Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the kidnapping, robbery, and torture of Matthew Shepard. To commemorate what happened to this twenty-one year old gay man, I am offering an open letter to the people in America who still routinely harass, mock, shame, brutalise, and yes even kill LGBT people around the country and the world.
To American Christians,
It seems like every day I log onto the internet, catch the news sites I follow, and run across a new example of Christian love towards the LGBT community. Whether it’s telling millions of people that they’re on par with paedophiles or claiming that gays use special rings to give people HIV, it seems as though homosexuals and their naughty, filthy lifestyle are constantly on the forefront of the Christian mind. And yet, even more astounding than their obsession with homosexuality is that after decades of brutality towards LGBT people Christians still believe that their opinions are somehow still relevant on the issue. Here’s a big spoiler for all of you. They’re not. They haven’t been for a while.
One of the problems that the Christian church has – and doesn’t seem to realise that it has – is that it’s lost all authority to speak to the LGBT community from any sort of moral high ground. Christians delight in pointing out how gays are trying to push their sinful lifestyle on to good, decent, normal people, as if some dreadful crime or indoctrinating was going on. But then they completely ignore the history of the Christian church’s interaction with the LGBT community over the past few decades alone. But let’s take a stroll through history and look back over some of the brighter moments, shall we?
We can start by stepping back to 2012. Not too long ago, is it? Remember how Pastor Sean Harris told his congregation that if their children acted too gay, he would give them ‘special dispensation’ to ‘crack their wrists’ and punch them in order to man them up? Ah, child abuse, the Christian response to the gay agenda. Remember how Pastor Charles Worley gave a sermon in which he advocated rounding up homosexuals, putting them in concentration camps and dropping food in occasionally? Remember how the evangelical Christian government of Uganda passed a bill in which ‘aggravated homosexuality’ (two or more offenses) was punishable by death? American Pastor Scott Lively was partially responsible for that bill, as he worked closely with Ugandan lawmakers concerning how to handle the homosexual menace in Uganda. The US Congress passed a resolution to denounce the bill, which was blocked by lobbying by the Christian group the Family Research Counsel, headed by Tony Perkins. They objected on the grounds that it portrayed homosexuality as a human right and that denouncing the murder of innocent gay people would make people think that ‘gay is okay.’ Yes, 2012 was a good year for Christian love towards the LGBT community.
I’ll brush over the immense work the Christian Church has done to deny gays the right to a civil marriage to the consenting adult of their choice. That debate is all over the blogosphere and I can’t imagine I’d have any new arguments that you haven’t heard already. I will address how the Christian church has lobbied in the political arena to deny gays the right to serve their nation with dignity and honour. To work for employers without fear of being fired for their sexual orientation (which is still legal in about 30 states.) Even their private sexual lives were politically demonised by conservative Christians until Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, despite the overwhelming Christian effort to legislate their own brand of morality in the political forums.
Now lets step back to the 80′s, during the AIDS crises. It was a terrible time to be gay in America. HIV was a new, unknown disease that ravaged individuals and destroyed thousands of lives. And what was the Christian response? Christian hospitals refused to treat those with AIDS. The funerals of AIDS victims were picketed by Christian organisations (ever wonder where the Wesboro Baptist Church got their tactics from?). Hospitals and hospices that did treat AIDS victims were picketed as well. Federal aid to AIDS research and support was blocked by Christian organisations and politicians. Pastor Jerry Falwell told his flock that AIDS was God’s punishment on a nation that tolerated homosexuality. Hundreds of pastors followed suit. Because, in the end, what’s a few more dead gays?
Do you understand what I am saying? Or do I need to continue? Should I take you through a tour of the internet, where the LGBT community is frequently called the vilest of names? How many times have you heard a Christian call gay men and women f-gs? How many times have you heard them referred to as abominations? How many times has someone mention in your hearing that the Bible issued the death penalty for gays and it’s a shame we don’t follow it so closely anymore?
You, the Christians of America, have labeled gays as less than human. F-gs. Abominations. Deviants. Your organisations, like the FRC and the AFA frequently refer to gays as potential pedophiles. You mock and slander them. You harass and despise them. You throw them out of your homes. Why do you think 40% of homeless youth are LGBT? You fight to deny them the opportunity to live life as they choose, demanding that they live life as you choose. You have beaten them on the streets in the name of your God. You have tortured them in camps designed to cure them, often with documented cases of electroshock therapy and ammonia aversion.
And you have killed them. The names are branded into any conversation about the Christian church’s relationship with the LGBT community. Charlie Howard. Rebecca Wight. Matthew Shepard. Marc Carson. And so many more. Men and women, killed by church-going, Christ-confessing Christians.
And after all of this, after decades of mockery and harassment and persecution and torture and murder, you dare, you DARE to tell gay people that ‘only we can cure you. Only we can save you. It is only through us that you can come to live a truly happy and content life. The religion that we have used to build a foundation of your misery is the only thing that can lead you away from your unhappiness. We are the reason you are so lost and alone and despairing, and now we can give you the love and acceptance you so crave. And if you don’t like the cure, we will make your life hell.’
That is why your ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ creed (which does not appear in the Bible) is treated with such disdain. That is why there is so much vehemence and anger and bitterness from LGBT people towards the Christian Church. It’s because Christians have earned it, and earned it again tenfold. So go to your churches, sing your liturgy, listen to your homilies. But we are begging, pleading with you. Just leave LGBT people alone. Leave them alone to live their lives in dignity. Let them find happiness with each other and their children. Let them build lives of meaning and search for truth in their own way. Just stay the hell out of their lives and walk away. Because any one who has eyes to see and ears to hear knows one thing. Your kind has done enough.
-The Irish Atheist
The proposed Christian monument to Matthew Shepard, commemorating the day he ‘went to hell.’