Photo Credit: Sarah Nichols
"I will still preach the gospel when preaching becomes a hate crime. If we as pastors are arrested, then get my room ready." - Dr. Drew Landry, Spotswood Baptist Church, June 28, 2015
Yes, one of my childhood pastors actually said this. Out loud. I somehow assumed the deluded persecution I grew up under had dissipated. There was no way this huge Virginia church, boasting thousands of members, could have remained as bigoted as it was in 1995. Times had changed. People now have home internet and a significantly higher degree of access to information.
"I don't care how many people march on Washington, homosexuality will always be an abomination!" was a popular sentiment during my childhood. It's no wonder so many LGBT youth in such environments find life too hard to bear. I listened in sadness as I thought about the kids being traumatized by this band of bigots that abused me as a child.
I was raised to hate others, including myself. Muslims and gays were the absolute worst. Episcopalians and Catholics hovered somewhere in the mid-range. Methodists? Well, maybe they were going to Hell. We weren't totally sure yet.
On June 28, 2015, here was Dr. Drew Landry, senior pastor of Spotswood Baptist Church, once again disingenuously stirring the fears of those who live under a false sense of persecution. These people seriously believe someone wishes to arrest pastors for their worn out hate diatribes. And Dr. Landry is happy to prey on their naivety.
Informed citizens know that folks can be as hateful as they want. No one will arrest Dr. Landry or even has any interest in doing so. And I can talk about his vile words in public forums such as this. He could sue me. But I'd win.
He's not being persecuted, we're just both taking part in a time-honored practice called free speech. It's protected, and there's not a single reason to believe anyone is going to stop you or me from stating exactly what's on our minds unless we cross into the zones of harassment or personal defamation.
I'm a donor to the American Civil Liberties Union, which defends the right of hate-filled Christian churches to protest with signs exclaiming "God Hates Fags." Yes, I want that speech defended. Why? Because when I take a freedom from another person, I take that same freedom from myself. Silencing painful language represents a threat to my own well-being.
LGBT Americans don't want to nullify your free speech rights, Dr. Landry. We've barely had a month to exercise our full marriage rights. In fact, we're still fighting for many of our equal rights. How in the world would taking away your rights help us gain ours?
It's absurd. It's also unconvincing, as evidenced by the way Evangelicalism is hemorrhaging young people.
As Dr. Landry decried "the homosexuals" winning equal rights due to "unelected" judges administering the law, his hate-filled congregation could be heard breaking out in applause numerous times on the published sermon audio. One of the more predictable moments of rapturous applause came during his proclamation that no pastor of his church would ever perform a marriage of two people who are the same gender.
I'm not sure how many same-sex couples he knows, but this gay man certainly isn't rushing to have a Southern Baptist perform his wedding.
I'd venture a guess that every clapping congregant knows someone who isn't a straight white Christian. Dr. Landry has certainly met me. And much of the pastoral staff knows me very well.
While his suggestion that "preaching the gospel" will become a "hate crime" is absurd on its face, his hyperbolic fear has a root in an existential crisis that's really happening. Bullying religious sects are rapidly losing power in the U.S.
People aren't afraid of right-wing Evangelicals anymore. They've fallen out of favor. Older folks who have escaped their various cults are angry and feel duped. Younger ones just think anti-LGBT pastors are idiots with their heads buried in the sand.
A recent poll by Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies found America would prefer to elect a gay American to the presidency than an Evangelical one. There's a reason for this, and it has everything to do with perceptions of character. Right-wing Evangelicals are lying. They're lying to themselves about the state of the world, and they're lying to the world by claiming they represent a sacred love.
It worked in an era where we were more disconnected from each other. It doesn't work when these churches want us to hate the people we love within our much more diverse contemporary social circles. The public wised up and outsmarted the right-wing forces of hate.
That's another reason I don't care too much about Dr. Landry and his ilk preaching bigotry from the pulpit. Soon, no one will be listening anyway. These harbingers of hatred are dying out.
So, carry on, Dr. Landry. But no one's getting a cell ready for you. In fact, if you ever need a place to stay when visiting New York City, this sodomite will put you up to demonstrate the character of genuine love and hospitality.