Institute on Religion and Democracy
February 2, 2000
Some mainline Protestant church leaders are gearing up for campaigns against "hate." On the surface, it sounds like a worthy Christian endeavor. But read the not-so-fine print. "Hatred" by their new definition includes any opposition to their political agenda regarding homosexuality, abortion, welfare reform, and affirmative action.
Opposition to any of these four is confirmation of hateful attitudes that must be cleansed through federal legislation or, at the very least, sensitivity indoctrination by the Religious Left's enlightened few. Recent publications from the United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) highlight the new campaign to paint conservative or traditional theological views as inherently hateful.
A whole issue of the United Methodist Women's magazine, Response, was devoted last year to supposedly growing currents of American "hate" and the proper Christian response. One of the writers was neither a Methodist nor a Christian. Meg Riley is the head of the Unitarian Universalist Association' s Washington office, and is prominent in both "gay" and abortion rights activism.
Riley was especially distressed by the testimonies of former homosexuals and by the Christian groups that helped them become celibate or heterosexual. She asked: "Why not assume [they] are stating their own truth, then ask what that has to do with their campaign to deny others' right to speak a different truth - the truth of happy, fulfilled, faithful, non-heterosexual lives?"
Ministries to transform homosexuals are merely a Trojan Horse to disenfranchise homosexuals, Riley opined. Similarly, welfare reform laws, although touted as compassionate, are really intended to stigmatize the poor as "lazy, dishonest and passive." The Promise Keepers movement is just camouflage for efforts to subordinate women to their husbands. And the pro-life movement likewise aims to deprive women of their equality. Riley characterized black conservatives as marionettes of "Right-wing" groups opposed to affirmative action laws.
Tragically, according to Riley, the media are unable to look behind the trickery of conservatives who are manipulating "confessional melodrama" to paste happy faces on their oppressive causes. (Riley is really upset that traditionalists have caught on to the modern media technique of advocating a cause through story telling instead of abstract argument.)
In a similarly histrionic vein, Mab Segrest of North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence alleged in the Methodist magazine that "within Christianity, church fiat is the equivalent of [the] pistols" employed by Matthew Shepard's killers. Not content to condemn the United Methodist Church, which was publishing her article, she lashed out at Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Vatican articulator of Roman Catholic doctrine, for opposing civil legislation that would codify protection of "sexual orientation." Ratzinger wants to protect the definition of "genuine families" from non-traditional alternatives, Segrest fumed.
Opposition to full sexual freedom is an emblem of burgeoning hate, liberal church leaders are increasingly claiming. The Presbyterian Church's Church and Society magazine late last year focused on hatred. In her introduction the editor even suggested that the "facile platitude, 'hate the sin, not the sinner,' actually begets hate-motivated violence against the homosexual community." By her logic, opposition to any behavior on moral grounds inevitably leads to church-sanctioned violence against its practitioners. The only solution, it would seem, is unilateral moral disarmament and complete moral relativism.
Neither she nor the other writers in her magazine acknowledged the hypocrisy of their argument for tolerance, as they intolerantly berate conservatives for daring to voice their disagreement with liberal conventional wisdom on social relations.
Also writing in the Presbyterian magazine was an activist with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, who discerned that the "root of the anti-abortion fever is patriarchy" which suggests that "men are superior to women." Reducing women to second-class citizens eases the guilt when violent acts are committed against abortionists, he concluded. Himself a United Methodist minister, he laments the "homophobia" of his own denomination for not sponsoring same-sex ceremonies.
Another writer for Church and Society was a minister from the homosexual Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, who predictably likened opposition to homosexuality to racism. The real issue, he insisted, is more than just world debt, racism, sexism, homophobia, ethno-nationalism, ableism, and ageism, as he recited the full litany of politically correct bugaboos. The real cause for opposition to the "inclusion" of all people is simply fear.
He concludes by quoting South African Anglican prelate Desmond Tutu: We can be human only together [as] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and heterosexual Christians." (Notice the ever lengthening list of sexual predilections that are included under the mantra of "inclusiveness," where "relationship" has replaced marriage as the Christian prerequisite for sexual relations.)
The Religious Left's crusade to stigmatize traditional religious beliefs as inherently hateful is not only a smear; it is intellectually sloppy. It is a classic ad hominem argument, aiming to prevent any consideration of conservative views by tarring their alleged motives. If opponents of liberal causes are perceived as hate-filled abettors of "hate crimes," then public safety and social order would require that their views be suppressed.
Revisionist church leaders seem to want to win the culture wars without a true debate. Or perhaps they are so trapped in their own post-modernist vortex, they have ceased to recognize the difference between disciplined ethical reasoning and emotional outbursts.
Either way, religious traditionalists need to be able to explain that the "facile platitude" of "hate the sin, love the sinner," is actually neither. It is rather a profound summary of the Gospel's approach to all of us who violate God's standards and stand in need of His grace.
And defenders of historic Christian beliefs must also point out that genuine hatred originated neither with Christianity nor with the "patriarchy." It flows from the sinful nature to which all persons are captive, and for which the only full remedy is Jesus Christ. United Methodist and Presbyterian magazines should be able to understand that simple message.