Never has the rift between gays and the church been more evident than in the past few elections. In the 90’s we made great strides toward equality and acceptance only to face a backlash beginning with the election of George W. Bush. Upon gaining a receptive ear as the new Commander in Chief, members of the extreme religious right began to push their conservative agenda. In exchange for their new political sway, they preached against things like gay marriage so their congregations would reelect Bush and other officials who campaigned as a defender of "family values."
It was during this dark period in which it seemed everyday brought a new story of an attack on gay rights that many of us developed a sharp disdain and even loathing towards organized religion of any sort. Christian groups like "Focus on the Family" wage war with the GLBT community constantly. We’ve become extremely defensive against any talk of religion since it has been used so many times in the past to hurt us. It’s gotten so bad that I tend to immediately dismiss anyone who tells me they are a Christian as a radical right wingnut.
I started out to write this post about yet another affront to our community in the form of a video game. As many of you already know as it’s been in the news for some time now, a Christian game studio has released "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," a video game based on the "Left Behind" books. Although rated "T" for "Teen," game players are tasked with the conversion or even killing of those who do not adhere to a specific interpretation of Christianity – including Muslims, Catholics, Jews… and homosexuals.
More specifically, the game:
- involves teenagers in killing non-Christians and Christians who do not convert to your particular form of Christianity (Source: LBET Game Tutorial and game play);
- teaches teenagers that those “seeking peace for all mankind” are with the forces of the Antichrist (Source: Left Behind Games Website FAQs http://www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/faq.htm);
- teaches teens that “activists” are “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” warning teens to particularly beware of them (Source: LBET Game Manual, p. 45);
- teaches teenagers that most musicians are “singing the praises of the antichrist” and that “rock stars” and “pop stars” make “formidable spiritual opponents” (Source: LBET Game Manual, p. 44);
- teaches teens that humanitarian aid workers who are not Christian, including medics, nurses, and doctors, have “had the veil of the antichrist’s deceit pulled over their eyes” and are therefore part of the enemy forces who may be killed (Source: LBET Game Manual, p. 41)
Several concerned groups have called for Wal-Mart, the nation’s number one video game seller, to pull the divisive game from their shelves. You can sign one such petition online here. My Jewish readers can also sign a petition from the Jewish community here. It will be interesting to see Wal-Mart’s reaction as one of the reasons the AFA ended their boycott of Wal-Mart was that the company "had agreed to stay away from controversial causes." Is it controversial only when gays and lesbians are involved?
Although I am not particularly religious today, I grew up in a house where our church played a large part in my life, so I can not even begin to tell you how much this game sickens me. Where is the Christianity that I learned as a child, the one that teaches of love and tolerance? What is this new radical Christianity that is being promoted where those who don’t believe exactly what you do are worthy of killing?
As I said earlier, this post was originally going to be about how the Christian church today had been taken over by extremists and now preached only hate. In my mind, organized religion was beyond redemption. Then, while researching more facts about the game online to write this article, I ran across one of the groups opposing it called CrossWalk America.
According to their website, CrossWalk America is "part of an emerging Christian movement – one that joyously embraces the love of God, neighbor and self (Jesus’ core values)." Their history states that in 1998, a group of Christian clergy gathered in a Phoenix coffeehouse, concerned about the increasing marginalization of moderate and progressive voices within the public sphere of Christianity. These clergy came from several traditionally “mainline” denominations – United Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Lutheran. The ministers’ original vision was to speak on a wide variety of topics, offering an alternative voice to that of radical fundamentalism. They also felt it would be important to include laypeople in their membership. However, at the time, there was so much controversy over gay and lesbian issues, largely propagated by Christian ministers, they decided to focus on this single set of issues for the time being, and to do so specifically as Christian clergy.
What?!? Clergy taking up the cause of gay and lesbian issues? I read on. Today CrossWalk America says that they stand for :
- openness to other faiths
- care for the earth and its ecosystems
- valuing artistic expression in all its forms
- authentic inclusiveness of all people – including God’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (lgbt) community
- opposing the commingling of Church and State
- promoting the values of rest and recreation, prayer and reflection
- embracing both faith and science in the pursuit of truth
"Wait a second," I thought to myself, "these are my values… or at least the ones I strive for." Could it be that there were still Christians out there that believed in the teachings I had learned in my youth? In reading through their website I confirmed that yes, there are in fact compassionate Christians still around today, and CrossWalk America aren’t the only ones. Although they had been silent way too long, the people of the church are finally raising a voice against the radical fundamentalists who hijacked their religion.
Yes, there are two faces to modern Christianity today. Terrible things have been done by people claiming to be doing the work of Christ, but I think we need to remember that there are those out there who still believe in Jesus’ core values of love and forgiveness. Whether we choose religion in our own lives or not, the GLBT community needs to encourage and support these progressive Christian groups in the fight to take back their religion. It is the only we will every heal the rift between us.
P.S. I was shocked to see that CrossWalk America started in Phoenix where I live. I had always considered this a red state, but I’m beginning to see blue shining through.
UPDATE 12/16/06 at 12:35am:
I’ve been away from the computer tonight for awhile. Wow! The discussion has really taken off. I want to thank you all for your comments regardless of which viewpoint or side you took. Having an open and civil debate about the issues that face us helps restore my faith in our ability to reach common ground someday.
I’m still reading all the comments, so please forgive me if I haven’t responded to your specific comment or question. I’ll probably get back to you directly via e-mail.