The Bible as a Weapon

I’ve spent much of the week listening to testimony for and against House Bill 2, which would Add the Words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. My testimony to the House State Affairs Committee is here.

There were some beautiful stories shared, particularly when parents of trans children spoke of their journeys of acceptance and understanding and asked for protection for their children.

There were some heartbreaking stories shared as well.

–stories of people who were bullied and tormented until they couldn’t take it anymore and killed themselves

–stories of people who have been assaulted and injured

–stories of people who are afraid to use public restrooms, or afraid to talk to their co-workers for fear of revealing their sexuality at work and risking their jobs

190 people testified over the three days. Of those, 134 spoke in favor, 54 spoke against, and two were neutral.

I expected there would be people speaking against this bill. But I never expected the level of hatred, prejudice, and vitriol that was directed at Idaho’s gay and trans citizens. It was horrible. Truly frightening to me that people would go “on the record” before a legislative committee and say those things. I told the committee that the testimony against the bill was proof the bill was needed.

One woman warned legislators:

“I have deep love and compassion for all people, as Christ has taught me and by the incredible example of my parents growing up,” Laurie Burchfield said at a House State Affairs Committee hearing on House Bill 2. “With that said, that love and compassion does not mean I condone the LGBT lifestyle.”

She said the terms sexual orientation and gender identity were “undefined and open up a Pandora’s Box of sexual preferences.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, do you really want to legalize under this bill pedophilia, sadism, bestiality, necrophilia, exhibitionism, polygamy and many others?” Burchfield asked. “Those are all within this undefined term.”

Did you notice how she started talking about love and ended up talking about necrophilia? Did you notice how she hid her hatred behind the love of Jesus Christ?

She was not alone. Without a fault, every person who carried a Bible to the lectern went on to say hateful and dehumanizing things about Idaho’s gay and trans people. Some people said hateful things without the Bible in hand, but even most of them invoked it or quoted from it.

Thankfully, there were lots of religious leaders there to speak for the bill. And their testimony was good and powerful.

But. Still. I just can’t get over the visual of those men (the people with Bibles were all men–hatred came from both men and women) wielding the Bible as a weapon, spewing hatred and malice.

Thursday morning, the House State Affairs Committee will debate and vote on the House Bill 2. They have the power to send it out of committee to the floor of the House. Who knows what they will do, but my word for the year is “miracle”, so a girl can dream, right?

One possibility, if this bill makes it out of committee, would be for them to add some sort of religious exemption, which would allow people with “deeply held religious beliefs” to not be held accountable to the law.

After hearing the testimony against the bill, however, I clearly see that the people who are the biggest threats to the safety and flourishing of Idaho’s gay and trans community are the very people seeking a religious exemption from the bill designed to protect the gay and trans community.

Yes, conservative Christians who testified against this bill, I’m looking at you. You have taken the Good News of Jesus Christ and used it as a weapon of hate. People in our state need protection from you because you have chosen to privilege your fear of homosexuality over God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

A religious exemption would be like passing a law prohibiting foxes from going into the hen house, but then telling the foxes you’ll leave the door open all night, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I saw this on Twitter tonight. It about sums it up.

We must do better. People are dying while “Christians” speak of love and then preach hatred. It is time to Add the Words, with no religious exemptions.

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15 thoughts on “The Bible as a Weapon

  1. Yes. I wasn’t able to see and hear all the testimony, but what I did hear, from the opponents, was awful. They don’t seem to know anything about the Jesus I know, who was very clear about the Kingdom of God being for all people, and who focused much of his ministry on welcoming the outcast. Thank you, Marci, for your witness.

  2. Thank you for your testimony and actions toward making Idaho a safer place for all people. The activism of pastors who truly follow Jesus’ teachings is crucial for change to occur.

  3. Hi, Marci.

    I wasn’t at the hearings, so I’m just reading words without inflections. In the quote by Laurie Burchfield that you cite, I don’t hear hate. I simply hear her saying that, left undefined, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” *can* mean a lot of different things. I’ve heard this argument several times: would you be kind enough to define the terms? Thanks,

    Tim

    • Yes, that question was asked a number of times. The answer given, is that it uses the same definitions the federal statutes use.
      The Human Rights Campaign has a helpful list of definition of different terms here: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions

      The American Psychological Association defines them here: http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf

      Basically, sexual orientation refers to being heterosexual (attracted to members of opposite gender), homosexual (attracted to members of same gender), or bi-sexual (attracted to members of both genders).

      Gender Identity is one’s sense of oneself as male, female, or transgender.

      The reason I, and many others, heard hate in Laurie Burchfield’s testimony that day is that she compared people who are gay and lesbian to people who molest children, who have sex with dead bodies, and who have sex with animals. It feels even more hateful because she had first claimed to have deep compassion and love for all people because of Jesus–which then suggests that Jesus would agree with her. Using religion to make false equivalence, in the name of love, was received as hateful by the gay and transgender Idahoans in the room who are seeking to live in safety, free from rhetoric like hers. She was not the only one who preached hate that week. She was one of many.

  4. Thanks, Marci.

    If I could indulge you for a response on two separate questions–I appreciate the dialog, and clarity is so important in matters like these.

    The first has to do with definitions. The APA definition of sexual orientation says, “Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation TYPICALLY have included attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals)” (emphasis mine). In using the word “typically,” this definition allows for “atypical” categories that are unspecified. Strictly speaking, one could be sexually oriented towards other things, and the definition does not exclude other things.

    Everyone has a sexual orientation, some unfortunately towards animals, children and dead bodies. I would think that advocates of “Add the Words” would want to clarify what they want included AND excluded before that definition is put into law? I assume, and have never suspected otherwise, that proponents of “Add the Words” are opposed to pedophilia, bestiality, etc., yes? I would think it is also possible for someone to press for a better definition without a motive of hatred. That’s all I get from the text of Ms. Burchfield’s testimony above.

    The second question has to do with assigning the motive of hatred to those who invoke Jesus. There are plenty of Christians whose concerns about homosexuality are rooted in the fact that the Bible says it’s sinful–just like heterosexual adultery, gossip, pride, etc. Because the Bible says that such sins lead to condemnation, they want sinners to repent of sins and be saved. Without debating whether or not they are correct for the moment, their opposition to homosexual behavior stems from the desire that sinners repent of sin and be saved. If you believe someone is doing something that earns God’s wrath (whether or not your belief is correct), wouldn’t your belief and love for neighbor compel you to warn them? Summed up in a sentence, such Christians might well say, “Because I believe you are sinning, I want you to repent so that you will be saved.” Is that hateful? Misguided, perhaps; but hatred?

    Again, thanks for your time and discussion.

    Tim

    • Sure. I’m still tracking down the official definition which does not include bestiality and pedophilia. May be a few weeks because I’m about to be offline for a while.

      If Christians want to equate homosexuality with other sins mentioned in the scriptures, which is certainly a valid endeavor, then why arent Christian florists refusing to provide flowers for weddings of people who have been divorced or had affairs or lied to their parents or taken the name of the Lord in vain?

      Somehow, homosexuality, which is barely mentioned in scripture, has become THE sin above sins. It has eclipsed other issues like hospitality and welcoming the stranger, and care for widows and orphans, among other things that scripture spends far more time addressing.

      Why does treating gay and trans people require exclusionary treatment that the Christian right does not require of other “sins” and why would it trump God’s call to love thy neighbor as thyself?

  5. Hi, Marci. Thanks again for the response.

    I don’t know that most Christians see homosexuality as “THE sin above sins.”

    I think part of this is context. Unlike divorce and adultery and taking the Lord’s name in vain, there isn’t an ongoing effort to legitimize these further in society. If there was a legislative hearing devoted to expanding the rights of adulterers or mandating blasphemy, I imagine a fair number of Christians would show up and object to those too.

    Second, most Christians I know would say that this is about repentance, not specific sins. Rather than a Christian florist, I think I can better illustrate with a Christian baker. Let’s say that someone walks into a bakery run by a Christian and says, “I want a cake to celebrate my adultery.” To accept that order would be to assist and promote impenitence of that sin, which is antithetical to what a Christian wants to do for his neighbor. Let’s say someone walks in and wants a cake celebrating divorce: again, the problem is not so much the specific sin as it is the impenitence that goes with it, and the baker doesn’t want to promote a lack of repentance. Or let’s say someone wants a cake that blasphemes God: the problem is not so much the specific sin, as much as the impenitence that goes with it. Or if someone wants a cake for a same-sex marriage from the same baker (assuming the baker also considers homosexuality a sin), the problem for the baker is that the same-sex marriage automatically signals impenitence, which he doesn’t want to assist or promote because he believes it harms the eternal wellbeing of those involved.

    Is that hatred? Such a Christian would probably say that concern for the neighbor’s eternal wellbeing is love.

    At any rate, I’ll look forward to the official definition. I hope your time away is a good one.

    Thanks,

    Tim

    • Thanks. So, I’ve never seen a restaurant owner kick divorced people or adulterers out of their restaurants. I have seen gay and trans friends kicked out of establishments. Not because they asked the restaurant owners to make them gay themed food. Just for being gay.
      And if we’re concerned about the eternal well being of others as our main concern, I guess I would say that is not our job. We are not in the salvation business. God is in the salvation business. We do not save people. God saves people. We are called to love people. To welcome people. To treat them as we would want to be treated.

  6. Even if “eternal wellbeing for others is not our job,” I think you would have to concede that concern for another’s eternal wellbeing wouldn’t be motivated by hatred, yes?

    However, I’m not ready to concede the point that the eternal wellbeing of others is not our job. I think that the vast majority of Christians in the world would disagree with that statement. Of course, it is God who saves people, just as it is God who provides daily bread; but God uses people as his instruments to do these things. Manna doesn’t fall from the sky: God gives bread via the wheat farmer, trucker, baker and grocery store worker. He doesn’t zap people with salvation from on high, but uses Christians as his instruments to spread his Word to others, yes? And as Jesus called sinners to repentance, followers of Jesus would use his Word to do the same? It would seem from the New Testament that salvation is exactly what Christian churches are supposed to be about, and that would include warning of what God calls sin and telling of forgiveness for those who repent and believe in Jesus. In general, that seems the message of Christianity.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  7. Unfortunately the Bible, read literally, has been misused and abused by many people. Christians are known for shooting their wounded. Knowing how to love., showing true compassion comes from the heart. NOT from any book.
    Jesus walked the road of compassion. He didn’t judge his friends…he embraced everyone and acknowledged his divinity… We are all tabernacles of the divine. All about our true nature which is larger than ego… And that true knows that loving any and all individuals freely means giving the freedom of choice.
    Chose to be kind. Chose to be accepting and don’t perpetrate pain… May Nameste be the final word. And may freedom of choice be supported and embraced by…
    Even if a person has to bend their bias,
    Be kind…..work at it.

  8. Marci, thanks for your straightforward comments. Tim is doing the usual mental gymnastics Christians and other religious types must to fit their beliefs into the real world. It’s been done for centuries. Ask Galileo. I’m tired of the arguments against homosexuality. They have no basis in fact. Today is a day that will be remembered as America waking up from the Dark Ages of ignorance and bigotry.

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