Published on July 1st, 2012 | by TAY0
Southern Baptists Get Civil Rights Wrong
In an historic endeavour to expunge its legacy of racism, the Southern Baptist Convention voted last month to elect its first African-American president. The Reverend Fred Luter Jr ran unopposed, winning leadership of a the group of some 16 million worshippers. Though Luter’s selection is widely regarded as an attempt to reflect the diversity of the 167 year old denomination, the following day the SBC passed a resolution opposing the idea that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. Gay rights, the group suggests, are not equitable to civil rights, and the resolution affirms their belief that marriage is the “exclusive union of one man and one woman”. The Reverend Dwight McKissic, an author of the resolution and Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist church in Arlington, Texas, declared that those comparing sexual orientation with innate characteristics like skin colour are “equating their sin with my skin”.
Once again, the regressive realm of biblical literalism has reared its ugly head. Blinded by the archaic scripture they deem to be objective truth, the SBC fail to understand that, fundamentally, racism and homophobia are moral equivalents; the evil of both lies in their condemning of someone for what they are, rather than for what they do. The group, however, refuses to recognise the weight of scientific evidence that suggests homosexuality is indeed a comparatively innate characteristic. It is no more a sin to be born gay than it is to be born black. However, an unwavering refusal to acknowledge the idea of moral relativity renders the group unable to accept anything other than this outdated bigotry. All the while primordial scripture is accepted to be revealed truth, The SBC will remain an institution that caters to this homophobic fundamentalism.
Generously, the resolution does concede that homosexual people may experience ‘unique struggles’, but states that they have regrettably ‘misappropriated the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement’. The ostensible choice of homosexual or heterosexual is an irrefutably false dichotomy. However, despite this fallaciously binary system of representation, gender-variant and homosexually-orientated people can certainly be classified as minority groups. Their struggle thereby epitomises, rather than misappropriates, the heart of the Civil Rights Movement; that is, a desperate strive for equality in a world abundant with social prejudice.
In an attempt to underplay their institutional homophobia, the SBC do not refer explicitly to the practice of homosexuality. The resolution simply deems that ‘all sexual behaviour outside of marriage is sinful’. As they declare marriage to be the exclusive right of ‘one man and one woman’, homosexuality is, by extension, judged to be a sin. This dangerous sexual repression is recurrent throughout religious dogma, and forced celibacy is both morally repugnant and simply not healthy. The sexually suppressive nature of hierarchal Catholicism, for example, culminated in the institutionalisation of child rape in Catholic schools and churches all over the world.
One is forced to consider the root of this intolerance; from where does religious homophobia stem? The Bible in itself offers a synthetic collage of moral contradictions. Plagued by internal inconsistencies, the text promotes the subjugation of women, condones genocide, and tolerates the institution of slavery. Certainly, if the SBC hold such a text to be their ethical compass they are bound to form a few moral misunderstandings. Yet if they choose to form such judgments biblically, it is surely not too much to ask for a degree of consistency. The same people whose ‘faith’ inspired them to fight slavery to protect their own civil rights, are now using it as a means to deny other people theirs. It is true; Leviticus defines homosexuality as an ‘abomination’. And yet it also forbids shaving, the eating of shellfish and tattoos – something those who adorn themselves with Christian artwork should perhaps consider. Do the SBC believe, too, that adulterers should be put to death?
It is anomalous that such spiritual stigma has been retained solely for the practice of homosexuality. A grudging willingness to subject consecrated texts to literary scrutiny has allowed for a degree of religious reformation within much of Christianity. The issue of homosexuality, however, appears one on which the SBC refuses to progress. Their attitude is in dire need of modernisation; for whilst eating shellfish may be a luxury, sexual orientation is, in every sense, a right.