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Why my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, like Donald Trump, do not need forgiveness from God, forgiveness for which the rest of us must urgently pray.
Once again, my fellow Christians have me thinking about the Bible. This time it’s about Genesis.
A generation ago, it was about Exodus. That was when I happened to run across a polemic by Robert Knight of the Family Research Council. Studies had shown that gay sex was unhealthy. It shortened life expectancy. And there was a link to the studies. The National Physicians Center for Family Resources, the International Healing Foundation, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality all substantiated the research.
One of the founders of the Family Research Council, George Alan Rekers, used those same studies in Florida testifying against gay adoption.
So I traced back the studies. It turned out there were no actual studies. They all traced back to one study. It was by Dr. Paul Cameron. The research involved the examination of the obituary sections of several gay publications. Dr. Cameron counted the number of deaths, added the ages, divided, and came up with the life expectancy of all gay people.
Really? That was the research?
Okay, so it was bogus. So were other research papers by Dr. Cameron supposedly proving that gay people were likely abusers of children and that homosexuality was contagious. In some instances, the good doctor quoted other experts, substituting his own words for theirs.
Professional associations take serious research … well … seriously. The American Sociological Association formally spoke out against his methods, followed by the Canadian Psychological Association. The American Psychological Association and the Nebraska Psychological Association made formal inquiries into ethical lapses involving his extraordinary claims. They eventually expelled him.
That was not enough for conservative Christian publications. The study kept popping up, until, suddenly, it didn’t.
So what happened? Did the Family Research Council or Robert Knight or George Rekers or other Christian groups decide that false witness is indeed wrong?
Well, not exactly.
It turns out that Paul Cameron had begun making assertions that made anti-gay activists a little uncomfortable. He told Rolling Stone Magazine that gay sex is dangerous because it is so much better than straight sex: “Marital sex tends toward the boring. Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does.” He said he had been attracted to gay sex since the age of three. So did that mean that other anti-gay activists should be asked if they also tended toward gay proclivities?
Then the co-founder of the Family Research Council, George Alan Rekers, who had been quoting those studies, went all Larry Craig on them. You may remember Senator Larry Craig as the very, ultra, anti-gay Senator who was arrested propositioning an undercover police officer…
Let me be clear. I am not gay.
…in the men’s room of an airport.
I never have been gay.
Rekers was not arrested. He was simply spotted hiring a youngster from a gay escort service to accompany him on a business trip. He later insisted it was to convert the youngster back to a godly lifestyle.
So all mention of George Alan Rekers was scrubbed from Family Research Council webpages. And Paul Cameron became Paul Who? His bogus research went into the biblical lake of fire. It disappeared from other publications as well, with the exception of an occasional footnote.
It was not exactly guilt by association. More like innocence by non-association. If the research had been valid, would it not still be valid? False witness alone, when it is against a vulnerable group, was not enough to convince a wide swath of my brothers and sisters in Christ to reject bogus claims.
The biblical commandment still lacks sufficient punch for some of us who still believe.
A conservative friend, in a bit of rhetorical triumph, pointed to a recent article by Tony Perkins of that same Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins points to three instances of Black Lives Matter mobs attacking religious symbols. In one case we, as a mob, apparently burned down a church. Other mobs defaced statues of the Virgin Mary in Boston and New York. In actuality, there seem to have been no mobs involved in any of the incidents.
The article links to a news account that mentions nothing of any mob attacking the church, but does report this:
There was no obvious evidence that the blaze had been set.
No mob. No arsonist, as of yet. No Black Lives Matter.
The Virgin Mary in Boston was damaged when some unknown individual set fire to flowers in the hands of the statue. In New York, the statue was defaced with the word “Idol”. Police are trying to identify an individual caught on video at night. It reminds me of the rhetorical attacks during my youth on Catholics by Protestant conservatives. Idol worship was a frequent accusation.
In these more recent attacks, no mobs. No Black Lives Matter.
Other slurs at least have the color of threadbare legitimacy.
Black Lives Matter was once a movement composed of just three young people. They were angry as all hell after Trayvon Martin met a gunman one night in Florida. Trayvon was armed with a bag of skittles. He died and the gunman was freed because he had felt threatened by the teenager. One of the three activists said on tape that she considered herself to be a trained Marxist.
Technology has a way of making the abstract into something personal. Americans became angry as we watched a police officer sneer in triumph at a camera as he casually killed a man by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Largely on the strength of that video, the three individuals have become 26 million.
Some of my fellow Christians insist we are a Marxist movement based on that young person’s statement from years ago. They could be correct in the sense that Republicans are the party of voting rights because of Thaddeus Stevens and Abraham Lincoln, and Volkswagen is a Nazi corporation because Hitler once smiled at an automobile. To those who do not accept that logic, it is simply another violation of the two tablets of Sinai.
The existing racial order is part of what we have known all our lives. To some of my Christian brethren, going against what is seen as the natural order of things is going against God.
To some, false witness in the service of the Lord is an obvious exemption to the Commandments Moses carried to us in Exodus.
It is, I suppose, a minor violation compared with murder, or the taking of little kids from parents and putting them into cages. We are, after all, doing that to Jesus himself, according to His teachings. Conservative Christians, those with whom I commune, are pretty much okay with all that.
They follow a political leader who proclaims that he has no need of forgiveness and does not ask for it.
I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness.
And I AM good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that’s bad.
Which is why I’m thinking of Genesis. Many of us see the creation story, like much of the Bible, as inspired by God but written by flawed and limited people, people like ourselves. It was likely a campfire story that explained the universe to children, listening in awe as their elders spun the tale.
The literalists we know from Fellowship Hall, the true believers, know that Adam and Eve were real. They could have, and should have, lived out everlasting lives in happiness and peace. But Satan convinced them to eat the forbidden fruit. Suddenly they had knowledge they should not have had.
…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
In their own way, my conservative friends have already experienced the rapture, leaving the rest of us behind in our struggle to know Jesus.
In their own way, they do not need to struggle. They have journeyed back to Eden, back to a more innocent time, a time before sin and death.
They are untroubled by falsehood.
They are untouched by the suffering of little children.
They are unaffected by the persecution of others,
safe from fear, unmarred by concern.
They are immaculate in their innocence.
They have not eaten the terrible forbidden fruit.
And they do not know the difference between good and evil.