Julie Rodgers is a Christian who’s had to deal with her fair share of bigotry as an out lesbian (who will be getting married next month). She’s also a former staffer of a group that promoted conversion therapy — it didn’t work — and has since written eloquently about the harm it causes.
So understand that she’s coming from a knowledgeable place when she addresses the question of how conservative Christians and LGBTQ people can find a way to coexist. Very few people have a foot in both communities like she does.
That said, her recent essay in the Washington Post leans too heavily on compromise and not nearly enough on the reality of the situation.
She sets the scene giving both sides the benefit of the doubt:
… In private conversations with conservative Christians and with LGBTQ people, people from both groups usually say they would like to live in a country where all citizens are free to worship according to their conscience and where all citizens are protected from discrimination. If we want to live in a society that offers maximum freedom to as many people as possible, each side will have to give a little.
So far, so good. Rodgers also says there needs to be trust between the two groups (which she admits is lacking right now) and says one side needs to take the first step:
Practically, this means photographers, bakers and tailors would agree to offer services to LGBTQ people, knowing their churches are still free to enforce policies that align with their convictions. It also means LGBTQ people wouldn’t go after the tax-exempt status of Christian institutions that hire according to their beliefs, even when they have policies that insist community members hold theologically traditional views of marriage. And when possible, LGBTQ people would try to respect conservative business owners by seeking out vendors who fully support them. We can coexist in ways that honor and respect those who are different from us, but we can’t do it if we always look for opportunities to provoke and offend.
This is where I lose her. (And only partly because of the straw man that anyone’s going after “the tax-exempt status of Christian institutions.” Churches have the right to preach bigotry. No one’s forcing pastors to perform marriages against their will.)
To be sure, Rodgers says Christians should be the ones taking that first step, and that no resolution will make everybody happy, so both sides have to give something.
But trying to appease both sides is a problem when one side did nothing wrong.
Consider what same-sex couples are requesting: The right to be treated the same way as straight couples. The ability to buy the same products as straight couples. The chance to be seen as humans instead of monsters.
What do conservative Christians want? The ability to discriminate. And they do it by pretending that selling a cake to a gay couple makes them an integral part of a wedding they would never be invited to in the first place.
These aren’t two sides of the same coin. They’re different currencies. One group is operating in bad faith — literally — while the other just wants to buy a goddamn cake.
Gay people shouldn’t have to go to another shop while bigoted Christian business owners get to make money in peace. We need to know who those owners are, make sure everyone is away of their bigotry, and shame them out of business for good. They deserve it. And if they don’t treat their customers with basic respect, then no one should feel bad for them when they get sued.
That’s not anti-Christian. That’s anti-hate. Most Christian business owners know the difference. Where they go to church is irrelevant. No one’s asking them to change their beliefs.
We would never ask people fighting for racial equality to seek out businesses that serve everybody while stores with “No Blacks Allowed” signs get to operate without a problem.
We are not going to Kumbaya our way out of faith-based bigotry. To pretend otherwise is completely naive.
We’re not going to find a compromise. The best solution is for decent people to make it clear that they will never belong to a church that promotes discrimination and they will never give money to a business that condones it — to the point where the conservative Christians have no choice but to adapt or lose everything.
They’ve done it before. They’ll do it again. Eventually. When they have no other choice.
As one commenter said, “If an elephant is stepping on the neck of a mouse, you do not ask the mouse to compromise a little. You tell the elephant to get off.”
Rodgers knows all this. Her argument is basically that there’s a stalemate right now, and the status quo isn’t working for anyone, so someone needs to make a move.
We won't come to conclusions about where exactly to draw all the lines here on Twitter. But I am suggesting a cooperative spirit so we can begin the process of working toward some sort of resolution. The zero-sum game gets us nowhere.
— Julie Rodgers (@Julie_rodgers) August 3, 2018
I think she has that wrong. It’s not a zero-sum game at all because conservative Christians are losing. LGBTQ Americans are speaking up, allies are joining them, other Christians are leaving conservative churches over this issue, and the conservatives are correctly being perceived as the bad guys.
Just because a few Christian business owners are taken to court doesn’t mean everyone else needs to accommodate their imaginary Jesus-given right to bigot.
(Image via Shutterstock)