By Eric Jayne
The brutal practice of slavery was arguably the nation’s most disturbing human rights disaster in the 19th century. It was a subject that profoundly impacted Mark Twain who grew up in pre-Civil War Missouri. Even though many Christians today credit their religion for the abolitionist movement and the end of slavery, Twain knew better. “There was no place in the land where the seeker could not find some small budding sign of pity for the slave”, he wrote. “No place in all the land but one—the pulpit; it yielded at last [as] it always does.” Twain went on to say that the Christian pulpit “fought a strong and stubborn fight, and then did what it always does, joined the procession—at the tail end.” After slavery was finally abolished Twain observed that the biblical authorization for slavery persists: “The slavery text remained; the practice changed, that was all.” His words remain true today as tolerance is on the rise for gays and lesbians thanks to good old fashioned secular values and “illegitimate Christians.”
Over 20 states, including California (via Proposition 8), constitutionally banned same-sex marriage from 2004-2008. Campaigns in support of the ban received millions of dollars in every one of those states from Christian-based and Christian-influenced organizations. Additionally, Christian leaders like James Dobson, Billy Graham and his son Franklin, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed and countless other pastors, who hold sway with their local policy makers and voters, have been staunch opponents of equal marriage rights. After decades of fervent clerical opposition and mob rule tactics it seemed that same-sex marriage would be firmly banned for generations to come.
Recent events, however, have rekindled hope that same-sex couples will receive their due rights far sooner than seemed possible. Since 2008, four states—plus the District of Columbia—have joined Massachusetts in legally providing same-sex marriage certificates, and Proposition 8 is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court after a Federal judge overturned the California ban last year. Another significant victory for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) tolerance came in 2010 when a federal bill passed to repeal the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy.
It’s also important to note that Minnesota stands a good chance at becoming the first state in the nation to vote down a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A May 2011 Minneapolis Star Tribune poll
indicates that the majority of Minnesotans (55%) are against the amendment that will likely appear before voters next year.
While it’s true that some churches and church leaders actively support LGBT equal rights, as a whole, they are severely behind secularists, humanists, and freethinking atheists. It took until 2005 before the first mainline Christian denomination (United Church of Christ) endorsed same-sex marriage
. In 2004 the Episcopal Church kindly allowed LGBT’s to serve as clergy, but not before a contentious election that has divided congregations to this day. Five years later the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) followed suit, but that also caused a split among their congregations. Most recently, the Presbyterian Church made headlines after they also voted for gays and lesbians in the clergy. The United Church of Christ, however, remains the only mainline church to specifically endorse same-sex marriage.
The progressive change of practice within these religious organizations is the result of defiant church members who abandoned the anti-gay texts written in the Bible. Twain affectionately referred to such church members as “illegitimate Christians” because they rose “against a rooted wrong” despite its authorization in the Bible. Illegitimate Christians from the past, guided by a desire for human decency, eventually chose to ignore the biblical authorization to fatally stone disobedient children, adulterers, and Sabbath day laborers. Similarly, illegitimate Christians agreed to stop killing “witches” after massacring an untold amount of innocent victims even though the witch-killing biblical texts remained.
While gays and lesbians haven't necessarily been systematically massacred in America they certainly have been victims of various hate crimes--some fatal, and some of which have been encouraged by Christian-led inflammatory campaigns. Fortunately, many churches have recenlty become more tolerant of the LGBT community becuase of illegitmate Christians acting on secular humanism.
It will be interesting to see how the same-sex marriage debate unfolds in Minnesota as the 2012 election draws near. There’s definitely a shift in tolerance for LGBT rights, but it’s important to remember that the increased tolerance derives from secular humanism, which is completely divorced from the belief in God, acceptance of the Bible, and respect for religious dogma. When Christians reach the ultimate level of illegitimacy in their faith, and become freethinking atheists, human decency will surely thrive and we won’t have to reconcile severely outdated biblical moral codes with basic human rights.