Despite declining membership and growing acceptance of same-sex marriage around the country, the Southern Baptist Convention is getting ready to double down on its anti-gay message. As an added bonus, their condemnation has gone all inclusive as they take special aim at the transgender community, who, up until now, had been largely ignored by the conservative Protestant denomination.
As members gather this week in Baltimore, Md., for their annual meeting, Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has already fired the opening salvo, condemning New Hart Community Church near Los Angeles for changing its anti-gay stance after pastor (a word the Christian news puts in scare quotes) Danny Cortez’s 15-year-old-son came out as gay. Instead of condemning his gay son and casting him out from the church and his family (which I suppose the SBC would have seen as the Christ-like thing to do), Cortez loved and accepted his son.
Mohler was further enraged by the church’s move to, y’know, love and accept their pastor (or “pastor,” as they write) and let him keep his job. The church has declared itself a “Third Way” congregation – open to LGBT people but not declaring itself either liberal or conservative.
On his blog, Mohler opined: “[T]he Convention’s constitution states explicitly that any congregation that endorses homosexual behavior is ‘not in cooperation with the Convention,’ and thus excluded from its membership. [ ... ] there is no middle ground, and no ‘third way.’”
One of its churches accepting gay people is just the tip of the controversy iceberg for SBC leaders during their meeting, however. Poor transgender folk are always complaining that their issues are largely ignored in the fight for civil rights for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Well, no more! The SBC is taking direct aim at transgender people at their meeting, opposing the “normalization” of gender identity issues.
Not only has Medicare ended its ban on paying for gender reassignment surgery, writes Denny Burke of Boyce College, but
School systems across the country are beginning to allow boys who identify as transgender to make use of girls’ restrooms and locker rooms. [...] The state of New Jersey has made it illegal for licensed counselors to help a child embrace a gender identity that matches his sex.
The horror! Next thing you know cats and dogs will be living together, wolves will lie down with lambs, leopards will lie down with goats, and lions and yearlings will live together. Such chaos God surely cannot tolerate. (See Isaiah 11:5-7)
One might rightly question whether this is the best move for the SBC at this time. I mean, a new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News found that 56% of people support same-sex marriage rights and half of those polled think it should be a constitutional right.
The poll’s most salient point, however, is that same-sex marriage is not the strong wedge issue that is used to be. In short, bashing gays doesn’t get people to the polls anymore.
While 30 percent of Americans say they strongly oppose gay marriage, if only half of them think it’s even somewhat important to their vote, you can deduce that only about 15 percent of Americans feel passionately enough about the issue that it has any impact on their vote.
Fifteen percent. SBC, do you hear that? Your base of supporters these days—those who are willing to join you in doubling down against the rights of their fellow LGBT human beings—makes up about 15% of the population. Seems to me the end of your journey to the dustbin of history is closer than you might think.
But, what do I know? I’m just a pastor, no scare quotes needed.