Flipping the script on Russia’s anti-gay persecution

“In everything,” the Golden Rule says, “do to others as you would have them do to you.” Simple in theory, but often very challenging in practice.

The easiest way to check ourselves — to evaluate how well we’re living up to this — is to flip the script. What if I were you and you were me? What if we were them and they were us?

This is something we should be doing all the time. “In everything,” Jesus said.

It’s what Thers does in a recent post discussing the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia:

The International Olympic Committee cannot guarantee the safety from state persecution of any athletes or spectators — gay, or even just perceived as gay.


Would there be any question whatsoever of the United States of America participating in an Olympic Games hosted by a country that refused to guarantee the safety of Christian athletes or spectators, or that had passed laws against Christians similar to those Russia has imposed against homosexuals?

I think Thers may be overestimating American Christians’ capacity for solidarity with Christians in other countries, but it’s still an excellent point.

If Russia declared open season against Christians the way it has done against LGBT people, then American Christians would be calling for the Winter Games to be relocated to Canada. If one of our best figure skaters was a flamboyant Christian and he faced the threat of imprisonment just for showing up at the Olympics — a very real threat now facing Johnny Weir — there would be loud demands for guarantees of his safety and for repeal of the laws that made his very existence a crime.

That is how American Christians would respond if Russia were persecuting Christians the way it is now persecuting LGBT people. But that is not how American Christians are responding to the persecution of LGBT people.

American Christians fail the test. We’re breaking the Golden Rule — disregarding the whole of “the law and the prophets.” We are failing to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

But it’s actually much worse than that.

American Christians are not simply failing to speak up against Russia’s persecution as they would if such a thing were happening to their own tribe. American Christians are praising Russia’s persecution.

• “The Russian government is right,” said Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. “Heterosexuality is God’s design. Policies that encourage young people to think this are good ideas.”

• “I applaud the Russians for taking a stand,” said Bill Owens of the National Organization for Marriage.

• “The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute said it ‘admires’ Russia’s latest anti-gay moves; Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality lauded Russia for rejecting ‘America’s reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion’; and the Illinois-based World Congress of Families has scheduled its 2014 conference for the Kremlin.”

• “Russia could become a model pro-family society,” said anti-gay evangelist Scott Lively.

So it’s not just that these American Christians are failing to stand up for others as they would have others stand up for themselves. These American Christians are also cheering for the persecution of Russian gays.

But it’s even worse than that.

This cheering isn’t from the sidelines — these American Christians are contributing to and participating in this persecution. Bryan Fischer’s remarks above were made during his interview with Vladimir Putin’s state-owned “Voice of Russia.” Russian officials are citing American Christians in order to validate the alleged morality of this persecution.

But it’s still worse than that.

Because while cheering for and participating in the persecution of LGBT people in Russia, these same American Christians are loudly complaining that they are themselves the victims of persecution.

And yet that’s still not the worst of it. It gets worse than that.

These American Christians promoting the persecution of LGBT people in Russia are loudly complaining that they are themselves being persecuted — and they blame LGBT people for this imaginary persecution.

That’s not just failing to live up to the Golden Rule. That’s not just breaking the Golden Rule. That’s crushing the Golden Rule beneath your shoe, setting fire to the crumbled remains of it, then pissing on the ashes.

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  • That’s Not Yogurt

    Yep, Scott Lively sure is against violence (thanks wikipedia):
    “In 1991, Lively assaulted Catherine Stauffer, throwing her against a wall and dragging her across the floor of a Portland church, at an Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) event she had been trying to film.[15] Stauffer received a judgment of over $31,000 against Lively and the OCA in 1992.”
    Too bad it’s never people like Scott Lively who get thrown against a wall.

  • Jeff

    You’re grasping at straws. I’m not supporting Lively, not in his personal actions, and not in his advocacy against homosexuality. What I instead call into question is the allegation made by Fred, and by you, that “American Christians” support violent persecution of homosexuals in Russia. This is Fred’s (and your) argument to make, so the onus is on you to support it. The facts Fred places in evidence are quotes from a small handful of leaders, but the quotes DO NOT ADDRESS the matter of violent persecution, and quotes by similar leaders openly condemn such persecution. You’re of course welcome to draw conclusions that are not supported by evidence, but public accusations are certainly libelous (granting, of course, that no one really takes internet libel too seriously), and wishing violence upon one of the leaders in question rather stands in contradiction to the point you’re trying to advance, but that’s also your prerogative.

  • Mark Z.

    “Not showing up” accomplishes very little. What the boycotting teams would need to do (and this is the advantage of an organized boycott by entire teams) is shop around for some not-Russia country with a suitable venue and hold the “Olympics in exile”, which would both (1) let them compete at the highest international level like they’ve been training to do, and (2) be a really conspicuous protest.

    Let’s say Team USA and Canada and Norway and Germany and South Korea pull out and hold their own games at the old facility in Vancouver.* Audiences from those countries are going to watch the hell out of that. They will mostly not want to see the “real” Games, because their teams aren’t present. So NBC’s broadcast rights are near-worthless, and the IOC will get sued up to its eyeballs for screwing up. Meanwhile, whichever of their competitors covers the Fauxlympics** will come out ahead.

    And a major theme of that coverage will have to be “Wait, why aren’t these the real Olympics?” Answer: because the real Olympics are being held in a brutal police state that will throw you in jail for being gay, and some of the teams were not okay with that.

    * Just to twist the knife on both Russia and the IOC, they should include freestyle wrestling in the lineup.

    ** “Olympics in exile” would be the first choice, but the trademark is a problem.

  • dpolicar

    Why don’t we just opt out of the Olympics altogether?

    Presumably, because we want to participate in the Olympics.

    If you’re asking why we want to participate in the Olympics, you’re asking the wrong guy… personally, I don’t care in the least, and probably wouldn’t notice.

    I think the answer to that question is probably the same as the answer of why we participated in the Beijing games and why we’ll ultimately participate in the Sochi games.

    Well, yes, our reasons for not opting out of the Olympics will probably turn out to be the same as our reasons for participating in the Olympics.

  • Jeff

    Cool idea!

  • So they ought to get a pass for merely praising the letter of the law and remaining silent about its spirit?

  • That’s Not Yogurt

    I like it when bad things happen to bad people. Obviously, YM does in fact V.

  • LMM22

    But again, the [Nazi German] state didn’t start by ordering people into death camps, or by mandating ghettos…. So yes, maybe Putin et al will be content to let the “masses” do the work instead of actually passing more laws to do it themselves. But I really really don’t want to find out.

    I think we’re talking around each other at this point.

    The point of the pogrom analogy is not to make less of the situation. I’m not. Pogroms killed a huge number of people and terrorized entire communities. The difference here is the mechanism.

    From what I can tell, this isn’t a top-down process. What Putin and his ilk are doing encourages mob violence, yes — but the problem here seems to be less about what Putin is doing and more about what Putin isn’t doing. They may not be leading attacks against gay people themselves, but they don’t have to. All they have to do is pass laws that permit such behavior (or turn a blind eye on it when it happens) and wait for the violence to start. We’ve seen this happen — in the US and in Russia. The state doesn’t have to get its hands dirty in order to terrorize or even completely destroy a group of people. All the national government has to do is look away while it’s happening.

  • LMM22

    I think maybe it just punishes ourselves more than it slaps the host country in the face

    Really? Dude, we’re the United States. People may hate us, people may dislike us — but we’ve got a *huge* amount of power.

    If we lived in some tiny island nation, I might agree with you. But it’s not like no one is going to notice if the United States of America doesn’t show up to the freaking Olympics. (Not to mention, if the US doesn’t go, it’s quite likely that some of the EU and its ilk won’t go either.)

    And when it comes to problematic nations, I don’t think we’ve held the Olympics in a country that’s sanctioned violence against a number of our athletes in … well, awhile.

  • LMM22

    Oh, the IOC cares, but it’s not the IOC we ultimately want to influence. The larger issue here is not, the IOC is willing to hold the Olympics in a country that’s wiling to throw people in jail for being gay — the issue is, there’s a major country that’s willing to throw people in jail for being gay and they’re hosting the Olympics.

  • dpolicar

    Speaking of U.S. exceptionalism, my Brazilian husband, talking about his family’s take on all this, amuses me by observing that they’re mostly confused. “Wait… the United States is criticizing some other country for treating gays badly? Does not compute…”

    I’m reminded of my reaction to the anti-marriage equality protests in France, which appear to be largely conducted by hot muscular young men who scrawl brightly colored slogans on their bare chests. I mean, I’m sure that makes sense if you’re French, but from my perspective it’s just… wait, what?

  • I agree that the USA and other nations pulling out would be more of a symbolic gesture than doing any major damage to Russia. But if you can make the Games less profitable by other means (such as convincing major sponsors to pull out), then the IOC might be more inclined to move them, which would at least protect the athletes.

  • Bryan Fischer publicly commends the Kill The Gays Bill, implicitly calls for the same in the USA: http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/11/25/51287

    One Google search. You ain’t even trying, fool.

  • When you say you wonder if it’s “really fair to the athletes,” you mean the straight athletes, right? I mean, being sent off to risk imprisonment by a cartoonishly evil regime looking to show how big their anti-gay cock is kind of unfair to some of those athletes.

    (Bracketing the human suffering for a moment, I do wonder what would happen if Russia tried to imprison an american athlete for violating their vaguely specified anti-gay law. Would the conservative right’s anti-gay sentiment be enough to overpower their ‘America Fuck Yeah’ attitude that HOW DARE those No Good Commies try to impose THEIR laws on OUR people reflex? Would their authoritarian streak be able to cope with what would, frankly, be nothing ore than a russian stunt to assert dominance?)

  • Lorehead

    It’s easy for me to say that athletes should civilly disobey the law and dare Russia either to allow a public demonstration of pride and solidarity or to force the issue by arresting an athlete. I’m not risking arrest, and I’m certainly not in shape to compete in the Olympics. But if no one does, then the world condones what’s going on in Russia.

  • AnonaMiss

    (That was sarcasm by the way)

  • Russia confirms law will be enforced against athletes, assures them that they will not be arrested as long as they aren’t visibly doing anything which affirms their sexuality in any way.

    Yeah, that’s not cutting it.

  • Fanraeth

    While the hardcore Brian Fischers of the right might be just fine with it, I can’t see the semi-normal conservatives standing for it. Half of them are probably still bitter we never got to bomb Moscow.

  • Persia

    Jesse Owens was already well-known as black, though. Johnny Weir might triumph, though. I’d like to see that. I know it feeds into gay stereotypes a bit, but figure skating is one of the big Winter Olympic draws.

  • Persia

    It’s not stupidity, though, or at least not wholly stupidity. It’s calculated. Calculated outrage, calculated manipulation of others.

  • Ben

    The answer to the question at the heart of the article is yes. America can, and did, knowingly participate in a major international sporting event sponsored by a government whose anti-Christian policies were well-known and un-apologized-for well in advance: Beijing 2008.

    Not a single athlete, gay or otherwise, spoke out against the Chinese government’s persecution of Christians (including documented cases of murder for organ harvesting) or even suggested that they might stay home.

    Flip the script, indeed.

  • Lori

    Eh, I don’t think it’s fair to put responsibility for whether or not the world condones what Russia is doing on the shoulders of some unidentified athlete who needs to risk arrest in a country where being arrested is a bad experience. If the world, like Jeff, values an (oh-so-convenient) concern for athlete careers and “national pride” too much to boycott the games then we need to own that, not push it off of on some athlete to take one for the team.

  • Lori

    The thing is, Russian policies aren’t good for The Family any more than they’re good for families. Which makes sense since the policy is not designed to help The Family, let alone families. It’s designed to help Putin and his cronies.

  • They lose their shit if we don’t worship Tebow to the exclusion of all other godsathletes.

  • Space Marine Becka

    The Russian LGBT netword has issued a statement asking people not boycott the games http://www.lgbtnet.ru/en/content/winter-olympics-we-should-speak-not-walk-out

  • Lori

    They’re assuming that people who come to the games will speak out and that will be effective in a way that a boycott will not. I’m not convinced they’re correct about either half of that equation. They know their situation in Russia best, but I’m not convinced that means they’re best able to predict how people will respond to the threat of being arrested or having rule 50 invoked. And we need to be clear, the current state of things is that anyone who does anything that could remotely be considered speaking out is risking both arrest by Russian authorities and having rule 50 invoked against them by the IOC.

    Also Tommie Smith and John Carlos did not give a ‘human rights salute’. It was a black power salute. That’s not the same thing and I feel like generalizing it as a ‘human rights salute’ is either a misunderstanding of the history or it’s watering down the gesture in order to make it less scary. In either case I think it doesn’t respect what Smith and Carlos were trying to say.

  • phantomreader42

    Basically, their shit is very poorly secured.

  • Lorehead

    You’re actually thinking of Falun Gong, not that that is any better.

  • Lorehead

    Being a Catholic in communion with the Pope, however, is.

  • Lorehead

    On reflection, I don’t think it is particularly fair to put the individual athletes in position of either silently endorsing the law, risking arrest without even the support of the IOC, or giving up their lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics. The politicians and corporate sponsors who have actual influence over the IOC should not be putting the entire onus on the athletes with no support, while they pocket all the money. And to be honest, I’m not going to fly to Russia or China, protest, and go to prison myself.

    We should really be pressuring those politicians and sponsors, who can protest effectively and safely with their pocketbooks, more than the athletes. True, the IOC might already have NBC’s money, but if NBC seriously got burned on this, in their next negotiation they would need absolute reassurance that nothing like this will ever happen again. And that goes for the World Cup, too.

  • Carstonio

    China’s hostility to individual religious freedom is only “anti-Christian” if one hatefully assumes that Christianity is the only religion that matters. Religious movements such as Falun Gong get special attention only because the regime perceives these as threats to its own power.

  • Carstonio

    In a related issue:


    aggressive campaign by a determined gay-rights movement that realized, particularly in the wake of the 2004 elections, that you cannot win politically in America if you are arguing against religious faith.

    I call BS. In my experience, the gay-rights movement before 2004 was arguing against using religious faith as a basis for public policy.

    “The people making the case for the family values side were religious leaders, and we as a movement were responding with advocates and lawyers.” The message audiences got from that image: Religion was on one side and gay rights was on the other.

    Assuming that audiences did get that message, it’s still wrong for Ball to blame this on gay-rights supporters. She doesn’t seem to understand that the “family values” crowd is a political movement that claims to represent religion.

  • Jeff

    Lori, I suspected that civil discussion with you was probably ultimately going to derail, and while I’m unsurprised by this dip into intellectual dishonesty on your part, I’m disappointed by it. What I said, clearly and consistently, was that it’s much to ask of our athletes and our country to deprive ourselves of the benefits of our particpation /in the name of an empty symbolic gesture/ and /if we are not also doing the bigger and more tangible and substantial things that might actually effect change/. It’s basically the equivalent of a Congressperson saying “I’m for gun control”, but then he votes against gun control — what good did the statement do?

  • Lori

    Jeff, your consistent sanctimony is why I really had no interest in discussing this, or anything else with you.

  • Jeff

    I don’t think that finding someone distasteful is an appropriate justification for misrepresenting them, and while you’re entitled to your distaste, once again you’re missing my point. You said that my, and others’, concern for the athletes is “convenient”, strongly insinuating that I, and others, are just using this as a prop, when the /real/ reason we don’t support a boycott is because really, we have no problem with gays being killed. Now I care about this, not because I’m concerned with your opinion of me, but because I think it’s detrimental to our ability to problem-solve as a nation when it’s not possible to discuss something without one side blipping to “you just want gays/women/the poor/whomever to DIE!” Of course, I’m the first to admit this does happen on the conservative side, as well.