The most recent event was the Supreme Court's decision to declare that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right. The Court's decision was certainly valid and welcomed by many. However, many of my fellow religiously conservative Christians (a.k.a., Christian Fundamentalists) responded in a variety of ways that were neither wise nor productive. Some were claiming that the sky was falling while others tried to calm the seas of restless souls. Most expressed an anticipation that we will be marginalized in some way because of this decision.
The bulk of opposition to the decision by religiously conservative Christians was that the Court's decision was wrong because their assessment of same-sex marriage is wrong. But such misses a Constitutional question: In the area of marriage, do we have a Constitutional right to be wrong. After all, we allow for other people of other faiths religious freedom and we view their religions as wrong. So why not give those who believe that same-sex marriage is valid the right to be wrong?
But what was missing in our response, especially in those reactions that anticipated a blowback effect on Christians, was any acknowledgment of the harm and suffering we have caused many people from the LGBT community. After all, it wasn't too long ago when homosexuality was a criminal offense. After its decriminalization, people in certain states could legally be harassed and even terminated from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Then we oppose any legislation that would make same-sex marriages legal and where that failed, many of us tried to pass Jim Crow type legislation that would allow businesses, in a Capitalist economy, to deny business services to same-sex couples in the name of our religious liberty, not the religious liberty of those same-sex couples who disagreed with us.
Because we are so focused on who is right on the issue of same-sex marriage that we lost sight of how we were hurting people. Indeed, some of us religiously conservative Christians might have thought that it was our calling to punish these sinners who practice homosexuality. Thus, their pain was not an issue for us, their repentance and public recognition that we were were right were the pressing issues of the day.
Just perhaps, the anticipation of hard times and marginalization made by some religiously conservative Christians might be a way of admitting that we had done wrong by hurting others. But that is not a sincere kind of admitting we were wrong and that we caused others undue pain.
If we wish to right our wrongs and gain back some credibility too, we will ask for forgiveness for how we have hurt those in the LGBT community with our self-righteous intolerance. But don't hold one's breath for that kind of repentance.
The other event was the nation-wide call for the taking down of the Confederate flag in the public square. This call has been way overdue. It is quite apparent that regardless of claims that the flag is displayed to show pride in one's heritage, such is impotent to wash away the blood stains of a hateful racism that continues to cling to every fiber of the flag.
What triggered the call for the repeal of the flag from government buildings was the tragic hate-crime perpetrated on a small church in South Carolina where a White racist, in cold blood, slaughtered a number of Black parishioners. We should note that while religiously conservative Christians were near unanimous in calling for the removal of the flag, we missed a couple of points.
The first point we missed was that the Confederate Flag is nothing more than a symbol of racism. Tearing down symbols, though giving us a sensation of moral empowerment, are merely superficial when not accompanied by more in-depth changes. We need to not only take down a historically significant symbol of racism, we need to dismantle racism itself.
Reducing racism is deceptively difficult. For we often think that all we have to do to eliminate racism it is to directly address hatred of those who belong to other races. Martin Luther King Jr. saw that reducing racism was a more involved problem than that. For in his speech against the Vietnam War, King said the following:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.1
When we read the last sentence King's statement here, we will note that he believed that one could not reduce or eliminate racism by addressing racism alone. One must also address the accompanying problems that are inseparable from racism. Those problems are materialism and militarism. We should note here that there are a variety of ways to express this idea.
And the above is the problem for the Conservative Christian Church in America. We believe that we can isolate racism from these other problems. We can't. That is because it is difficult for us to admit that we must address materialism and the economic system that pushes us into it as well as tone down our militarism. But we are too invested in both. As a result, we, according to King, will never fully address racism even though we might act against it in certain ways.
We religiously conservative Christians have had our first chance in reacting to the two landmark events of the legalization of same-sex marriage and the the national calls to take down the Confederate Flag and we have failed. But we will have more chances to react to those events so perhaps it might never be too late change and say what we should be saying about same-sex marriage and the Confederate Flag.