Bonus points for tenacity to Christian conservatives like Mike Huckabee who keep on effing that chicken. In the face of nationwide bipartisan support for marriage equality, the evangelical far-right can’t let go of their outdated sense of morality, nor will they abandon their repeatedly debunked excuses for why it’s acceptable to publicly gay-bash with impunity.
As we covered briefly last week, the most popular Christian conservative argument against same-sex marriage and indeed all issues of LGBT equality is that the government is stripping Christians of their religious freedom — freedom to think homosexuality is an abomination and to not provide equal access to gay people. On the surface it seems really clever to accuse the government of being intolerant of religion in aid of being tolerant to marriage equality. Now, in what seems like a colossal death rattle, the anti-gay far-right is rallying around a new documentary that preserves this stupid-disguised-as-clever counterpoint for all time — this way, future generations will get a good laugh at how ridiculous these knuckle-draggers used to be.
The movie is titled Light Wins: How to Overcome the Criminalization of Christianity.
Yes, the criminalization of Christianity. There are so many layers to unpack here, so let’s just dive in.
1) Reaganbook. The producers of the film, a “pro-life, pro-family” group called Faith 2 Action, was founded by Janet Porter, who also stars in the film. Porter is also famous for launching “Reaganbook,” a Facebook alternative for Reaganites. The social media platform has since been renamed Freedombook — which is ironic, of course, because the group is on the front lines of the fight to deny freedom to women and the LGBT community.
2) Demon Possessed. Porter also once called Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, “demon possessed,” and that his homosexuality is “very dangerous physically and it’s very dangerous, as we see, to our freedoms in the nation.” Again, the irony is astonishing. A woman whose organization is trying to suppress the freedom of others is herself accusing one gay man of doing the same to the entire nation.
3) Mike Huckabee Is Not A Good Man. Yes, Mike Huckabee is featured prominently in the movie. No matter how gregariously he comports himself person-to-person, Huckabee still believes in some radically backwards, horrendous things. In and of itself, that’s enough to shove this guy into the distant margins of the debate, but his association with someone as hateful as Janet Porter should make him the focus of nationwide contempt. Huckabee said in the film, “What kind of freedom of speech do we have if a person who expresses a biblical viewpoint about marriage is told they can’t open their businesses in a location?” Replace “about marriage” with “against racial equality” and there you go. We’ll circle back to this point.
4) Tell Us How You Really Feel. The subtitle of the documentary comes from a statement by the author of the Defense of Marriage Act, Robert Knight, who said in the trailer, “If homosexual activists get everything they want, it’ll be nothing less than the criminalization of Christianity.” You might remember Knight from his interview with Bryant Gumbel. Thinking the cameras were off, Gumbel referred to Knight on the air as a “fucking idiot.” Gumbel was right.
5) The Gay Gene. An unidentified commentator (possibly Florida anti-gay activist John Stemberger?) said:
We’re getting the lines from the media, we’re getting the lines from education, we’re getting the lines from politicians and even theologians: well, you know, there’s the gay gene. Really?! Well name it for me. Number it. Because if there’s a gene that identifies homosexuality it would have a name, it would have a number, we’d know who the doctor was that found it.
We do know the doctor. His name is Dean Hamer and he discovered the gene Xq28 on the X-chromosome 22 years ago. There’s also 8q12, first discovered at the NorthShore Research Institute by lead scientist Alan Sanders. But really, why even ask for the science? Since when did science and facts matter?
6) Because Personal Responsibility. Another participant said, “If some young person hears at school ‘it’s okay to be gay,’ and then comes down with a fatal disease as a result, school officials should be legally liable.” Well then, by the same token if a student is told he’s allowed to play football then breaks his neck during a game, should the coach be personally liable for that, too? Or what if a kid drowns after being told by a pastor that Jesus walked on water?
7) Sheep and Goats. Anti-gay activist Scott Lively heightened the urgency, “What’s coming next is going to be an assault on the church like we’ve never seen before, there’s going to be a dividing of sheep and goats.” The biblical reference is from Matthew, suggesting that the goats (in this case anyone who supports LGBT rights) are sinners doomed to Hell. Lively basically said there’s going to be a war over all of this — a prediction that we should probably take with a massive grain of salt since Lively is perpetually full of crapola. For example: he’s responsible for a book called, that’s right, The Pink Swastika in which he wrote that “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.” Uh-huh, which is why 100,000 gay men were arrested by Nazis between 1933 and 1945. Ironically, Lively has been pushing for the criminalization of “homosexual advocacy.” Lively and the makers of this movie are really, really confused people.
In the documentary, conservative NAACP member Alveda King spells out the twisted message in clear terms: “And so you believe I’m being intolerant because I believe the Bible standards, are you not being intolerant when you say there is something wrong with me for believing the Bible.” It’s a clever way to reverse the argument — at least clever in terms of the target audience, which is desperate for any tiny branch of bumper-sticker logic upon which to wave their intolerance and bigotry. The reality is that you’re allowed to believe whatever you want until it denies someone else their right to equal protection and basic human rights.
There will never be a law forcing Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) or Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who are both participants in this cinematic atrocity, to become gay. There will never be a law that tells Mike Huckabee what to believe in his heart. But sorry, there will be laws telling them that they can’t cynically exploit their beliefs — underscore beliefs — to deny others of equal protection. And make no mistake, this is exactly what they’re doing now. They’re cherry-picking random verses of the Bible as thin justifications for gay-bashing, and there’s nothing quite as cynical or exploitative as carefully choosing favorable verses while ignoring other verses that don’t support your archaic dogma. Because if Huckabee and Janet Porter and Scott Lively and, yes, Alveda King are correct, then the Bible forbids the ratification and recognition of the 13th Amendment, 150 years old this year.
1 Peter 2:18 states:
“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”
And Exodus 21:20-21:
“When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”
Indeed, fire-eaters during the Civil War era often cited religious freedom in support of slavery. At the time, abolitionists were told that in light of the First Amendment the federal government couldn’t make it illegal for business-owners to exercise their religious beliefs. Later, segregationists cited the Bible as justification for anti-miscegenation and Jim Crow laws. The men and women in this film are no different. The question we need to ask Porter and especially presidential candidates like Paul and Huckabee is whether they also endorse slavery, or better yet, if they endorse allowing some people to own slaves if they believe scripture permits it. If we backtrack and allow a religious exemption for disenfranchising the LGBT community, do we have to offer a religious exemption to deny African-Americans and, for that matter, women their only-recently acquired constitutional rights? Sounds like it. I’d really like to hear Huckabee wiggle out of that one.
I’m not here to bash religion. But even theologians will confess that the Bible calls for a laundry list of terrible things — cannibalism, misogyny, slavery, infanticide and so on. These are teachings that have been abandoned wholesale by sane and rational people of faith. All truly reasonable Christians have evolved beyond the suffocating trappings of the ancient and unnecessary interpretations of the Bible, and if such an evolution is permitted on other topics, why not this one?
Faith allows them to evolve, but on this issue they’re simply choosing not to. Therefore it has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with justifying their homophobia.
In a modern world, with modern science and modern views on humanity, we create laws based on our present understanding and practical definitions of right and wrong, rather than ancient metaphors or radical superstitions. Otherwise we’d still be burning witches and bleeding sick people with leeches. The time for LGBT equality has arrived, and once again the forces of oppression are falling back on the same old strategy. But it’s comforting to know that they’re losing miserably. You’d think they’d learn from history and go down with a little class. Instead, they’re flailing just as wildly if not more so than previous characters, and history will file them in the same notorious category as pro-segregation and pro-slavery troglodytes. They’re simply too possessed by their terrible cause and blinded by their own ignorance to realize how ignominiously they’ll be remembered by posterity.