Over the past few days, a politician in California has proposed a bill to have LGBTQ people executed, a Tea Party radio host has called for the hanging of members of the Black caucus who protested Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3rd speech in front of the US congress, and evangelist Franklin Graham is blaming Obama for the “coming storm of Christian persecution.” (links to all three articles below) As I sit here with my mouth agape over this madness, I remember the words “it’s not all of them, just a vocal minority.” Isn’t this what we’re always told? It’s just a minority, right? Surely not many Christians think like this. These people are too small in numbers to really pose a threat … right?
The world I grew up in was a hotbed for the teachings that underlie the ideas of these heinous people. I was raised evangelical. I was brought up to “fight the good fight.” I was a warrior for Christ. In the world I grew up in, the thinking behind all of this wasn’t held by the minority, it was all around me. I never witnessed quite the level of vitriol seen in the above examples, but the ideas were certainly there. I was born in 1981, and the Jesus movement that had really gained steam in the previous decade was alive and well. The Anglican organization known as The Church Army was training soldiers for God, and there I was, growing up in the midst of it. I sang the songs, paraded through the streets in the “March for Jesus,” and loudly stated proclamations of my faith at every opportunity. The teachings I was raised with had an extreme effect on me, and by the time I was a teenager, I had become more hateful than most of the people in that world. Now, I don’t lay blame on my parents for this, they raised me the best way they knew how. My reactions to what I was taught were my own, and those reactions created a monster. I was a very angry person, and I agreed with everything in the above paragraph. I did think that homosexuals should be executed. I did think that anybody who went against Israel was a racist and should be punished. I did think that we Christians were being persecuted in North America. You see, I understand hate-mongers who feel this way because I was one of them. Most importantly, I know what kind of influential power they have. Minority or not, when you have people like Franklin Graham in your ranks, you have the power to influence the masses.
Here’s the thing. Religion has been oppressing people since time immemorial. Now, as we move forward and grow in our experience and knowledge, society tends to grow and change. Religion is set up to resist this change, and as a result, we have lawmakers trying to kill homosexuals, radio hosts trying to hang black people, and equality being called out as persecution; at a time when we should know better. Despite the progress in western society, we are at risk of a backslide if the ideals of these people continue to be given credence. People like Franklin Graham are respected by hundreds of thousands of believers worldwide, his views are not minority views. The California politician needs a certain number of signatures before his petition to impose capital punishment for homosexuality can be tabled, and although he will most certainly fail at making it law, I bet he gets the signatures to take it to a vote. The Tea Party radio host spewed deep-seeded racism and a pro-terrorism agenda with her comments, but she is a public figure with a huge following. It may very well be a minority of Christians spewing this hatred, but it has a majority effect.
I have said in the past that as we gain ground in this push for equality, people will start to fight back in desperation. This is happening, but there is an aspect to it that I did not expect. You see, I figured those fighting back would dwindle in numbers, since treating people badly for perceived differences is something we all claim to reject. Not so apparently. They are not dwindling, and as a matter of fact, the involvement of prominent leaders and popular politicians is giving the impression that their numbers are growing. I sincerely hope that this growth is a mirage, but it doesn’t look good. Even same-sex marriage, as more states continue to legalize it, is coming under increasingly vicious attack. If we allow this to continue, equality may be at risk of being steamrolled. I will stress again the importance of being outspoken. Make your voice heard. As a former member of the religious right, I know how this works. They won’t give up on their convictions, but we can win. We’ve been winning, we just have to renew our fervour. Write, speak, take to the streets. Whatever we did before, it worked. Let’s not stop now. We can do this. Remember to Be Outspoken!