(RNS) I have fond memories of growing up in my Southern Baptist church in Lexington, Ky. My father was a deacon, my mother taught Sunday school for 14 years, and - like all good Southern Baptists - we attended services on Wednesday nights and twice on Sunday. Several of our church leaders graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in nearby Louisville.
As a result, I was horrified - as all fair-minded Americans should be - to read the recent comments of Albert Mohler, the current president of that seminary and a board member of Focus on the Family.
In his blog (www.almohler.com) on March 2, Mohler explores the mounting body of scientific research suggesting that sexual orientation is shaped by biological factors. In doing so, he alludes to the Religious Right's slow and reluctant concession that sexual orientation is an innate human characteristic, not a behavioral choice. The argument that homosexuality is simply a behavioral issue is the foundation for the Religious Right's arguments against equal civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.
Mohler goes on to state, "If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is developed, and if successful treatment to reverse sexual orientation to heterosexual is developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin."
Later he adds, "We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior."
Translation: Straight people have a "sexual orientation" - LGBT people, even in utero, have a "sinful temptation."
Despite the overwhelming body of empirical evidence, policy statements from all the major mental health associations and the living testimonies of grace, love, and faithfulness displayed by LGBT people, Mohler and his friends remain unrepentantly determined to stand by their bigotry and love us into extinction.
Mohler acknowledges that we all "are equally made in the image of God." Yet he usurps the Creator's authority with the audacity to advocate eliminating - or at least altering - the existence of future LGBT people. Such are the dangerous tenets of fundmentalist ideology, and they should scare all of us to death.
Fair-minded Americans often make the serious mistake of dismissing fundamentalists. They fail to realize that all but a handful of the state campaigns to ban civil marriage for gay couples were led by Focus on the Family's "Family Policy Councils" - with Mohler sitting on the Board of Directors - as part of the gay-bashing fundamentalist vision to "reclaim America for Christ" and eventually write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution.
Rather than participate in the distraction of the same old tired debate about gays being sick, sinful or second-class citizens, let's start a new and long overdue conversation in America. We need to be asking: What are the symptoms of a sick religion, and what should Americans do to resist it?
To start, let's stop giving preachers a pass when they claim that LGBT people are "a threat" to children, marriage, the family, or Western civilization itself. Let's stand up in the pews in an act of peaceful protest when they abuse the pulpit to destroy the spirits of gays and lesbians. Let's not be afraid to call a lie a lie when they distort social science research to promote discrimination against LGBT parents.
As Americans, let's awake from our apathy and realize that the false anti-gay teachings of fundamentalist Christianity are responsible for breeding the fear and misunderstanding that leads directly to discrimination and destroyed lives.
It's time we as Americans confront the primary source of anti-gay discrimination in America: religion-based bigotry. We must reclaim our own faith and steadfastly refuse to allow fundamentalists to act as if they speak for all people of faith or all Christians.
Mohler does not own a copyright on the Bible or a patent on Christianity. He possesses no monopoly on a relationship with God. Fundamentalists like Mohler are not evil, but we must resist the evil they do. We must help them understand the immorality and tragic consequences of their destructive campaigns against the very existence of LGBT people. Lives - and souls - depend on it.
(Jeff Lutes is a family therapist with a private practice in Austin, Texas. He is the executive director of Soulforce, an ecumenical gay rights group. He and his partner, Gary Stein, are the parents of three children.)
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