Campaign Calls On Anti-Gay Leaders to “Repent”

Soulforce, the faith-based LGBT civil rights organization founded by Mel White, has begun its “Repent Campaign” designed to open up dialogue with right-wing religious leaders.

Currently, Soulforce is asking people to vote for which “fundamentalists you think most deserve our attention right now in this political moment.” The list is quite long and includes some well known names like National Organization for Marriage leader Maggie Gallagher, radio host and American Family Association public policy director Bryan Fischer, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, and supporter of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill Lou Engle.

The list also includes some prominent anti-gay African-American religious leaders like Alveda King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece who has made it her mission to crusade against LGBT people, Bishop Harry Jackson who has led a crusade to stop marriage equality in Maryland, and Bishop Eddie Long from New Birth Missionary Church in Atlanta, who has preached against homosexuality, but was sued in 2010 by several men in his congregation who alleged sexual abuse.

Some lesser-known names on the list include Christopher Yuan, a young “ex-gay” man who tours the country preaching that even though sexual orientation is not chosen, the only acceptable way for gays to live is in celibacy, along with Wheaton College provost Stanton Jones and Mark Tooley at the Institute for Religion and Democracy.

Interestingly, the list includes a couple of pastors who have been cheerfully wishy-washy on the whole issue of LGBT people: Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.

Osteen, of course, is famous for smiling and squirming when asked about homosexuality, claiming he loves gay people but homosexuality is not “God’s best” for humanity. Warren, appearing on Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show this week, compared being gay to slapping people and taking arsenic.

Here’s what we know about life. I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it. Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right. Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural.

His examples, of course, are of things that cause harm to others or oneself, which homosexuality does not do—especially the fight for the right to enter into loving, committed relationships—but folks like Warren never quite get how silly their “reasonable” arguments against homosexuality really sound.

Warren is, as you may remember, the guy who earlier had compared marriage equality to pedophilia, incest, and polygamy and also has ties to conservative Christians in Uganda.

Soulforce is asking participants to submit their stories about being LGBT and to express their hope for reconciliation with anti-gay leaders.

The campaign is ambitious, like most of Soulforce’s projects that seek to convert hardcore anti-gay leaders and organizations. Personally, I think it’s futile to go after people like Fischer or Engle whose anti-gay hatred is the bread and butter of their religious schtick, but receiving a package of stories from LGBT people from Soulforce would be a wonderful public relations boon as they rant against the messages of compassion and reconciliation they would receive. Others on the list, Jim Daly, Osteen and Warren, however, have more invested in looking “reasonable” on the LGBT issue and might embrace the chance to be seen being conciliatory, even if they never change their tune.

Either way, the campaign is a win-win for Soulforce…and who knows, miracles could happen.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)