The “Marginalization” of the Christian Right

This week I received a funding solicitation email from a conservative Christian organization with the following justification for their plea for support:

. . . the church is being marginalized by a culture that is increasingly accepting homosexuality and same-sex marriage . . .

While I don’t want to deny that groups such as this are feeling marginalized, I argue that what is being experienced is not marginalization, but the repercussions of new reality of their influence and dominance on larger cultural conversations and direction setting. Society is no longer willing to sit idly by and allow the conservative Christian view to be the unquestioned social moral compass and other people of faith are no longer willing to abdicate the Christian voice to this particular narrative.

This is not marginalization, it’s called accountability.

Change is hard for anyone, so in some ways I do feel for folks who are experiencing change that feels so much out of their control. That said, it is one thing to have compassion and understanding for a person as they feel the decline in their sphere of influence and hold on power, but is quite another thing to respond to that feeling in a way that validates the realities of the power and influence that still remains. After all, as you can see from the map, more and more states are bannin same-sex marriage, so to cry marginalization rings a bit hollow.

Sociologists and pundits could argue the meaning of marginalization, but when I think about marginalized people, I think of those who are kept in a cycle of poverty because of predatory financial practices, those who have poor educational opportunities because of the state of public education, anyone for whom their civil rights are determined by a majority vote and so on and so on.When I think of marginalization, I do not think of religious communities who are simply having their religious views challenged, are no longer able to dictate moral social norms and are just plain loosing influence.

Now if, as a country, we vote to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning preachers like Pastoral Charles Worley, it might feel great, but this would be one step towards marginalizing conservative Christians. Thankfully, we live in a country where people can speak their mind, no matter how distasteful and dangerous I may find it. They must deal with the consequences of their words, but they can still say them. Ban the ability for a preacher to speak his/her your mind in a house of worship that and then maybe, just maybe,the marginalization banner can be raised.

Call it “losing influence,” call it a “soul-losing moral defeat,” but don’t call it “marginalization.”

Pastor Worley and the Slippery Slope of “Speaking the Truth in Love”

[Photo By davidz]

Every time I blog about homosexuality and the church, I get at least one email or comment that says that I am either wasting my time or sowing dissent.  As a straight, married, Asian American Presbyterian, I agree . . . this is getting old. I dread the fact that issues of gender, race, economics and sexuality are still issues that the church must struggle with in order to fully be who I hope the church to be.  And I dread that some of us feel the calling to use whatever privilege we may have to keep fighting on behalf of those who are and have been excluded from community and call and subjected to violence in word and action.

I will also receive a comment or email that also says, if I – or the occasional “you people” – would just stop talking about X, then it would go away. This I do not agree with, for silence in the face of oppression is sinful, and while we will all justify times of silence in defense of our own safety and comfort, most of us who enjoy the privileges that our heterosexuality avails, we really do not risk much by speaking up for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

Like many folks, I was appalled by the recent sermon preached by Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church calling for LGBTQ folks to be gathered in an electrified pen until they died off from lack of reproduction. I encourage you to watch the video if for no other reason than to hear the words from the source.

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Of course, Pastor Worley has every right to preach whatever kind of hateful rhetoric that he feels called to preach. Likewise, he must deal with the consequences of those words. As a person of faith, not matter how much I may disdain his theology, he is discerning God’s movement in his life, and as a Reformed Christian who believes in the sovereignty of God, I have to trust that somehow, in some way, God is working in thru all of this.

That said, it would be easy to dismiss him as some radical, fringe person that should be given little attention or thought. After all, no reasonable and faithful person would ever think these things, let alone say them.  Some, like my friend, Eugene Cho in his excellent post chastising Worley and others says,

No matter where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, there are some boundaries of human decency that should never be crossed.

For the most part I agree, most people who think homosexuality is a sin, probably do not think that LGBTQ people should be rounded up until they die off. And then I think back to some meetings/debates among those whom I would consider “thoughtful and faithful” communities in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). When it came to homosexuality, the slippery slope argument was always busted out, “homosexuality will lead to . . . [insert perceived sexual "deviance"].” After an awkward moment of “Whoa, did he just say what I think he said?” most of us would simply dismiss these folks as fringe, after all, the slippery slope argument is unwinnable . . . and what does it matter anyway?

And then you hear people like Worley and others who do in fact verbalize what we know already happens, people take anti-LGBTQ thought, theology and rhetoric and walk down that slippery slope to the point of killing people who are gay. I am generally not a slippery slope kind of person, but in this case, I will borrow a page from some of my brothers and sisters in Christ who believe  that the affirmation of of homosexuality, as choice or creation, will lead to the destruction of all that is good and holy and say this:

You can wrap your theological position in all the “speaking the truth in love” or “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric you want, but if you hold the idea that affirming homosexuality will lead to the destruction of societal “norms” then you had better claim the other side: anti-homosexuality rhetoric will lead to the death of human beings because they are gay.

Again, for many of us, we have been able to stand outside of much of this without really risking anything. Sure, some us us get nasty notes and people berate us for being theologically  bankrupt, but that sacrifice pales in comparison to what my LGBTQ friends must deal with every day when simply making choices about how they act, what they say or who they love.

There is no comparison.

Likewise, those of you who continue to give life and validation to anti-homosexuality thinking must know that you have been given the privilege of being thought of as reasonable and faithful. This protection has given you a false security that your words, no matter how diametrically different they may sound from Worley’s, do not lead to violence.

They do.

And then you hear things like this, from the Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III as he speaks about same-sex marriage.

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Theology like this is the antidote to the Worley’s of the world: those who call for violence as well as to those who stand by and allow this rhetoric to go unchallenged. I for one don’t care how tired we all get talking about this “issue” because, as long as people are being killed because of their sexuality, those of us who have the privilege of thinking about LGBTQ bothers and sisters as “issues” in the first place, must choose to speak out against the violence or risk continuing being part of it.

If you care to be part of a public action in NC this weekend, please see Kimberly Knight’s post, Following Jesus to Maiden, NC.


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