My friend (and I sincerely mean that even though we only know each other through the Interwebs) Rachel Held Evans is an LGBT-friendly, evolution-accepting Christian. So she’s in an obviously rough spot when it comes to maintaining ties with the Christian world — which, for reasons I can’t quite grasp, she still loves — while trying to pull them in the right direction on social issues.
When it came to the Chick-fil-A controversy, she tried to offer advice to both sides.
She told the anti-gay Christians that they should be aware of how much it hurts us when they flaunt the food they bought at Chick-fil-A in the wake of the controversy or cry “persecution” when no one’s actually persecuting them. This is a civil rights issue for us liberals, after all, and we all know people (or are people) who have been unable to experience the joy of marriage or adoption or being near a loved one in their dying moments because of the Christian desire to limit certain rights to straight people only.
Then, she had a message for the social progressives (emphasis hers):
I get it. I really do.
But I beg you to please remember that not all Christians who speak out against gay marriage are bigots or homophobes, and calling them those names is as unjust as it is unkind. Many of the people I love most in my life fall into this “camp,” and most of them mean it when they say that they sincerely love their friends and relatives in the LGBT community and wish they knew of some way to hold to their convictions without hurting or insulting their neighbors.
This is where Rachel and I part ways. Maybe I agreed with her a long time ago, but I can’t anymore.
There is no way to oppose equal rights for gay people without being a bigot/homophobe/asshole/pick-your-word.
You can’t say I love my black friends, but I don’t think they should be allowed to marry white people… without simultaneously being a racist.
It doesn’t matter how big of a smile you put on your face, or how many gay friends you (think you) have, or how often you’ve gone to a gay pride parade.
If you’re voting against marriage equality, you’re a bigot. If you’re denying somebody a right that you possess — for no rational basis whatsoever — I don’t know what else to call you. There’s not a single, credible, non-religious reason to deny equal rights to gay people.
Jen McCreight explains it this way:
I call you a bigot because you support those terrible things I listed above: legally denying GLBT individuals equal rights, slandering them publicly, damaging them through terrible psychological programs, and even killing them. You can call me a bigot if I start campaigning that Chick-Fil-A-Holes should not be able to marry, adopt, or serve in the military. You can call me a bigot if I ship my friends off for traumatic psychological boot camps because they dared to eat a chicken sandwich. You can call me a bigot if I compare being Republican to pedophilia, bestiality, or necrophilia.
If my worst offense is disagreeing with you, trying to convince you that you’re wrong, or calling you a name? That’s not bigotry, despite how much your martyr complex wishes it were so.
Is bigot too strong of a word? It doesn’t matter. The hurt feeling you have when you get called a mean name pales in comparison to the hurt the LGBT community feels when you strip their rights away.
(Plus, you know, I said the word “bigot” with a smile.)
No one should be tolerant of intolerance — and that’s a game Christians love to play (“Well, you’re just intolerant of our religious beliefs!”)… but no one’s taking away their rights. No one’s forcing gay marriage in their church. No one’s asking them to attend a gay wedding against their will. (Let’s face it; they weren’t invited in the first place.)
This isn’t one of those issues where people can “agree to disagree.” The people who say that are always the people losing the argument. In this case, one side is right and the other side is full of Christians.
Fred Clark put it well (emphasis his):
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a nice person. And it doesn’t matter if your tone, attitude, sentiments and facial expressions are all very sweet, kindly and sympathetic-seeming. If you’re opposing legal equality, then you don’t get to be nice. Opposing legal equality is not nice and it cannot be done nicely.
This is also why I have a hard time supporting Christian groups that try to “bridge the gap” between the LGBT community and the Christian church. It’s a worthy endeavor, but what good are you for LGBT people if you can’t even publicly voice your support for same-sex marriage?
Is it true that the word “bigot” or “homophobe” shuts down conversation? Maybe. But I’m not sure what else to call people who use the Bible and their own prejudice to prevent same-sex marriage from becoming a reality.
Eventually, I’m sure we’ll get to a point where even the vast majority of Christians support gay-marriage. All the trends point in that direction. But the way to push Christians there is to call them out on their bullshit when it happens, not defend them because they mean well.