Friday, January 11, 2008
The War Against The Religious Right - How Should Gay Christians Fight?
By Jason T. Ingram - January, 2008
Most of the LGBT Christian community has been hurt by the conservative anti-gay works that has been going on all over the world in some way. Some of us have been devastated by the things said and done against us. However, whatever has happened to us, as Christians we are commanded to forgive and to love. We are also commanded to pray for those who persecute us. I see a war waged against us by what many call the "Religious Right" and this war uses weapons of propaganda, misinformation and efforts to pass laws that limit the rights and visibility of LGBT people.
I am a man that grew up extreme liberal. When I came to Christ at age 20, I found myself in a culture that was conservative, and I adapted. I believe that makes me a man who has lived in extremes. From anti-war protests (where there was flag burning and other illegal acts) to being involved in patriotic services. In my late teens, I was with a group of Earth First members protesting at a Native American site that was being de-forested to, at age 21, being involved with a pro-live rally. After I "came out" Spring on 2006, I remained a Republican, for the simple fact that conservative Americans seem to make efforts to support issues regarding the faith, and when it came to identifying myself more as gay, or as a Christian, I believe that Christian is more of how I like to define myself.
We see how easy it is for many on the religious right to "demonize" LGBT people. What I mean by that is how some make us look like the enemy. Some have tried to make us look like we are demon possessed, doomed to eternal destruction, criminals, and the one I dislike the most: not able to be Christian. I have seen us in the gay and lesbian world do the same to those in the religious right. I have also heard LGBT Christians use some strong attitudes against other Christian groups.
An LGBT pastor and I were talking about the ex-gay ministry I was involved with, and this pastor made a reference to Matthew 7:21-23 in reference to these ex-gay leaders (“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’) and I believe that's a strong statement to use against a group of people this pastor never met.
I recently finished a book on gay activism and Christianity in which I enjoyed most of the book and the amazing stories through out the main bulk of it. I even began to grow an interest in being involved in activism until I read further. This book, and like many other lesbian and gay activists who give accounts of the religious right distorting the truth, seemed to use similar tactics in which the conservative anti-gay folks were using.
If I am going to fight against propaganda, rhetoric, and bending the truth, I would not want to use those same tactics to expose my opponents. That could misrepresent my message. I admit that I am trying to be careful as I write this, knowing that I am in danger of being a third party in this matter. If I am writing this article against fighting fire with fire, I can not come in against both sides and add some fire of my own, so if I am being an accuser to the conservative Christians, or the LGBT Christians, I want to know.
I have read from a gay perspective, that the religious right are our enemies. I do not ever want to think this way, nor be guilty of the same thing that many have done to the LGBT community. They may not see how important we are, however we need to see how important they are. I am sure that just about every leader in the LGBT Christian community had their roots in religion that is not affirming of lesbian and gay people. I can not imagine where I would be today if it was not for the little Baptist Rescue Mission in Anchorage, Alaska and for the Foursquare church that I attended afterward. As a young man suffering with mental illness, confused about my own orientation, lonely and needy, I am sure that I would have ended up in a lot of trouble. Yes, there were a lot of hurts done to me in the twelve years that I remained in the closet in conservative churches, schools and ministries; however I thank the Lord that I spent those years growing in the things of God.
The New Testament makes it clear about who our real enemies are, like in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds. Also in Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Most Christians that I have met that are anti-gay, are that way for what seems to be the following reasons. First off, they simply don't know and understand much about LGBT people. Second, if they are straight and they don't know many gays, that these issues are not enough of a big deal to investigate the truth. Third, because of this, folks respond to what they know from society and what they hear from pulpits. Fourth, Christians can interpret the Bible trying to use ancient applications to God given commands and principals.
Where it starts getting ugly is when Christians, and especially Christian leaders that have media backing begin to believe that accepting gays will lead to the end of this great nation of ours. I have written letters to ministries who take such a stand, letting them know what I believe and how I feel about their opinions.
There are those who are insincere and have a heart full of hatred, desiring to see the ruin of certain groups of people that welcome LGBT people because of our current status in mainstream culture. There are also those who are in fact sincere. If sincere Christians are suggested such outrageous ideas that bring oppression to so many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, I believe those ideas come from hell, and not from man. Some people have their heart right, but their head messed up. Heaven is full of dear saints that have gone on to be with Jesus that held to opinions that go against gays and lesbians. Also, to their surprise, heaven is also full of lesbians and gays as well who believed in Christ for their salvation.
Soon after I came out, I began to explore organizations that were in favor of our cause and I was surprised at some of the initial statements used to describe some of them. I remember seeing the word "attack" used in order to expose and combat ex-gay and anti-gay organizations and material. Not only that, these were Christian groups fighting Christian groups.
From a medical standpoint, this sounds like a massive autoimmune disorder. What I know about this term has to do with the body's natural defensive systems (including natural body chemistry etc...) fighting essential body functions as opposed to fighting against things that are truly destroying the body. This happens as a result of a freak of nature, a tiny evil being multiplies itself within a body spreading this disease and making a healthy body fooled into fighting itself.
Friendly fire, from a military perspective, is not really friendly at all. That is when the "good guys" accidentally kill other "good guys" and is a result of errors, extreme pressure, lack of experience, negligence, bad decisions and tactical ignorance.
Another example has to do with computers. I was recently reviewing anti-spyware software when I came across a review from a consumer who wrote about this particular software erasing a few essential components of his operating system as well as spyware. This well intended program did the very opposite of what it was designed for.
My last example has to do with sibling rivalry. Imagine several groups of Christians who we will call children of Christ. These children disagree on some issues and break off communicating with each other. The human conscience can be developed in many ways, including knowledge, and knowledge is limited. Therefore division is inevitable between parties who refuse to learn and understand each other. I have not only seen this all over churches I have ministered in, but in my own family as well. I have a family member that will not talk to her sister because of something that happened in 1989.
My response to the rightly beloved (and leftly despised) statement of, "love the sinner but hate the sin" in reference to lesbian and gay people is this: love demands understanding. If we do not understand our opposers, and see what motivates them, perhaps we are guilty of their same judgmental attitudes. I hope that some day, the Christians who oppose gay rights and other related issues will learn to understand us.
Another note is that I am not opposed to activism. I am simply questioning some of the methods used by gay activists and desire that we evaluate ourselves to see if we may be guilty of the same faults as they are. There is a very important place for activists in favor of gay rights. Without activists our lives as LGBT people would be even more difficult then it is now. Its the same with the work done in the last few hundred years in the areas of equal rights for women and people of color.
When I see injustice in any degree happening around me, whether it is at work, at home or church, I have found that if I pray and be led by the Holy Spirit in the situation, God provides the solution. Sometimes I sense that I am to speak out on the situation however, much of the time it seems like I just need to keep pressing in to effective heartfelt prayer. Also, at the same time we can remember how much social justice work was sparked by faith in Christ and began within church communities through the centuries. The prophets of old risked their lives like many do today, in order to stand against harm that was, and is being done.
It is also important to keep a pure heart toward anyone who has betrayed and hurt us because of who we are. Proverbs 17:9 (Amplified Bible) says "He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends." While writing this article, I shared these ideas to a few men close to me (my partner and my Dad) and they came to the same conclusion that a leader in the LGBT church can minister what looks like justice, but could really be operating out of hurt and therefore hurting others. Times where I tried to expose the faults of others seems only to backfire on me. I have found this principal in several places in the Bible. I love how the Amplified Bible states James 5:16B "The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]."
On a personal note, I have lived in the conservative and the liberal world. I have seen both sides make the same mistakes. In 2006, I came out to the world about coming to terms with my orientation and in 2007 I came to terms with living with a mental illness and my commitment to getting treatment as well as informing others of the process. I wonder if in 2008, I will come out again in the political area as an "extreme moderate". Maybe this is not the place to make a joke about politics, but on the serious side, there could be some truth in that. As a gay Christian myself, I see this politically as me honoring my faith and orientation. Most Christians veer toward the right and gays to the left. I have a lot of thoughts about pros and cons about liberal and conservative politics, and perhaps some day I will write more about them. As an extreme moderate, I see this stand as an extreme refusal to be extreme on either side. I identify myself as a Christian and gay.
Gay secularists fight the Body of Christ enough, and we as LGBT Christians do not need to join in. There are indeed times where we need to stand up for the truth and we need to find ways to counteract the lies and ignorance without injuring so many of God's people who take anti-gay positions. Let us unite as a force of prayer warriors and non-violent equal rights activists with a powerful spiritual covering through organized prayer, and radical acts of love.
So this "war" on what many call the Religious Right should destroy things invisible: hatred, ignorance, fear, intolerance and judgment. I believe we can fight against these things while setting examples of integrity and faith while we injure no part of the universal congregations of the followers of the Christian faith.