Soulforce founder Mel White says ‘holy terrorists’ are using the fear of God’s wrath against homosexuals to exert their will over individuals and the nation.
By Bob Allen
A Christian gay-rights activist has charged Southern Baptists with “holy terrorism” for opposing civil rights for homosexuals.
A resolution passed June 20 at the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans opined that homosexuality “does not present the distinguishing features of classes entitled to special protections, like the classes of race and gender.”
The resolution opposed efforts to frame same-sex marriage as a civil-rights issue and called on Southern Baptists “to fight for the civil rights of all people where such rights are consistent with the righteousness of God.”
Mel White, a former ghostwriter for Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell who came out of the closet in 1994 and founded Soulforce to oppose anti-gay rhetoric from the Religious Right, wrote in a Huffington Post commentary June 26 that the statement by Southern Baptists is just “another battle in their war to deny all civil rights to lesbian and gay Americans.”
While the resolution included pastoral language expressing love for “those who struggle with same-sex attraction and who are engaged in the homosexual lifestyle” and standing against “any form of gay-bashing,” White said the statement in fact “gives license to those who would kill us, and a license for us to kill ourselves.” He termed it an ultimate form of gay bashing, because it implies that in the end God, too, is a gay basher who will sentence the unrepentant homosexual to an eternity in hell.
“Ultimately, the Southern Baptist resolution is an act of what I call ‘holy terrorism,'” said White, author of Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality.
“Terrorists use the fear of human violence to exert their will over individuals and nations,” White explained. “’Holy terrorists’ use the fear of God’s violence to exert their will in the same way.”
While the U.S. government spends billions of dollars to protect citizens from terrorist acts, White said, “acts of holy terrorism like the Southern Baptist resolution in New Orleans are seldom even acknowledged, let alone condemned or confronted.”
When the SBC met previously in New Orleans in 2001, White led several hundred Soulforce protestors in a march to the meeting site in a mock New Orleans-tradition “jazz funeral” procession bearing a casket filled with stories of LGBT Southern Baptists who had killed themselves or been bullied, beaten and even murdered.
After SBC leaders refused to meet with Soulforce representatives, some of the protestors attempted to enter the meeting hall to take their message directly to convention messengers and were arrested for trespassing.
White said for the next 10 years Soulforce wrote letters, made phone calls, met with clergy and SBC leaders and created pamphlets “to respond to their lies about us.”
“Nothing worked,” White wrote. “They continue their war against us. These guys are serious.”
With 16 million members in more than 45,000 churches, Southern Baptists are America’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics. White said in his own ZIP code in Long Beach, Calif., there are about 30 Southern Baptist congregations.
“Wherever there is a Southern Baptist congregation, there are messengers who want to reverse the advances we have made, to amend the U.S. Constitution to deny us our rights, to silence us and drive us back into our closets forever,” White said.
White said it is difficult to remember that individual Southern Baptists “are not the enemy.”
“They are victims of the same untruth they use to victimize us,” he said. “They are good people who really believe that we are sinful and have no idea of the tragic consequences of their beliefs. We must resist their untruth for our sake and for theirs.”
White said the reasoning behind the SBC resolution “undermines our humanity, demeans our relationships, and sets us up for ridicule and worse — much worse.”
In an earlier Huffington Post commentary, White juxtaposed the SBC’s opposition to gay rights with the historic election of its first African-American president. While new president Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, told a reporter that it is “a new day” in Southern Baptist life and “our doors are open to each and everybody,” he also supported the SBC’s opposition to gay marriage by reasoning, “If God says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong.”
White compared opposing sides in the gay-marriage debate to two football teams fighting on a field to advance a few more yards toward the opposite goal.
“For conservative Americans under the influence of the Christian-right mentality, the goal is clear: Reverse the advances gays have made, amend the U.S. Constitution to stop gay marriage, and drive LGBT people back into their closets,” he said. “The goal for progressive Americans is to win full equality for their LGBT neighbors, and in the process end the war that holy terrorists on the Christian right are waging against us.”