The Baptist Witness, the state publication for the Baptists of Victoria, is currently running an article by Bishop Joseph Mattera of the ‘Christ Covenant Coalition’ in New York. It’s entitled 10 ways homosexual activists have shifted culture and what the church can learn from it. The Witness has invited comment on the piece. This is mine.
Mattera’s thesis is that a pesky but savvy coalition of ‘gay activists’ has, in the span of just one generation, turned western society on its head. So much so the homosexual community has moved from being an ‘oppressed minority’ to a ‘protected elite’ exercising extraordinary and culture-changing influence. At the same time, the Christian majority has been sidelined and silenced. In fact, ‘Bible-believing Christians’ are now experiencing minority persecution, ‘bashed with impunity’ by the gatekeepers of this new order.
According to Mattera, this switch has taken place through the gay lobby’s clever implementation of a set of carefully devised ‘strategies’. What’s more, if the church is to regain its ‘ascendency’ in this battle of ‘world-views’, it must learn from these strategies and rally its troops with equal intent. The gay strategies that Mattera identifies include (i) hijacking language, (ii) infiltrating cultural and educational agendas, (ii) buying political influence, (iv) moving culture from tolerance to the celebration of difference, (v) humanising homosexual people though ‘sympathy and victimhood’, (vi) winning the propaganda war, (vii) lobbying for the changing of laws–the list continues.
Frankly, there is so much about Mattera’s article that is painful to read. Of course, it includes an element of truth. That a significant degree of change has come in societies like ours is undeniable. That the struggle of activists has advanced that change is also true. But that a ‘bishop’ of the Christian church thinks that through words like these he is doing nothing more than affirming the success of ‘the gays’ so as to stir up ‘the Christians’ to action is so breathtakingly ignorant and pastorally bereft. The barely veiled assumptions that underlie these ‘ten points’ are like rocks heaved at those who are already wounded. Mattera may not intend to wound, but like so many in his position, he does.
The gay agenda: That the movement of a whole community from the hidden and persecuted margins of society to acceptance and participation should be reduced to the devious ‘agenda’ of a pesky group of pinko activists is so incredibly demeaning. Do we really believe that if those activists had just shut up and gone away we would no longer have this ‘problem’? Do we really think that by putting ‘Bible-believing Christians’ back on the cultural throne the real life stories of gay men and women will dry up? The liberation of sexual minorities is not about competing ‘agendas’ and which one wins. It’s about people.
The gay conspiracy: That we Christians could be so fear-driven and ridiculous as to really believe that the ‘homosexuals’ are organising to secretly infiltrate the halls of power, educational establishments and religious institutions so as to wrest power and shift culture is nothing short of insulting. It reads as if homosexuals are an alien race, until fifty years ago hidden away from us all, but now on the march. Surely the fact that there are more people now able to come out from the cultural shadows and be who they have always been–in whatever profession or context they are in–is a sign of cultural maturity not evidence of a creeping conspiracy.
The weapon of normalisation: That we would view the ‘normalising’ of homosexuality as the insidious plot of the ungodly is breathtaking. God forbid that a young gay man should consider himself normal! God forbid that we might begin to address the tragically high suicide rates among LGBTI youth by treating them as anything but ‘queer’. The fact that we have been moved from ‘abhorrence of the gay lifestyle’ to seeing homosexuals as ‘normal people with normal lives and problems’ is surely as it should be.
Claiming discrimination: To imply that we predominantly white, middle-class, western Christians–members of the largest and most influential religion in the world–are an oppressed and sidelined people, simply confirms that that when it comes to the debilitating power of real discrimination, we just don’t get it. We can only make such a pathetic claim because we have never in our lives experienced the real thing. We end up sounding like spoilt children who no longer rule the playground.
The language of ‘us’ and ‘them’: All the way though Mattera’s article he refers to the gay community as ‘them’ and ‘they’ as though ‘we’ are an entirely different race. As long as we Christians continue to describe members of the LGBTI community as ‘other’ than we are, we will continue to alienate and wound. The fact is, ‘they’ are ‘us’. And that, more than anything else, is why culture has shifted. More and more as a society, we are coming to understand that ‘they’ are the people we love, the people we work with, the children we parent, the neighbours we live next door to, the people who sit next to us in church. This is our story, not theirs. To so distance ourselves from it diminishes us all.
We may well struggle as Christians to discern what faithfulness to God means in the expression of our sexuality. Surely, though, as we wrestle with these issues together, we can do better than this.