you up. Now they call you a bigot. Why do they do that, when “bigot” is such a hurtful name?

Well, here’s one definition of bigot, from the online Merriam-Webster : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

It doesn’t specifically mention “minority sexual orientation” but I think gay people are certainly a group, and you are certainly obstinate and intolerantly devoted to your opinions and prejudices regarding them, and you treat them with intolerance. With hatred? I don’t know, you probably tell yourself you don’t “hate” them — love the sinner, hate the sin, right? — but I think if you fit the definition in all other respects, you must conclude that when it comes to gay people, all the evangelicals who feel hurt to have been called bigots, first engaged in bigoted behavior.

If it hurts to be called a bigot? Maybe you should stop acting like one.