I am no stranger to religious conservatives. Many members of my family wholeheartedly choose to practice and develop spiritual identities according to different religious traditions, and I’m not simply equating this mindset with going to church every Sunday. Rather, they (similar to the majority of religious conservatives) choose to use the doctrines of the Bible as a blueprint for their lives.
With that being said, of course, some are more extreme than others. While some members of my family choose to reject ideas such as gay marriage and abortion, others prefer to take a different stance, as they support same-sex couples and a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, published a book Oct. 27 entitled, “We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong.” As the lengthy title suggests, the book revolves around various issues of gender and sexual orientation. Moreover, Mohler depicts a rather ominous “moral storm” that these two subject matters have, in his opinion, cast upon the entirety of the Christian faith.
Our culture has evolved with the legalization of gay marriage and movements of greater acceptance towards individuals who identify as anything other than cisgender. Mohler, however, questions what the consequences of this newfound acceptance will be for religiously conservative Americans. Emma Green, The Atlantic’s online managing editor, paints a picture of Mohler in her article, “Hating Queerness Without Hating the Queer,” published Saturday. As the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mohler is precisely who you would expect him to be. As Green describes, “he’s white, he’s male, he’s southern; he makes no apologies for his view that homosexuality is intertwined with sin.” Instinctively I take a brief pause to cringe.
As a college-aged woman from the Northeast, who also veers far off the path of “traditional” religion, I find it’s a no-brainer that my perceptions differ from Mohler’s.
While yes, I was raised going to church on Sundays and yes I did put my religious preference as Roman Catholic on the Common Application, lately I’ve been seriously questioning my relationship with the big guy upstairs and the way in which some of his doctrines are implemented down here in the mortal world. Mohler and his devout followers choose to take the Bible word for word, leaving no room for the toleration of “sinners.” There can be no Venn diagram within the realm of traditional religion. You are either damned as a sinner, or you will ascend into heaven where choirs of angels will great you with opens arms. Or at least that’s the idea.
What then should be done about the current cultural shift? Green notes that, “for so long, evangelical Christians implicitly owned American culture. Now, Mohler and co. are asking to be taken seriously by the new moral majority, whose lifestyles, marriages and families they deeply oppose.”
This is where I bolster the bulk of my criticism. Mohler is advocating for understanding, for toleration. He wants his religious beliefs and liberties to, “be taken seriously” by “the new moral majority.” In other words, he wants someone with my general set of beliefs to tolerate his inherent belief that all gay/queer/trans etc. people are going to hell. Certainly that’s a lot to stomach. The article furthers the idea that while Mohler, “resolutely condemns the choices, lifestyles, and self-declared identities of LGBT people, [he] also resolutely affirms that their underlying struggle is real.” It’s a puzzling contradiction that I’m still attempting to understand.
After reading the article, one that did leave me with hope (albeit only a tiny glimmer) that Mohler may actually advocate for increased patience and toleration toward “sinners,” I took it upon myself to do a bit of research on his new book. After visiting his website I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised, to find a full page of text laced with narrow-mindedness and brutal condemnation. To provide a few examples, Mohler agonizes that, “the question haunts us: How is it possible that marriage itself could be redefined to include a man married to another man or a woman married to another woman?” Furthermore, he continues, “marriage as a privileged and respected institution — even as an expectation of normal adulthood — is disappearing before our eyes.”
Now, does that sound like a man whose ready to implement toleration toward those who have opinions that differ from his own? He actively asserts to religious conservatives that they must “demonstrate patience” as opposed to vilifying LGBT people and their allies, and yet he continues to espouse Christian ideals in a hateful and derogatory manner. My advice to Mohler is simply as follows: if you’re looking for equally-reciprocated tolerance between two opposing points of view you, better begin by practicing what you preach.