When Evangelicals Attack

| Sep 25, 2017

CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL LEADERS VICIOUSLY ATTACK THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY

Since my last column post, God Made Us This Way, the volume of bigotry has been turned up by Christian conservative, evangelical leaders. The so-called “Nashville Statement,” released on August 29th by 150 evangelical leaders from across the United States, viciously attacks the LGBTQ+ community as immoral. Their vitriol rejects our civil rights and denies our human dignity. I’m not going to quote them or give one word of it space here.

We experience societal marginalization not connected to religion every day, so why should we care what a subgroup of evangelical leaders say? Because, from their pulpits, radio broadcasts and television shows, they foment discrimination among a very large segment of society. According to the Pew Research Center, 26 percent of U.S. citizens identify themselves as evangelical. That’s 84 million people. The World Christian Database estimates that worldwide there are 300 million evangelicals. I’m not suggesting all of them will agree with a hate-filled statement like this, but such large numbers of people being fed ignorance and discrimination is why we should care.

I live in the conservative U.S. “Bible Belt” where the “Nashville Statement” resonates with a lot of people. We’re going to hell. We must repent. We’re sinners. We’re freaks. But this isn’t Christian. Theirs’ is not the Gospel message I’ve read. They’re denying the message of a holy man named Jesus, the revolutionary who was executed for speaking truth to power and trying to change the world through love and tolerance instead of violence. He taught compassion and love for everyone. Who’s their Jesus? I don’t recognize him.

The Catholic Church is kinder to our community, urging compassion, but its official stance in response to how transgender children should be treated is that gender and sex are not separate. A boy is a boy, and a girl is a girl. That’s that. I respect the more progressive Pope Francis and the Church, but as one who was born this way, this is a form of cruelty they don’t seem to understand. The deep emotional pain of not being accepted as your true gender can be overwhelming, especially as a child.

The good news is, much of Christianity supports transgender equality. Within the Catholic Church, New Ways Ministry, an organization of Catholic clergy and parish leaders, advocates for LGBTQ+ acceptance, transgender rights, and same-sex marriage. The organization will convene a conference in Racine, Wisconsin, November 13-15, to discuss ways to get their inclusive message across, among other related topics. The conference is titled Following Jesus in Holy Honesty. I’m not a Catholic, but I’d love to be there as a journalist to write about it.

There’s other Christian support, too. Immediately after evangelical leaders unleashed their attack, there was a swift and decisive response by many Christian leaders. The organization Christians United was quickly formed to denounce the statement, and the next day on August 30th, it issued its response signed by hundreds of Christian leaders from around the world. You’ll find their theological statement and links to news media articles online here.

This is Article 1 of the Christians United theological statement:

“WE AFFIRM that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and that the great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God’s creative work.”

The respected and independent Pew Research Center has conducted surveys that show most Christian groups are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Pew polled millennials identifying as evangelicals on the question, “should homosexuality be accepted by society,” and 51 percent gave an affirmative response. A 23-country survey conducted by UCLA’s The Williams Institute released in December 2016 showed that 61 percent of the general population in the USA support transgender rights. My guess is that support varies by region, but these statistics give me optimism that we’re moving toward a more enlightened society.

I attended the August 19-20 Pride festival and parade in Charlotte, North Carolina. There was a record 4,500 marchers, and an estimated 150,000 people attended the weekend festival. It was encouraging to see so many local churches from many denominations there to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. I stopped by their tents beneath the towering buildings along Tryon Street and chatted with many of them.

Clergy and church members marched side-by-side, carrying banners as advocates, not just supporters, for LGBTQ+ equality. “Born this Way” flags waved, as did the transgender flag and every flag representing the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community. It was uplifting to me in that moment.

One Christian church had a tent focusing on its transgender community support. I stopped to talk with them after the parade was over. The backdrop was a large banner with the transgender flag colors. One of its members stood in front of the tent holding a sign that had drawn my attention. Written on the sign was a verse from Song of Solomon 4:7 in the Hebrew Bible. It goes like this: You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. I didn’t want to leave such a refreshing atmosphere where I was accepted and return to a polluted atmosphere where I was labeled ‘immoral.’

My argument isn’t with Christianity as whole. It’s with those who use their platforms to incite discrimination of all kinds, including against women, minorities and immigrants. We all have a right to live authentically as God’s perfect creation and be accepted as equals by society.

It’s our choice how we live out our existential purpose for being here. God or whatever notion of a supreme power you embrace, if any, has given us the empowering gift of free will. It’s with this free will and how we use it that we may become co-creators of a better world. Civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is my inspiration that the world can be changed one courageous person at a time. I may be too much of a dreamer, but I truly believe it’s possible.

As a transgender person, I’m of the conviction that we’re special and have a special purpose. We’re here to somehow help bring about more tolerance and unconditional love. It’s a hard life, I know. I live it every day. Sometimes when I’m alone with my thoughts I ask God, “Why me?”

While I admit to having my own struggles, my message is this. Let’s not focus on the discrimination and hate speech. Let’s focus on the love and support that’s out there. Above all, don’t be afraid to be who God intended for you to be.

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Category: Body & Soul

About Tommie: The majority of Tommie Smith's career has been with Fortune 100 companies, working with the news media, the public and all levels of government. Tommie began as a newspaper reporter after graduating from Clemson University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Journalism minor. Tommie is currently marketing manager for a local media outlet and resides in the Charlotte, N.C. area.

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  1. j2emily says:

    I’m betting that if you pinned down these Christian leaders re: why we are “in sin” their answer would be
    homosexuality thus demonstrating how clueless they are about us