In four Gospels - including the Sermon on the Mount - Jesus neglected to mention the subject of homosexuality. But that hasn’t stopped a handful of self-appointed leaders of the so-called Religious Right from deciding that it is an issue worth the presidency of the United States. In what the Washington Times described as a "stormy session" last week, the Rev. Lou Sheldon, Paul Weyrich, Gary Bauer and eight other "social conservatives" read the riot act to RNC chairman Marc Racicot for meeting with the "Human Rights Campaign," a group promoting legal protections for homosexuals. This indiscretion, they said, "could put Bush’s entire re-election campaign in jeopardy."
According to the Times’ report by Ralph Hallow, the RNC chairman defended himself by saying, "You people don’t want me to meet with other folks, but I meet with anybody and everybody." To this Gary Bauer retorted, "That can’t be true because you surely would not meet with the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan."
Nice analogy Gary. Way to love thy neighbor.
This demand to quarantine a political enemy might have had more credibility if the target – the Campaign for Human Rights -- were busily burning crosses on social conservatives’ lawns. But they aren’t. Moreover, the fact that it is, after all, crosses the Ku Klux Klan burns, might suggest a little more humility on the part of Christians addressing these issues. Just before the launching of the 2000 presidential campaign, George Bush himself was asked about similarly mean-spirited Republican attacks. His response was that politicians like him weren’t elected to pontificate about other people’s morals and that his own faith admonished him to take the beam out of his own eye before obsessing over the mote in someone else’s.
The real issue here is tolerance of differences in a pluralistic society. Tolerance is different from approval, but it is also different from stigmatizing and shunning those with whom we disagree.
I say this as someone who is well aware that Christians are themselves a persecuted community in liberal America, and as one who has stood up for the rights of Christians like Paul Weyrich and Gary Bauer to have their views, even when I have not agreed with some of their agendas. Not long ago, I went out on a public limb to defend Paul Weyrich when he was under attack by the Washington Post and other predictable sources for a remark he had made that was (reasonably) construed as anti-Semitic. I defended Weyrich because I have known him to be a decent man without malice towards Jews and I did not want to see him condemned for a careless remark. I defended him in order to protest the way in which we have become a less tolerant and more mean-spirited culture than we were.
I have this to say to Paul: A delegation to the chairman of the RNC to demand that he have no dialogue with the members of an organization for human rights is itself intolerant, and serves neither your ends nor ours. You told Racicot, "if the perception is out there that the party has accepted the homosexual agenda, the leaders of the pro-family community will be unable to help turn out the pro-family voters. It won’t matter what we say; people will leave in droves."
This is disingenuous, since you are a community leader and share the attitude you describe. In other words, what you are really saying is that if the mere perception is that the Republican Party has accepted the "homosexual agenda," you will tell your followers to defect with the disastrous consequences that may follow. As a fellow conservative, I do not understand how in good conscience you can do this. Are you prepared to have President Howard Dean or President John Kerry preside over our nation’s security? Do you think a liberal in the White House is going to advance the agendas of social conservatives? What can you be thinking?
In the second place, the very term "homosexual agenda," is an expression of intolerance as well. Since when do all homosexuals think alike? In fact, thirty percent of the gay population voted Republican in the last presidential election. This is a greater percentage than blacks, Hispanics or Jews. Were these homosexuals simply deluded into thinking that George Bush shared their agendas? Or do they perhaps have agendas that are as complex, diverse and separable from their sexuality as women, gun owners or Christians, for that matter?
In your confusion on these matters, you have fallen into the trap set for you by your enemies on the left. It is the left that insists its radical agendas are the agendas of blacks and women and gays. Are you ready to make this concession -- that the left speaks for these groups, for minorities and "the oppressed?" Isn’t it the heart of the conservative argument that liberalism (or, as I would call it, leftism) is bad doctrine for all humanity, not just white Christian males?
If the President’s party – or conservatism itself -- is to prevail in the political wars, it must address the concerns of all Americans and seek to win their hearts and minds. It is conservative values that forge our community and create our coalition, and neither you nor anyone else has - or should have - a monopoly in determining what those values are.