What is behind the Fundamentalist Anti-gay Agenda?
“Gay marriage is the new abortion”—Russell Shorto
The year was 1989. I was with my mother in the auditorium of one of our neighborhood middle schools. We are here to protest the Rainbow Curriculum being integrated into existing curricula. There are two “gay” books in particular that are to be added to the first grade reading list— Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate. We heard about the addition from the Christian Coalition—one of our biggest and most powerful Christian organizations. The Rainbow Curriculum is a sign that the secular world is overtaking the Christian world. If they take over, Christians will be persecuted. We could all be put to death. I could lose my head.
The auditorium is overflowing with people—even standing room is taken. The outrage amongst conservative Christians and Catholics is unlike anything I have ever witnessed before. The head of the district cannot even speak into her microphone, because the mob is so crazed. The heat from all the bodies is suffocating; I am beginning to sweat. I look around at the red faces screaming, blood-shot eyes bulging, and the violent body language of those around me. The fear in the room is tangible. It reminds me of the scene from the movie Frankenstein when the violent mob gets together to kill “the monster. ”
It feels like the Apocalypse is near; I am frightened. The pastor said that earthquakes, natural disasters, and wars are the sign that the end is near. The world will become more depraved and allow homosexuals to marry as in Sodom and Gomorrah. Next a leader will come to power—the Antichrist—he will want world peace, but he will take away all of the Christian’s rights. We won’t be able to have jobs or buy food. We will be imprisoned, tortured, and some of us will be beheaded. I feel sick to my stomach. We can’t let them win.
When I think back to this protest and what we were actually protesting against, I realize that the self I was at the time had no prejudice toward gay people. This was because I had never had the opportunity to get to know someone who was openly homosexual before—a result of my sheltered, separatist upbringing. I hadn’t even read Heather Had Two Mommies because we were taught not to read anything that might “contaminate” our minds. I knew nothing about the book except that the main character had two mothers instead of a mother and a father.
I was protesting out of fear because I was told this was a sign of changing times. All I knew was what I was told– that this was a battle we were fighting. Believing what my elders said to be true, I was concerned with the safety of my family and myself. While I was still part of the evangelical/fundamentalist counterculture, military metaphors were—and still are– used frequently in sermons and conversations. This is directly related to how Christians view life- as a battle between God and the Devil for our souls. In order to demonstrate this, I have italicized all military metaphors in the quotes by fundamentalists used in this chapter. I hope this facilitates a clearer understanding.
Years later, I read Heather Had Two Mommies for the first time. Personally, I am deeply embarrassed. It is a non-descript, mundane children’s book about a little girl who has an absolutely normal day with her two mothers. None of the things people feared might be in the book were there- no hidden agenda and no mother-daughter talks about being gay and what that means. It is a harmless little book intended to validate the experience of six-year-olds who do live with two mommies. The book was a compassionate gesture intended to give children of gay parents a sense of normalcy in the middle of our hetero- centric society in which students are fed messages that only the children of heterosexual parents are “normal.” The thousands of books they will read in school curricula will never reflect their own personal experiences and will push them to the margins of society.
I would like to be among the first Christian fundamentalists who formally offer a sincere apology for my thoughtless actions. I decided to buy the book for the twin boys whom my friends, a lesbian couple, just adopted. With fundamentalist anti-gay political action in the press daily, the American people will become desensitized to the messages of hate, prejudice, and intolerance against homosexuals. Such action sends the message that it is socially acceptable to discriminate for religious reasons.
My new understanding did not come just from picking up a book and reading it. A decade ago, I consciously made the decision that I was no longer going to passively procure anybody’s thoughts and opinions as my own without investigating whether or not there was any truth to them. It was obvious that scripture had been misused on several occasions to justify the torturing and killing of millions. Was scripture being used to oppress gay people as it had been used to subjugate African-Americans, use them as slaves, and then deny them their civil rights?
Over time, I became conscious of how scripture was being used to silence Christian fundamentalist women, myself included, to prevent them from having positions of power within the church, to keep them subjugated to their husbands, and to insure that they stayed in the home, had children, and remained self-sacrificing women who feared God. I was determined not to have a fate like the women I grew up around; this is one of the reasons I made the difficult choice to leave my separatist life and “go into the world.”
For Christian fundamentalists, going into the world is only done when the objective is to make a living or to convert other people to their set of beliefs. Anything “worldly” is always viewed with suspicion and deemed dangerous. I was slowly beginning to immerse myself in this forbidden world, like Jesus had done— and been criticized for— and to really interact with those people I met by: asking questions, opening up a dialogue, exhibiting my very real interest, extending my hand in friendship, and taking the invitation to enter each person’s individual world by listening to his/her personal story. The ego trip of being one of “God’s chosen” began to fade. Over time, standing face to face with many homosexual people, many of whom became life-long friends, I realized that there was nothing perverted or unnatural about them.
They loved, formed long-term partnerships, gave birth to and lovingly cared for their children, cried, belly-laughed, and sincerely tried to do their best by their families, just like heterosexuals. I had most certainly been handed a pack of lies. The question was— why? The answer: Fear. The fear-based mob mentality that I witnessed as a teenager is evident in fundamentalism today. The Christian Right is working all over the country to fight against equal rights for homosexuals. Why go to all this trouble? The surface answer to the question—one that fundamentalist leaders feed to their flocks and would like everyone else to believe— is “the bible is clearly against it.” This seems reasonable to those who interpret the bible literally—word for word— and not as metaphors to edify the spirit. This idea has been firmly imbedded into each fundamentalist’s mind and, if you ask this question to a different Christian in each of the fifty states, the same response will automatically be regurgitated.
To support their claims to their flock, biblical literalists use verses like, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13). And what about the verse that is used loosely as “proof’ that AIDS is a plague from God on homosexuals: “God gave them up unto vile afflictions: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Romans
It is important to note that fundamentalists do not follow the vast majority of the Laws given to the Jewish people thousands of years ago in the book of Leviticus. For example, they completely ignore the laws about clean and unclean food (kosher), and commandments like, “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” (19:19). These commandments would be inconvenient to follow. Leaders of the flock dictate that these laws no longer apply and instead carefully pick and choose which commandments they want their flocks to adhere to—like the few verses about homosexuality.
A nationwide acceptance of homosexuality would cause conservative Christians to question the patriarchs’ age-old hierarchy: God the Father – Jesus – Man – Woman -Child – Animals – Earth, in which white men have all the ultimate power. This, they believe, is their god-given right. With modem American culture evolving so quickly over this last century, women becoming educated and taking over well-paid jobs, and African-Americans obtaining their civil rights protected by the law, white male power, according to the conservative Christians, is slowly being usurped. In truth, it is finally
moving toward a long-awaited balance. So, fundamentalist leaders say that homosexuality is a “threat to the family” and sensationalist, fear-mongers like Pat Robertson, who spouts alarmist lies regularly for press coverage, said, “The agenda of the gay community is to ‘take your children and grandchildren and turn them into homosexuals.’” To see more of Robertson’s comments: glaad.org. This may sound ludicrous to some, but Robertson’s 700 Club, which airs on cable’s ABC Family is the Christian Broadcasting Network’s flagship and has had millions of faithful viewers since 1966.. To them, Robertson is an emissary of God and they unquestioningly do his bidding. For example, when conservative Clarence Thomas was nominated as a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, Robertson urged listeners of his 700 Club to call the United States Capitol switchboard in support of the nomination. In five minutes, viewers responded with an estimated 45,000 calls. This was a record for that time, but now that the Christian Right is technologically savvy and has large sums of money at their disposal, the number of people these Christian political organizations can reach and command is well into the millions.
Conservative Christians immediately dismiss scientific experiments aimed at discovering whether there is a biological origin to sexual preference. New links are met with afinger-in-the-ears hysteria and a determination to disregard substantiated proof. One onlyhas to initiate a dialogue if one wishes to see evidence of this. This panic carries overinto their visions of a future in which gays are permitted to marry. In his New York Times Magazine article, “What’s Their Real Problem with Gay Marriage,” Russell Shorto set out to interview born-again Christians to understand where the fear was coming from. Born-again anti-gay activist Bryan Simonaire tells him, “Once you start this, you could have a 45-year-old man wanting to marry a 9-year old boy. That could be O.K. in 20 years” (41). Born-again anti-gay activist Jim Gray is quoted as saying, “I bet a dollar against a doughnut that if they get gay marriage, one day a bisexual is going to show up who says, ‘I want to marry a man and a woman. It’s going to open the door to polygamy’” (66). These irrational jumps in thought are similar to an absurd comment that one of my own family members made, “If gays are allowed to marry, soon you’ll have people wanting to marry their pets. Some guy will come in wanting to marry his pet gorilla!”
Tempting as it may be to dismiss these people as unbalanced, these types of fears arecommon in fundamentalist/evangelical circles. Therefore it is important to take a look atthe possible sources behind the anxiety that is so apparent in these statements. What fearis feeding this illogical pattern of thinking? Shorto, quick to pinpoint what may be one ofthe true origins of this deep fear says, “For them, the issue isn’t one of civil rights, because the term implies something inherent in the individual—being black, say, or a woman—and they deny that homosexuality is inherent. It can’t be, because that would mean god had created some people who are damned from birth, morally blackened. This really is the inescapable root of the whole issue” (67). To believe that God created some people with homosexual orientation built into their genes might challenge some fundamentalists’ belief system. It would mean that God had breathed his divine breath into some people, knowing that he was later going to destroy them in hell for being vile.
This same acute paranoia is still present in the troubled mind of the fundamentalist/Evangelical church. One only has to pay attention to the news to take its pulse. ThReligious Right would have their followers believe that they are a tiny minority in this country surrounded by secular humanists and homosexuals. While I was part of the church, I watched this feeling that we were out-numbered in some way create a pervasive hysteria. This same panic is driving the political organizing and anti-gay efforts of today. To allow gay people to have the right to marry, have joint medical benefits, file joint tax returns, make health decisions for their partners, and have family visiting rights in hospitals would be to acknowledge that their alternative way of life is normal and natural. Even if one is not a religious fundamentalist, the fact that homosexuality is different inspires the fear of the unknown.
Us Vs. Them
There is always an enemy in fundamentalist thinking. Some group is evil—of course it isnever us—and we must wage a holy battle against them. This stems from the fact thatfundamentalists anthropomorphize a literal God—who is completely Good and capableof no wrongdoing — and the Devil—who is not capable of kindness— instead of seeingthem as the two dichotomies that make up human beings. None of us is completely goodor wholly eyil; human beings are a Ying/Yang-conglomeration of these two forces—which are the expression of our inner conflicts. We have the choice every day to act outof kindness and take one step closer to love or act out of our dark side and take one stepcloser to fear and suffering. It is a natural human dilemma, not a supernatural one.When I was a part of fundamentalist Christianity, we projected these conflicts outside ofourselves and believed in invisible forces— angels and demons—that were working toprotect and/or harm us. With all of the conflict projected outside ourselves, we wereabsolved of our duties to the earth, its creatures and their preservation. We did not haveto worry about any psychological excavation we may need to do for our own mentalhealth. Our view of the human psyche was black and white—we were evil— anyproblems we had were a direct result of our sins and we had only to pray to God to makeit go away. We were not concerned about things of this world because this life didn’tmatter—being in heaven, after we died, did.
This over-simplification of complex situations into black and white, Us Vs. Them/GoodVs. Evil is common in religious fundamentalist hegemonic discourse. In our church, ifthe enemy wasn’t the Devil, it was the all-black Assemblies of God church who spoke in ongues and danced around, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses who went door to door looking or converts, or President Clinton and the “liberals.” Bishop Spong in hisbook, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, makes the same observation.
For biblical literalists there is always an enemy to be defeated in mortal combat. If not a rival church, then religious liberals, secular modernists, God-denying communists, or some other incarnation of evil becomes the enemy. Irrational religious anger demands a target. Television evangelists use physical and verbal means to act out their negativity thereby to relieve some of this energy in the lives of their congregations. It is an interesting exercise, when viewing television evangelists, to turn off the sound and watch the facial contortions and violent gestures. Seldom do they communicate the love of God. When a fundamentalist Christian sees the Antichrist in someone who is disturbing his or her religious security, it becomes not merely justifiable but downright righteous to utter words of condemnation and prayers for the early demise of that enemy. Indeed, you can even believe that you are God’s anointed one to rid the world of this demonic figure. (3-4) When I return to the fundamentalist community I grew up in, I observe this displaced anger surfacing in venomous comments about various enemies. Each fundamentalist seems to have his or her own personal enemies that she or he loves to hate. However, because they are Christians, they consider their hatred to be a “righteous” hatred. Spong notes that, “A major function of fundamentalist religion is to bolster deeply insecure and fearful people. This is done by justifying a way of life with all of its defining prejudices. It thereby provides an appropriate and legitimate outlet for one’s anger” (Rescuing 5).
It is my belief that the anger is a direct result of the fear that is constantly beinghammered into congregations. It is this fear that makes biblical literalists so adamantthat they know what is “right” for every American citizen and feel certain that Americancitizens should not have the right to make their own decisions, especially if with regard tohomosexuality, women’s rights, abortion, and theunconstitutionality of school prayer— four of the top enemies within the fundamentalistagenda .
If we look to the root of what it is that is giving the Christian Right its increasing successlately, one will find Unity of Mind. I emphasize this because deviation in thought is nottolerated. I write more about how unified thinking is attained in chapter five. WithinConservative Christian communities, if one is a professing Christian, then it is expectedhat he or she be a conservative Republican and vote for any candidate that declareshimself a born-again Christian. It is a strategic political move for candidates to declarethemselves evangelical Christians like Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, andGeorge W. Bush have all done. In addition to having a mandated political party, aprofessing Christian must have an identical stance on Women’s Rights, abortion, gayrights, capital punishment, and euthanasia. According to “God’s” absolute truths, therecan be no differing opinions.
It is also important to note that other fundamentalists in this country- Mormon, Catholic, and Jewish— share the same views on these issues uniting them with born-again Christian fundamentalists. In his article, “Inerrancy Turned Political,” Herb Silverman is correct when he says, “fundamentalists in different religions have more in common with each other than they do with the liberal wings within their own religions” (207). This has given the fundamentalist agenda added political pull in Washington and, as a result, the fundamentalist phenomenon is a force that each president will be compelled to reckon with. What has enabled the Christian Right to achieve so many of their political/religious goals is their clear-cut vision of how they think society should be combined with great success in mobilizing conservative Christian voters to become more politically active in order to put their candidates in office.
The Desire for a Theocracy
As we’ve seen in chapter two, the desire for a theocracy has been around in Americasince its conception. What do fundamentalists hope that theocracy will be like? PatRobertson says:When the Christian Majority takes over this country, there will be no satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more abortion on demand and no more talk of rights for homosexuals. After the Christian majority takes control, pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil and the state will not permit anybody to practice it. (Qtd. in Silverman 179)
The Christian Right “espouses the belief that ‘the higher law of God must be made thelaw of the land, and true believers must use all available political tools to reach this goal”Cox 9). This “higher law of God” is none other than the patriarchal white maleinterpretation of what the law should be.
In a genuine effort to be good Christians, born-again followers unquestioningly accepttheir leader’s propaganda. Long-time activist and legal scholar Cece Cox, in her article “Law and Sexuality: A Review of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Legal Issues”, observes that “democratic reform has been warped by a malevolent theocratic movement that viewspolitics as a holy war” (18). Fundamentalist Christians respond to this military mindsetbecause we are indoctrinated with the belief that we are Christian soldiers.Congregations all over America have been proudly singing the classic hymn; “OnwardChristian soldiers, marching on to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before” for onehundred and fifty years now (written by British pastor Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924).Metaphorically speaking, history dictates that we’ve been singing it far longer than that.The Christian Coalition is still relentlessly working toward their goal of taking overhe Republican Party and ultimately creating a theocracy (Silverman 179). They arecloser today than they have ever been before. Cox says that by the 1992 elections,
“On a state by state basis, conservative Christians were taking over state Republican parties and transforming them into vehicles for their own concerns, especially homosexuality.” Control of the Republican Party at the state level enabled the Christian Right to comprise forty-two percent of the delegates at the Republican National Convention and to greatly influence the national platform committee. The result was a vehemently antigay platform that opposed any civil rights advances for gays, including nondiscrimination legislation, marriage and adoption. The Christian Right framed the election as a battle between good- Republicans who stood for traditional family values-and evil-Democrats who were “pro-gay.” (12)
Having been a fundamentalist for twenty years, I can tell you that, just like Islamicfundamentalists, there are millions of fundamentalist born-again Christians who trulybelieve it is their responsibility to change American laws so that they mirror “God’sLaws.” When Ralph Reed spoke to the Montana branch of the Christian Coalition, heconfided in them “the most important strategy is secrecy…. We’re involved in a war. It’snot a war fought with bullets, it’s a war fought with ballots” (Silverman 180).
Inciting Christians over Homosexuality=More Money
Unfortunately, millions of Conservative Christians believe this fear-based propagandaand are blind to the fact that they are being used as political pawns in a much larger gamefor power and money. Interestingly enough, the executive director of the National Gayand Lesbian Task Force, Matt Foreman, said his organization did not put the issue of gaymarriage into the political arena. He said, “We did not want this fight. It is being drivenby a certain brand of evangelicals and fundamentalists as part of their agenda and becausethey sense an opening. I don’t think their leaders care about gay people. And I don’tthink people as a whole understand how deep-seated the loathing is” (Shorto 41). Sowhy is gay marriage being dragged into the spotlight? I think it has a lot to do with acomment the president of American Values made— “Gay marriage is the new abortion”(Shorto 37).
Christian organizations see it as a way to rile people up, connect them, give them a newfeeling of purpose, and then use it as a fund-raising tool. Chris Bull, who writes for TheAdvocate, noted this in a recent article when he reported that Pat Robertson has returnedto his “verbal attacks on gay men and lesbians” because it is the “Christian right’s breadand butter.” He quotes Robert Boston, a spokesman for Americans Unitedf or Separationof Church and State, a group that closely monitors Christian conservatives, as saying,“They have jettisoned a whole series of issues, like religious persecution overseas,because they just don’t sell as well” (Bull 1).
Many people are noting this recent and conspicuous coalition. Michael Bowman ofConcerned Women for America, a fundamentalist organization run by Beverly LaHaye,who also is a best-selling conservative Christian author, reveals the fundamentalistmilitaristic mindset when he talks about the strategic coalition between conservativereligious organizations in America over this issue. He says, “Sometimes we havecoordinated attacks. Our local person will be in touch with the Catholic Conferenceperson or with Focus on the Family. They’ll create e-mail loops, decide when to hit thepavement. The marriage issue is waking up alliances that never existed. Abortion wasnever like this” (Shorto 38).
Conservative Christians rally around these issues, but because their Us vs. Themmentality creates such barriers even amongst themselves, they often don’t work welltogether. It was a very rare alliance when two-dozen Christian Right groups put asidetheir defensive attitudes to join forces in their self-proclaimed battle to defend theirpersonal definition of marriage. When Tony Perkins, who is the author and ferventproponent of the new “covenant marriages,” was asked about his work for the anti-gaymovement, he said, “This is larger than anything we’ve ever done before. Groups thatare normally very independent are in lockstep on this” (Kaplan 157). How do thefundamentalists feel about this new coalition? Robert Knight, one of the directors andspokespersons at Concerned Women for America, says, “People feel liberated. We don’thave to go along with this stuff and saying so doesn’t make us repressed backwaterreligious zealots or haters or bigots” (Shorto 41).
Mel White, founder of the Christian gay-advocacy group Soul Force, says that theexplosive concern over gay marriage is “driven more by politics than by morality.” Hesays that Bush’s interest in gay marriage and the Christian Right’s interest are one andthe same: it is extremely effective in riling people up and, in effect, getting them to opentheir wallets. He says, “They are experts on demographic studies. They know more about finding issues and creating mass mailings than anyone—at knowing what evokes a negative response and thus donations and recruits” (Kaplan 164). He says that fundamentalist leaders are always looking for “co-belligerency issues,” where conservative Christians and others can merge for a common cause.
In the 1950’s the cause was anti-Communism. Then after the Roe Vs. Wade verdict wasdeclared on January 22,1973, the enemy became abortion, the doctors who performedthem, and the people who chose to have them. When a burst of excitement was needed togenerate funds, their research concluded that homosexuality would be the key toinstigating the next lucrative incitement. As they began to push gay marriage, they foundout it was extremely effective. White says, “Abortion had to take a back seat. When youspend $1 million to send a mailing out, and you have to bring in $2 million or $3 milliona week, as Robertson and Dobson have to do, then you have to have something that reallyworks. And this works. Homosexuality is so unknown to so many people and soterrifying to them, that this really struck a chord” (Kaplan 164). Jean Hardisty, aresearcher for Political Research Associates, who has investigated the far right for morethan two decades, confirms White’s findings. She says, “The gay marriage issue hasbeen a real gift for them, because it’s revitalized their base, and revitalized theirfundraising” (qtd. in Kaplan 162-165).
In a recent broadcast on NPR, Randall Balmer, a professor of religion at Barnard College,Columbia University, and contributing editor to Christianity Today, says “’I don’t findmuch that I recognize as Christian” in the religious right.’ Blind allegiance to theRepublican Party has distorted the faith of politically active evangelicals, leading them tomisguided positions on issues such as abortion and homosexuality. ‘They have takensomething that is lovely and redemptive and turned it into something that is ugly andretributive’” (Wertheimer 1).
Dr. James Dobson, a conservative Christian psychologist and author, writes books onChristian parenting and discipline. His fourteen books have sold 16 million copies andhis daily talk show has five million listeners (Silverman 183). He is also the author of thesmall volume titled Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle. Dobson says,“If the salvation of our children is really that vital to us, then our spiritual training shouldbegin before children can even comprehend what it’s all about. I firmly believe inacquainting children with God’s judgment and wrath while they are young. Nowhere inthe Bible are we instructed to skip over the unpleasant scriptures in our teaching. Thewages of sin is death, and children have the right to understand that fact” (Blaker 8).
As a child in Sunday school, I was told that 1. An abomination is a person or sin that isloathsome or disgusting and 2. God hates homosexuality and thinks it’s revolting andvile. How did they feed this sort of information to young children? It was and is stilldone through the telling of the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah from thebook of Genesis, chapter 19. It was cleverly taught to me with pictures and other visualsordered from Bob Jones University Press, a Southern Baptist fundamentalistfountainhead in South Carolina. The teacher would set up her flannel board at the frontof the room and tell the bible story, illustrating what was happening every once in a whileby sticking flannel-lined pictures of people in biblical dress up on the board to keep thechildren’s attention. When the story was over, the volunteer teacher would give prizes tothe children who could regurgitate the information and give her the answers she wantedto hear. The prizes would often be furry little bugs with banners that said, “Jesus lovesyou,” bookmarks that said, “Jesus loves the little children,” or the real incentive, candy.
The Story of Sodom and Gomorrah
In the story, God sent angels to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, spots them in the square and invites them back to his home. The story says that all the men from all over Sodom came to Lot’s door and demanded he bring the men out because they wanted to have sex with them. Lot refused and instead offered his two virgin daughters to the mob “to do what you want with them. ” The crowd refused the women and the angels struck the men with blindness so they couldn’t find the door to the house. Because the people had the urge to have sex with these “Angels, ”God wanted to exterminate the inhabitants of the whole city, but Abraham plea-bargained with God. He said, “If there were fifty righteous people, would you spare the place? Shall not the judge of earth do right? ” Luckily, Abraham was around to remind God that he is supposed to be a fair, loving, and objective judge, not one ruled by emotions like anger. Abraham manages to save himself and his nephew Lot, but the story says that God destroyed all the human beings living in Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, the same two constituents that supposedly make up hell.
Stories like this one were created to generate fear, and that is what I remember feeling.his God didn’t appear to have mercy. Later, when I was old enough to read the ancientstory on my own, I was astounded to discover that to pacify the sexually riled men, Lotoffered to give his two virgin daughters to the crowd of men to be gang raped. The juniorchurch teachers had skipped over this part. This God, who we were taught to fear and tolove, condoned the rape of women. I began to suspect that this book was not “divinelyinspired by God,” but rather written by men.
I was taught, and children are still being taught, that homosexuality is an illness that can becured, and according to the fundamentalists that Russell Shorto interviewed for hispiece in the New York Times Magazine this disparaging misinformation is still beingaccepted as true. Shorto says, “Their passion comes from their conviction thathomosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that,but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not onlyindividuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of adisease: it seeks to spread itself’ (37). Shorto is quick to point out that homosexuality,as disease is an “assumption” and that “seeing it as a disorder to be cured is not new. Itwas cutting-edge thinking circa 1905” (40-41).
As I write this, I find that I have an intimate understanding of the panic and paranoia that feeds this Christian desire to “do battle.” I suffered greatly because of it, and it took me many years to break the mind-bind of fear that chained my psyche and narrowed my point of view. I now know that Fear is a disease at the very core of the fundamentalist/ evangelical mind-trip, and paranoia is a symptom of this unbalanced and unsound way of thinking. I also understand that the only real battles we should be fighting are those on the inside. In working to overcome the fear in my heart, I make the moment-to-moment decision to practice compassion for my fellow human beings. Instead of jumping to judge another, I must choose to practice empathy. It is a daily battle, but I am convinced it is a worthy cause. The only theocracy to be formed is in the hearts of the people who choose to let Love rule over Fear. Love is tolerant, and I am committed to doing my part to keep the rights of all American citizens intact and free from any type of tyrannical thought— fundamentalist or other.
It is going to take a concentrated effort amongst humanitarian, progressive minds who will deliberately seek out ways we can personally help keep all of our rights in this pluralistic society free from damage. If we become more politically active and encourage others to do the same, we can effectively block the efforts to reverse our rights. It seems to me that if we unite under a common objective, to keep our freedoms in place, we can enjoy some of the same victories. The Moral Majority’s success depends on our apathy. In this way, we can peacefully cancel out the overt attempts to steamroll the separation between church and state that our country was founded on.
Bull, Chris. “Onward Christian Soldiers: Pat Robertson’s Antigay Campaign Increases Attacks on Gay Men and Lesbians.” The Advocate. May 26,1998.
Blaker, Kimberly (Ed). The Fundamentals of Extremism. Boston: New Boston Books, Inc. 2003.
Cox, Cece. “Law and Sexuality: A Review of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Legal Issues.” 14 Law and Sex. 1,2005.
Kaplan, Esther. With God on their Side. New York: The New Press, 2004.
Shorto, Russell. “What’s Their Real Problem with Gay Marriage.” New York Times Magazine, June 19,2005.
Silverman, Herb. “Inerrancy Turned Political.” The Fundamentals of Extremism. Ed. Kimberly Blaker. Michigan: New Boston Books, 2003. 174-209.
Spong, Bishop John Shelby. Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Wertheimer, Linda. Evangelical: Religious Right Has Distorted the Faith. NPR, June 2006.