Evangelicals Fighting Fire with Fire

Many conservative evangelicals, e.g., Southern Baptists, Fundamentalists, conservative evangelical non-denominational advocates and Pentecostal / Charismatic / Third Wave / Dominionist / Apostolic / Reformation Manifesto proponents, have honed their skills both rhetorically and politically against LGBTQ people. This theological mixed-bag of Calvinists, Arminians, and every conceivable notion in-between and outside those margins all maintain one primary tenet: homosexuality is "an abomination," LGBTQ people are wicked and want to recruit your children to pervert them and to turn them from Christ, and same-sex marriage will destroy this (and any) country. This is their rallying cry.

Jonathan Merritt, writing for Religion News Service, noted that Dr. Eugene Peterson, author and translator of The Message Bible, had "changed his mind" on same-sex issues and same-sex marriage. As expected, conservative evangelicals took up their proverbial pitch forks and torches, as Southern Baptist Lifeway bookstore threatened to discontinue selling Dr. Peterson's books. Conservative Christian magazine Christianity Today was all-too-eager to print Dr. Peterson's retraction:
A day after [the reaction was fierce and swift] a Religion News Service interview portrayed retired pastor and author Eugene Peterson as shifting to endorse same-sex marriage, the evangelical leader retracted his comment and upheld the traditional Christian stance instead.
Note two rhetorical methods used here: 1) Merritt "portrayed" Peterson in a certain light, which appears deceptive, as though Jonathan Merritt maintained no cause for said portrayal; and 2) "the traditional Christian stance," as though "the progressive stance" on same-sex marriage is in no sense "Christian." We are not so naïve as to miss Christianity Today's Kate Shellnutt's rhetorical devices. I think from now on I will refer to "the traditional Christian stance" on same-sex marriage as "the traditionalist view" and name "the progressive view" as "the progressive Christian view." I can play the evangelical game as well as any conservative.

I am certain that Lifeway and all other conservative evangelicals breathed out quite the sigh of relief! A giant from among their midst did not actually and officially abandon the-faith-as-defined-and-contextualized-by-conservative-Republican-Trump-supporting-evangelicals. Well, thank goodness! Now Lifeway can continue to sell and profit from his material. But what would become of Jonathan Merritt's reporting? Allegedly, upon "further reflection and prayer," confesses Dr. Peterson, "I would like to retract that," while Jonathan Merritt is forced to follow up with:
Second, and perhaps more interesting, I had spoken with several prominent pastors, authors and theologians who intimated that Peterson had told them privately that he was affirming of same-sex relationships [certainly they would not lie]. This prompted my curiosity about his views. If true, I knew my readers would be interested. (link)
Just a few years ago Dr. Peterson was LGBTQ-affirming; but, in light of the firestorm created by evangelicals and the threat of having his material pulled from the bookshelves of the largest Christian retailer in this country (Lifeway), he retracted his previous affirmation. Note that Dr. Peterson's "further reflection and prayer" came directly after the threat from Lifeway and the backlash he received from conservative evangelicals. Folks, what does that tell you? If he had received only praise, would he have changed his views "upon further reflection and prayer"?

Evangelical leaders, masters at manipulating Christians (I cannot retract that historical fact), are being encouraged by their leaders to "fight fire with fire," as author Dr. Michael Brown recently noted, and as he despicably portrays LGBTQ people in the worst possible manner:
It's up to us as parents and educators and pastors and leaders and young people and old people to fight fire with fire [with no biblical support for such a concept], to get more involved in our schools, to get our message out, and to indoctrinate kids with the truth. (link)
I was surprised by his use of the word "indoctrinate," since indoctrination is exactly the word he uses to describe the boogeyman LGBTQ community, as they educate children to treat LGBTQ people with respect, and love, with fairness and equality, and not in an effort at recruiting children, as anti-LGBTQ organization Mass Resistance insists, which Dr. Brown resources in his articles on his website. Note, however, that Dr. Brown, after disparaging the entire LGBTQ community, informs his people to "be loving and kind" to everyone (notably the LGBTQ community he dehumanizes), and yet his "love" feels more like a knife in the back delivered by one hand, a Bible in the other, and a smile on his face.

I realize now that some evangelicals imagine that I am endorsing this . . .

. . . when I am actually endorsing this.

This (below) is one among multiple images used by the likes of Dr. Brown, Mass Resistance, and a host of other conservative evangelical right wing Republican advocates as representing in toto the LGBTQ community.

But this (above) no more rightly and utterly represents being LGBTQ than this (below) represents being heterosexual (and certainly not evangelical).

So, if this (below) represents homosexuality . . .

. . . then I will insist that this (below) represents heterosexuality.

Evangelicals are the ones who started the culture wars -- not the culture at large, whether hetero- or homosexual. Now they want to turn up the heat and "fight fire with fire." I have come to realize just how unbiblical are the methods of evangelical Christian leaders. Read this carefully: You will never change a culture. Only Jesus can inwardly change the heart of a person. You will not win the culture war that you started -- the culture war to which Jesus never called you. He called you to make disciples (Matt. 28:19, 20), not to engage in a socio-politcal war with the very people for whom He died, whom He loves, those whom He calls you to disciple.

But this war that you evangelicals continue to wage has had and will have multiple casualties. One man on Facebook commented that gay people use their sexuality, and the notion that they are merely "born this way," in an effort to distance themselves from the Church and to not believe in God. This is ludicrous! Rather, the Church, or the people who call themselves Christians, are the ones who have for centuries ostracized and overtly demonized LGBTQ people, calling them perverse (they still do) and hated by God, and have been the primary cause for these people rejecting Christ. You can't turn this on LGBTQ people and pretend, in your self-righteousness, that the fault for rejecting Jesus is on them.

So, go ahead, follow Dr. Brown and fight fire with fire. Meanwhile, you will continue to cause people to distance themselves from Christ, and be exposed as working for Satan and his kingdom. Go right ahead and continue dehumanizing LGBTQ people, misrepresenting them, and using the most depraved and defiant among them as typical and appropriate representations. But you will do so at the eternal cost of their souls.

In the meantime, I will continue to expose evangelical and Religious Right hypocrites like you who continue to assault LGBTQ persons, and, with the help of the Spirit of God, reach these LGBTQ people for Christ. Because you will never, not in a million years, ever reach these people for Christ by disparaging and dehumanizing them. But go ahead, be content in your Religious Right bubble, and pretend that you are doing God's work. You will, one day, regret it; for all shall, one day, be revealed. (Luke 8:17)


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.