Gay Christians offendedby Gingrich

  • by Ed Ness
  • Wednesday January 25, 2012
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Republican<br>presidential candidate Newt Gingrich
Republican
presidential candidate Newt Gingrich

We are not "secular bigots."

Bigot is a strong word to hurl at someone. It especially hurts when you have personally been the target of bigotry. On top of that, to be called a secular or non-God loving bigot is too much. As a gay man who is a Christian, these words cut straight to the core.

The phrase "secular bigot" was voiced by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire earlier this month. Debate moderator Diane Sawyer asked, "Given that you oppose gay marriage, what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed, long-term relationships? What is your solution?"

Gingrich accused the supporters of marriage equality and same-sex couples adopting children as being "secular bigots."  He asked, "Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won't accept gay couples, which is exactly what the state has done. Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won't give in to secular bigotry?"

As a Christian who happens to be gay, I find it difficult to understand how being a supporter of marriage equality and child adoption by my partnered friends makes me a secular bigot. My friend Todd Ferrell is president of a faith-based organization headquartered in San Francisco called the Evangelical Network (http://www.T-E-N.org/). TEN is an association of LGBT affirming evangelical Christian ministries that advocates for gay Christians. This association knows that it is okay to be Christian and gay. 

"We are Christians!" exclaimed Ferrell in a press release sent out January 9 in response to the debate. "What Speaker Gingrich and the other candidates don't understand is how out of step they are with society and the church. While they seek to capture the attention of conservative evangelical voters, they fail to see that recent polls show Catholics, mainline Protestants, and evangelical voters are ever increasing in their desire for equality for the gay community."

Ferrell continued, "We don't want the Catholic Church or any church to close their adoption programs. How does this make us secular bigots? Secular is apart from God. Bigots are people who try to hold others back. We do not want to hold anyone back. Calling people names is not a Christian value and must stop."

The Evangelical Network includes local affiliates, Freedom in Christ Church in San Francisco and Celebration of Faith Church in San Jose as well as 16 other churches and ministries in the U.S. and Canada. A consistent theology among the affiliates is the understanding that there are no anti-gay biblical references and no biblical reference that prohibits marriage between same-sex partners. The Bible's mention of homosexual activity in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah refers to gang rape. Other times the Bible describes ancient same-sex rituals used in the worship of pagan fertility deities, which it condemns.

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas who has since dropped out of the Republican primary and endorsed Gingrich as the nominee, responded to Gingrich's comments on Catholic Charities during the January 7 debate.

"I am for a constitutional amendment that says that marriage is between a man and a woman at the federal level," Perry said. "But this administration's war on religion is what bothers me greatly. When we see an administration that will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act, that gives their Justice Department clear instructions to go take the ministerial exception away from our churches."

Among the millions of young people who watched the debate were those who were questioning their own sexual orientation and gender identities. How do they feel about themselves when presidential candidates are calling them bigots if quietly inside they support marriage equality or same-sex adoption? How should children adopted by loving same-sex couples feel? Is winning at all costs, regardless of whom you hurt along the way, how we want to be in this country? This is the real war on religion, especially when those attitudes come from people who claim to be Christian. What happened to love your neighbor as yourself, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

The Barna Research Group (http://www.barna.org/) claimed in a survey conducted in 2007-2008 that 60 percent of gay adults felt their faith was very important to them, and 70 percent of gay adults identified as Christian. Approximately 40 percent of gay respondents said that they were absolutely committed to their Christian faith.

The Public Religion Research Institute (http://www.publicreligion.org/) conducted its own study in July 2011. It found 52 percent of Catholics, 51 percent of white mainline Protestants, 34 percent of African American Protestants, and 19 percent of white evangelicals support same-sex marriage. It also found that 47 percent of the general public supports same-sex marriage. These are significant numbers.

 Mr. Gingrich (and Mr. Perry), you might want to do some research before you make statements to today's voters. To the LGBT community, I am sorry, on behalf of people who say they share my Christian faith yet choose not to be compassionate. Please understand some of us are fighting the good fight, the fight for love, patience, kindness, goodness, and grace. That is what Jesus taught and it is what being a Christian means to me.

Ed Ness resides in Oakland, California.