I am simultaneously amazed and disappointed by how some American Christians choose their heroes these days.
Mississippi state lawmaker and minister Andy Gipson recently cited a Biblical passage that demands death for men who've had sex with men as his way of speaking out against President Obama's support of marriage equality. And in the face of criticism, he says that he is not backing down.
To put it succinctly, I hate when these incidents happen. A lawmaker says something anti-gay while hiding behind the Bible, our community demands an apology, the lawmaker refuses to back down, and finally the lawmaker is looked upon by some as a hero for supposedly standing up for Biblical principal.
Gipson is not a hero. If you want to talk about true heroes of the Christian faith, then let's talk about those who spent their lives fighting injustice, like Desmond Tutu. Let's talk about those who gave their lives for the sake of equality, like Oscar Romero or Maximilian Kolbe. All Gipson did was repeat Biblical verses in an attempt to bash a group of people who, to my knowledge, have never done him any harm. Just when were the requirements of heroism of the American Christian faith reduced to lip service designed to tear people down based on assumptions of sin?
And Gipson is not the only "Christian" taking the pill of self-righteousness. Recently U.S. Congressman James Lankford (R-Okla.) told Think Progress that he opposes LGBT nondiscrimination laws for gays on the grounds that they would give "special protection" for certain sexual behaviors. When the story initially broke, he accused Think Progress of attacking him because of his "faith." Rep. Lankford is hiding behind his religious beliefs to excuse discrimination.
We are not talking about sexual behavior. We are talking about sexual orientation. Telling your co-workers that you are gay is not the same thing as describing sexual acts any more than a straight couple showing off their wedding rings is the same as them talking about their favorite sexual positions. Talking about your partner and family or placing a portrait of them on your desk is not the same thing as going into lurid detail about a Saturday-night date.
Congressmen Lankford and Gipson are indicative of people who, while they wrap themselves up in their Bible to pump up their ego, are oblivious of the change taking place across the country. The gay community no longer lurks on the outskirts of the American experience. A vast majority of us no longer confuse our sexual orientation with a sick need that we take care of in dark alleys, parks, public restrooms, or video stores. The vast majority of us are not listening to the constant beat of those demanding that we hate ourselves as much as they pretend that they don't hate us.
We see our sexual orientation as a God-given blessing. And we have discovered that we have been deceived all these years by those who seem to think that their religious beliefs entitle them to dictate how we conduct our lives. We have discovered that we have been bamboozled into believing that we are not worthy to sit at the table of the American experience or to taste that sweet nectar known by many as a complete and happy life with a partner who loves us and children we will raise if we so desire. We have discovered that we have been unfairly relegated to the floor and tricked into settling for stale crumbs and lukewarm water thrown at us by folks like Lankford and Gipson as they cast nasty looks while clutching their Bibles and reciting supposed admonitions against homosexuality and making sure to omit other verses telling them to love their neighbor and not judge their fellow human beings. After years of being told by people like Lankford and Gipson that there was no place at the table for us, we have discovered that not only is there a comfy chair at the table with our names on it, but there is also a bottle of sweet nectar with our names specifically on it.
So I feel safe in speaking for a majority of the gay community, if not all of it, when I say to people like Lankford and Gipson and the rest: You had better slide aside, because we are going to sit at that table, and we are going to take a full drink of that nectar because it belongs to us. It's ours. It doesn't belong solely to you. And nothing you do or say will keep us from it. You see, we are human beings just like you, and our life has value, value not to be determined by you but value that exists in spite of you.