For all their bluster, it’s becoming apparent that anti-LGBTQI Christians don’t want a debate. They’ve discovered that we could win it. So rather than directly challenge us, they pretend we don’t exist.
The sound and fury of the “religious freedom” brouhaha comes down to that. According to those who have manufactured the controversy, all Christians are heterosexual and opposed to “homosexuality.” They also stereotype all LGBTQI people as atheists who hate Christianity. Rarely do our adversaries even dare to admit that our straight allies can be Christian — though if they are, they’re characterized as the “wrong” kind.
It is important for professional conservative Christians to remain relevant. Their crusade for “religious freedom” is their ticket to ongoing relevance. And as always, fear is very lucrative. We’ve been so useful to them as an enemy that they’re loath to give us up.
They can’t even accurately classify all their adversaries in the churches as “liberal” or “progressive.” The revolution that is sweeping Christianity is happening in every denomination, no matter how conservative. This is exactly why anti-LGBTQI Christians are so freaked out.
But their “barbarians-at-the-gate” rhetoric is nothing but noise. They aren’t standing up and bravely fighting. They’re bluffing — and outright lying.
To say that they don’t believe gay or transgender people can be “real” Christians would be wrong, but at least it would be honest. However, that is not what they’re doing. They are trying to make it look as if none of us identifies as Christian or goes to church — which is a blatant, flat-out lie. The “religious freedom” crusade is an attempt to turn the clock back to the Sixties, when no churches accepted LGBTQI people and only a tiny minority in our community identified as Christians. It ignores all the gains we have made.
It’s easy enough to see that the proponents of “religious freedom” are frauds. They claim to care about private charity, yet people have been led away in handcuffs for feeding the homeless, police have poured bleach on food to keep the poor from being fed, and in cold-weather climates, churches have been menaced with fines for taking people in off the streets to keep them from freezing to death.
All of these are blatant violations of religious freedom, as they prohibit Christians from practicing their faith. Yet from those so concerned about their religious freedom not to bake cakes for same-sex couples, we’ve heard not a peep of complaint.
The real strategy of anti-LGBTQI Christians is clear. They want to drive all LGBTQI people out of the churches and bar the door to assure that no more come in. Far from being a tragedy for them, marriage equality was exactly the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. It’s given them an excuse to do what they’ve wanted to do all along.
Their rhetoric provides the key, both in what it contains and in what it omits, as does their indifference to even the most blatant violations of the freedom for Christians to do what Christ commanded us to do. It’s crucial that we understand this. LGBTQI Christians and our allies are being erased from the picture. We can’t let our adversaries disappear us.
We need to expand the conversation about religious freedom. And I have some serious questions.
I want to know why churches have been so largely silent on the government’s full-court press against charitable endeavors. That is the real violation of religious freedom, because it involves not our freedom to refuse service — something Jesus never mentioned — but our freedom to serve.
I also want to know why anti-gay Christians should be free to refuse to bake cakes or take wedding photos, but not to refuse service to people who remarry after divorce. Jesus told us to serve others, and he expressly said that remarriage after divorce was adultery. I have nothing special against divorced people who have remarried (my own parents were each wed prior to their marriage to each other), but I demand an answer as to why I’m to be forbidden to marry for love, when they had the opportunity to do that more than once.
Religious freedom is being pursued inconsistently and irresponsibly. For adults, freedom comes with a price. We are to be responsible for the things we are free to do. And Christians have an obligation to be responsible for the message we send in the way we exercise our freedom. I want to know how refusing to serve people “preaches the Gospel.”
LGBTQI Christians exist. We exist at every point on both the theological and the political spectra. And if we insist on making ourselves heard, we will be a force to be reckoned with. Those who debate well should take our opponents on, but simply by existing — and refusing to be hidden — even those of us who don’t enter into debate can weigh in meaningfully. Our very existence testifies against our adversaries’ lies.
I have every right to expect answers to my questions. As a matter of fact, I demand them. We all have that right, and we all need to stand up and demand those answers. The debate about religious freedom is ours to win. We need to be willing to claim our victory.
A self-described “Libertarian Episcopalian lesbian,” freelance writer and the author of Good Clowns, a young adult novel published in 2018, Lori Heine published a blog called “Born on 9-11” and was a frequent contributor to the website Liberty Unbound. A native of Phoenix, Ariz., she graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1988 and spent much of her life in the insurance industry before turning full-time to writing as a freelancer, blogger and author.