Monday, December 05, 2005
by Wayne Besen
When some evangelical Christians express their unique brand of "love", it is usually time to run in the other direction. They seem to think that love is insulting people with a saccharine smile and patronizing them with phony compassion. May I suggest we buy these evangelical Christians dictionaries for Christmas so they can understand the true meaning of the word?
Exhibit A is Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best selling book The Purpose Driven Life. On World AIDS Day, he and his wife convened a conference of 1,700 evangelical pastors to urge them to minister to people with AIDS.
"The fact is the evangelical realm of the church has failed in this area," Rick Warren told ABC's World News Tonight
. "They put it off too long; they didn't care."
"We've been wrong," said Kay Warren, his funnel cake sweet wife. "We need to repent, say we're sorry, and open our doors to everyone who's HIV positive and say, 'He loves you.'"
Ostensibly, this sounds promising and a potential bridge to evangelical Christians who have been a major cause of great suffering during the AIDS epidemic. If you dig beneath the surface, however, it becomes clear that this effort is shallow and the love conditional.
"People ask me, is homosexuality evil? I say, it's just not natural," Warren told ABC.
For a moment, let's forget that homosexuality occurs in nature, and is therefore natural. Let's forget that gay people have existed since oxygen. Let's forget that same-sex behavior is quite common in the animal kingdom. Let's forget that gay people are in every known society, no matter the strictures placed on them. Let's also forget the avalanche of new science that points to biological origins for sexual orientation.
What we will focus on is the impact of Warren's ignorant statement and how it is a catalyst for spreading HIV. Indeed, Warren is not part of the solution, but part of the problem.
While working on my first book, Anything But Straight
, I had the pleasure of meeting dozens of openly gay evangelicals. I also met so-called ex-gays who were trying to unsuccessfully change their sexual orientation.
When churches made the people I interviewed feel that their love was "unnatural", as Warren suggests, they became depressed and their self-esteem inevitably plummeted. A large factor in HIV prevention is making people feel they are worthy of living. People with high self worth will usually take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. While those who believe their love is sin or unnatural are less likely to make smart decisions in the heat of the moment. What is the incentive for a person who believes that God despises the way they experience love to wear a condom?
Many of the "ex-gay" men I interviewed went through what I call the "sin and repentance cycle." They refrained from sex for long periods of time until the dam inevitably broke. Then they would go on wild, guilt-ridden sexual binges where safer sex was an afterthought.
The Warrens can offer all the syrupy "love" they want. But, from my experience, the very people they are most likely to reach, gay Christian closet cases, will only hear their unloving condemnation, which can lead to self-destructive behavior.
If they really want to stop the transmission of HIV, the Warrens will find the moral courage to proclaim that same-sex love is equal to heterosexuality. They will recognize the inherent beauty in gay relationships and celebrate successful same-sex unions.
The Warren family can also begin by holding their fellow evangelicals accountable for their homicidal assaults on the gay community. For example, the American Family Association is hawking an "ex-gay" video, "It's Not Gay."
On the cover of the video is Michael Johnston
, an HIV positive "ex-gay" leader who left ministry in 2003 after he allegedly had unsafe sex with several men in Norfolk, Virginia. The AFA's spokesman Buddy Smith publicly acknowledged Johnston's failure calling it a "moral fall."
So, it is disgusting, even demonic, for the AFA to continue promoting a product
featuring the disgraced ex-gay. They are not only committing fraud, but they are helping to spread HIV. If Rick and Kay Warren want to be useful, they can call the AFA and demand that this garbage be expeditiously pulled from their website and an apology be immediately issued to the GLBT community.
AIDS has killed millions of people while evangelicals have been, at best, indifferent. It is great that they want to get in the compassion game a quarter of a century after the fact. However, if evangelicals want a truly loving marriage with the gay community, they need to treat us with respect in both sickness and in health. If they are going to condemn our loving relationships in the bedroom, there is no place for them at our bedsides. The last thing anyone needs is more phony love and purpose driven lies by intolerant right wing ideologues.
Evangelical or Vatican Christian "love" would kill us all.
This is the kind of "love" that results in thousands of battered spouses and lovers, violence inflicted by control freaks who insist that its their way or the grave.
"We had to destroy that faggot in order to save him."
posted by Bob Schwartz, at
Not much to comment on Wayne, because you pretty much summed it all up.
posted by Ryan Grant Long, at
"...if evangelicals want a truly loving marriage with the gay community, they need to treat us with respect in both sickness and in health. If they are going to condemn our loving relationships in the bedroom, there is no place for them at our bedsides."
K, that's damn good! Nice construction.
posted by , at
I lived in the closet 30 years as a right wing evangelical, now I find the bible passages used to clobber gays in no way condemn loving committed partnerships. The right wing says the bible claims homosexuality is unnatural based on badly translated bible verses. They will never change till they see it "in the bible". You cant ask them to change their view til you can prove it by using a bible, and they wont listen to vast scholarship on the subject, not yet. It will take centuries and a major reform in the church. Here is proof the bible is not condemning of loving committerd gay relations, for any who will read it---http://www.mccchurch.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Sexuality_Spirituality&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=582
posted by Baja Bill, at
Excellent once again! As a practicing Christian-no, I still haven't got it right-I am more than appalled at what the "christian" religion (lower case intentional) has done to the Bible and to children of God. Nowhere in the Bible have I read anything that even hints at catholicism or evangelicalism as we have it shoved down our throats today. I seriously question whether Jesus even acknowledges their existence. Jesus came and died to provide salvation for all who come to him humbly and gratefully. He didn't shove anything down anyone's throat. What gives them the right to do it?
Randy Perrine, Madison, WI
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