We evangelicals are currently going through the process of demonization, the fact that evangelicals as a group are the most charitable people on earth, or that they have created the freest and most tolerant societies is being conveniently forgotten, and the myth of the ignorant, ranting, gay basher is being spread far and wide. The next steps after demonization are marginalization and then finally purging.
Recently Andrew Sullivan, an openly gay and admittedly biased writer and journalist published an article entitled “Anderson Cooper: “The Fact Is, I’m Gay” on his highly influential blog, The Dish. The article came about because Sullivan feels that the more Americans become aware of how many high profile celebrities are gay, the more it will normalize homosexuality, promote the gay agenda, and marginalize those opposed to it. Therefore he wrote asking his friend, CNN anchor and Vanderbilt heir, Anderson Cooper to go “on the record” about being homosexual.
Cooper did, although he stated he believes a reporter’s sexuality shouldn’t be an issue nor does he believe it affects their objectivity as journalists. He said his reason for going on the record about being homosexual was that he didn’t want people to believe that he was trying to hide something and understands that “while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.” So, as reluctant as he is to make his sexual orientation an issue, he felt he had to.
But Cooper’s declaration also indicated the way that American society has already shifted 180 degrees. Had a CNN anchor come out and publicly made it known that he was a Bible-believing evangelical Christian that would effectively have been the end of his career. Certainly, from that point on he would no longer have been considered credible or objective on issues related to things like same-sex marriage or religious freedom. And yet, these days, an anchor making it known they are homosexual, is in no way a career ending announcement, nor does the public think they can’t be objective about issues they have a direct interest in, like same-sex marriage. To a great extent, Christians and homosexuals have exchanged historic roles in Western culture.
To be sure, there is still a lot of talk in the media about discrimination against homosexuals, and outrage against evangelical Christian attitudes towards the homosexual agenda, and in particular, same-sex marriage. But at this point any objective review of the situation would indicate that the worm has turned and that it is not homosexuals, but Bible believing Christians who are facing increasing discrimination in society, and in particular in the media.
To illustrate that we only need to reverse the situation we have been discussing and ask if an evangelical Christian journalist, known for advocacy for traditional marriage, could have “called out” an evangelical CNN anchor (if there was one, which there isn’t) and asked him to discuss his own traditional marriage views because of the hostile climate and expect the same kind of “sure I can” response that Anderson Cooper gave? Furthermore, could we expect the same kind of favorable response from society that followed Cooper’s declaration? Of course not. One only has to look to the firestorm of criticism that followed evangelical celebrity Kirk Cameron’s interview with Piers Morgan in which Morgan, by asking pointed questions of Cameron, extracted a declaration that he did not believe same-sex marriage was natural or biblical. It is because of this kind of reaction, that most Bible-believers who’ve made it to celebrity status pray no one finds out what they believe about these issues lest they have their career “Kirk Cameroned.” Many evangelical celebrities simply find it easier to compromise their faith by declaring that while they are Bible-believing Christians, they also support homosexuality and same-sex marriage as country singer Carrie Underwood did in June. For now, this is sufficient to give them a modicum of approbation from society, but one has to ask how many other compromises they will be asked to make in the future. By contrast, how many homosexual celebrities feel they have to apologize for believing in same-sex marriage in order to keep their career these days? The answer is none.
But lest we think this trend is something that only affects celebrities or candidates for office, we need to put it in its wider social context. While homosexuals are becoming more and more visible in the culture and widely affirmed and supported, Bible believing Christians are moving in the opposite direction, and their views are becoming marginalized and vilified. Discriminating against evangelical Christians for their beliefs is now becoming official policy in both the UK and the US. For instance in both countries, Christian adoption agencies that do not allow same-sex couples to adopt children have been forced to shut down, hotels that do not allow same-sex couples to use their facilities have been fined, and Christians who do not support homosexuality have been forbidden to adopt or foster children. All of this is happening at a time when it is becoming more and more unacceptable to even give the impression that you discriminate against homosexuals. This is what Cooper calls “the tide.”
This means that if the children and grandchildren of Bible-believing Christians want to have a chance at being whatever they want to be (including a news anchor) they are going to have to either hide or deny their faith. Christians are effectively changing historic places in the closet with homosexuals.
Now many individuals and even some Christians reading this will have come to the conclusion that this about-face in society is justified because Christians have been responsible for vicious and even violent attacks on homosexuals in the past. It is only “fair” therefore that Christians feel a little of the hate they’ve supposedly been dishing out for so long. This attitude is profoundly misguided for at least two reasons. First, because it is not Bible-believing Christians who have been responsible for the majority of attacks on homosexuals, but the world. For instance, the Nazi SS was the furthest thing from a Christian organization. The head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, even forbade SS men to be members of churches, and yet they were some of the most vicious persecutors of homosexuals the world has ever seen. In the twentieth century deliberate persecution of homosexuals was very much the realm of Nazis, Communists, and Muslims, but it was precisely in the countries were the Protestant Reformation had taken hold that homosexuals have found the most acceptance and safety.
Secondly, we need to remember where this vilification is headed. History teaches us that in order to really victimize someone you have to first make them the villains and oppressors. In order for the Nazis to successfully persecute the Jews they first had to portray them as thieving oppressors who “stabbed Germany in the back” during the first world war, stole their jobs and their women, and perverted their youth. By doing that, they made the persecution of the Jews seem justified to most Germans, who came to believe that the Jews were, after all, only “getting a taste of their own medicine.” The Soviets did something very similar with the Ukrainian Kulak farmers. First they demonized them, and then they starved, imprisoned, and shot them en masse.
We evangelicals are currently going through the process of demonization, the fact that evangelicals as a group are the most charitable people on earth, or that they have created the freest and most tolerant societies is being conveniently forgotten, and the myth of the ignorant, ranting, gay basher is being spread far and wide. The next steps after demonization are marginalization and then finally purging. The UK is already in the marginalization stage, we’d be gullible indeed not to think that the US won’t follow or that persecution can’t happen here.
Andrew Webb is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, N.C.