No ‘Christian Compassion’ in Tony Perkins’ Response to Anti-Gay Bullying, Suicides

In a recent guest post in the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins railed against what he describes as the opportunistic evils of the gay agenda. He did so under the auspices of addressing the recent epidemic of gay teens who have committed suicide. I find it awfully clichéd that the post’s title began with the phrase “Christian Compassion,” but let me be blunt: There was no Christian compassion in that post. There was, however, a whole lot of political maneuvering.

I am a straight, white, male, evangelical Christian, just like Tony Perkins. Mr. Perkins, you don’t speak for me or a number of conservative evangelicals who are worn out and sickened by the same old battle cry you believe we should join. Many ask today, why should we join one side and fight against the other? Each time it’s the same banal response: For no other reason than that we should just fall in line against what extreme public figures deem a societal evil worthy to be fought against. That answer is just not good enough.

In his post, Mr. Perkins uses scare quotes in the phrase same-sex “marriage,” as if the label dictates whether LGBT couples live together and raise families. He does the same with the phrase “anti-gay bullying, as if the bullying of those gay kids who committed suicide was merely alleged to be anti-gay. Perkins writes:

I suspect that few, if any, such bullies are people who regularly attend church, and I would not be surprised if most of the “bullies” did not have the positive benefit of both an active mom and dad in their lives. Religious faith and a return to traditional family values are more likely to be a solution to the problem of bullying than a cause.

If it’s indeed true that “religious faith and… traditional family values” are the solution, then I wonder what Mr. Perkins’ excuse is? Bullies do attend church, Mr. Perkins—you’re one of them. I’m not saying that because I believe Tony Perkins should be affirming LGBT politics or theology. That is not the case. Until Jesus comes back there will always be an ‘opposite’ or an ‘other.’

What I am saying is that Tony Perkins is himself a bully because his engagement with this topic consists of getting as many people as he can to support him against someone else’s son, daughter, mother, father, aunt, uncle—all targeted to one specific population of people. The attempt to garner enough support within public opinion to make one irrelevant, less than or undignified are all signs of a bully; definable by any dictionary.

Even the infamous gay Hollywood bully, Perez Hilton, had a small awakening.

The incestuous cocktail of political ideology and carefully-selected scripture has formed a new and improved culture warrior. At the end of the day Mr. Perkins is doing exactly what he complains the LGBT community is doing to his worldview and the justification that to act in such ways based on ‘the other’ acting in those same ways is not acceptable. It’s also a shame the Washington Post gave voice to someone trying to win a battle and tear down bridges, instead of building those bridges for the Kingdom.

Reconciliation is a funny thing that takes shape in a number of forms within opposing communities. But one thing I know is true: it does not start or end with victory in mind. Reconciliation is best lived when Kingdom, on Earth as it is in Heaven, is the main goal of faithful establishment.

I would remind Mr. Perkins to remember a few of Jesus’ direct words. First, in Matthew 22:18-22, Jesus reiterates to the religious gatekeepers trying to trap him about governmental policy to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Jesus also made sure to remind everyone not to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin,’ as many recite, but rather to love the sinner and hate the sin in their own life.

A few years ago I was involved in a conversation with a partnered gay Christian and a man who identified as ‘ex-gay.’ The latter said: “It’s not free will unless I have the ability to go in the other direction [to pursue changing from gay to straight].” True. That’s the point of free will. However, it wouldn’t be free will unless the partnered gay Christian has the ability to choose to live as a partnered gay Christian.

Once these ideas were given voice the conversation quickly shifted, as each heard the other for the first time. When social policy, theology, and personally-tied emotions are parted for even the slightest moment, it becomes clear that at a base level no one wants their story or their journey to be labeled invalid; as if their life experiences never actually happened.

To agree or disagree with someone else’s outcome is a separate issue to the biblical mandate and human right to dignify the validity of someone’s experience as legitimate to them. Unfortunately the culturally acceptable medium of engagement is to only care about proving the other wrong and yourself right. With correctness comes power. Why would anyone in the LGBT community ever peacefully listen to Tony Perkins or his telling of Jesus and the prostitute, for example, when he hasn’t earned one ounce of credibility or the right, in their eyes, to do such a thing? It’s just another misguided attempt to assert a hierarchal power structure in place of Jesus’ incarnational teachings in scripture.

Tony Campolo recently spoke at a Living in the Tension gathering that my organization regularly hosts, bringing together all kinds of people—from non-Christian LGBT people to gay Christians to conservative and liberal straight Christians and non-Christian straight people—closing with these words:

“If the church is to ever have an impact [on] today’s culture it has to start by giving up its power. We don’t win anything by using power; rather we are [here] to influence with love and service.”

Therefore I ask you, Mr. Perkins: stop being a gatekeeper and start acting like Jesus. All of Jesus—not just the parts you prefer to highlight.