Why the New Zealand church supporting gay marriage bugs me.

Hemant had a post the other day about a New Zealand church that is pushing a marriage equality bill through congress and that is currently running this billboard.

To be sure, it’s a pleasant departure from the “Turn or burn!” billboards that litter American highways.  And I even like that they’re supporting gay rights.  So why do they bug me?

Because I see a future where gays have achieved equality, and it will be an equality that was pried from the selfish hands of religion with a tremendous amount of sweat and sacrifice.  Sure, some Christians are now on the side of compassion, but virtually every single person who opposes equal rights for gays has Jesus flowing through their veins, and they all oppose it for the same reason: the contents of the bible.  Show me someone hostile to gay rights in the United States and I’ll show you a Christian.  We all know this.  Look at who rushed to Chick-Fil-A to dump money into that cause.

This has been a historical pattern for the supposedly most loving religion.  Scripture was repeatedly cited in the Antebellum South to defend the morality of slavery.  Likewise, it was Christians trying to chain everybody to their religion’s fondness for patriarchy in the early 20th century.  But once modernity revealed slavery to be a moral evil, those Christians changed (even if the scriptures didn’t).  And after they changed they crowed about how Christianity abhorred slavery – how it was the solution to a mindset that disregarded the well-being of minorities, and not the problem.  Ditto with suffrage.

And I see that in the wake of the fight for equality for LGBT people.  Once the anti-gay bigot is universally considered to be as congenial as the racist, I suspect Christians will pat themselves on the back and tell us how we couldn’t have done it without Jesus.

So I support what this church is doing.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction and I’m glad to have them on board.  But I will do everything in my power to make sure that the Christians of the future don’t get away with that lie.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • aurophobia

    Many Christians have supported gay rights right from the start. Both of my parents are proudly Christian and they raised me to see everyone as equal. So it’s not fair to not allow *any* of them to pat themselves on the back for fighting for equality.

    But this civil rights movement is different than the last. Previously, black churches were instrumental in fighting against bigotry and Jim Crow laws. With today’s civil rights movement, the churches who are helping us represent just a portion of this momentum. People will remember that. And some churches will stay bigoted forever.

    But if you want to make atheists look good, go donate to Washington United for Marriage through the Seattle Atheists’ donation page: https://secure.qgiv.com/hobnob/account/12032

    Every penny raised will go directly to getting Referendum 74 passed here so that all loving and committed couples can get married in Washington State.

    • Anonymous

      If you’re in the midwest, these folks

      http://mnunited.org/

      could use some help fighting a republofundie-backed state constitutional amendment (meaning harder to undo) defining marriage as between and man and a woman.

    • kagekiri

      No, they SHOULD pat themselves on the back for teaching you well and valuing equality for everyone. I think that’s utterly awesome.

      What they shouldn’t and can’t rationally credit is their Bible, which only mentions homosexuality to condemn it as a damnable act of utter vileness, worthy of death, a sign that God has cursed you, the reason for heavenly punishment, etc.

      Christians think they’re good BECAUSE of the Bible, but in reality, most are good IN SPITE of the Bible. Their morality is almost unquestionably better than God’s as revealed through scripture.

      That’s why they have to assume he’s got some sort of rationalization for why punishing children for their parent’s sins is okay, or why birthing people into lives that will end in horrible suffering only to continue on to hell is fine, why free will is only sticking around long enough to damn people to hell, and so on.

      The best way I’ve seen to get around this is an ultra-liberal Christianity that says upfront that they’re cherry picking and most of the crappy things in the Bible are just mistakes from men and truly are messed up, which is loads better than the fundamentalist refusal to acknowledge any problems with the Bible (“a day could’ve meant thousands of years, so creation is right!”, “You’re missing the historical context of the rape & genocide!”, “God was going easy on them!”, as my family members attempted to respond).

  • Loqi

    Couldn’t have done it*
    /grammar nazi derail

    I’m hoping that, with the internet making it trivial to obtain information, it won’t be so easy for the religious to spin themselves as the heros of LGBT history. Of course, they could also just clog the interwebs with their own back-patting propaganda and hope they drown out the truth. We’ll see.

  • Ze Madmax

    But I will do everything in my power to make sure that the Christians of the future don’t get away with that lie.

    Is it a lie though? Yes, there is a large group of churches that are behind the push against LGBT rights (and among the LGBT folk, the majority are likely to be driven by religion). But that doesn’t mean that the majority of religious people per se are necessarily on the wrong side of the issue, much like there were religious people on both sides on the issue of universal suffrage/slavery. Hell, one of the biggest anti-slavery groups were Quakers, who are as conservative religious as they come.

    So I guess claiming that equality was reached “thanks to Jesus” would depend heavily on who’s saying it, and what does “thanks to Jesus” even means.

    (Of course, given the fact that Jesus, if real, was just a messianic Jew in Roman-controlled Palestine and has been dead for almost two millennia, claiming that he had anything to do with anything in the present would be, technically, untrue)

    • Ze Madmax

      Gah. Where it says

      Is it a lie though? Yes, there is a large group of churches that are behind the push against LGBT rights (and among the LGBT folk, the majority are likely to be driven by religion).

      it should read

      Is it a lie though? Yes, there is a large group of churches that are behind the push against LGBT rights (and among the anti-LGBT rights folk, the majority are likely to be driven by religion).

      Serves me right for not proofreading

  • grumpyoldfart

    Boutique religions…
    `

    They find a niche market and drain every cent out of it.
    `

    I’ve seen tattooed preachers, cussing preachers, drunken preachers, and child preachers. They’ll preach to anyone who is silly enough to give them money – bikers, truckies, prostitutes, criminals, or homosexuals.
    `

    And as soon as the tithes dry up, they re-badge themselves and cast about for the next crop of suckers.

  • http://frog-monkey.blogspot.com.au/ fronkey

    …virtually every single person who opposes equal rights for gays has Jesus flowing through their veins..

    Unfortunately, this is not my experience. Non-religious people are more likely to support rights for gay people, but I’ve heard the “children need a Mummy and and a Daddy” argument trotted out by more than a few non-religious/atheists, including within my family.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

      Well, that’s a tragic failure of critical thinking on their part, that’s for sure.

  • Rob

    …about a New Zealand church that is pushing a marriage equality bill through congress…

    Minor, but important point. In New Zealand we have a Parliament, not a Congress.

    St Matthew in the City has a recent history of being ‘liberal’ as far as churches go and in New Zealand most of the traditional churches are liberal compared to their US counterparts. That said in the last 20 years we have seen a marked transition to many small US style evangelical churches that are significantly more fundamental and less tolerant.

    Any brief perusal of the debate over the ‘Marriage Equality’ Act before Parliament shows there is plenty of hatred, bigotry and stupid out there (sadly). Still, I think the time is right for this Act to be passed, finally.

  • MHB

    Yeah, those Muslims, Conservative and Orthodox Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Aryan Nationalist Odinists are much better on equality than the Christians.

    Guess I feel better when Christians aren’t singled out for being homophobic. All the major religions suck when it comes to women, LBGT and animals. They want to bind, torture and kill all three groups.

    Substitute any of the religions for Christians in the post and they all fit.

    It seems this is a case where a sentence saying it’s all of them, not just Christians, would be appropriate. Why only pick on Christians in this context?

    I actually looked for Muslim Mosques that weren’t homophobic a while back and only found a handful in South Africa, New York and London.

    The point being, if the post was about a Christian sect that sucked, don’t mention the other cults. But here we have a Christian sect doing the right thing and talk about the evils of Christianity – why not use it as a broader opportunity to talk about religion in general sucking?

  • Ze Madmax

    MHB, in case you’re not aware of this, JT is American, and often writes with the context of U.S. society in general. And while there are other religions in the U.S., and many American Jews, Muslims, etc. may be against marriage equality, the main force against marriage equality comes from American Christians. Hence the focus.

    • MHB

      Yep, he’s a good ole boy from AK… Me, I’m more urban/suburban, but also an American and I stand by my statement that I’d be happier with at least a sentence saying they all suck. Because it’s true.

      See what Dillon said.

  • Dillon

    My only big objection is this line:

    “but virtually every single person who opposes equal rights for gays has Jesus flowing through their veins, and they all oppose it for the same reason: the contents of the bible.”

    Fuck no. You’re forgetting several other religions here, with Islam and Judaism at the forefront. While that statement is partially true, I find most Muslims I encounter to be even less tolerant of liberties for not just gays, but women as well. I understand that you come into contact with Christians way more being from where you’re from, but fuck, don’t isolate the bulk of people hating on gay marriage to just Christians. You’re forgetting a whole world of hate out there if you do.

  • embertine

    WTF is with the caption?

    • DSimon

      It’s a double entendre. The primary meaning is that they don’t care about the genders of the figures “on top” of the wedding cake. The secondary meaning is that they don’t care about the sex lives of the women being married (i.e. who is “on top” in bed).

      A little forced, but also nicely meaningful and humorous. I like it.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani J. Sharmin

    And I see that in the wake of the fight for equality for LGBT people. Once the anti-gay bigot is universally considered to be as congenial as the racist, I suspect Christians will pat themselves on the back and tell us how we couldn’t have done it without Jesus.

    I understand how you feel. The arguments which state that certain advances (in science, in equal rights, and so on) could not have happened without [insert religion here] always seem to me a way to ignore contributions made by people who are not of that religion. It also serves to ignore the existence of those verses in various holy books which support discrimination.

    Concerning the comments about other religions also being against LGBTQIA people, while I know that you (JT) live in the US (as do I) and therefore will address Christianity more often (which is understandable), I think it’s worth pointing out that one of the ways in which people attempt to argue that their views are not discriminatory is by mentioning that people of various religions agree with them. This really is one of those issues on which various religious groups don’t just happen to agree but even sometimes team up to oppose gay people.

  • Daniel Schealler

    The methods of the priest and the parson have been very curious, their history is very entertaining. In all the ages the Roman Church has owned slaves, bought and sold slaves, authorized and encouraged her children to trade in them. Long after some Christian peoples had freed their slaves the Church still held on to hers. If any could know, to absolute certainty, that all this was right, and according to God’s will and desire, surely it was she, since she was God’s specially appointed representative in the earth and sole authorized and infallible expounder of his Bible. There were the texts; there was no mistaking their meaning; she was right, she was doing in this thing what the Bible had mapped out for her to do. So unassailable was her position that in all the centuries she had no word to say against human slavery. Yet now at last, in our immediate day, we hear a Pope saying slave trading is wrong, and we see him sending an expedition to Africa to stop it. The texts remain: it is the practice that has changed. Why? Because the world has corrected the Bible. The Church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession – and take the credit of the correction. As she will presently do in this instance.

    - Mark Twain, Bible Teaching and Religious Practice

  • anteprepro

    Please don’t pull the “Christians aren’t that bad!” card. Not every Christian is horrible on this subject but they are still bad by quite a majority, with religious devotion being a consistent predictor of homophobia. That’s not just Christianity, of course, but not every religion is JUST AS BAD (in America at least; examples include Buddhism, Judaism, and, to a lesser extent, Hinduism). I gave some stats on the matter on JT’s old blog:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/2012/06/29/love-the-sinner/#comment-82271
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/2012/02/01/want-to-make-a-better-world-for-lgbt-destroy-religion/#comment-21731

  • Kevin H

    Hi JT,

    It is worth noting that St Matthews has continued to genuinely surprise me (as a long term atheist) in *consistently* being on the right side of social struggles, especially gay rights. They have also had a number of billboards which outright attacked conservative christians, and had their billboards and their premises suffer vandalism as a result (note that this is a very large, very old stone cathedral in the very center of New Zealands largest city).

    That’s not to excuse the huge number of religious organisations in New Zealand who are on the *wrong* side of this issue, always have been, and are throwing at large amounts of money and pulpit-bashing at crushing the current bid for marriage equality.


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