OpEd: The Times-Dispatch Managed to Publish One of the Worst Anti-Gay Marriage OpEd Ever
People who believe that they can unequivocally speak for the heart of Christ are dangerous. These types of religious personalities can use that platform to categorize and demean those who believe differently, and their followers (sometimes) blindly believe what they say and act accordingly. These men and women have dealt the harshest and most personal blows to members of the LGBT community.
Here in Richmond, we have a poignant example of the “very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt” that prominent ex-gay leader, Alan Chambers, referred to in his apology to the LGBT community. Rick McDaniel, Pastor of the Richmond Community Church, published a column in the Times Dispatch that vividly illustrates why stereotypes of small-minded discriminatory Christians exist. In a Falwell-esque manner, McDaniel perpetuates the outdated and damaging rhetoric that started the huge rift between the LGBT community and the church.
The column is the reincarnation of a blog post McDaniel wrote in May titled “5 Myths about Gay Marriage.” In both the column and the blog post, McDaniel’s 5 myths echo the divisive and trivializing mindset that dehumanizes gays and makes it easy for uninformed followers to think of them as inferior. What’s more disturbing is McDaniel’s matter of fact exposition of erroneous facts. To their credit, many Christians have evolved past this kind of thinking; but the fact that it still exists and that a pastor feels comfortable spreading these hurtful justifications to those who hold him in high esteem is disheartening.
“Saying it is unfair that gays cannot marry is just the same as saying it is unfair that one does not have a high enough IQ to be a scientist or lacks exceptional height to be an NBA player.”
Mr. McDaniel’s whole inference here is poorly based. Equating sexuality to a sub par IQ or a physiological deficiency is like saying that gays don’t meet the genetic standard to have the right to marry. What’s interesting is that McDaniel is giving credence to the fact that gay people are, in fact, born gay. Still the underlying tone of elitism here is what is dangerous. The inference is that gay people don’t measure up to heterosexuals and therefore, aren’t able to take advantage of the heterosexual privilege of marriage.
“Just because one does not support gay marriage does not make one homophobic… The idea that you hate homosexuals because you disagree with gay marriage is the kind of lazy thinking that infects this country in so many public debates. Only someone with limited, linear thinking comes to such a simplistic conclusion.”
For years, the defense from the Religious Right has been that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, therefore gay marriage cannot exist. It doesn’t get more linear than that, especially when you consider that not everyone in America believes the Bible to be a sacred text. Using it as an excuse for demeaning and justifying the discrimination of a people group is about as simplistic as it gets. Some would call the whole “I believe it because it’s in the Bible and therefore I will impose it on you whether you believe in the Bible or not” defense incredibly lazy because a productive conversation to promote understanding is almost impossible from that premise.
Operating under these stereotypes is lazy thinking at best. I don’t know anyone who blindly and wholly labels those who are against gay marriage as “homophobic.” I do, however, know a lot of people from the religious right that are comfortable labeling all LGBT people as “sinners”, “perverts”, and generally undeserving of basic human rights.
“Only a marriage between a man and a woman can create a child. No same-sex relationship can ever procreate naturally… A man cannot tell a girl how to be a woman; a woman cannot tell a boy how to be a man. This is why it takes both a mom and dad to raise a healthy, well-adjusted child.”
Labeling the fight against marriage equality as a cause to address the needs of the children is the newest piece of contrived rhetoric from the right. However, as Rachel Maddow clearly demonstrates, that argument is false and is even addressed to the contrary in the Supreme Court’s recent decision.
Second, there are many heterosexual marriages that can’t produce children for a variety of reasons. Does this mean that those couples shouldn’t have the right to marry? If procreation denotes right to marry, then many barren and elderly couples who get married should not be able to be married. This argument is ludicrous and offensive.
As to the masculinity bestowing femininity and vice versa— Jerry Falwell called and wants his argument back. Does McDaniel not understand that by using this argument he discounts each and every single mom and single dad out there that raises well-adjusted children? Not to mention the fact that recent studies show that children raised in same-sex homes are “growing up healthy and well-adjusted, despite continued discrimination against their families.”
Truly, this is the low point of the article. This statement reeks of gender bias. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that McDaniel’s apparent gender bias has been showcased. Check out this article that he wrote for the Huffington Post in which he (in a negative connotation) grieves the “feminization” of Christianity as he discusses the compatibility of male dominated football and Christianity.
“Our leaders should create policies supporting marriage, not redefining it. Promoting traditional marriage does not discriminate against anyone. You can love whomever you choose — but that does not mean demanding your relationship be recognized as a marriage.”
Again, McDaniel embodies his own accusations. In saying that “supporting traditional marriage does not discriminate against anyone” he employs semantics. Supporting traditional marriage by lobbying for denying same-sex couples the right to marry is exactly discriminatory.
I was once told by a pastor that I had all the same rights that he did. I had the right to enter into a heterosexual marriage just like he did. Like McDaniel, he was also a fundamentalist who chose to use this rhetoric in a way that is belittling to the desire of a LGBT person to marry someone of their same-sex. McDaniel continues to support this way of thinking by saying:
“This debate is not about marriage equality; the reframing of the argument is a brilliant move by gay marriage supporters but it is semantics more than substance.”
What a brilliant reframing of the argument from Mr. McDaniel! These well-crafted pieces of rhetoric succeed in convincing followers that gay people pursue the term ”marriage” in an effort to destroy it.
We LGBT folks don’t really NEED our unions to be called marriage—we just want the equal rights and are trying to commandeer the term from the heteros. People do believe these things. It makes me wonder if Mr. McDaniel has ever known a gay person. I wonder if he’s spoken to anyone who is currently being denied the right to marry. If he has, I would think it would be very hard to dismiss the desire for our marriages to be called just that as “semantics more than substance.”
We want the right to marry because we hold the same values as heterosexuals who get married. That’s obviously not something McDaniel has learned. By the way – to use his same argument, promoting same-sex marriage does not discriminate against anyone – it just includes MORE people!
To be fair, rhetoric exists on both sides of this debate and Mr. McDaniel and his congregation are free to believe what they want to believe. However, the level of ignorance evidenced in this article is inflammatory and detrimental. Thoughts like these, and the willingness to preach them, are responsible for driving LGBT Christians in droves away from the church. They are responsible for the reverse stereotyping that occurs, and they are responsible for leading others into feeling comfortable standing up and dehumanizing an entire people group that is foreign to them.
If they could move past these points of rhetoric to simply say “We believe the Bible”. We believe it says that being gay is a sin and that marriage can’t exist between two people of the same sex. And yes, because we believe that we feel comfortable fighting to continue to deny members of the LGBT community a basic human right,” then at least we’d have gotten to the heart of the matter. The truth is that as long as influential people choose to be uninformed about the LGBT people who they are fighting so hard against, ignorant and hurtful propaganda like this article will continue to divide, exclude, and misinform.
In my experience, people who feel free to use outdated ideas to further the fight against gay marriage have rarely been around anyone from the gay community. Limited exposure feeds the short-sighted beliefs. I would gladly sit down for coffee with Mr. McDaniel. Do you think he would sit down with me?
Apryl Prentiss is a right wing dropout. Born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA and heavily involved in the evangelical Christian community for her entire life. She lives in Richmond, VA with her partner, Adrian, and enjoys trying to dialogue with those in the evangelical community about sexuality.
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