The next two Sundays, a coalition of radical gay groups comprised of SoulForce, The National Black Justice Coalition, and Equality Riders have coerced two of the nation’s most influential leaders into a closed-door showdown. Two of these groups (Soulforce and Equality Riders) are known for civil disobedience - even getting arrested in the name of GLBT justice. Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church and Rick Warren at Saddleback Community Church will meet with these folks on June 8 and 15, respectively. Although Hybels and Warren will undoubtedly defend the faith boldly, SoulForce and company have set up a symbolic media campaign designed to suggest that conservative churches are bending on their gay relationships and marriage prohibitions.
The gay community is revving up its engines for an all out push to “mainstream” gays in three phases of life - marriage, politics, and religion. In some ways their “civil rights” agenda could make them even more equal than others. Research shows that gays are more highly educated and earn more money than other Americans. Therefore, gays have come out of the closet and are taking leadership in many areas of American culture. For these reasons, it is difficult for me, as an African American, to buy into their continual comparison with the civil rights movement and the struggles of African Americans. Their sense of cultural rejection is becoming less and less of a reality. In fact, the “velvet mafia,” as they are called in the entertainment industry, has won many battles in the so-called “culture wars.”
Let me be a little more specific. The militant gay minority has waged a war for recognition on four fronts:
1. The PR and image front – portraying gays as the boy or girl next door.
2. The legal front – fighting in the courts.
3. The educational/ generational front - introducing kids to their way of life at earlier and earlier ages.
4. The religious front – attempting to change the foundational beliefs of the Christian church and ordaining openly gay ministers.
The most difficult target for them on the religious front has been biblically conservative churches. For example on Thursday May 1, 2008, 300 people protested the United Methodist Church's General Conference ruling that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible" with Christian teaching. The group demonstrated “peacefully” by stopping the conference proceedings for 15 minutes and singing the hymn “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
Compared to the demonstration of 200 gay rights supporters in Cleveland at the General Conference eight years ago, the 2008 outburst seemed mild. Nonetheless, there is the tone of intimidation in the tactics of pro-gay religious activists.
With this kind of history, you can understand that when I first learned that the American Family Outing was planning to visit my church in the Washington, DC area, I assumed that they could picket my church or harass my members.
While their letters and discourse promised civility, we believed that the invitation carried a veiled threat of picketing or disruption if we did not “talk.” Because of our church’s activism in religious freedom disputes, I have received death threats and intimidating e-mails and phone calls from individual gay activists. In light of this history, our church had a feeling akin to those of US leaders who have to decide whether or not to negotiate with terrorists.
Two Saturdays ago (May 24) the radical gay rights group, SoulForce, showed up at our church in Beltsville, MD for a “discussion/debate ” with our pastors. The next day their group of gay “families,” including children, attended one of our worship services. The group of 31 kept their word to act respectfully this time.
So why did they come to our church along with TD Jakes’ Potter’s House, Eddie Long’s New Birth Community Church, and Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church? And why are they going to Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Community Church? The answer is simple. Their goal is to force us to accept their lifestyle by slowly desensitizing us to their aberrant theology and practices. This change in tactics is an attempt to play the pity card.
During the next ten years, I predict that gays will attempt to invade the conventional, Bible believing church. They realize that their plan will not affect the current evangelical movement very much. On the other hand, they can set the stage to mainstream gays into membership at the average Baptist or even Pentecostal church.
It is no accident that this American Family Outing began the week before the landmark gay marriage decision came down from the Supreme Court of California. The ruling, which declared that same sex marriage is a constitutional right for citizens of that state, overturned Proposition 22 - the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Proposition 22 was passed in 2000 by 61% of the voters of the state. It made this declaration: "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California."
Although the mainstream media has played down the California ruling and New York Governor Patterson’s promise to honor gay marriage from other jurisdictions in New York, a battle about the marital status and rights of gays is undoubtedly about to occur. I expect a grassroots, political tug of war similar to the 2004 Presidential campaign. Evangelicals, be prepared for things to get rough.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.