Liberty Counsel redefining ‘Christian’ just as Falwell did

“Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” — 1 John 4:20

Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel/Liberty University explains how the religious right’s opposition to marriage equality is a return to the roots of the religious right and an effort to recapture the spark that first got white evangelicals politically engaged back in the 1970s:

It’s like the Bob Jones decision that said – which was a ultimately good decision – that said Bob Jones University could not have a ban on interracial dating. Well, they are going to apply that same type of logic to this. Basically, all bets are off; it will be the criminalization of Christianity.

It’s the government against Christians if gay marriage becomes the law of the land and that’s not hyperbole.

Barber is confused on several points here.

First he says that legalizing same-sex marriage would be an attack on Christianity “like the Bob Jones decision” was. But then he remembers that in 2013, it’s no longer acceptable to rail against the Bob Jones decision as an example of the persecution of Christians the way that Liberty’s founder, Jerry Falwell, did back when he was founding the Moral Majority. So Barber quickly corrects himself to say it was “ultimately a good decision” — thereby ruining his own analogy.

Barber also mischaracterizes what the Bob Jones decision actually said. It did not say “Bob Jones University could not have a ban on interracial dating,” only that BJU could not have both such a ban and keep its tax-exempt status.

BJU fought in court to preserve both for nearly a decade before the Supreme Court settled the matter in 1983, at which point the school had to choose one or the other, and BJU opted to keep its racist policy. That policy remained in place until 2000.

The beginning of that court battle back in 1976 was the spark that set the religious right ablaze. Falwell denounced the revocation of BJU’s tax-exempt status as government interference in Christian schools in the same terms Barber is using today: “the criminalization of Christianity” and “the government against Christians.”

Falwell made that argument in 1976 in defense of Bob Jones’ racial discrimination. Matt Barber is making that argument in 2013 in defense of discrimination against LGBT people.

Now, as then, the word “Christianity” is being used as a synonym for unvarnished bigotry.

That is what Liberty Counsel means when it says it is a “Christian” organization. That is what Liberty University means when it says it is a “Christian” college.

The author of 1 John would have been very confused by this use of the word “Christian.”

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  • To be fair, the author of 1 John would have probably been very confused by the existence of the word “Christian…”

  • Magic_Cracker

    Indeed ,,, “You’re an Annointedian? Did you know Jesus was also annointed?”

  • Yep. We pretty much burned all the churches down four years ago here in Iowa. There was simply no way for Christians to pursue their religion in the face of marriage-equality oppressors.

  • Another_Matt

    DAMMIT I hate sharing a name with this guy.

  • histrogeek

    Yeah, and don’t get me started on what happened in Canada. Churches burned down, mass cannibalism, mandatory weddings for men and box turtles, hail of blood every other day, anti-Christian pogroms…OK, not the parts that I visit, but ya know, somewhere (imaginary).

  • Jeff Weskamp

    The folks at BJU would argue that they don’t *hate* black people or bear any ill-will towards them, but they believe the Bible prohibits black people from dating and/or marrying white people and even though they love blacks just as much as white, they *must* obey the Bible in all things…..

    I’m not defending BJU, I’m just saying that that’s the bullshit they used to justify their claim that their policy was not motivated by personal hatred. I have *no* idea how they justified dropping that policy in 2000.

  • Here in Denmark, and indeed the rest of Scandinavia, we kept the churches for our satanist rallies. We mostly just burn american flags and play D&D in there, though. Sometimes while listening to rap and rock music.

  • Somehow, I just want to say “Money, dear boy”. But I can’t actually see a way that’d fit, atm. Anyone here who actually knows some context of the 2000 decision?

  • Daniel

    I was on holiday in New Zealand shortly after gay marriage was recognised there- and within hours there were gays EVERYWHERE breaking into people’s houses, taking the men from their sobbing wives, giving them makeovers as they dragged them down the street all the while rhythmically chanting the bass line from “I feel love” while their leader, or Queen, turned all the churches in the whole country into clubs, cocktail bars and home furnishing shops. The lower case t was removed from the alphabet because of its resemblance to a cross, people are no longer allowed to get angry (because any reference to “being cross” is considered offensive) and anyone who buys two loaves of bread and fish for a family of five is arrested immediately. They only didn’t get me because I had a British passport, ironically affording me the protection of a different Queen. Obviously no-one noticed the lesbians because no penis.

    It’s only a matter of time before this happens in the U.S. too. Marriage is under threat. Sexy, well dressed, tasteful and bitingly funny though that threat may be.
    Actually, I’m just joking. I couldn’t afford the ticket to New Zealand. But I’m pretty sure the rest is true.

  • Unfamiliar with BJU though I may be, I’m guessing “very quietly,” because you don’t need to justify anything if you just do it in such a way that people will simply not notice.

  • James Probis

    In the 2000 presidential election BJUs racist policies were a huge embarrassment for rightwing politicians who just couldn’t bring themselves to *not* campaign there, and once speaking there couldn’t bring themselves to say anything nagative about such racist policies. In the wake of seeing their bigotry used against politicians they favored they suddenly found their religion didn’t hate black people quite as much as it did when they weren’t in the public spotlight.

    As always political access trumps any moral claims the religious right ever make.

  • DCFem

    Riastlin was on the right track. It became increasingly embarrassing and a national, low hanging fruit punchline for comedians. Eventually pressure mounted from some of the schools larger donors to change the policy. So yes, the hate in their hearts toward blacks is still there, but rich people will not be mocked.

  • I remember that. The sunsets were great, but boy were my folks pissed.

    (We still haven’t been able to convince them to go to one of the Mandatorgies. Dad says he’d rather pay the fine.)

  • Worthless Beast

    That… is a really unfortunate logo. Does anybody else see it? I can’t stop looking at it… A book and a flame. A burning book! “Knowledge aflame!”
    I mean, not knowing too much about the school itself, who asked some poor designer to make that logo? Did the designer laugh their tail off behind their backs? It reminds me of those “burning book” stickers in Stephen Colbert’s “I Am America (and So Can You!)”
    Let it serve as a warning: Think before you create a logo!

  • Also by the continued existence of the world.

  • Mostly they have to campaign there because the religious right wields a huge veto on any right-wing politician, and thus they must take some steps to appease them if they have any hope of even getting into the general election, let alone winning one. They are a minority among Republican voters, but the influence they wield is disproportionate to their numbers because of their enthusiasm for effective organizing. Unfortunately, throwing those dogs too many bones over the years has gradually built up their influence, and the election of George W. Bush was an emboldening victory for them. It was after that where they started hitting their “veto button” on candidates with increasing frequency, to the point that more reasonable center-right politicians are either politically impotent or thrust out of the party.

    Hence the shifting of the overton window we have seen in the last five years.

    Of course, the American public in general hates an extremist of any political stripe, which means that there is a lot of “flip-flopping” as a candidate has to say and do things to appease the religious right, but then distance themselves from the more extreme religious right positions without alienating the religious right voters in order to appeal to everyone else, a “Sister Soldier moment” as it is known since Clinton’s initial presidential campaign. Unfortunately due to the aforementioned rightward shift, the candidates have been forced to go ever further to appease the religious right, which in turn makes it harder to distance themselves from them when the general election turns around.

    It creates this painful cycle where the party is seen as too extreme to gain primary influence on the national level, which in turn motivates it to take lots of minority position actions that interfere with the majority, like the filibuster. When there is more parity between the parties, the filibuster gets abused less, and people are forced to compromise. But wielding disproportionate influence is what the religious right does best…

  • & reefer cigarettes!

  • Jessica_R

    Related, perhaps the most depressing church sign I’ll see all this year, nice of them to be so upfront about it,

  • EllieMurasaki

    Is this supposed to be the same Jesus that Paul was talking about when he said ‘neither Greek nor Jew, neither slave nor free, neither woman nor man in’ the church of this guy?

    Can’t be. Might have the same name, but can’t be the same guy.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    For the sake of argument, let’s say they have a point. Let’s say that there are two competing and mutually exclusive principles in play- the right to conscientious discrimination on the one hand and the right to equal protection under the law on the other. Even if that were granted, how myopic, how selfish and short-sighted does one have to be to weigh the right of a limited number of people in a limited number of jobs to discriminate against a limited number of other people in a limited number of ephemeral circumstances, to weigh that over the right to possess- every second of every day- the legal, social, cultural, parental, psychological, financial and health benefits of marriage? How could the scale possibly tip in their favor here? What if one Wednesday afternoon two lesbians show up in my flower shop and ask me to sell them some lilies for their wedding? Clearly that’s a bigger deal than whether these women have access to the rights and benefits that society has put in place to help spouses care for each other! Even if I were to grant the claim that they’re losing a right to discriminate, it’s still an incredibly weak argument when looked at in the balance.

  • I suspect that this is less about comparing concepts (of which I feel the two in this case have a lot of potential overlap) as it is about asserting tribal superiority. The cross is a symbol of Christianity, a tribe that they claim membership of. The equals sign is a symbol of, well, equality (duh) but more particularly equality of orientation/gender/race/creed, etc, which the people of this church see as an opposing tribe. They are asserting that their tribe is better than the other tribe, like sports fans hanging banners simultaneously cheering on their home time and deriding their rival team.

    What I am getting at is that I get the impression that the people who put up that sign just have not given the issue any more thought than “We’re better than those others,” rather than compare the ideas those symbols represent.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Unless s/he encounters the writings of Philip K. Dick, who would then be hailed as a prophet and apostle or par with John the Revelator.

  • LoneWolf343

    “It’s like the Bob Jones decision that said – which was a
    ultimately good decision – that said Bob Jones University could not have
    a ban on interracial dating. Well, they are going to apply that same
    type of logic to this. Basically, all bets are off; it will be the
    criminalization of Christianity.

    It’s the government against Christians if gay marriage becomes the law of the land and that’s not hyperbole.”

    That might be one of the most bizarrely schizophrenic things I’ve seen one of these people say. It’s like he has no idea how much he has thoroughly defeated his own point.

  • Yeah, it’s bizarre. “These situations are completely analogous. Therefore, I expect an entirely different outcome.”

  • smrnda

    There’s nothing about freedom of religion or expression that requires some special tax-exempt status. BJU’s old case is just not about religious liberty at all.

    I have heard some people say that since taxes are an expense, they make running a religious institution cost more, and therefore it’s a kind of stealth censorship, but newspapers pay taxes, TV stations pay taxes, movie studios pay taxes and nobody thinks this is somehow infringing on their right to free speech.

  • phranckeaufile

    Dear Matt Barber,

    You need to stop thinking out loud.

    The Religious Right

  • What a waste! Those stave churches have great acoustics; you should turn ’em into nightclubs. Gamers can play D&D just about anywhere.

  • Michael Pullmann

    He’s right on one thing. Saying “It’s the government against Christians if gay marriage becomes the law of the land” is not hyperbole. It’s flat-out lying.

  • I notice that in defending the sign that says Christianity is greater than equality, he basically says that Christianity demands equality. Cognitive dissonance, thy name is… that guy’s name.

  • P J Evans

    I thought it was a burning building, which isn’t exactly an improvement on a burning book.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Story Idea MMCCXIX

    Set-up: Anthropologists with timey-wimey machine bring a 1st-generation Christian to the present day for study. He is, of course, perplexed by the world’s continued existence and appalled by the state of organized Christianity and the behavior of nominal Christians.

    Revelation: By bringing this one seemingly insignificant Christian into the future (queue “least of these” quote), aforementioned anthropologist prevent the 2nd coming (which, it is revealed, not the return of Jesus, but everyone becoming a Christ, i.e., takinging WWJD, seriously)

    Possible Resolution: Protagonist escapes to the past (having decided that the people of the future are devils trying to destroy his/her faith with visions of how horrible everything is) — and writes down his vision, and OH! He is John the Revelator.

  • I suspect that guy is able to do this kind of stuff precisely because he has been able to avoid cognitive dissonance by… simply not thinking about what he is saying.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I like, but I can’t help thinking of

    John the Revelator
    Put him in an elevator
    Take him up to the highest high
    Take him up to the top
    Where the mountains stop
    Let him tell his book of lies

  • Magic_Cracker

    Still, the Hyper Bowl would be a pretty good name for a football tourney among the right-wing colleges.

  • fraser

    It makes me think of a super-hero game—”It’s first quarter down in the Hyper Bowl and Flash has circled the Earth 35 times making 35 touchdowns in the process!”

  • Magic_Cracker

    This is the song I think of.

    Also, this.

  • The_L1985

    Translation: “We Hate Equality.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    *marks that email for attention when at home where video isn’t blocked*

  • Tempus Vernum

    On The plus side, I really needed ThaT makeover.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Ooh, Neko Case! I’ve only heard a couple songs of hers but they’re awesome. So’s this one.

    (fuck dizziness, seriously. I did not want to come home early. I wanted to keep my overtime pay for the day.)

  • Also by the words “interracial dating.”

  • P J Evans

    Or a really large, fancy bowling alley.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Ummm … isn’t “>=” the way the symbol “greater than or equal to” is written in the absence of the specific symbol? Another way to read this sign might be “Cross (Christianity?) is greater than or equal to undefined”.

    I know that’s not what was meant, but it certainly has a more humble vibe.

    It still blows my mind that Christianity took as it’s central symbol an instrument of torture, humiliation and death–and even worse as a crucifix. I mean … why not keep the fish? or an empty cave? Or a dove?

  • glendanowakowsk

    I think some things would make more sense if Jesus had an evil twin…

  • Loquat

    Sister Souljah, I think you mean.

  • Wiseass Tyrell

    But but but The Atlantic just published a story by a gay ex-student of Liberty U who was loved by all his teachers. Surely this Matt Barber creep will be fired soon and Liberty will love every gay man, woman, and child! Right?

  • I stand corrected.

  • Rakka

    There’s a book behind the building. Yeah. “Burn the libraries” isn’t particularly inviting notion.

  • J_Enigma32

    The joke we’re missing, however, is right there in the name:

    Liberty University.

    I mean, c’mon.

    Liberty. University.

    A place without personal liberty, without knowledge of any stripe… and it certainly isn’t a university. That name is damn near Orwellian in nature.

  • Carstonio

    If the Amish took the same approach as the flower shop owner, I wouldn’t be able to buy produce or home repair from them. “I can’t install cabinets or siding for you, because I disapprove of you being a customer of utilities.” Like the Annapolis trolley company that ended services for weddings rather than cater to same-sex couples. I might admire the placing of principle over profit if the couples were, says committing ritual murder during the their ceremonies. Or if the marriages were forced ones. But this approach makes sense only if folks like the trolley owner believe their refusal wil dissuade the couples from either marriage or homosexuality, or if they crave the power to do so. Either way it’s about control, not principle.