Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: Appreciating the flimsy faith of America’s Christian leaders

My friend has been experimenting with organic mixology lately, and after a sip of one of his latest creations, the most encouraging review I could offer was, “It’s not as bad as I expected it to be.”

“Well then, ‘Cheers!’” he said, gleefully raising his glass for a toast. “But it still won’t become a regular recipe — it’s hell trying to keep the Gouda liquefied.”

The only folks more desperate for a compliment than Atlanta’s worst bartender are America’s Christian leaders, which is understandable given how lovelorn they’ve been in recent years. After being coldly scorned by the courts, pop culture and big business regarding LGBT rights, they’ve become desperate for any praise they can get, as evidenced by an emerging talking point among Christian conservatives.

“Do you know where gay people are being persecuted right now?” GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz asked actress Ellen Page after she confronted him at a campaign stop last year. “ISIS is executing gay people, Iran is executing homosexuals, and on the left, you hear complete silence about Iran hanging homosexuals.”

The recent uproar over “religious liberty” bills has prompted Republican politicians from Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to Georgia state Sen. Josh McKoon to decry the supposed hypocrisy of LGBT folks and liberals for not condemning Islamic homophobia with the same force that they criticize Christian bakers.

This is of course untrue, since neither Cruz nor McKoon would know about LGBT people being thrown off buildings in the Middle East were it not for liberal and LGBT activism. And it’s telling that the religious right is not condemning the brutality LGBT folks endure in Islamic cultures, but rather that it goes uncredited for not beheading homosexuals in the U.S.

So let me formally thank American Christians for their flimsy adherence to their faith, and for pretending their god does not proscribe the same punishment for homosexuals that we see being administered by Muslim fundamentalists. For if they followed their lord’s commands as faithfully as some Muslims do, Christians would be as barbaric and abominable as the “radical Islamic extremists” they regularly denounce.

A solid majority of American Christians couldn’t begin to offer a theological explanation for why gay people should no longer be stoned or otherwise “put to death.” Most would probably guess, “Because it’s in the Old Testament,” reducing half of their god’s word to a rough draft.

There are benefits to the superficiality of American Christianity, but it also makes it easy for believers to be exploited by opportunistic bigots. Throw $5 into a collection plate, or make it through two months of a page-a-day calendar of Bible verses, and many are ready to claim righteousness and justify any bias.

While Christians are begging government to protect their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” what they really want is for policy to enforce the incoherent exercise of their faith. One’s religion does not have to be perfect to deserve constitutional protection, but it shouldn’t permit folks to opt-out of public accommodations laws (i.e. civil decency codes) when they believe the Bible affirms their popularly held prejudices.

And Christian leaders should stop invoking Islamic homophobia as proof of their own virtue, because all it does is expose their spiritual envy of a group that loves and honors their god more than they ever could.