Remaining faithful to Christian teaching doesn’t make you a bigot

Last month Apple CEO Tim Cook took the occasion of his induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor to draw an analogy between the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement.

“As a state we took too long to take steps toward equality, and once we began, our progress was slow — too slow on equality for African-Americans … and still too slow for equality for the LGBT community,” said Cook, a native of Robertsdale, Alabama.

The comparison is popular among gay rights advocates, but is it fair? That depends. If they’re making it against the state and the vile motivation of hatred, then yes. If they’re making it against the church and the virtuous motivation of faithfulness, then no. Some are attacking both, of course. Author John Shore takes the civil rights analogy further and targets what many believe is the source of the bigotry Cook referenced – traditional Christianity.

“If you vote against gay marriage or gay rights, you are a bigot — as surely as anyone who voted against civil rights in the 60s was a bigot,” Shore wrote in the Huffington Post. “If you preach against gay rights, you are a bigot … If you give your money or time to any Christian church or ministry that you know in any way actively works to restrict or limit gay rights, you are a bigot.”

Those who use the analogy are trying to appeal to a sense of logic and shame. They’re essentially saying, “If you support this, then you ought to support that … or else you’re a hateful hypocrite.”

When Christians counter that they’re only following scripture or sacred tradition, gay rights advocates reference eras when some churches supported racial discrimination and even slavery. Church teaching changed on those issues and will change on homosexuality, they think.

Maybe some denominations will, but not all. Some churches supported slavery and some now support gay marriage. You’ll find many views, but what about the world’s largest Christian denomination, Roman Catholicism? Where did it stand on slavery and racism, and where does it stand on homosexuality?

“When Portuguese explorers began to enslave the people of the Canary Islands, Pope Eugene immediately condemned the practice in 1435,” said Rev. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., a Catholic priest and host on Birmingham-based EWTN Global Catholic Network. “The condemnation was repeated many times over the following centuries, with the punishment of automatic excommunication for engaging in the slave trade.”

Catholic priests also walked hand-in-hand with blacks during the civil rights marches and count numerous blacks and other minorities among the church’s saints. The church unequivocally denounces racism as sin. It also remains firm in its unchangeable teaching on marriage and homosexuality. Cardinal Raymond Burke recently reminded us that even Pope Francis “is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage.”

So is this institution – which has defended the rights of minorities for centuries – inherently bigoted?

Writers like Shore believe that the tide is moving in a single direction and we’ll all eventually go with the flow. But for centuries Christians have been ridiculed and persecuted for holding unpopular beliefs. They were called all sorts of names, and far worse, for opposing immorality in centuries past, so it’s no surprise that traditional Christians are being called names today.

Some think it’s just a matter of leading the leaders away from the past. Liberal writer Sally Kohn wrote in the Daily Beast that it’s “hard to argue that opposing marriage equality is a central tenet of Christianity when majorities of Christian voters support same-sex marriage.”

It’s not a “central” tenet of our faith, but it’s easy to argue that Christians aren’t free to change doctrine based on what’s popular. Christ didn’t ask the Jews what they’d like him to do, and he didn’t ask his followers what his church should teach. The gospels weren’t market tested, either. Some parts were quite divisive. Once when his disciples couldn’t accept a “hard” teaching, Jesus let them leave rather than change it to something they’d accept (John 6: 60-69).

So if Christ didn’t base his teachings on what was popular, why should we change them now?

Originally posted on AL.com

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