There’s been some interesting discussion following my recent post about the vandalism of a Mars Hill satellite church by a group calling themselves the Angry Queers. Most of it has been on the Sojourners site, where the article was reposted. It’s a complicated enough issue that I thought I might continue my thoughts, particularly in light of some of the comments.
There were a few folks who suggested that I was jumping to conclusions to assume that this group calling themselves the “Angry Queers” was a pro-LGBT group. It was pointed out that the term “queer” is much more broadly applied than simply to those who identify as LGBT. I hear that, and I understand the sensitivity to them issue of the word “queer” simply to mean “gay.” But in this case, I still think it’s a reasonable connection to make. For one, just because they are a pro-LGBT group doesn’t mean everyone in the group is LGBT. That would be reading into the article something I don’t think I said.
Also, in the correspondence the group has shared with media, they justify their vandalism because they believe Mars Hill’s positions on homosexuality are “anti-gay.” I think it’s safe to assume that, if they attacked a church for being anti-gay, they likely maintain the opposite position.
I’m all for thoughtful analysis and deconstruction, but let’s not waste time with red herrings.
Second, some have suggested that calling the vandalism a potential hate crime was an overstep. Unfortunately, the only justifications for it not being a hate crime that I’ve heard have to do with comparing it to the harm done by Mars Hill’s positions on sexuality. The argument is that, because they were the first to promote hate and intolerance, this act that pales in comparison (given that no one was physically harmed). That may be so. But the law would say otherwise.
Hateful and intolerant speech is protected by our constitution, and to be honest with you, I’m glad it is. I’m not thrilled when I hear groups like Mars Hill using the cloak of Christianity to marginalize the LGBT community and even women. However, I do, and will, defend their right to say what they believe, just as I would hope they would do the same for me. Trust me, we don’t agree on much!
But there is a clear line between intolerant rhetoric and an act of violence. One is legal; the other is not. And because this seems to have been a premeditated act against a religious organization because of the views they maintain, it’s not hard to see how this could be charged as a hate crime.
Third, I am distressed by how many Christians I still see using the word “homosexuals” to describe people. This would, in some ways, be akin to calling African-Americans “Negroes” or calling immigrants “Illegals.” It’s an outdated term and whether intended or not, it reveals a lack of awareness and/or sensitivity. Aside from being out of step with how members of the LGBT community tend to identify themselves, it keeps focus on one of the root words in the label, namely “sex.”
We’re not just talking about sex here; we’re talking about human beings. And there’s a lot more to LGBT people than sex. You can be gay and never have sex for that matter. So let’s show at least enough respect to identify folks of a particular group in a manner they consider appropriate.
Finally, I appreciated comments I read from LGBT folks who were saddened by the attack. As was pointed out in more than one case, this is not to be mistakenly representative of the greater LGBT community. Most LGBT folks are like you and me. They go to work, care about certain issues (some relating to LGBT matters, some not), and they use peaceful means to try to inform and persuade people. Unfortunately, such normailized, mainstream attitudes don’t grab the headlines like the Mars Hill story, but they’re out there.
We just have to pay a little bit more attention.