When you weaponize bigotry, it’s only a matter of time before someone picks up a weapon
It was another deadly mass shooting in Colorado at an LGBTQ+ nightclub on another American day that will live in infamy as did the shooting six years ago at an Orlando LGBTQ+ nightclub killing 49. This time, five human beings were murdered, and more than two dozen injured before patrons subdued the attacker. (LGBTQ+ people have learned from generations of experience that they cannot often count on the police for protection.)
But the responsibility for this and all the other violence against LGBTQ+ people falls at the feet of every right-wing religious and political leader who has publicly spoken out in their nationally orchestrated campaign to demonize, dehumanize and threaten LGBTQ+ people with punishment in this life and the next.
Words matter, and words spoken publicly echo and re-echo in the hearts and minds of those who will act on them. They often even produce the kind of self-hate LGBTQ+ people internalize so they come to despise who they are and those who remind them of it.
And of all people, right-wing preachers and televangelists — who spend their time minutely parsing every word in their Bibles because what they want it to say is so important in justifying their prejudices — know what the impact of their words is. They are responsible for their speech and for those who act upon them.
If the shoe fits…
I am not just talking about those who get media attention by literally calling for the return of executions of LGBTQ+ people. That is just the most obviously extreme rhetoric of a last prejudice our society allows to be spoken out loud without consequences.
I am talking about every one of those religion-pushers who has used LGBTQ+ people to further their agendas, their power, their leadership, and their attention-getting needs.
I’m talking about every pusher of addictive religion who has closed their minds and hearts to alternative understandings of their scriptures and traditions, in order to cover up their personal issues around sexuality and their sexual addictions.
I’m talking about every religion leader who finds that LGBTQ+ people are great scapegoats to hold the attention and pocketbooks of congregants, TV viewers, radio listeners, and the gaggle of gullible enablers who host them in the mainstream media. And that includes everyone who joined the party of demonizing the entertainment called “drag” as if it’s a problem for our children.
I am talking about every right-wing politician, and even others who consider themselves more liberal, who must not speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ violence because of their absolute terror of losing their funding, power, and positions, who refuse to be leaders in equality because that will come at a personal cost.
I am talking about those who counsel that now is not the time to enact further LGBTQ+ protections, or any gun control, while more people die.
I am talking about other religious leaders who won’t lead their institutions to take a public stand for the affirmation of LGBTQ+ people with all kinds of fear-based excuses:
“We don’t want to be known as a gay church.”
“We accept everyone, but do we need to mention it?”
“We don’t want to divide the Church (because church unity is more important than the lives of LGBTQ+ people).”
“We need to study this subject more because there are many in our congregation who have other views (and still can’t stand LGBTQ+ people).”
I am talking about religious and political leaders who won’t take a public stand against the violence LGBTQ+ people still experience regularly in our culture often while the perpetrators are shouting things they’ve heard from American pulpits. They are the ones who’ll usually deny in some back-handed, non-public way that they condone the violence, but are too afraid to preach, march in a parade, or attend a rally to openly say so.
I am talking about every right-wing pundit, blogger, and politician who wants to turn what was intentionally an attack on an LGBTQ+ club into something that merely blames mental illness as if mentally ill people are expected to do these kinds of things, to prematurely bury the LGBTQ+ human victims of the attack under their need to scapegoat mental illness instead of the homophobic bigotry they condone daily.
I am talking about all those right-wing leaders who suddenly are acting as if they care about LGBTQ+ victims in spite of the fact that for generations right-wing Christians have been brutalizing LGBTQ+ people without a peep from these same religio-political leaders.
I am talking about those all over the internet who are looking for every loophole, every subtle nuance, every syllable, and every questionable moral argument to condone or even applaud what happened as if it’s God’s will.
You’re all personally responsible
All of you are personally responsible even though many people will claim outrage and refuse to say so. My liberal friends might shy away from me on this because they don’t want to believe that the above is true or because their hope is still that those I’m holding responsible are going to change if, like abused spouses, we’re just nicer to them, more understanding, and more forgiving.
Forgiveness is something, however, to be given only to those who believe they need it and ask for it. Forgiveness of those who don’t want it is hubris.
And if I am wrong, then there are things that those whom I’m holding responsible can do to prove it.
These are actions, not just pretty words, that will show the rest of us that you don’t condone violence against LGBTQ+ people. Otherwise, you’re just a self-justifier.
- Make sure that your local, state and federal laws include LGBTQ+ people in hate crime protections. Hate crimes are not just individual crimes; they are directed at someone because that someone is a member of a whole group the perpetrator wants to terrorize.
- Take a public stand against violence toward LGBTQ+ people as human beings and citizens in this country. Even if you can’t stand LGBTQ+ people, let everyone you interact with know that you are against the brutalization and dehumanization of them.
- Face your own issues about sex and sexual orientation. Get therapy. Attend a support group. Ask yourself why this is the issue you want to be known for, and not poverty, homelessness, or hunger.
- Stop condemning as heretical other ways of understanding your religious texts and traditions than the anti-LGBTQ+ ones you cling to for some personal reason. These alternatives proposed by also very sincere believers are all out there in the public discussion and have been for over half a century.
- Face your and your religious organization’s fears about public support for ending crimes against LGBTQ+ people and of what other people will think of you. Fear is spiritually debilitating, and facing those fears is a matter of your own spiritual growth not just an action that will benefit others.
- And repent for all you have said or done that is regularly cited to kill LGBTQ+ people — or, if you don’t want to do these things, look for other means of justifying your bigotry.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor (he/him), M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.