Over the past week or so, I and several of my friends have been in situations where we’ve been confronted by Christian protesters with big, colorful signs explaining which groups of people are going to burn in hell for all eternity. It’s a familiar sight for most people, as the protesting folk don’t just show up at gay events. Indeed, I’ve seen them at regular run of the mill neighborhood parties and music festivals as well. Sitting on the balcony last night, we were talking about people’s various reactions to those people; some people simply ignore them, some have a bit of fun with them and mess with their heads [that's where I fall if I have time], some try to engage them in legitimate debate and others have a tendency to start screaming matches with them. That last one tends to be a futile activity, but I understand where the anger comes from for some people.
The last several weeks have brought evidence of something I’ve been predicting ever since I started paying attention to politics, namely that as support for LGBT equality becomes more and more the mainstream position, anti-gay conservatives will become more and more extreme in their rhetoric. Several pastors have been caught on tape advocating for gays to be killed, and a young child, obviously indoctrinated by his elders, is on camera singing about gay people going to hell. This kind of stuff has been bubbling just under the surface for a long time, obviously, but wingnuts are starting to feel cornered, and they’re lashing out.*
Often when audio or video of genocidal or just generally hateful messages surfaces, we writers provide contact info for the churches and/or individuals involved, so that people can express their views and push back against the hatred. Now, you all know that I am one of the last people who is going to preach at you about “civility.” I think pleas for “civility” are distractions offered up by people who either have no arguments of their own, or who have some sort of Pollyanna idea that, with the right tender-loving care, wingnuts will suddenly want to build bridges with us. When one understands that wingnuts simply do not live according to facts as they exist in the real world, that they are working out of a fantasy playbook which renders them unable to argue on human, civil terms, one realizes that striving too hard for “civility” is a waste of time. Sometimes you just have to, loudly and rudely, tell the truth. That being said, we have to remember that our opponents are professional victims, if nothing else, and will be the first to cry “he hit me!” to distract from the actual issues at hand.
It’s being reported that the pastor of the church where the kid sang the hateful little song about gays going to hell has received death threats and has left town with his family without telling anybody where they went, and that church members are watching over the church to protect against threats. While it is often the case that, when wingnuts claim that they’ve gotten death threats, they’re embellishing, exaggerating or simply making things up, we really don’t know if this pastor, Jeff Sangl, and his church have been threatened. If they have, then whatever gays or gay-supportive people who are behind it are morons. First of all, that kind of behavior isn’t acceptable under any circumstance, but even beyond that, we are the ones with the moral high ground here. (!!!) If a pastor tells his church on a regular basis that gays are evil hellbound heathens, then it becomes public and all of a sudden the church gets flooded with profane, grammar-free messages and a few death threats, it simply confirms their weird beliefs about us. I’m quite sure this church has also received many, many thoughtful, critical messages, but those aren’t the ones that make the news.
I suppose my point here is just to issue a reminder to all LGBT people and our allies, to simply remember that we are the ones on the side of good; we are the ones on the side of fairness, love and equality; we are the ones on the side of science; we are the ones on the side of reality. It’s understandable (but not excusable, of course) that wingnuts are lashing out, calling for our deaths and the like. They are defending a house built on sand. Literally nothing they believe about us is true, and nothing they believe can be proven! But they cling to that worldview, because it makes them feel safe in a world they don’t understand. We don’t have that problem, now do we? So, no need to lash out and stoop down to their level.
As I said, who knows the veracity of this church and pastor’s claims? Far too many of them have cried wolf in the past. But they might be true. If so, our community is better than that. Take it to heart.
*Of course, in reality, they’re not cornered at all. Their constitutional rights are not threatened in any way. They simply have to deal with the reality of living in a secular, Western society where not everybody thinks like they do, and learn that they don’t have the right to lord their religious beliefs over the rest of the population. They do not like this idea, not one bit. So, they feel cornered.