For fifty years, Bob Jones University, in Greenville, South Carolina, prohibited interracial dating and Bob Jones Jr. once claimed that Catholicism was a “satanic counterfeit” of fundamentalist Christianity. Despite the ugly rhetoric and vile policies, Republican candidates regularly flocked to the school and groveled for its endorsement. The GOP luminaries who appeared at the university include Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle, and Bob Dole.
This ignoble political ritual ended in 2000 after presidential candidate George W. Bush was excoriated for appearing at the school. In 1983, Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status over its dating rules and argued in court, “God intended segregation of the races and that the Scriptures forbid interracial marriage.” However, the media firestorm over the Bush speech forced Bob Jones III to announce on CNN’s Larry King Live that it was reversing its bigoted policy.
Over time, so-called traditional values can come to be seen as valueless traditions. While the transformation of attitudes can take decades, the actual policy change itself can seem abrupt. Bush was simply following in the footsteps of others, but failed to realize America was walking down a different path.
The same can be said about last week’s uproar over the removal of Rev. Louie Giglio from President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, after Think Progress discovered that he had delivered a toxic anti-gay sermon in the mid-90s.
A few notable nuggets from Giglio’s talk:
• “That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family.”
• “And the only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been engrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus. We’ve got to say the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me… it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.”
Not surprisingly, the maven’s of martyrdom on the fundamentalist fringe are portraying Giglio’s removal from the program as a loss of religious freedom. Janice Shaw Crouse, executive director of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Times titled, “Obama Committee’s Slap in the Face of Religious Liberty.”
“The Obama administration has thrown down a gauntlet, declaring that anyone who espouses historic, biblical Christian teaching will be prohibited from participation in events in the public square,” wrote Crouse. “As Christians, we cannot back down from our religious freedoms, nor can we betray our faith by watering down scripturally based Gospel.”
Crouse’s overheated rhetoric is a mix of pontification and exaggeration. No one is taking away her right to hold backward beliefs or speak out against what she regards as sin. However, Crouse and other evangelicals routinely confuse freedom with having free rein to insult and demonize others without suffering consequences. They simply can’t comprehend that the “untouchables” they used to bully with their Bibles are no longer remaining silent and refuse to accept their inferior place in society.
Crouse goes onto pose an interesting question:
“Now, like the thorough FBI background checks for security purposes of all potential high-profile political appointees, will anyone who participates in any way in a public event have to undergo a thorough background check for statements about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community?
Once again, Crouse engages in hyperbole by conjuring images of an oppressive police state harassing Christians. However, the reality is much crueler for those who share her convoluted convictions. Increasingly, politicians will use Google to search for mean-spirited attacks on the LGBT community. They will do so not from pressure, but from an understanding that their constituents do not want to see their LGBT friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family members publicly humiliated in the public square by prehistoric-sounding preachers.
Crouse goes on to rip the Obama administration’s official statement on Giglio’s departure:
“Officials wrote that the replacement person’s beliefs will ‘reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.’ Except, of course, those who disagree with the administration’s narrow view of ‘inclusion’ and ‘acceptance of all Americans.’”
In Crouse’s perverse fantasy world, there is a bizarre moral equivalence between bullies and victims – and it is downright narrow-minded, even intolerant, not to give them equal time. I wonder how she’d feel about sharing a stage with foreign officials who condemn Christians and consider doing so just another valid point of view?
Rev. Giglio is not a victim of religious persecution, but simply bad timing. Like Bush in 2000, Giglio unwittingly stepped into the intersection of change and evolution and got run over by time. Similarly to BJU, Crouse can either find a new way to interpret her Bible or people will increasingly interpret her offensive views as unfit for polite company.
** Note: If you are from a cool, pro-LGBT evangelical church, I’m obviously not talking about you when I use the term “Evangelical” in this op-ed