LGBTQ+ Derangement Syndrome

The Religious Right points out that the Bible’s origin story at the Garden of Eden talks about Adam and Eve, not “Adam and Steve,” meaning that there is no room for gender diversity or ambiguity. In this image, “Adam and Eve,” a painting by Rubens, between 1597 and 1600. Image courtesy of The Commons
The Religious Right points out that the Bible’s origin story at the Garden of Eden talks about Adam and Eve, not “Adam and Steve,” meaning that there is no room for gender diversity or ambiguity. In this image, “Adam and Eve,” a painting by Rubens, between 1597 and 1600. Image courtesy of The Commons

Recently, I went to my mailbox and found a sticker that said “God Hates Fags.” What would drive someone to plaster that kind of message? Is that a way to win converts? No. It’s a way to spread fear and hate. Where is all this fear and hate coming from?

It’s not a new attitude. Think Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Think of the Pulse massacre. Think of the statistical rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes since the 2016 election. And consider that last year the Religious Right and MAGA Republicans in state legislatures have been frothing at the mouth to push more than 500(!) anti-LGBTQ+ bills. 

It’s cultural derangement! But why all the fear and hate? What have LGBTQ+ people done to deserve so much approbation, discrimination and ostracism? What have LGBTQ+ people done to provoke so much anti-LGBTQ+ violence? And why are white (it’s almost always white) heterosexual males so scared of and triggered by it?

First Factor: Divine Hierarchy

Our patriarchal culture breeds a deep insecurity in men. If you’re a “real man,” you’re supposed to be macho. If need be, a “real man” asserts his authority through violence or the threat of violence.

Another part of this cultural conditioning comes from religion. The Bible portrays a natural hierarchical order. Men are at the top of ruling society and the family, women have babies and submit to their husbands and children must obey the authority of their parents. This is how things are supposed to be.

There is no place in this patriarchal system for LGBTQ+ people. The dominant “Judeo-Christian” majority doesn’t want LGBTQ+ people to exist or to admit that they exist. If LGBTQ+ people do exist, they are supposed to shut up about it and conform.

Having LGBTQ+ people running around demanding equal rights like marriage equality disrupts this order.

Second Factor: Wrath of God

The problem goes further. The LGBTQ+ movement reminds religious conservatives of Bible stories in which God’s anger at disobedience breaks out and wrecks havoc. Genesis 6-9 tells about how God destroyed humanity, except for Noah’s family, in the Flood.

In ancient Israel’s law book, the Torah lists sexual sins, then says that the reason God drove out the Canaanites and gave their land to the Israelites was that “[t]he land was defiled; so [God] punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants’” (Leviticus 18:25). The same would happen to Israel if it, too, defiled the land (Leviticus 18:28).

Korah and his co-conspirators plotted against Moses, so the earth “swallowed them up” (Numbers 16:32). Ananias and Sapphire lied about a charitable gift, so God struck them down (Acts 5:1-11).

Translated to the present day, Religious Righters, many of whom are MAGAs, want to avoid God’s wrath. They consider the LGBTQ+ movement an existential threat to their vision of a “Christian” America.

To thwart the LGBTQ+ agenda, the Religious Right employs sermons, prayers, school board elections, banning books that affirm LGBTQ+ people, politicians both up- and down-ballot, and the courts.

If acts of violence against LGBTQ+ people occur, the Religious Right pretty much stays mum; it does not forcefully repudiate those despicable acts.

Third Factor: Good Guys versus Bad Guys

A third part is “us versus them” culture wars. Members of the Religious Right consider themselves to be “the righteous” and those who oppose them to be “the wicked.” LGBTQ+ people are labeled as especially wicked being called “immoral,” “perverted,” “groomers,” “perverts” and “creeps.”

To maintain this stance, the Religious Right must shut its eyes to moral atrocities and oppression caused by Christians in history such as forced conversions, white supremacy, racism, colonialism, African slavery, genocide of Indigenous peoples and shielding pastors who are sexual abusers from legal accountability. Add to this the cruelty of “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ+ people, a “therapy” that has been determined to be woefully ineffective.

Regarding culture wars, gender diversity is a hot-button topic. The LGBTQ+ movement questions the claim that only two genders are possible. The Religious Right mocks this idea, noting that the origin story in the Bible talks about Adam and Eve, not “Adam and Steve.” Within the Religious Right, there is no room for gender diversity or gender ambiguity; there is no room for “Two Spirit” people, as found in Indigenous cultures.

Fourth Factor: Rejection of Pluralism

At its core, the Religious Right is theocratic. It demands that “God’s commands” (their interpretation of the Bible) supersede human laws derived from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In this view, a literalistic interpretation of “God’s commands” is supposed to be binding on everyone, even those who are not religious or Christian. Those who resist “God’s laws” must nevertheless submit. Pluralism is out the window.

The founders talked about “equal justice for all.” But the LGBTQ+ demand for marriage equality is seen as an affront to God and must be opposed.

The founders thought that freedom of religion, free speech and free assembly were important. But the Religious Right wants to prioritize biblical law, to muzzle LGBTQ+ people by book banning and to suppress LGBTQ+ public events.

Essentially, the Religious Right is not about “rights”—civil rights or human rights. It is about the imposition of religious laws whether the general public wants the Religious Right’s laws.

How to Respond

Some of us who have grown up in traditionalist or Religious Right communities of faith have had a change of heart. Where does this change of heart come from? Here are some quick thoughts.

All human beings are created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26). This includes everyone.

Jesus was inclusive in his example and teaching. He didn’t cater to religious prejudice; he hung out with those on the margins of society: tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor, the sick, the oppressed.

The United States was not founded on theocratic principles but rather religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

Real, live LGBTQ+ people are people just like the rest of us. If you get to know some, you’ll find this out.

Love fulfills the law (Romans 13:8).

Author

  • Bayard Taylor

    Bayard Taylor is a resident of the 93675 zip code, a nature lover, the author of two books, a former English teacher and a master of divinity graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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