True ‘values voters’ don’t shame gay people

Christians must let people know that our faith perspective cannot partner with a message that brings harm to LGBT individuals.

As polling this week showed the public approval numbers for the Republican Party has hit an all-time low as a government shutdown lingers on, something else seems to be  lingering within the GOP and it is on display this weekend at the Values Voters Summit.

That something is the mocking of the Christian faith and a group of organizations gathered at the National Press Club yesterday to raise awareness about how many of the so-called religious organizations within the social conservative movement do not speak for all Christians, particularly when it comes to their hostility toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

In fact the project which sponsored the press conference yesterday is dubbed NALT (Not All Like That) Christians – to relay the message that many Christians and Christian faith communities do not support these so-called religious organizations that justify and promote hostility toward LGBT individuals.

The project was co-founded by John Shore and Wayne Besen. Shore resides in San Diego and launched a blog and Facebook group Unfundamentalist Christians (UC). Wayne Besen serves as executive director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit group that has for years been raising awareness about the dangerous practice of reparative therapy as well as confronting the anti-gay religious industry’s broader derogation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Shore and his wife, Catherine, described in their remarks how some years ago they became outspoken faith allies in the LGBT civil rights movement after being informed that John Shore’s church deaconship was contingent upon signing a statement rejecting gay and lesbian people from service in the church.

Speakers at the National Press Club event on Thursday included the Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral in D.C., Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way; Frank Schaeffer, author and son of one of the founding fathers of the Religious Right; Andy Lang, executive director of the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns; and Vivian Taylor, executive director of Integrity USA.

Keegan included in his remarks a detailed accounting of the hostility toward LGBT people that groups operating under the umbrella of the Values Voter Summit – organizations like the Family Research Council,  American Family Association and the National Organization of Marriage – have unleashed over the years.

Rev. Hall last Sunday offered a sermon to his National Cathedral congregation about the sin of homophobia – the type the Shores saw in their church and so many LGBT individuals have faced for decades now at the hands of the anti-gay religious organizations. Rev. Hall stated at the press conference on Thursday that it’s not enough for Christians to say they accept LGBT people – they should embrace them.

As a participant in the press conference and as someone who once supported organizations like the Family Research Council and other anti-gay religious organizations, it was exciting to see these individuals and groups offering up a different voice and a much different Christian message to the LGBT community and other faith communities.

Last week, I was contacted by two young men who stated that they had been victims of mistreatment by their church because of their sexual orientation. One of those individuals described a series of physical beatings he said he had endured at the hands of church members. He says they forced him to sit in a chair while they screamed at him, slapped him in the face, punched his chest and at one point choked him. He said the bruises have healed but the emotional and psychological wounds still gape.

Two weekends ago, I was at a Pride festival in a small community where the first Pride event in the city’s downtown area was taking place. The organizers were indeed proud to be making such a positive statement to the area’s LGBT youth. But that morning a group of about 12 anti-gay religious protestors were allowed by police to actually enter the festival’s small midway. For four hours, they were allowed to walk back and forth chanting and yelling that gays were going to hell, gays were a threat to children and society and that God was going to punish them – all beneath the banner of Christian faith.

Many civil Christians sit back and say how awful, how rude and how we are not like that. And church members actually beating up someone because they are gay? That’s just extreme. Yet the anti-gay religious factions operating under the banner of the Values Voters Summit parade through the midway of our societal consciousness with the same vocal, boisterous and condemning message. The churches who support them are indeed beating up on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people – and for LGBT youth and their families the abuse often proves tragic.

The police at that Pride festival apparently thought it was okay to allow those anti-gay protesters to mistreat festival goers. Perhaps it is because there are still people who think it is still okay for churches to mistreat gay people in America. According to them, it is okay for churches to beat up on LGBT youth. It is okay to judge and condemn them. It is okay to invade their emotional and psychological space with signs and loudspeakers and intimidate and inflict emotional and psychological trauma. It is okay for pastors and Christians to make a 12-year-old kid feel that taking their own life would be better than growing up gay.

In our society it is okay for churches and Christians to do this – so says the message of the anti-gay religious industry’s Values Voter Summit. There is even a page on their Web site asking churches to partner with them. To do so means partnering with their message.

We Christians must let our pastors, fellow church members, family members and acquaintances know that our faith perspective cannot partner with a message that brings harm to LGBT individuals, especially young children and families.

Partnering the Christian faith perspective with bigotry and hostility should be considered an anomaly. The Republican Party, as a harbinger of the anti-gay religious industry, may be seeing the consequence of such a flawed partnership.

If Christian faith communities continue to sanction religion-based bigotry’s harm, tarnishing a political brand is not an outcome we should be most concerned about.

Attempting to couple such harm with Christ’s love indeed is a mockery – and the outcome may be far more serious for the church than winning or losing political contests.

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