Jesus said what defiles us isn’t what goes into our mouths, but what comes out. What we say comes from our heart, and from our heart come our sins, including evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, lies and slander (from Matthew 15).
It’s a familiar passage that fundamentalists and evangelicals have long used to clobber LGBTQ people. Maybe gay and lesbian people can’t control whom they are attracted to, they say, just as anyone cannot control what goes into their hearts. But they can choose whether or not to act on their attractions. And it’s these choices – the acting on their sexual desires (again making same-sex relationships all about sex) – that makes “homosexuality” unclean.
Bert Farias worries America has chosen to “normalize [the] shameful and abominable behavior” by affirming the worth of gay and lesbian persons. Choosing to accept LGBTQ people will be “the death rattle of a nation.”
Farias’ Exhibit A: the candidacy of Pete Buttigieg.
The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor could become the first openly gay president. He’s polling well among Democrats looking for a moderate candidate to take on Trump in this year’s presidential election. He’s also a married gay man who, as Farias reports for Charisma News, “publicly introduces [his husband] and even kisses him without shame.”
Farias writes a blog for Charisma News, which brands itself as “the most trusted source for credible news and insight from a charismatic perspective.” His Valentine’s Day post smears Buttigieg’s “abominable lifestyle,” a sign of a “debased mind.” He writes that Buttigieg’s candidacy makes us “numb and desensitized to this most shameful and abominable behavior. And that’s all it is: behavior.”
Farias hesitates to call Buttigieg a “homosexual.” People who believe homosexuality is a fixed identity are just “trophies of hell and Satan’s prized possession.” In Farias’ opinion, people aren’t homosexual; they simply choose to engage in sinful behavior, in defiance of God.
“This is Buttigieg’s satanic philosophy,” Farias opines. “Yes, the god he claims to be closer to is Satan.”
“History shows us time and time again how quickly we would demonize our neighbors if fed the right propaganda.”
What sticks out about Farias’s column is his suggestion that Buttigieg – and LGBTQ persons in general – are “worthy of death.” He tells readers that “those who commit such things are worthy of death,” and “When those who practice such things that are ‘deserving of death’ also approve of others who practice them, it is one of God’s final signs of His wrath on a society.”
This casual connection between same-sex attraction or relationships and being deserving of death did not go unnoticed, particularly by the gay press. Newsweek and The Independent also picked up the story. The Friendly Atheist blog said succinctly, “Farias preaches hate.”
These smears are nothing new. They’ve been used for centuries to dehumanize LGBTQ persons and deny them fundamental civil rights. We’ve seen similar rhetoric used to frame black people as inferior to whites. Nazis similarly smeared Jews as an affront to God. This rhetoric has preceded hate crimes committed in the name of the Lord time and time again. We should be able to recognize hate rhetoric by now.
When confronted about his rhetoric, Farias doubled down. He posted on his blog that many in the “gay community … hurled nasty insults and vile comments at me this past weekend because my article offended them.”
He continued: “All I did was to frantically flag them down at the bridge that was out, but they sailed past me at 100 mph [sic] flipping their middle finger at me.”
That response is a dodge, though, and it misrepresents his column. If ALL he said was, “America is hurting because a presidential candidate is gay,” his article might have been ignored. His critics aren’t metaphorically flipping him off because they got their feelings hurt. It’s because he believes – and chose to write – that LGBTQ people deserve to die.
Farias gave the defense you give when you don’t want to be held accountable for your words. It’s shameful. If Farias chooses to write that LGBTQ people are worthy of death, he should be willing to acknowledge why his words are offensive.
Farias could also counter that he’s just quoting the Bible when he says homosexuals are “deserving of death.” “Read Romans 1,” Farias could say, “and you’ll see that God thinks homosexuals have debased minds and deserve to die. To criticize me is to criticize God.”
But Farias didn’t merely quote the Bible; he used the Word of God to demonize LGBT persons. He used the Bible to put a holy veneer on his transparent hate. If Romans 1 didn’t exist, I have to wonder if Farias would still believe LGBT people are “deserving of death.”
Besides, I’m not sure Farias should use Romans 1 to justify demonizing people for having “debased minds.” In that same chapter, Paul writes of other signs of a “debased mind,” including “every kind of wickedness, covetousness, malice. Full of … murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers … inventors of evil … heartless, ruthless.” I wonder what Paul would think of Farias’ column.
“These smears have been used for centuries to dehumanize LGBTQ persons.”
Every society has its outliers who believe their perspective is good for society. And some of those outliers think they’re inherently superior to others. A few of them will think those “other” people are less-than-human. And among that group are a few who will tease the idea that those people deserve to die.
History shows us time and time again how quickly we would demonize our neighbors if fed the right propaganda. As a society, we’ve pretty much chosen to shun those who even joke about killing their perceived enemies.
The right propaganda can even make us act in hateful ways against our own families. The Trevor Project, for example, reports that LGBTQ youth who are rejected by their parents are eight times more likely to attempt suicide and nearly six times more likely to suffer from depression. The Human Rights Campaign estimates that 40 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth are LGBT.
Imagine how traumatizing it must be to hear a parent tell you, “Get out of my house. You’re dead to me.”
We can engage in robust debate and celebrate the exchange of ideas, but any call to harm or even kill others – whether explicit or veiled – has no place in a healthy discussion in any community and most especially in any Christian community. That’s why our more reputable news outlets do not elevate the dehumanizing perspectives of bigots with space in their op-ed pages.
Charisma News could have made different choices regarding Farias’ editorial. Minimally, it could have removed all references to LGBTQ people deserving to die, calling them Satanic or saying their acceptance is the “death rattle of our nation.”
Or of course it could have chosen not to run the editorial in the first place. Instead, it published the piece with the inflammatory language intact.
What comes out of the mouth – and on to a web page or a tweet – comes from the heart. “And from the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, false witness, and slander.”
Some truths about human – and Christian – communication are just as relevant in 21st-century America as they were in 1st-century Palestine.