Family Research Council warns against love, it ‘waters everything down’

At Jesus Creed, RJS shares a nifty video from theologian N.T. Wright. In that video, Wright says:

One day, in God’s new heaven and earth reality, Love is the language that we’ll be speaking, and we get to learn it and practice it in advance. It is like learning the songs that they will sing in God’s new world. We learn them and sing them here because we are supposed to people through whom a taste of the new world comes into the present. And again, if you think that that is just private and not something that goes out into the wider world you’ve missed the whole point. The whole point of love is that it is generous and outgoing. And so for Paul and for the other early Christian writers love is not just, as it were, one virtue among others. Love is almost the name of what it means to be a Christian.

RJS disagrees — but only with Wright’s “almost”:

Love is the name of what it means to be a Christian. No qualifier, no almost. … Love is the name of the game. Love God, love others. This theme runs through the Gospels, it runs through Paul and the other New Testament writers. … This isn’t the soft and wimpy approach, diminishing the gospel, it is the whole game. As God loves us so are we to love others.

The Family Research Council says that Wright and RJS have this all wrong.

Love, FRC says, is just squishy, namby-pamby liberal talk for abandoning absolute truth and biblical authority:

That abandonment of principle is leading to a decline in membership, especially among the more liberal denominations. As more churches move away from biblical authority, their attendance suffers. Just ask the Episcopal Church, whose pews are virtually empty after the decision to endorse homosexuality. It’s time to push back on the spin that’s feeding our weak brethren who say that compromising truth in pursuit of love is the way to reach the lost. Intuitively, people want to anchor their lives to something meaningful — something that demands the sacrifice and discipline of “taking up your cross.” When a denomination abandons the truth and waters everything down to love, it reduces the church to another hour of Dr. Phil — which is something Americans can get without ever leaving home.

Love is not truth, FRC says. It seems, in fact, to be something that erodes truth — the refuge of spineless liberals and Episcopalians intent on “compromising truth” and rejecting “biblical authority.”

Oddly, many evangelicals would gladly hang an “All Are Welcome” banner on their churches, but not one like this, attached to a rainbow flag. “All” doesn’t always mean “all.” And “welcome” doesn’t always mean “welcome.” (Photo by Drama Queen via ookaboo.)

What does “biblical authority” mean here? That’s not entirely clear, except that it certainly does not have anything to do with love, no matter what squishy liberals like N.T. Wright, RJS, the Apostle Paul or Jesus Christ might claim otherwise.

More than anything else, it seems, for the Family Research Council, “biblical authority” means rejecting “homosexuality.” By accepting LGBT people, FRC says, the Episcopal Church has abandoned the Bible and thus, now, its “pews are virtually empty.”

Here, then, is the Family Research Council’s church-growth strategy: Be anti-gay, and then be even more anti-gay.

Does this work? Well, FRC’s claim about “empty pews” in the Episcopal Church isn’t really true. As Zinnia Jones notes, that denomination saw its attendance decline by 3.7 percent from 2000-2010.

But perhaps this modest decline only reflects the modesty of the denomination’s “endorsement” of LGBT people. What about a far more liberal denomination, like the Unitarian Universalists, with its far more aggressive embrace of LGBT people?

Aha! The figure for the Unitarian Universalists is 15.8 percent! Their more dramatic pro-gay stance has led to a far more dramatic decline, just as the Family Research Council’s theory predicts that it …

Oh wait. I’m sorry. That 15.8 percent figure for the Unitarian Universalists is how much the denomination grew from 2000-2010.

Let me say that again: The Unitarian Universalists grew by 15.8 percent in 2000-2010.

And that would seem to indicate that FRC’s theory of church growth is pure hooey.

The evidence, in other words, suggests the opposite of what FRC claims. The evidence suggests that Wayne Besen is correct when he says “Gay Bashing by Churches Is Why a New Pew Poll Shows America Losing Its Religion“:

Religious extremists have long claimed that the acceptance of homosexuality would bring down the fundamentalist church — and they have been proven correct, albeit not for the reasons they proffered. The downfall occurred not because gay people stopped heterosexuals from reproducing or recruited their children. It didn’t happen because LGBT individuals hate families, which they have always been part of. And it didn’t happen because homosexuals despised faith; the abundance of deeply religious gay people proves that this is not true.

The fundamentalists undermined their legitimacy by worshiping anti-gay bigotry long after it had been exposed as a false God. In this unholy obsession the sacrifices left bleeding at the altar were truth and justice. When people see their own sons and daughters and friends and co-workers coming out, it creates a crisis of credibility for religious institutions. It leads to countless situations where mean-spirited men like [Twin Cities Catholic Archbishop John] Nienstedt demand blind, irrational obedience and say “take it or leave it” — and more people are now following their consciences and walking away.

And “Why are Americans walking away from religion?” asks Tom Roberts:

“Several leading scholars contend that young adults, in particular, have turned away from organized religion because they perceive it as deeply entangled with conservative politics and do not want to have any association with it,” according to the report.

The researchers cite several studies and quote from a recent book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, who argue that in recent decades “[r]eligiosity and conservative politics became increasingly aligned, and abortion and gay rights became emblematic of the emergent culture wars.” Consequently, say Putnam and Campbell, many young Americans came to view religion as “judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical, and too political.”

Zinnia Jones cites one more study confirming all those others:

According to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 69 percent of Millennials believe “religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues”. In other words, people aren’t leaving because their churches are too tolerant of homosexuality. They’re leaving because their churches are too intolerant of homosexuality. The FRC is operating outside of reality, in a world that exists only in their fevered imagination.



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  • D9000

    Is it wrong of me to think that the FRC can take their cross up their back passage?

  • The FRC is not pursuing truth, but rather the authority to define truth as they see fit. And the “truth”, per organizations like the FRC, is that only those who acknowledge their worldly authority are deserving of love. Acceptance is a threat to them because it challenges their monopoly on God’s mercy. Their God is a cosmic dictator, and they are the satraps making sure that only the worthy are helped; if God is merciful and loving, it dispels their authority and returns them to earth with the rest of us mortals.

  • Enoch Root

    When FRC says love is a display of weakness and that it will reduce the church membership, they’re not making a theological argument. They are making an economic argument.

    They are not a church. They are a lobbying group. They’re smart enough to know that love is the antidote to their lobbying, since they make a ton of money by hating people. If everyone loves each other like Jesus did, they lose their reason for being, and the machinery of hate crumbles.

    When you love someone as yourself, FRC suffers. Go, my children, and preach this gospel. :-)

  • Magic_Cracker

    One gets the impression that the FRC would rather there wasn’t a New Testament in their Bible.  Or significant portions of the Old.

  • JustoneK

    The thing about this is reduces what should be a shared but personal experience in the spiritual to a corporate numbers contest.  Butts in pews instead of better people.

    I remain somewhat dumbfounded at this official stance separating Love from the Christian God.

  • dj_pomegranate

    1. God is Love. 
    2. God’s people are not to love because that would water down the Gospel.  

    I cannot think of any possible way to reconcile these two thoughts.

  • Magic_Cracker

    To elaborate: I get the impression the FRC would rather there were only the laws laid down in Exodus, Leviticus, etc., sort of like teachers who only give multiple choice tests.

  • Tapetum

    Our Episcopal church doesn’t just welcome gay members, we have a gay pastor. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to have had any negative impact on our numbers (though the local Republican state rep. has been scarce as we approach elections. I expect him back mid-November.)

    It’s almost as if the FRC is talking out their collective asses.

  • Tricksteron

    Only if it’s wrong of meto think that all this talk of “taking up your cross” and “sacriice and discipline” comes aacross a more than a tad sadomasofetishistuc.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    The unstated implication of the FRC’s article is that high church attendance numbers are somehow *proof* that a denomination is correct in the eyes of God.  Apparently, popularity is a prefect indicator of moral rectitude.  That’s a strange thing for any church to say….

  • Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t “well, if you let the gays in you won’t be NEARLY as popular, no one will want to hang out inside your church” sort of not a super Christian thing to say? 

    Naw, I’m playing, those people are a hate-group, this is what I expect from hate-groups.

  • Tricksteron

    And certain select passages from Paul.

  • VMink

    The FRC doesn’t consider the Unitarians to be a real church, so that 15% increase doesn’t count.

    Really, the two quotes are dramatically representative of what’s important for the people or groups speaking them.  The first two emphasize love, love for everyone, because they see it as core to the Christian faith.  The FRC… goes on about church attendance, and compliance, and legalism.  It’s pretty clear to see where the priorities and measures are.

  • What surprises me is that they admit so forthrightly that they are a hate group. Most hate groups that I’ve known about have claimed to be basing themselves on the supposed fact that they wouldn’t have to exist if only those people over there would be loving. The FRC has officially planted itself in Fred Phelps territory. 

    And also I’m not a Christian. But, to over-simplify a bit, my belief system can be summed up by: love is the most important thing. Anything getting in the way of love is evil. So I’m having this weird feeling of seeing a supervillain twirling his mustache and going “muahaha I am so wicked” while tying a young woman to a railroad track. Some part of me wonders if this can possibly be real. Real-life villains don’t normally out themselves as knowingly embracing evil like this.

  • picklefactory

    I like Zinnia Jones quotes, because she is totally awesome.

  • PandaRosa

    Good point, except I keep thinking of Dr. Phil trying to reason with these sad women who insist on staying with abusive, brutal boyfriends/husbands, bleating that sorry cry, “But I LLLUUUUUVVVVVV him!” 
    Love can squishy or strengthening, can warp or color one’s view of another; love and sex are not mutually inclusive or exclusive, but in an uneasy balance. Heteros use love as an excuse or a reason or a virtue more than enough as it is; but I do despair at the absolute rage aimed at (usually male) homosexuals. 
    And then there are those mired in the middle, who do not like homosexuals, and don’t like their own not liking homosexuals, and want to change and aren’t sure how. 
    Of course, for a variation on the Fundamentalist view, check out

  • hidden_urchin

    Apparently, popularity is a perfect indicator of moral rectitude. That’s a strange thing for any church to say….

    Yeah, I seem to remember something about wide and narrow paths from my Christian days.

    Wait a second, aren’t these the same people who love to quote that verse to highlight how super special they are and how everyone else is doooooomed?

    Pardon me while I go reboot my brain.

  • LL

    Well, it’s official, the FRC is now beyond parody. 

    I expect them any day now to release a statement denouncing kittens, ice cream and the laughter of children. Oh, and toys. Because why not go full Burgermeister Meisterburger? 

  • Joshua

    Jesus told us to love our neighbours.

    The message to “tolerate our neighbours” is so much weaker. It’s merely the first step.

    And yet, these bozos not only fail to live up to it, they specifically argue against it.

  • Fusina

    1 John 4:7-8

    Beloved, let us love one another, For love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He that does not love does not know God, For God is Love.

    One of my absofavorite verses. So bring on the Dr. Phil churches, I’m in.

  • AnonymousSam

    Much the same was going through my mind. These arrogant men of clay need to revisit John.

  • Wait a second, aren’t these the same people who love to quote that verse to highlight how super special they are and how everyone else is doooooomed?

    Well, yes, but they also love them some faux-persecution.  Yanno, not persecution as in actual pain or hardship, but persecution defined as “not everyone agrees with me all the time.”  Emo persecution, where they can loudly proclaim that the whole sinful world is against them because of their love of Jesus.  That’s the good kind of persecution–the kind where you don’t actually have to sacrifice anything.

    And so, the rising number of vocal nonbelievers is a good thing for them.  Feeds the complex and all, and that’s good for their listeners and good for their coffers. 

  • Fusina

     Well, yes. I also like to note that it doesn’t say anything about salvation, or mention crosses or any kind of initiation to get in, just love someone. Then you are in. No rules, no tenets, no dogma, nothing but love and loving. This is one of the verses that I believe supports pair bonding whether hetero or homo–it is love, therefore it is God, because God is Love.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Except the many laws about economic justice, I suspect. This general perception that Exodus, Leviticus = laws about sex is way out of whack.

  • Ymfon Tviergh

    Dear gods. It’s the Kitten-Burning Coalition.

  • All this stuff the FRC is blustering on about –

    All I can do is sigh in resignation at the notion that they think they have the right of it.

  • Good point, except I keep thinking of Dr. Phil trying to reason with these sad women who insist on staying with abusive, brutal boyfriends/husbands, bleating that sorry cry, “But I LLLUUUUUVVVVVV him!”

    Don’t do that. Do not insult abuse victims, do not make fun of them. You could be one at any time. 

    Love can squishy or strengthening

    I suspect you think there is something wrong with being “squishy”. I have no idea why. What does “squishy” mean, anyway? I have a squishy cat. I squish her a lot. I also squish my fiancé a lot. It’s fun. I don’t think that’s what you mean.

    can warp or color one’s view of another

    When we love people, we think of them differently than people we don’t love. Yep. And?

    love and sex are not mutually inclusive or exclusive, but in an uneasy balance

    Oh bullshit. They are not in “an uneasy balance.” Love and sex in my relationship feed off each other, sustain each other, and make each other better and better in an infinite loop. I’ve had other relationships in which sex was just fun, with no romantic attachment involved. Love and sex are not in an uneasy balance. If they are to you that is your issue. 

    Heteros use love as an excuse or a reason or a virtue more than enough as it is

    Love is a virtue. It is feeling and action. It is life in motion. And why on earth are you saying only “heteros” do that? 

    Oh my god do you think sexual and romantic love is the only kind of love? 

    And then there are those mired in the middle, who do not like homosexuals

    Maybe you should look into that uneasiness you feel about sex and love for why you have this serious personal problem.

  • Let me relate a story about the “hetero” thing and validation.

    I was on the bus recently, and I saw two guys kissing and being romantic. The thing that still bothers me, and I am the “B” in QUILTBAG, is that I was unsettled. Made uneasy.

    I deeply dislike the fact that social conditioning has apparently still held enough sway over me to create the mental condition that a man and a woman together is somehow the “natural” romantic context, and a man and a man together is somehow not quite right.

    I think I’d better stop there as it still bothers me.

    But it is proof that in many ways large and small, the concept of “love” is still not applied universally and without reservation.

  • Carstonio

    I never heard of the Episcopal Church endorsing homosexuality. I had thought that its position was that sexual orientation was morally neutral and of concern only to individual couples.

  • lowtechcyclist

    The whole of Evangelical Christianity seems to have come down to:

    1) Identify the Other that our tribe dislikes.
    2) Make up all sorts of slanders about them.  (Screw the ninth commandment.)
    3) To the extent possible, put legal burdens on the Other’s way of life.
    4) Claim this is somehow about God and righteousness.

    Love?  What’s that?

    Oh, wait: the Other only gets tough love.  Which is just a beatdown by another name.  Kinda like blessing someone out, which of course has nothing to do with blessing.

  • PandaRosa

    I did not mean to insult or make fun of abuse victims, I only meant it’s sad how such victims insist on staying or even returning to their tormentor, quoting such reasons as I Still Wuv Him. I fear we all know someone like that, devoted to some dirtbag for reasons no one else understands; you want to help but know your friend will never listen to the obvious.
    As for the rest, there’s little to say. People are people, we keep screwing up no matter what side of the fence we’re on, and we persevere as well.
    All the same, there are those haters who want to stop hating, let’s not slam the door too fast.

  • AnonCollie

    Let us build a house where love can dwell, And all can safely live. A place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, Rock of faith and vault of grace. Here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

    All are welcome, all are welcome,

    All are welcome in this place. 

    Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,

    Where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.

    Here the cross shall stand as witness and a symbol of God’s grace;

    Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

    All are welcome, all are welcome,

    All are welcome in this place. 

    Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine and wheat:

    A banquet hall on holy ground, where peace and justice meet.

    Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space;
    As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

    All are welcome, all are welcome,

    All are welcome in this place. 

    — Marty Haugen’s “All Are Welcome”

    But I guess the FRC never got that memo

  • Intuitively, people want to anchor their lives to something meaningful —
    something that demands the sacrifice and discipline of “taking up your

    Setting aside your own ego and privilege in order to love and lift up those who have been demonized, victimized, and otherwise marginalized is a serious exercise in sacrifice in my book.  I’m pretty sure their book says the same thing, if they’d only read it a bit more carefully.

  • Rowen

     As a gay man, I’m usually a bit uncomfortable with PDAs by anyone of any gender. There’s two reasons for this

    1) I’m single and have had not so great dating luck.
    2) I find that level of affection in public to be rather ostentatious. Maybe in a park setting, or something, might be ok, but cuddling and making out on the train during rush hour just seems … self centered.

  • AnonymousSam

    Some of us do understand. It’s the learned cycle of hopefulness/hopelessness.

    Hopelessness, unlike fear, which triggers our instinct to run, deceives us into believing that there is no point in moving; that nothing better exists beyond the present circumstances; and, that staying is the best, or possibly the only, option.  Hopelessness is the tragic resolution to stop trying.

    Women in controlling and/or violent relationships begin to lose hope. The abuser’s control and abuse thwarts any effort their victims make to act independently. Abusers create an opportunity to abuse whenever their victims make independent decisions. After repeated incidents women feel helpless and believe that they are unable to assert themselves, improve their lives or make meaningful contributions. When abusive relationships end, women are apt to continue struggling with feelings of despair, helplessness and hopelessness learned in abusive situations. Even when free of coercion and intimidation, survivors of domestic violence must overcome the helplessness and hopelessness felt in domestic violence.

  • The_L1985

     Clearly, “God is love,” only appears in those New Age, liberal, hippie, namby-pamby versions of the Bible.

    After all, it’s not like 1 Corinthians says that in the KJV…oh wait.

  • David Weber

    Always, always, always question the real motivations of those angry/upset/afraid of LGBT folks.

  • Fusina

     Grin, oh, yeah, we have faith, hope and love and the greatest is love… funny, I don’t recall anything about biblical authority written in there, or discipline, or any of the other stuff they are interested in–just a lot of what we are if WE DON’T HAVE LOVE. And people wonder why I don’t like wearing cross pendants anymore. To quote Inigo Montoya, “I do not think that word [love] means what you think it means.”

  • nemryn

    Woo, go Unitarian-Universalists! *hi-five*

  • i can speak with tongues of angels/apologetics in a slick rhetoric/yeah/either way without love my words are dead/we have love we have forgiveness/we have grace without a limit/so if it has been revealed to us/should it not then be contagious?
    ~Newsboys, “Good Stuff”
    based on 1 Corinthians

  • Pro-gay pansexual Christian (although some of my views are somewhat odd…) and loving life, loving all the world, and loving God.

  • Love is hard.

    For an example that is as recent as last Saturday and still very much on my mind, I do not love my aunt.  Or rather I do not love one of my aunts as I have several.  I cannot feel love toward her, and more than that I do not want to.

    I love her daughters, and that hurts enough as it is.  You see one of them –the one who was on drugs (and may still be), the one who was a thief, the one who conned my grandmother out of unknown but definitely very large amounts of money while at the same time doing great damage to her health in the last years of my grandmother’s life, the one who…– I hate some of the things she did and yet I love unconditionally.  She is my cousin and I am hers and we are family, we grew up spending summer together, were’d family not by blood but by the connection of love between us.  I cannot imagine not loving her.  And reconciling the fact that someone that spent a lot of time doing something I hate, doing the damage she did to my grandmother, and yet they are loved by me isn’t easy.

    It would be so much easier if I hated her.  There would be no conflict.  Person did hateful and/or hateable things = person is hated.  Simple.  Easy.  No heart wrenching there.

    Now my aunt, who facilitated every bad thing her daughters ever did, knowingly, and with no benefit to herself beyond being able to say, “My daughters can do whatever they want and there’s nothing you can do to stop it,” allowing the one to sink further into addiction, stealing, and other forms of criminality in the process, and when she finally did to something it was to throw one of them (the one described above) out on the street at Christmastime in Maine in hopes to leverage the fear of freezing to death into a way to force the daughter to come (metaphorically) crawling to her as a suppliant in Texas…  Her I don’t love at all.  I’m not sure I’m capable of it, and if I did love someone like that I think it would tear me apart inside.

    The fact that as near, as I can tell, I love her children much more than she does I find shocking and horrifying.  The things she has done I find evil.  To love someone who has somehow managed to sink so low, it would hurt so much.  That is a cross to bear.Love isn’t easy.  It’s hard.Fortunately for me, I am not a Christian, I am not called to love this whole world and all the people in it.  So the fact that I do not, perhaps cannot, love her isn’t a major theological problem for me.But anyone who says love is the easy way out, or watered down or easy or whathaveyou, doesn’t know what love is.

    Consider this: Those who believe that they are called to love all are therefore called to love the members of the Family Research Council even while hating both the FRC’s message and actions and working tooth and nail to stop everything the FRC tries to do.  The FRC council, meanwhile, is free to hate everyone they disagree with.  Who in that situation has it easier?

  • Fusina

     I am so sorry about your cousin. I shall be praying for her, as my sis-in-law once said, can’t hurt, might help. I am a christian, but I know about hate. I hate my Mom. She did horrible things to me, and so I have, of late, had very little to do with her. She has not done to my children any of what she did to me, indeed, so far as I know, I was the family “whipping boy”.

    But enough about me. Your cousin–I am so glad you love her. Please keep in touch with her as much as possible. She needs to know that someone cares what happens to her.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Naw, I’m playing, those people are a hate-group, this is what I expect from hate-groups.

    If it helps at all, the Southern Poverty Law Center (arch-enemies of the KKK) agree with you.

  • PandaRosa

    chris, you say you are not a Christian, but you are doing what any worthy Christian should, Aslan would be proud of you.

  • *twitch*  There’s that monopoly-on-moral-behaviour again.  Some of us, at least, really aren’t comfortable with that.

  • It’s not uncommon, in some circles to hear the phrase “God is love is a heresy that is found nowhere in the Bible. God is just. God is holy. But God is not love.”

    These people are wrong.

  • Crysta

     Just go Wiccan, the easiest and purest religion there is!

    Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will. Basically, unless you are harming someone, god doesn’t really care what you do!