The argument goes something like this:
“Gay pride” necessitates anti-Christian hate. It must. “Gay marriage” and other “sexual orientation”-based laws do violence to freedom and truth. They are the hammer with which the postmodern left intends to bludgeon bloody religious liberty and the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic.[snip]
Still, know this: If you are a Christian in today’s America, you too will almost certainly find yourself with a similar decision to make. When man’s law violates God’s law, you will have to choose which to obey. Choosing God can mean persecution.
With Delaware’s vote to allow same sex marriage, the rocket scientists at American Family News have this to report:
Nicole Theis, president of Delaware Family Policy Council, says there is no protection in the bill for people of faith.
“Our immediate concern is that good people in this state will suffer discrimination simply because they believe marriage is between one man and one woman and that children deserve a mom and a dad,” Theis tells American Family News. “There’s minimal protection in this law, and we believe that passing legislation like this will trigger lawsuits and other forms of government retaliation.”
More dramatic though no more convincing is the video from Reach America, in which a group of grim faced teens inform viewers about all sorts of things that aren’t true – i.e. that the Supreme Court declared the bible unconstitutional and that prayer in school is outlawed and that the US was founded as a Christian nation. In the video, the students, obviously well meaning though wildly misinformed, simultaneously pose as victims, martyrs and bold warriors who will lead the world.
The story also goes like this:
If You Support “Gay Marriage,” You Also Support…
An immediate increase in incidents where Christians or conservatives are threatened or sued for expressing any disagreement with homosexuality or “gay marriage” in the workplace, in schools, in the press, or eventually, in churches. [snip]
Churches silencing themselves on the sin of homosexuality, then the opposite: being encouraged to sell their congregations, including youth, on the idea.
Resisters who continue to speak out will eventually be prosecuted, perhaps serve jail terms.
Anti-gay folk are actively constructing a narrative in which the things they have long wanted to do to gay people is about to be done to them. It’s more complex than simple projection although there’s a healthy dose of that. What we see are anti-gay activists assuming that their hostility is entirely reciprocated.
Anti-gay activists have constructed a way of understanding the world in which Christian does not and cannot equal gay. Part of this dynamic is an old one in which conservative Christians have publicly used the term “Christian” in such a way and with such determination that all other types of Christians are excluded from the definition. Thus moderate and liberal Christians are excluded from the debate. Listening to the public discussion about marriage equality, you’d get the idea that sex is the only things addressed by Christian theology. Having latched onto the idea that gay and Christian are eternal enemies, and already embedded in a Manichean worldview, these activists see public opinion turning against them and fear that means they are about to become a hated minority.
Alvin McEwan at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters caught an article on CNN that explores the rapidly emerging belief among conservative Christians that they are a hated minority:
“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.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center sees it differently:
A group becomes a hate group when it attacks and maligns an entire class of people for their “immutable characteristics,” Potok says. The Family Research Council spreads known falsehoods about gays and lesbians, he says, such as the contention that gay men are predisposed to abuse children.
“That’s a lie,” Potok says. “These guys are engaging in straight-up defamation of a very large group of people. There are not many things much worse than you can say in America about somebody than they are a child molester.”
Potok scoffed at Spriggs’ claim that the council and other evangelical anti-gay groups are victims of intolerance.
“That’s whining on the part of people who spend their days and nights attacking gay people and then some people criticize them and they don’t like it,” he says. “That’s pathetic. It reminds me of slave owners complaining that people are saying ugly things about them.”
Alvin McEwan documented many of things that Potok refers to and compiled them into a relatively short document “How They See Us“; McEwan quotes anti-gay activists demonstrating the defamatory things they say about glbt persons.
At the same time they’re saying hateful things about gay people anti-gay activists are feverishly spreading stories about their own supposed persecution – most of which turn out on inspection to be something entirely different. As for example, a recent case in which conservative Christians told one another stories about a high school athlete who was disqualified because he prayed upon winning – turns out he was disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior towards a ref. Nevertheless, this story will be traded around in the conservative internet as “proof” of Christian persecution.
I want to take a turn from the usual approach – of debunking the stories or mocking the wingnuts – and instead offer a different approach.
Conservative Christians experience the cultural changes taking place in the US as a cultural unraveling.
The metaphor of nation as a family is helpful.
Consider the experience in many families in which an adult child has a sexual relationship with an unmarried partner. For religious families, the revelation that their beloved child is sexually active is devastating. I think about the experience of a friend of mine. In her twenties, she’d been living on her own and paying her own bills for years. She and her boyfriend moved in together. Her mother was horrified, shocked and before refusing to talk to her for months, said to her, “This is a side of you I never imagined existed. I’m so disappointed.”
Think about the coming out experiences of many gay persons in conservative families. Families react with shock and dismay. Suddenly they’re seeing their loved on with completely new eyes. Huge numbers of glbt youth find themselves homeless after their families kick them out. For these families, a a sexual minority child is shocking.
In both cases, the parents blame themselves, believing they’ve done something wrong in their child-rearing. Aside from the most conservative gay hating parents, I think very few of them see kicking their child out of the home as a good option. These parents see it as the only viable option for dealing with a child who they interpret as being willfully disobedient and disrespectful. From the outside, such behaviors appear cruel, even shockingly so; from the inside they are desperate measures used in the hope of bringing the child around – for lack of a better term it’s a kind of mega-time out, a form of discipline, under taken regretfully by parents who have run out of options.
In these examples, parents have struggled to raise their children right, to instill in them correct values and behaviors. They’ve probably immersed themselves in the conservative Christian subculture which insists being gay is all about behavior and the result of a choice or bad parenting of some form or another. As part of that Christian subculture, they’ve also learned that mainstream culture is sex-mad, refuses to believe in morals or personal responsibility and actively encourages all sorts of immoral behavior. Religiously conservative parents will do their best to innoculate their children against that culture and will interpret behaviors most Americans regard as normal (i.e. couples living together before marriage) as signs of deliberate disobedience – “acting out” – which must be corrected.
Conservative Christians add a second layer of understanding to these events – people aren’t gay because that’s how they’re born, they’re gay because of sinister, spiritual and supernatural influence, people from “nice, Christian” families have premarital sex because of the malign influence of evil. It’s a way of understanding the world that interprets cultural changes, foreign affairs and domestic politics in religious and spiritual terms. Suddenly, a Mormon family in Alabama asking the local school to end its practice of starting every school day with prayer led by a local Baptist minister is part of a cabal of devil influenced people waging war on Christianity. When conservative Christians trade stories about a “War on Christmas” as evidenced by the White House sending out cards that read “Happy Holidays” or school children singing a Holiday Concert rather than a Christmas Concert.
If you believe you are waging a spiritual war against evil, that the enemy is cunning and subtle, that every word and deed is measured against an eternal and unchanging standard, words and deeds take on truly incredible significance. If you’re in a war for good on the side of God and someone wants to remove the 50 year old plaque with the Ten Commandments from your high school, that’s a big freaking deal. In the same way, if you believe that God has issued a set of eternal rules that outlaw homosexuality in general, then permitting gay marriage, encouraging gay-straight alliances in schools, and genrally not oppressing gay people, then greater cultural openness toward sexual minorities and legal acceptance of gay marriage take on cosmic importance. Look again at the video from the teens at Reach America. They interpret everything - from swearing school hallways, to sex education, to Supreme Court decisions – as part of a broader battle between “Christians” and the world. Everything becomes grist for the mill – everything is part of a coordinated attack on Christianity. The reliably insane Michele Bachmann recently argued:
Bachmann urged attendees to keep up the fight against gay marriage, abortion and “Islamic jihad,” claiming that God supported those campaigns. She then took a line from the Bible’s book of Ephesians to suggest that these battles are supernatural struggles against the forces of evil.
“Because we need to recognize the desperate situation of our condition, not only in the natural but also in the supernatural,” she said. “Because as the scripture was read from the pulpit at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, we fight not against this world, we fight against the powers and principalities and ‘Prince of the Air’; that’s where we need to focus as well, is on spiritual warfare…”
Bachmann’s isn’t some fringe view – it’s held by millions of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who see the world through the lens of prophecy and highly selective readings of the book of Revelation.
It’s a small step from believing you are involved in a cosmic battle to believing your earthly opponents are in league with the devil, to believing you are a member of an embattled and oppressed minority.