American Christians have been concerned for years now about becoming a persecuted group. Admittedly, in recent years some Christian cake makers, florists and other service providers whose usual function is to cater to the public, were pulled up over refusing to serve gays and gay couples.
It is not a matter to be taken lightly that some American Christians truly believe they are being persecuted, but the assertion requires assessment.
I believe we’re going to see persecution in this country.
We’ve already seen many laws that have been passed that restrict our freedom as Christians. I believe it’s going to get worse, and we see no question gaining influence in Washington by those that represent the Islamic faith. We do have a problem in this country and we are losing our religious freedom and we’re losing it a little bit day by day.
Rev. Franklin Graham
On the other hand, it is not unusual for gay and transsexual teens and adults to be routinely denied services, bullied, physically assaulted and murdered. Not always by strangers … sometimes by their own families.
The LGBTI community is also targeted by Christian groups who insist they can ‘cure’ homosexuality. Devotees of so-called ‘gay conversion therapy’ assert homosexuality is a ‘correctable behaviour trait’, despite:
- growing scientific evidence that homosexuality is in fact epigenetic or genetic in source;
- the position taken by every reputable professional mental health association, including the US Psychological Association, concluding there is no credible scientific evidence that such therapies work;
- the high number of suicides by gay men as a consequence of this unscientific and dangerous therapy; and
- the fact that the man who originally devised ‘conversion therapy’, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, has now disavowed it.
‘Conversion therapy’ is hateful prejudice manifest and the practice is nothing less than the malicious persecution of the LGBTI community. It’s notable that common sense and science are starting to win out over bigotry worldwide. In the United States there is also a growing movement towards banning this harmful practice.
Now, let’s discuss the ‘persecution’ of Christians in America. I couldn’t find records of any American Christians:
- being bullied, beaten, haunted into suicide or murdered; or
- subjected to some form of religious ‘conversion therapy’,
because of their Christianity, by gays, ‘liberals’ or anyone else.
They are being asked to check many of their historical privileges and observe the laws of their secular, liberal democracy. Those laws have been changing to become more inclusive and less discriminatory, as culture and society undergone rapid changes over the last century.
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Some Christians have been on the receiving end of intense criticism, even boycotts and discrimination law suits, after they have done or said something unlawful or particularly bigoted and uninformed in respect of the LGBTI community. But many American Christians have a penchant for engaging in what can only be characterised as very ‘un-Christian’ behaviours:
- No, gay marriage will not cause 900,000 abortions (The Washington Post, 21 April 2015);
- Homosexuality has cost the US Government ‘more than $225 billion,’ Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver claims (The Huffington Post, 17 April 2015);
- Christian activist files ballot measure to execute all gay people by ‘bullets to the head’ (The New Civil Rights Movement, 2 March 2015);
- Homosexuality causes cancer, says Irish anti-gay marriage group (Newsweek, 25 February 2015);
- In latest anti-gay rant, Pat Robertson compares gay weddings to man-dog weddings (Gay Star News, 20 February 2015);
- The gay ‘agenda’ is tied to a ‘directly demonic energy’ and Satan himself, Bryan Fischer claims (The Huffington Post, 27 January 2015);
- Conservative US pundit jokes about poison in wedding cakes for same-sex couples (Gay Star News, 24 January 2015);
- ‘Homosexual agenda’ is ‘greatest threat to liberty’ that the US has ever seen, Bryan Fischer claims (The Huffington Post, 22 December 2014);
- Pastor promises ‘AIDS-free world by Christmas’ if we ‘execute the homos like God recommends’ (The New Civil Rights Movement, 3 December 2014);
- Anti-gay NYC pastor James David Manning: ‘Starbucks flavours coffee with sodomites’ semen’ (International Business Times, 6 November 2014);
- ‘Gremlins’ GOP congressional nominee issues second threatening video against gay people (The New Civil Rights Movement, 22 October 2014);
- ‘You think ebola is bad now, just wait!’: North Carolina pastor warns about gay marriage (The New Civil Rights Movement, 14 October 2014);
- Catholic League: Gays ‘can’t keep their pants on,’ may masturbate in St. Pat’s Parade (The New Civil Rights Movement, 4 September 2014);
- ‘White homos are going to take the black woman’s man’ warns ‘stone the gays’ pastor (The New Civil Rights Movement, 26 March 2014);
- Comparing gays to abortion, Pat Robertson sad Christians don’t stone gays anymore (The New Civil Rights Movement, 26 March 2014);
- Franklin Graham says gays ‘cannot have children’ but can ‘recruit’ them (The New Civil Rights Movement, 26 March 2014);
- US Congress candidate who says tornadoes, autism god’s punishment for gay rights wins primary (The New Civil Rights Movement, 19 March 2014);
- Gays ‘purposely infected women to pass AIDS into straight population’ says GOP lawmaker’s book (The New Civil Rights Movement, 17 March 2014);
- ‘Jesus would stone homos’ says NYC pastor (The New Civil Rights Movement, 14 March 2014);
- Anti-gay pastor, campaigner launch international coalition to oppose ‘now global LGBT agenda’ (Gay Star News, 22 February 2014);
- Anti-gay Illinois Bishop to hold ‘exorcism’ as same-sex marriage is signed into law (Gay Star News, 16 November 2013);
- Christians should be allowed to bully gays, Dave Daubenmire claims (The Huffington Post, 25 October 2013);
- Pat Robertson wants Facebook ‘vomit’ button for gay posts, cites passage urging death for gays (The Huffington Post, 9 July 2013);
- Political evangelical calls for ‘war’ against ‘pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage’ (The New Civil Rights Movement, 6 June 2013);
- Catholic League’s Bill Donohue: ‘Everyone in their right mind knows marriage isn’t about love’ (The New Civil Rights Movement, 12 April 2013); and
- Head of Southern Baptists sees gay marriage link to North Korea war threat against US (The New Civil Rights Movement, 30 March 2013).
This is just a tiny and utterly abhorrent example of the bigoted, hateful rhetoric aimed at the LGBTI community by … Christians.
All this makes you wonder how Christians would feel and react if suddenly there was a movement to enable people to deny them services at a whim, just because they are Christians:
- Indiana is in the dog house … is Arkansas next? (The Vue Post, 28 March 2015)
- States weigh legislation to let businesses refuse to serve gay couples (The New York Times, 5 March 2015)
- Homophobes have invented a scary new tactic to undo equal rights (The Huffington Post, 26 February 2015)
- That anti-gay bill in Arkansas actually became law today. Why couldn’t activists stop it? (The Washington Post, 23 February 2015)
- Pediatrician refuses to care for baby with lesbian mothers in Michigan (The Huffington Post, 19 February 2015)
- Arkansas legislature passes Bill allowing LGBT discrimination (BuzzFeed, 14 February 2015)
- GOP State Rep. Sally Kern announces trifecta of anti-gay legislation (The New Civil Rights Movement, 23 January 2015)
- Kansas lawmakers consider reviving bill that legally allows businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples (Fox News, 13 December 2014)
- Supreme Court declines case of photographer who denied service to gay couple (The Washington Post, 7 April 2014)
- Arizona passes bill letting people to refuse service to gays over religious objections (National Post, 21 February 2014)
- Advance for Kansas bill allowing denial of services to gay couples (Yahoo! News, 13 February 2014)
- California caterer refuses to serve gay wedding over ‘Christian beliefs’ (Advocate, 8 January 2014)
- Colorado baker discriminated by denying gay couple wedding cake: judge (Reuters, 6 December 2013)
- Washington state bill would allow businesses to deny gays (USA Today, 26 April 2013)
- Shop owner sued by State after denying flowers to gay couple (NPR, 11 April 2013)
- B&B owner who turned away gay couple claims religious freedom under attack in home (The Telegraph, 18 October 2012)
If Christians were treated like the LGBTI community is often treated by them, Christians might just start to understand what real persecution feels and looks like.
Dear American Christians, you are not being oppressed by virtue of another group of human beings attaining the same freedoms, protections and rights under the law which you have always enjoyed – that’s called equality, progress, social justice, and an end to discrimination.
Ironically, even the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, advised ‘persecuted’ western Christians in the United States and the United Kingdom to ‘grow up’.
This is not the first time in American history when Christians felt persecuted by social evolution and progress. However, when you look closer at those events it becomes evident that in fact Christianity was being used to insidiously marginalise and oppress others, and endorse cultural practices now considered abhorrent:
- When ‘religious liberty’ was used to justify racism instead of homophobia (Think Progress, 26 February 2014);
- Gay marriage opponents mimic objections to interracial marriage, Professor Forde-Mazrui says (University of Virginia School of Law, 4 October 2004); and
- Why the ugly rhetoric against gay marriage is familiar to this historian of miscegenation (George Mason University History News Network, April 2004).
But, society is evolving. Fast. The ever increasing scientific understanding of our universe is leading us to unshackle ourselves from ancient beliefs and superstitions and to become better human beings, and a more advanced society.
Unfortunately, many conservative, and so-called evangelical, Christians have anchored themselves to a ‘holy text’ frozen in time, reflecting the morality of a bygone era. That text has also been ignorantly and maliciously (mis)interpreted by a succession of self-serving religious leaders. Consequently, some Christians struggle to understand and accept the social progress around them. Christians are not alone in this struggle, it is a common theme across religions in our modern age.
Curiously, although many of the cultural and social norms prescribed in those ‘holy texts’ are now considered immoral, or illegal, and followers are regularly seen cherry-picking as to which parts of their ‘holy text’ they observe and which parts they ignore, they remain unwavering in their reverence for those texts.