Mark B. Baer, Esq.

Empathy and Relationships

Evangelical Christians Evangelizing Hate Must Be Stopped

American evangelical Christians' campaign of hate knows no boundaries.

Posted Jan 18, 2017

This morning, I read that a "mother stabbed her teenage son to death because he was gay."

Fox World News described the incident as follows:

"A woman in Brazil has confessed to stabbing her teenage son to death because she couldn’t tolerate he was gay, local media outlets are reporting.

The woman, Tatiana Lozano Pereira, lured her 17-year-old son to the family home after a heated argument on Christmas Eve. Once in the house, Itaberli Lozano was reportedly ambushed by the woman and two thugs she had hired to beat her son up to “teach him a lesson.”

However, the woman changed course and ordered the men to kill the boy as he was lying on the floor, severely beaten. When they refused, she took a kitchen knife and stabbed him herself, authorities said....

According to his uncle Dario Rosa and other relatives, Lozano had long been rejected by his mother for his sexual orientation."

What I find even more devastating is how this relates to the evangelizing of hate against the LGBT community by American evangelical Christians.

On July 5, 2016, The New York Times published an article by Andrew Jacobs titled Brazil Is Confronting an Epidemic of Anti-Gay Violence.

"The anti-gay violence, some experts contend, can be traced to Brazil’s culture of machismo and a brand of evangelical Christianity, exported from the United States, that is outspoken in its opposition to homosexuality.

Evangelicals make up nearly a quarter of Brazil’s population, up from 5 percent in 1970, and religious leaders reach millions of people through the hundreds of television and radio stations they have purchased in recent years.

American-style Pentecostal congregations are also playing an increasingly muscular role in Brazilian politics. Evangelical voters have helped send more than 60 lawmakers to the 513-member lower house of Congress, doubling their numbers since 2010 and making them one of the most disciplined blocs in an unruly and divided legislature.

Jean Wyllys, Brazil’s only openly gay member of Congress, said evangelical lawmakers, the core of a coalition known as the 'B.B.B. caucus' — short for Bullets, Beef and Bible — have stymied legislation that would punish anti-gay discrimination and increase penalties for hate crimes.

'Evangelicals are getting increasingly powerful and have taken over Congress,' Mr. Wyllys said.

During a televised presidential debate in 2014, one of the candidates, Levy Fidelix, said that homosexuals were unfit to be parents and that 'excretory systems aren’t for reproduction.' Jair Bolsonaro, a congressman well known for his conservative views, has recommended corporal punishment as a tool for turning gays into heterosexuals....

Conservative politicians have resisted efforts to teach tolerance in schools, and the police have shown little interest in adopting training programs to help rank-and-file officers tackle bias crimes. Victims of anti-gay and transgender violence say they often experience a fresh round of humiliation from the law enforcement authorities, some of whom are openly hostile to requests that they record a crime as bias-motivated....

Advocates say the constant homophobic violence also threatens to upend an idealized national ethos that promises equality and respect for all Brazilians."

Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest and the senior religion and sexuality researcher at Political Research Associates in Boston, explained how American evangelical Christians are evangelizing hate abroad in his article titled How anti-gay Christians evangelize hate abroad that was published in the Los Angeles Times on March 23, 2014.  In that article, he stated in part as follows:

"If you live in the United States, it's easy to be lulled into thinking that the battle for broader civil rights for gay people is nearly over. The last few years have brought important victories in courts, legislatures and at the ballot box, and momentum is firmly on the side of increased equality.

That's not true, however, in other parts of the world. The vitriol that has fueled U.S. culture wars for so long is now being exported, and some of our most ardent culture warriors are finding a far more receptive audience abroad.

In nations such as Uganda, Russia, Nigeria and Belize, an insidious homophobia engineered in America is taking root. I have seen this hate being spread with my own eyes....

In recent years, millions of dollars have been funneled from anti-LGBTQ evangelical conservatives to Uganda, funding local pastors and training them to adopt and mirror the culture-war language of the U.S. Christian right. Bahati and a notorious anti-gay pastor, Martin Ssempa, were personally mentored by U.S. conservatives. And powerful Christian right organizations such as the Family Research Council lobbied Congress to change a resolution denouncing the Uganda legislation....

By recasting LGBTQ people in their countries as creations of the West, these leaders both feed on and fuel existing prejudices. Strongly worded statements from President Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon merely reinforce the argument that the West is imposing an international 'gay agenda' on unwilling nations. The irony, of course, is that these 'anti-Western' policies were created and marketed by Americans.

The people of Uganda, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere are leading their own struggles for human rights. Their fight is difficult enough without campaigns of vilification designed by a handful of Americans who distort the meaning of the Gospels to justify the criminalization of innocents."

Kaoma is by no means the only person reporting on such things.  

Consider what James Kassaga Arinaitwe, an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow and a 2015 Acumen Global Fellow working in India, has written on this topic.

"There has been widespread criticism of the role that US evangelical groups had in influencing Uganda's recent draconian anti-gay legislation, But what is less known is how foreign faith-based, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are shaping many aspects of my country's development to suit their religious agenda….

When I returned to Uganda last year after a decade away, I was taken aback by the swift spread of the evangelical movement in the country, especially as I had witnessed its diminished authority in the United States and in myself….

The evangelical 'prosperity gospel' - which links faith in God to financial success - has a powerful attraction for poor Ugandans. Around 25 to 30 percent of the population has joined evangelical movements, a sizable chunk of the 85 percent of Ugandans who identify as Christian….

Evangelical NGOs in Uganda are now bigger and better funded than most secular aid organisations. They account for more than one-fifth of all NGOs in the country. As of 2002, evangelical groups' humanitarian operations in Uganda were already worth more than $2bn annually - a number which has doubtless grown - and they compete aggressively with secular NGOs to secure US government grants….

Evangelical groups' close ties to Ugandan government leaders have cemented their influence in my country.  Charismatic humanitarian pastors like Rick Warren and evangelical NGOs such as World Vision are increasingly invited to the official forums that help to shape Uganda's development policy….

Most damaging, this charity model promotes the privatisation of social services for evangelical target groups over the right to health and education for all Ugandans. It strips Ugandans of dignity and bypasses the government, absolving it of responsibility…. 

It's important to recognise that many evangelicals mean well in their outreach to poor Ugandans. But the unintended consequences of their charity projects have perpetuated systemic inefficiencies and failed to address power dynamics that fuel inequality in my country."

Generally speaking, those who take issue with same-sex marriage, and support the right to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, do so based upon their belief that homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice."  However, homosexuality is no more a “lifestyle choice” than is heterosexuality. 

For a bit of legal perspective, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  Furthermore, because sexual orientation and gender identity are not “lifestyle choices,” courts are increasingly finding discrimination on such basis to be in violation, according to the term “sex” under the Act. 

I’d argue that the only protection against discrimination by that Act based upon “lifestyle choice” has to do with religion.  People can and do choose and change their religion and religious beliefs all the time, and doing so is entirely within their discretion.  Such choices are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that, “Congress shall make no law respective of an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” 

In contrast to such “sincerely held religious beliefs,” however, sexual orientation and gender identity are not behavioral choices.  It is incredibly offensive and disrespectful to tell a member of the LGBT community that they should not be entitled to any constitutional protections, particularly when your reasoning is based upon constitutionally protected “lifestyle choices” you’ve made yourself regarding both religious affiliation and beliefs.

When judges typically deny civil rights and constitutional protections to members of the LGBT community, their decisions typically refer to being LGBT as a “lifestyle choice.”  Since people are not entitled to civil rights and constitutional protections based upon choices they make—unless, of course, those choices involve religious affiliation and beliefs—the denial of civil rights makes complete sense to them. 

As difficult as it may be for some people to accept, their “sincerely held religious beliefs” are “lifestyle choices,” which are subject to change.

For goodness sake, consider religious missionaries and evangelizers. Missionaries spread their faith and evangelizers “convert or seek to convert (someone) to Christianity.  Spreading faith or seeking to convert someone from one belief to another, by definition, means that religious beliefs are subject to change. 

This is by no means intended to make light of people’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Everyone has beliefs, religious and otherwise, and those beliefs shape who we are as people and our overall perceptions.  That is not insignificant and it’s disrespectful and insensitive to think or act otherwise.  In fact, missionaries and evangelizers do what they do because of the importance of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

That being said, the beliefs people hold at any given time, as sincere as they may be, are “lifestyle choices.” 

Barry Goldwater accurately predicted what would become of our society, should Christian “preachers get control of the [Republican] party,” which is why on November 24, 2016, ‘The Atlantic’ referenced the following quote to “Barry Goldwater, prophet”: 

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them...

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’

"Donald Trump predicted that if he won the votes of America's evangelical Christians he would win the election, and he was right."

On Nov. 9, 2016, Harry Farley published an article on Christian Today titled Evangelicals Hand Victory To Donald Trump.

In that article he stated as follows:

"Evangelical Christians turned out in large numbers to vote for Trump and were pivotal as he swept to power. They backed the Republican by 81 per cent to 16 per cent, according to ABC News. This is a bigger margin of the evangelical vote than was achieved by George Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

In Florida 85 per cent of white evangelicals voted for the Republican, according to early exit polls. In North Carolina that figure was 78 per cent as the state went to the Republicans by 50 per cent to 46 per cent….

Jerry Falwell Jnr, president of the evangelical Liberty University, who had publicly backed Trump, said the support from evangelicals was 'really encouraging'. He told the BBC: 'The evangelicals were largely supporting Trump well before the evangelical leadership was. The divide has been in the evangelical leadership, not the rank and file.'

When asked allegations of sex abuse and his multiple marriages Falwell responded: 'Evangelicals believe all people are sinners. We've all done wrong, we all need forgiveness. The Donald Trump I know has a big heart, he loves people, he loves this country.'"

As Jennifer D. Crumpton said in an article published in Time Magazine, 

"Ralph Reed and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. have said that it’s more important to elect a Republican with their 'values' than to stop an active sexual predator….

Those listening to Christian women defend Trump must understand that women throughout history—particularly in religious traditions—have had to ensure their survival in a male-dominated world through their willingness to ignore, go along with and even perpetuate misogynistic principles. I know: I was raised that way, too."

In her article published in Religion and Politics titled Donald Trump and Militant Evangelical Masculinity, Kristin Du Mez said the following:

"As Donald Trump prepares to take the oath of office, many white evangelicals will be celebrating. Yet the fact that “family values” conservatives continue to rally around Trump has bewildered many people, including a number of evangelicals themselves....

The truth is, many evangelicals long ago replaced the suffering servant of Christ with an image that more closely resembles Donald Trump than many would care to admit. They’ve traded a faith that privileges humility and elevates the least of these for one that derides gentleness as the province of wusses. Having replaced the Jesus of the gospels with an idol of machismo, it’s no wonder many have come to think of Trump himself as the nation’s savior.

Indeed, white evangelical support for Trump can be seen as the culmination of a decades-long embrace of militant masculinity, a masculinity that has enshrined patriarchal authority, condoned a callous display of power at home and abroad, and functioned as a linchpin in the political and social worldviews of conservative white evangelicals. In the end, many evangelicals did not vote for Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.

In Donald Trump, they have found the leader they have been looking for."

It is important to note, however, that "even evangelical Christians are not uniformly right-wing."

While a great many evangelical Christians' beliefs "are morally inconsistent with Christian principles of loving neighbor and antithetical to American values of 'liberty and justice for all", the same is by no means true of all Christians. In fact, an open letter to Trump represents 45 million Christians whose religious beliefs are consistent with "Christian principles of loving neighbor and antithetical to American values of 'liberty and justice for all.'"

As San Thielman wrote in his article titled Fellow white evangelicals: your votes for Trump shook my faith

"As we enter the era of Donald Trump, I have to confess that I only now understand how purely cruel my fellow Christians are. I find it hard to pray as a result.

White American evangelicals, who produced me, and among whom I must count myself, have thoroughly demonstrated how little we care about our representation of Christ to the world, how gleefully willing we are to put our own interests and grievances above the teachings of Jesus. And we have done that where we always do it: in the voting booth."

It's a grave mistake to believe that American evangelical Christians who are evangelizing hated throughout the world and working tirelessly to enact "Kill the Gays" type policies throughout the world don't want the same in their own backyard, right here in the good old United States of America.  

For example, "Florida anti-choice activists [a self-described group of evangelical Christians] have launched a campaign to amend the state’s constitution to ban abortion care and classify the procedure as first-degree murder, which under state law is punishable by the death penalty.

The measure would not only make a pregnant person seeking an abortion and the physician performing the procedure eligible for the death penalty, but people who use any number of birth control methods would conceivably be subject to execution by the state."

How about "The Sodomite Suppression Act, also known as the 'Shoot The Gays Initiative,' [which] was a California ballot initiative proposed by Matt McLaughlin, an Orange County lawyer [and evangelical Christian], that outlines seven measures relating to same-sex people engaging in sodomy including death for anyone who participates?"

California's Attorney General succeeded in her effort to have a court "declare the initiative facially unconstitutional and therefore ineligible to receive a ballot title or summary" so that it would not appear on the 2016 presidential election ballot.  

In The Connection Between Empathy Toward Others and Ethics, I conveyed how "empathy toward 'others' is strongly associated with ethics." As referenced in that article, the less "empathy" one has for "others," the easier it is for them to commit bad acts toward such "others" and to rationalize the morality of their behavior.  

However, "moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.... [Therefore], we should refrain from passing moral judgments on beliefs and practices characteristic of cultures other than our own."

As Gary Saul Morson said, "empathy is not all of morality, but it is where it begins."

This is further explained by author Robert Wright in his TED Talk Progress is not a zero-sum game, wherein he said the following:

"We need a major round of moral progress in the world–see less hatred among groups, less bigotry–racial groups, religious groups, whatever. There is no alternative.

Moral progress–morality is based upon self-interest–when your welfare is correlated with mine. That set the moral progress so far. It is in everyone’s self-interest to further the moral evolution.

Why do so many people around the world hate us? To really understand why someone in a very different culture does something is a morally redeeming accomplishment. True understanding is an expansion of your moral compass."

As Tim Leberecht so eloquently said, "Empathy, the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective, is the link between ourselves and 'the other' and as such is a critical concept for any functioning peaceful human society. It serves as the prerequisite of moral imagination and judgment; only if we are capable of accepting the other as a being with feelings do we feel compelled to act morally."

At this point, I'd like to return to Andrew Jacobs' article about the epidemic of anti-gay violence in Brazil.  The terms "tolerant" and "tolerance" were used six times in that article.

The following is a quote from J. Krishnamurti regarding tolerance:

You have your beliefs, and another has his; you hold to your particular form of religion and another to his; you are a Christian, another is a Mahomedan, and yet another a Hindu. You have these religious dissensions and distinctions, but yet you talk of brotherly love, tolerance and unity - not that there must be uniformity of thought and ideas. The tolerance of which you speak is merely a clever invention of the mind; this tolerance merely indicates the desire to cling to your own idiosyncrasies, your own limited ideas and prejudices, and allow another to pursue his own. In this tolerance there is no intelligent diversity, but only a kind of superior indifference. There is utter falsity in this tolerance. You say, "You continue in your own way, and I shall continue in mine; but let us be tolerant, brotherly." When there is true brotherliness, friendliness, when there is love in your heart, then you will not talk of tolerance. Only when you feel superior in your certainty, in your position, in your knowledge, only then do you talk of tolerance. You are tolerant only when there is distinction. With the cessation of distinction, there will be no talk of tolerance. Then you will not talk of brotherhood, for then in your hearts you are brothers.”

Interestingly enough, following the Orlando Massacre at the gay nightclub, I published a series of articles on violence toward the LGBT community as a result of anti-LGBT rhetoric.  One such article was Intolerance and Even Mere Tolerance of Others Is Toxic.  

So, why are American evangelical Christians doing what they're doing not only in the United States of America, but throughout the world? Because, they firmly believe that their lifestyle choices (aka religious beliefs) are right and that anyone who disagrees is wrong.  Their perception of superiority in that regard leads them to force their lifestyle choices on others through both their evangelizing throughout the world and in elections by voting for politicians who will enact legislation, interpret legislation and enforce legislation in accordance with their lifestyle choices. 

At this point, I'd like to repeat a quote about what James Kassaga Arinaitwe believes to be the most damaging thing American evangelical Christians have done in Uganda.  He said the following:  "Most damaging, this charity model promotes the privatisation of social services for evangelical target groups over the right to health and education for all Ugandans. It strips Ugandans of dignity and bypasses the government, absolving it of responsibility."

Isn't that pretty much what they've been desperately trying to do in the United States for a very long time and now have every hope of accomplishing, since they now control all branches of our federal government - at least once Trump takes office and appoints judges and justices to federal courts throughout the country, including to the United States Supreme Court?  Mind you, these are appointments which they successfully prevented President Obama from filling, so Trump can start nominating such judges and justices from his first day in office.

It seems to me that the time has come to distinguish between Christians who hold Christian values and those whose values could not be less Christian, even though they have the audacity to call themselves Christians.

As John Rawls said, "The bad man desires arbitrary power. What moves the evil man is the love of injustice."

Meanwhile, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

According to an article published in Christianity Today, "No Christian played a more prominent role in the 20th century's most significant social justice movement" than Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two months after Dr. King was assassinated for his social justice efforts, Robert Kennedy was also assassinated.  

Kennedy once said, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."  

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