It is time to step up the fight against the multi-pronged intolerance resurgent in America, which cloaks itself in piety and patriotism as it attacks LGBT people, immigrants, and others. Here I focus on the anti-gay, anti-trans Nashville Statement and on President Trump’s despicable decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by President Obama in 2012.
The Nashville Statement was issued August 29 by evangelical ministers hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention. It calls marriage a divinely ordained “union of one man and one woman” and denies “that marriage is a mere human contract.” It invokes “biological sex” as a rule to be imposed rather than a lived reality to be studied. It states, “We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism….” That’s an affirmation? It reminds me of the old song lyric, “Yes we have no bananas.” It could have been written by Vladimir Putin.
We have battled religious intolerance for a long time. I will restate points I made in 2012 for DC’s Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance:
Right-wing claims about ‘traditional marriage’ are astoundingly false. A true Bible-based marriage law would include polygamy, concubines, executing non-virginal brides, banning mixed-faith marriages and divorce, and requiring a man to marry his dead brother’s widow. The scriptures supporting those practices are mostly from the Old Testament, which the bullies prefer to Christ’s law of love. If they were not cherry-picking verses to suit their prejudices, they might notice the alternate gloss on Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49. Using religion to justify prejudice or to control others is not acceptable in a free society. We must rebuke the predators and opportunists who presume to sermonize against us when their own moral authority is in shreds. We must also thank clergy who affirm us.
The bigots who gathered in Nashville might be laughed off except for the harm they inspire, including subjecting youth to the dangerous and discredited fraud of conversion therapy. Their ally, Vice President Mike Pence, stated on his 2000 congressional campaign website, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Pardon me, but no. Low self-esteem has to be taught. Studies show that family rejection and unsupportive environments are associated with greater risk of attempted suicide among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. It is especially wicked to use the bad fruit of harsh environments to justify mistreatment disguised as healthcare.
No one need choose between faith and self-respect. The Nashville signatories insist on seeing difference as a threat. A better vision for America is all around us, just beyond our comfort zones.
Trump equivocated on DACA, touting his big heart. Business leaders clamored to save the program while nativist hardliners including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, dead-eyed Stephen Miller, and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who called it illegal “amnesty,” demanded he keep his campaign pledge to end it. But as former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger notes, “6 U.S.C. 202 already says DHS can set ‘national immigration enforcement policies and priorities.'” Immigration reform has stalled in Congress. Tossing DACA to Capitol Hill to resolve in six months is another Trump evasion.
23-year-old Houston paramedic Jesus Contreras, who worked for six straight days rescuing people after Hurricane Harvey, is among 800,000 Dreamers who face deportation. America has been his home since age six. Nine red state attorneys general threatened to sue Trump if he did not revoke DACA, others if he did.
At the Gospel’s heart is a rebuke in Matthew 25: “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”
Pope Francis said in October 2016, “You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25. It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.”
Trump is not the wall, but the breach. His rhetorical grenades have rolled back into his own tent.
God made us differently. People can issue all the statements they want against LGBT people; that will not change who we are. Immigrants commit less crime; punishing people who were brought here as children is gratuitous, damnable cruelty. We must defeat the haters and hypocrites who are taking sledgehammers to American principles. Those principles must be at the core of our message or we will lose, and see Lady Liberty’s beacon of hope snuffed out. No greatness there.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2017 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.