In the mythical War on Christianity, conservative evangelicals have now chosen the surprising tactic of self-inflammation. Right-wing Christian groups are actually suing for the right to be intolerant.
No, really. Honest.
The Los Angeles Times reports on the situation. "Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies: Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue."
This is not an April Fools joke. Even in an alternative universe, the story would be considered bizarre. But only in a thoughtless, mean-spirited, nasty sort of way.
The good news is that this should be the turning point against the intolerance of such ultra-conservative groups, and ultimately be their worst nightmare.
Why so? Let's pretend a moment and say there are actually millions who share these shockingly-prejudiced views of the right to harass gays. Let's even say 10 million. Hey, let's go 20 million. This means that there are 268 million other Americans who not only disagree, but are likely appalled. Even more, it also means that there are 139 million other Christians holding their collective heads in agony at the embarrassing picture being painted of their own faith.
A female student at Georgia Tech is suing the university to drop its tolerance policy. The lawsuit is part of a "growing campaign...to eliminate polices protecting gays and lesbians from harassment."
Okay, so maybe now you think this is and other similar lawsuits are just sorority pledge pranks gone bad. But no, Rev. Rick Scarborough, who as an adult should know better, says with a straight face that this policy against gays and lesbians is a civil rights issue for Christians. "Christians are going to have to take a stand for the right to be a Christian," he insists.
And that in a nutshell is the problem these ultra-conservative groups created for themselves: those 139 million other Christians in horror at seeing how their own personal faith is being portrayed. That this is supposedly being "a Christian." It forces the question for these other 90+% of Christians - you know, the ones who have no problem not being intolerant to anyone: is this what you think being a Christian is?
The point is that this is not what Christianity is about. The values of Christianity are deep and loving, which is why they have been ingrained in the hearts of so many. The point here is that it's time for those Christians, that other 90+% - and everyone - to stand and not allow such intolerance to get away with it. Enough already.
This is not an attack on religion because self-imposed intolerance has nothing to do with religion. This isn't "The Bible teaches us that..." The Bible teaches scads of things we all (all!) dismiss freely. This is selectively cherry-picking something you just hate so much until your teeth curl and then use the beauty of Christian faith as a club.
Otherwise, why not protest that if a farmer plants soybeans and corn ("mingled seed") in the same field, he should be stoned to death? (Leviticus 19:19) As if farmers don't have it hard enough.
And on and on. No trimming your hair. If you eat fat, you shall be cut off from your people. A man may be put to death for working on the Sabbath. You can own slaves. Sell your daughter. And endless more.
We ignore these sacred tenets because we all (all!) understand that life changes, and some things are not acceptable parts of our human existence. Therefore, to merely single out homosexuality just because it's "in the Bible" is simply a personal prejudice.
The proof. The Georgia Tech student wrote a letter stating, "If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda." By her own acknowledgement, this is all just political, not religious. Unless one considers Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld the Holy Trinity.
Intolerance is not Christian. It is un-American. This is the ghastly antithesis of why the United States was founded. That all men are created equal. In the end, for anyone to stay silent on this issue is not only unacceptable, it's the sort of soul-crushing silence that may make your head explode.
Is this how you personally want your religion, want yourself to be defined?
If anyone thinks free speech should permit a religion to harass gays in public life, then why stop there? Allow religion to intolerantly define how any group should be attacked in public. According to the Bible, money-lenders would be a really easy target.
Okay, here's how life works: People are free to believe in their religion holding any dogma they want. But when you start claiming rights of free speech, you are now entering the pesky secular world, where the laws of free speech actually exist and have meaning. And in the pesky secular world, intolerance doesn't cut it.
It would seem that the people who should be most aghast by this hijacking of Christianity are Christians. But the good news is, there's plenty of room to be aghast for everyone to go around.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RobertElisberg