The Viability of Dialogue in Pastor Worley’s World
In the wake of the rash of homophobic videos emerging from North Carolina’s pastoral community, I am often left asking the question “Why are gay people so scary to the hetero Christians of the world?” Don’t get me wrong. I fully realize that the samplings of videos that are reaching the national media are outliers—they don’t fully represent the views of fundamental Christianity or of the majority of pastors or Christians in North Carolina. There are many in that state who humanely and respectfully disagree and make it a point to recognize the humanity of the gay community apart from their religious belief that homosexuality is a sin. That’s not my point, however.
Let’s take Charles Worley for instance. Here’s a quote from his rant that has now become viral:
“I figured a way out — a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. But I couldn’t get it passed through Congress. Build a great big large fence, 150 or 100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. Have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ‘em, and– And you know what? In a few years they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.”
This isn’t your typical the-Bible-says-it’s-not=God’s-best kind of speech. It’s not even the more intense the-Bible-says-it’s-wrong-and-homos-are-going-to-hell kind of speech. This speech evokes Hitler comparisons quite clearly. It’s dehumanizing and demeaning. It (even in a figurative way) aggressively advocates violence towards the LGBTQ community. I, like almost every gay person I know, immediately re-posted it on Facebook and showed it to people around my office. Why? Because SO many people believe that people like this do not exist. Not in 2012. I had the same experience when I returned from the National Equality March in October of 2009 and began telling people about the representatives from the God Hates Fags organization. People didn’t believe that they existed until we showed them a video that clearly captured their hate towards the community. To them and to many people (regardless of their sexuality or religious beliefs) this type of abhorrent rhetoric is mind-blowing. To me, it’s vile but provocative.
What is it about gay people that intrinsically threatens the security of so many in the religious community? Why are members of the LGBTQ community an identified threat rather than another people group with different beliefs? What causes some of them to migrate from one man + one woman = marriage to let’s execute them or let them die out in a concentration camp? I don’t know the answer to these questions. What I do know is that when members of Pastor Worley’s congregation were interviewed they described him as a good, compassionate man.
Taking that as truth (perceived or real), we have to ask the question “What turns compassionate men into hatemongers or dehumanizers when the subject of gay people is introduced?” I’ve seen this in my own life. When I came out years ago, coming from the fundamental Christian community, I watched in horror as people who had spent years loving and mentoring me felt free to launch into dehumanizing rants about my sexuality. These were compassionate, loving, intelligent people! But when I confirmed that I had stopped fighting my sexuality and had accepted it instead—it was like I had flipped a switch. They almost appeared entitled to demean my sexuality because they felt like they were justified by the Bible. It continues to baffle me and I think it must baffle many of you as well.
I know dialogue is possible with those who believe differently than I do about my sexuality. Loving and non-judgmental Christians DO exist and I’m thankful to know many of them. But those who are willing to engage in this type of dialogue are not the majority and are not the ones who are ranting and raving and espousing hateful rhetoric. It’s those people who are reinforcing homophobia to those who already fear and hate the LGBTQ community. Their rhetoric is reaching the national stage and is getting reinforced in small politically correct ways by those who compare homosexuality to bestiality on the political stage.
How can we move towards a productive dialogue with people who are so quick to cut sexuality down to sexual act? We can’t reproduce—so that means our relationships aren’t real or justified. Or even those who say “What you do in your bedroom is none of my business?” How can we engage someone in a discussion about tolerance and respect when they believe that part of Christian love is to tell you over and over again that you are going to hell—as if we didn’t hear it the first time? How do we educate others about our humanity outside and inside of our sexuality who feel that the Bible (as they understand it) is education enough?
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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