February 26, 2020

What Adam and Steve Can Teach Us About Fundamentalist Christianity

apple in a tree

Hatred and bigotry directed at LGBTQ+ persons is nothing new. Considerable progress has been made toward reducing it and making it less socially acceptable, but it is still with us. Here in the U.S., much of the remaining bigotry comes from evangelical fundamentalist Christians. For several decades, they have had a favorite expression they use to remind the rest of us that they do not regard homosexuality as "natural." At least, I assume this is what they are going for when they yell, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

Of course, Adam and Steve are natural and even normal. Most young people recognize that, and this presents evangelical fundamentalist Christians with a serious problem. If they persist in their bigotry, they will continue to alienate the youth. That is not a recipe for survival. Many young people have trouble understanding why anybody would hate "teh gay" as much as some fundamentalist Christians seem to, and they have little interest in being part of a hate group.

In many regions of the country, evangelical fundamentalist Christians have gained such a well-deserved reputation for hate that some are now viewing them as hate groups. This has not happened everywhere. I have seen little evidence of it in Mississippi, for example. Still, it may just be a matter of time until it spreads to the states where fundamentalist Christianity is more prevalent. I certainly have seen evidence of changing attitudes among the youth toward LGBTQ+ persons here in Mississippi.

I found myself thinking about this the other day and contrasting modern attitudes with those I remember from high school. Back then, there were only a few openly gay kids in our school. While some of us were friends with them, we took crap for this. The assumption was that anyone who wasn't actively picking on these kids had to be gay too. And so, those of us with gay friends were treated like we were gay. I realize we had it easier than they did, but I point this out just to illustrate the scope of the bigotry. I remember seeing people physically recoil upon hearing that someone might be gay.

From what I can tell, things are very different today. According to most of my friends who are parents, sexual orientation is not the big deal it once was. Most of their kids have openly gay friends, and there are far more openly gay kids in school because it is far more acceptable to be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, etc. Some say that their children are genuinely puzzled when they run across anti-gay bigotry from fundamentalist Christians because it seems so foreign to them.

Filtered through my experience, the fundamentalist Christian bigotry does not seem foreign at all; it is merely an extension of the attitudes that surrounded me while growing up. I think one way I might be able to relate to how foreign it seems to today's youth would be to think about blatant sexism when I was young. By the time I was in high school, the garbage about how women shouldn't work outside the home or how men had to keep "their women" in line was widely recognized for what it was. The few times I can remember hearing anybody express those attitudes, even in a joking manner, it did not go over well. We knew better, and those attitudes seemed foreign to us.

As for the fundamentalist Christians, I suppose they've made their bed. For the last several decades, they have been on the wrong side of pretty much every form of bigotry and most of the other things we now regard as embarrassing (e.g., slavery, racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, prohibition). If we look at what they are most vocally championing today, we have a good indicator of what will be considered thoroughly unacceptable tomorrow. If they are considered by a growing number of people to be a hate group, it is difficult to feel sorry for them.

In the end, I think it comes down to this: those who devote their platforms to preaching hate are going to be known for the hate they have preached. Fundamentalist Christians have had many chances to learn from their mistakes but have chosen to stay the course. The outcome seems inevitable. Fewer and fewer people have any trouble with Adam and Steve. In the not too distant future, fundamentalist Christianity will widely be regarded as a hate group.