by Rodney Kennedy
Rodney Kennedy has his M.Div. from New Orleans Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Louisiana State University. The pastor of 7 Southern Baptist churches over the course of 20 years, he pastored the First Baptist Church of Dayton (OH) – which is an American Baptist Church – for 13 years. He is currently professor of homiletics at Palmer Theological Seminary. He is also putting the finishing touches on his sixth book: The Immaculate Mistake: How Southern Baptists and Other Evangelicals Gave Birth to Donald Trump.
Some heterosexual Christians like to claim that their sins are forgivable because they repent and ask forgiveness. According to this account, homosexuality is itself the sin, and unless the homosexual person asks forgiveness, repents, and becomes a heterosexual, the homosexual person is condemned.
This works well for heterosexuals, whose obsession with gays and lesbians seems to have been the product of a frantic search through the Bible to find a sin of which they can’t be accused or convicted. They landed on calling “being gay” a sin.
Of course, almost all conservative Christians will put as much distance between themselves and Fred Phelps and his little family church, Westboro Baptist, because they all know how hateful, damaging, and awful Phelps was. But they can’t do it. Rebecca Barrett-Fox, in her book, God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right, rightly argues they are all in the same business.
Conservative evangelicals may make all the statements they wish about being welcoming but not affirming, about loving gays, about being redemptive, but they can’t hide from their antigay theology and hatred. Here’s a sample of what conservative evangelical preachers have had to say about gays:
- John Hagee: In legalizing same-sex marriage the “Supreme Court has made America the new Sodom and Gomorrah. God will have to judge America or is going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
- Pat Robertson: Accepting homosexuality “is the last step in the decline of Gentile civilization . . . This is not a message of hate – this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”
- Jimmy Swaggart: “I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that I’m going to kill him and tell God he died.”
- Charles Worley: “I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers but I couldn’t get it past the Congress. Build a great big large fence, 50 or a 100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed them. And you know in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.”
- Steven Anderson: “If you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.”
These are all members of Fred Phelps’ family. These same heterosexual Christians insist on a literal reading of Leviticus 18:22 – “It is an abomination to lie with a man as with a woman” – as their primary defense against gays.
But as Dr. Marvin McMickle has pointed out,
Why are the people who are so quick to quote Leviticus 18:22 and the evils of homosexuality so mute about what is found in the very next chapter, let alone the rest of the entire book?
If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to embrace the theology of those American Christians known as “dominionists”? An example of dominionism in reformed theology is Christian reconstructionism, which originated with the teachings of R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s and 1970s. Rushdoony’s theology focuses on theonomy (the rule of the Law of God), a belief that all of society should be ordered according to the laws that governed the Israelites in the Old Testament, specifically the book of Leviticus. Rushdoony is not the first Christian to read Leviticus and get everything wrong. His theology is a scary, heretical one, and yet there are dominionist preachers who have the ear of our president and are filling him with the idea of his anointing, and his right to rule the nation by the “laws of God.”
If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to advocate for stoning to death a man and women found in adultery?
If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to accept Leviticus 25, which says that every 50 years is a Jubilee to the Lord. This is a practical, actual, literal economic revival. All debts are forgiven. All prisoners are released. All land is given back to original owners. In Jubilee, the poor come to get their stuff back. The radical teaching of Jubilee insists that the practice of the economy shall be subordinated to the well-being of the neighborhood. Are evangelicals – many of whom are raising hell about food stamps and welfare – willing to take Leviticus 25 as seriously as they take Leviticus 18:22?
If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to take these verses from Leviticus 19, which connects our treatment of aliens with our economic practices:
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight, or quantity. You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall keep all my statutes and all my ordinances, and observe them: I am the Lord.
If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to heed the words in Leviticus in 23 that instruct us on how we are to treat the strangers and the poor:
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.
As Dr. McMickle has said:
Some Christians want to be able to embrace one favorite verse while ignoring all the rest. It does not and cannot work that way.
So my question for evangelicals stands: How much of Leviticus do you really want?