Wine may represent the blood of Jesus in church, but whine is the religious right’s drink of choice these days. Having lost the culture war, their latest tactic is to falsely cast themselves as martyrs who are defending the faith and the right to free speech against an increasingly totalitarian majority. Perhaps the biggest crybaby is the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg. He seems to believe that anyone who stands up to his vitriolic hate speech and toxic lies is guilty of intolerance.
However, what professional victims like Sprigg really object to are people who are no longer cowed into silence and are finally standing up to bullies. There was a time, not too long ago, when Sprigg could spew misinformation and get away with it. He could demonize gays and dehumanize atheists and there was little opposition. Thankfully, this dynamic has changed. Sprigg and his fanatical fibs are regularly met with facts that expose his ugly bigotry. As a result, support for his incoherent and irrational positions on social issues has eroded. He sees this as a great conspiracy against fundamentalist Christians rather than acknowledging that the American people have soundly rejected his bogus arguments.
A CNN article by John Blake summarizes the paranoia of the Values Victim Caucus:
We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot.
Sprigg is not a victim but an aggressive victimizer. The only reason that he is labeled a “hateful bigot” is that he has engaged in hateful and bigoted speech. Laughably, the FRC spokesman couches his disdain for gay and lesbian people in the language of love. According to the CNN article, “Sprigg … says his condemnation of homosexual conduct does not spring from intolerance but a desire to protect gays from harmful conduct.” The extreme right seems to forget that the Internet exists and that their words are recorded for posterity, forever making them look like a horse’s posterior. If Sprigg is so concerned about the health of my family, why did he tell MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in 2008 that he wanted to “export” LGBT people from the U.S.? Why did he say on the same show, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior”? How is persecuting gay people, banishing them from the country where they were born or imprisoning them good for their physical or mental health? Such inconsistency and insincerity is why people have rejected the message of fake Christians like Sprigg.
If one wants to see real Christians who are attacked for their beliefs, look at those who are bold enough to stand up for LGBT equality. Pastors who act on their moral consciences and stand with their gay parishioners are often castigated and lose their churches. Anyone who doesn’t adhere to the party line is attacked or excommunicated. For example, after former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler tweeted his support for Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out as gay last month, a Wisconsin church allegedly disinvited him from an upcoming speaking gig. Why isn’t Sprigg defending the right to free speech of this particular Christian? Were Butler’s words not conservatively correct enough for Sprigg’s taste? And last September, Maryland state legislator Emmett Burns wrote to the owner of the Baltimore Ravens demanding that he silence linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for speaking out in favor of marriage equality. Where was Sprigg when Ayanbadejo’s right to free speech was under attack?
In an op-ed that discusses the marginalization of mainstream Christians, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni asks an important question:
But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the same dignity as anyone else?
[T]here’s a religious center. A religious left. There are Christian moderates and Christian liberals: less alliterative and less dogmatic, but perhaps no less concerned with acting in ways that reflect moral ideals. We should better acknowledge that and them.
And we should stop equating conventional piety with certain issues only and sexual morality above other kinds.
People like Sprigg apparently aren’t satisfied with simply being one voice in a cacophony of voices in the public square. They seem to believe that it is their God-given right to have dominion, and that their opinions are more important than everyone else’s. Such complainers are not victims of limited freedom of speech, as they falsely claim; they are simply on the losing end of greater exercise of the right to free speech, with the vast majority of people rejecting their debunked theories and archaic ideas.