Writing in the On Faith blog for the Washington Post, Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach claimed that evangelical Christians have "utterly marginalized themselves with their obsession over homosexuality." Is this true? To be sure, in the aftermath of the elections, a lively debate is taking place as to whether evangelicals have been marginalized politically or, to the contrary, have actually increased in influence. But what about our alleged obsession with homosexuality?
When Rabbi Shmuley made this accusation in a November 1st debate we had on the subject of homosexuality, I conducted an impromptu survey of the audience, which was almost exclusively evangelical, asking them to respond to four questions: How many of them heard a sermon in the last year on the importance of marriage? Virtually every hand went up. The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? Same response. The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)? The same response again. A sermon about gay activism? Not a single hand.
This, however, did not impress psychologist and professor Warren Throckmorton, who wrote on his blog, "While I mean no disrespect to his audience, I am not going to trust that they are a representative sample. I certainly disagree with Brown about the obsession of some evangelicals with homosexuality," citing other examples that allegedly backed his claim.
Are the rabbi and the psychologist correct? Was my audience not representative of evangelicals as a whole? (Bear in mind that the audience consisted of people who were interested enough in the subject of homosexuality to come to the debate, yet somehow, if Throckmorton is correct, they were less exposed to the subject than those who were not there. Go figure.)
Let's step back and think about this in terms of day to day, evangelical life. Every year, there are hundreds of thousands of sermons preached in evangelical pulpits across America, and there are thousands of evangelical books that are published, from novels to devotionals to commentaries to sermon collections to testimonies to books on doctrine, theology, prayer, discipleship, marriage, family, childrearing, worship, education, politics, missions, abortion, social action, and more. There is an almost endless stream of evangelical radio and TV shows, with millions of hours of programming, and there are hundreds of evangelical Bible schools, ministry training centers, colleges, universities and seminaries, offering thousands of courses between them.
Of all those sermons, books, radio and TV shows, and college and seminary classes, how many are focused on homosexual issues? Less than 1% would be a fairly good estimate; less than 10% could be absolutely guaranteed. (I invite Rabbi Shmuley or Prof. Throckmorton to challenge this estimate based on a survey of any of the data just mentioned, some of which is readily available.)
What about pro-family organizations like Focus on Family? Haven't they been obsessed with homosexuality? Actually, under the leadership of Dr. James Dobson, who stressed the importance of evangelicals being involved in the political process, less than 3% of the Focus budget was devoted to homosexual issues, including funds that were designated to help people overcome same-sex attraction. So, out of a budget that reached $130 million, less than $4 million was devoted to homosexual issues. Contrast this with the budget of an organization like the Human Rights Campaign, devoted entirely to promoting gay activism, and topping $35 million in 2010. Yet it is evangelicals who are allegedly obsessed with the issue?
As for evangelical voting in the elections, it is true that certain moral issues are important to evangelicals, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, but for better or worse, issues like the economy or the reach of the government play a much more dominant role, as seen in the recent elections. Plus, how much of our time and energy is spent voting or politicking?
The truth be told, it is actually gay activists who are obsessed with homosexuality (which is no surprise, since from their perspective, this is who they are and they are fighting a battle for equality and civil rights), and they are often joined in their obsession by an all too-willing media, which is also obsessively focused on anyone who takes a public stand against gay activism. And so, virtually every day, we hear about the move to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, or about gay teen suicides, or about the fight for same-sex marriage in the courts, or about gay-focused legislation like the Hate Crimes Bill or ENDA, or about some other gay-related story. And from another angle, as noted by Time Magazine's Michael Kinsley, "Kids are also exposed constantly to an entertainment culture in which gays are not merely accepted but in some ways dominant. You rarely see a reality show without a gay cast member, while Rosie O'Donnell is a coveted free agent and Ellen DeGeneres is America's sweetheart."
For the last two years, our president has officially recognized June as Gay Pride Month, and in 2009, he welcomed 300 gay activists to the White House to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots ("This is your house," he said to them). In the business world, 300 of the nation's biggest companies earned perfect scores from the Human Rights Campaign by kowtowing to their demands, while on our campuses, college professors have been fired and students expelled for expressing differences with homosexual practice. Yet the moment we draw attention to today's pervasive obsession with homosexuality or raise an objection to the queering of America, we are immediately accused of being obsessed. How convenient!
So let the truth be told. It is gay activists and their allies, not evangelicals, who are obsessed with homosexuality. We evangelicals are simply holding our moral ground.
Dr. Michael Brown is the leader of Fire Ministries in North Carolina and a broadcaster on Truth Radio Network.
Publication date: December 7, 2010