In the past several weeks, I’ve received countless articles, emails, petitions, and Facebook messages regarding anti-gay extremists in Russia, Nigeria, and Uganda who have been torturing and publicly killing LGBT individuals, sometimes while video taping it. And they face no consequences. It is illegal in some of these countries to even acknowledge someone is LGBT without turning them into the authorities. It is a criminal act to counsel them (even as doctors would do with AIDS patients), or even to provide housing to them. And over 80 countries join these in criminalizing being gay.
Horrific as this is, sometimes, I confess, I have wondered why my LGBT Christian friends are more outraged over global LGBT oppression than about global Christian oppression. After all, Christians don’t seem to be doing any better for themselves globally than LGBT people. Thousands of Christians around the world are tortured and killed for their faith every day. In over 40 nations today, Christians are being persecuted. Many are facing imprisonment, harassment, torture, and death. It is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith, to teach your children about Jesus.
I suppose it’s possible that, much like their straight counterparts, some LGBT folks simply don’t know about global Christian oppression, or they just haven’t taken time to educate themselves or care.
But I think something else is at play too.
While LGBT folks might sometimes be guilty of ignoring Christian oppression, it seems that straight Christians do LGBT folks one worse. Rather than merely ignoring LGBT oppression, Christians sometimes fund it. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s a fact. On the basis of protecting traditional family values, many evangelical Christians are spending tithe dollars to support legislative efforts that contribute towards oppression, imprisonment, and killing of LGBT people. And churches aren’t talking about it.
We wonder why LGBT people feel oppressed.
We wonder why LGBT people feel Christians hate them.
We pay for legislation to imprison and murder them in the name of Christian morals, and then we wonder what all the fuss is about when they get upset.
Arguments over who is most oppressed or which oppression is the most terrible are not only useless, they are destructive. When we spend our efforts vying for position as the most terribly oppressed group, we invalidate the violations of the ‘other’ in order to elevate our own pain. And in doing so, we unintentionally become oppressors ourselves. Oppression of every type causes God to grieve. And it should cause us to as well. We must mourn, not just for the injustices done to populations we find ourselves a part of, but even for those we do not.
It’s not just LGBT oppression or Christian oppression which should concern us. We should be troubled enough to advocate for those oppressed in a variety of ways – victims of human trafficking, poverty, genocide, violence and abuse, those without homes, those experiencing racial injustices, and those suffering the consequences of religious conflicts which marginalize people of all faiths and non-faith. The Parable of the Good Samaritan should have taught us a long while ago that we are called to be concerned for all who are suffering, whether or not those groups happen to be like us. I dream of a day when we all might find a way to concern ourselves more fully with our neighbor’s sufferings than with our own, because that’s the day when all oppression would cease.
Artist Derek Webb mournfully sings in his song, “This Too Shall Be Made Right” some truly perfect words that challenge our callousness towards the suffering and oppression of ‘the other’. I’ll give him the last word today, and pray that it shakes us all into action towards solving the oppressions of not just our own groups, but of those we consider ‘other’ as well.
“I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door.
I join the oppressors of those who I choose to ignore.
I’m trading comfort for human life,
and that’s not just murder it’s suicide.
And this too shall be made right.”
*This post is co-published at the LOVEboldly blog.