Liberty Counsel redefining ‘Christian’ just as Falwell did

Liberty Counsel redefining ‘Christian’ just as Falwell did April 25, 2013

“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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  • Indiana Joe

    Yeah, I was reading it the same way you were. ✝ >= ?

  • Oof. This makes me think of the recent Snopes weigh-in of a fourth grade
    “science” class in a private South Carolina school. Teaching
    Creationism is bad enough, but what it was also doing was teaching
    children to argue with anyone who claimed to know differently. The
    parents only discovered this when their daughter automatically snapped
    at them in argument when they tried to correct her assertion that
    dinosaurs roamed the earth 4000 years ago. The school was purposefully
    training the children to respond in such a manner, regardless of to
    whom the child was speaking.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Neko Case is incredible. If you ever get the chance to see her live, do it. The first time I saw her was in ’02 opening for Nick Cave (before Blixa left!) at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC before she got big (/hipster) when she had more of country thing going on. That show kept me high for weeks. I caught her a year or two later at the Black Cat in DC, and it was the best damn show I’ve ever been too (sorry Nick). The Sadies were backing her up that tour (which provided the material for The Tigers Have Spoken live album)(which is incredible). I sat at the bar drinking cheap beer (NOT PBR) about four feet away from the stage. I’ve seen her three or four times since in larger venues, and she and her band have always killed it.

    Plus she has the best stage banter (a little of which was captured on The Tigers Have Spoken where she suggests that because tigers are losing their habitats, we should feed disobedient children to them, and than admit that she could have likely been tiger food had such a policy been in force when she was young.)

  • Mike L. Wood, Jr.

    In 2008 BJU apologized publicly for its racist policies. This doesn’t justify its interracial dating policy and make everything okay. But that fact ought to leaven this discussion a bit. Here are the two central paragraphs in the apology:

    “For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

    “In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.”

    I was a student at BJU in 2000 when the interracial dating ban was dropped. I imagine this may sound empty, but as a 19-year-old kid I wasn’t really aware of the school’s history on this issue. That speaks to my own immaturity but also to the simple fact that no teacher ever modeled racism for me. And though I majored in biblical studies, no teacher ever defended the interracial dating policy or even discussed it. Perhaps I just happened not to get those teachers on my schedule—but none of my friends did, either. There were not a large number of African American students on campus, but there were a few, and one of them especially was a friend. My friends joked uneasily about the interracial dating policy and opposed it, but we felt (and still do) that it was a holdover from a then-dying generation of top leadership.

    I’m embarrassed deeply by this policy, and I wish my alma mater would, post-war-Germany-like, do a little more penance. (I’ve never heard the chancellor, who was president in 2000, admit he was wrong; the apology was issued by his son’s administration.) But I preach weekly to a small congregation in the South that is about half black and half white. If my training in religion at Bob Jones University was as racist as I think most commenters (understandably) assume, I doubt this could happen.

  • Carstonio

    “Falwell denounced the revocation of BJU’s tax-exempt status as government interference in Christian schools in the same terms Barber is using today”. – Is this because both men share the same noxious view about the role of government in achieving equality? Is Barber also making an explicit connection between the two fights with government, expecting a rerun of the one over segregation? Does he know that same-sex marriage isn’t going to be forced on anyone, and he’s appealing to folks still resentful over the fight that Falwell lost? Or a combination of all three?

  • Rowen

    This looks like a hook up ad. (loTs of random capiTal Ts usually means The person wanTs to do meth)

  • David S.

    There was an old Catholic church in Lowell, Massachusetts that was being surplused and had a huge for sale or rent sign on it. I thought it’d be an awesome place to do a Vampire LARP in.