Countering a Theology of Hate

     For those who have been reading our social media posts and articles, it may seem like I, Kalie, have always been some kind of radical progressive. The truth is, I spent most of my life on the verge of becoming a radicalized conservative and was relatively close to becoming militaristic in my beliefs. In fact, the turning point for me was realizing that the only logical conclusion for my conservative beliefs was to actively eradicate LGBTQI2A+ people in the world. Luckily, that moment pushed me to leave those beliefs and eventually come to a place where I was able to become affirming and accept myself as trans and serves as a reminder that we need to be active in countering theologies that lead to harm.

This is that story.

Photo by Aiden Craver on Unsplash

Content Warning: transphobia, homophobia, and thoughts of genocide

I have honestly only heard one preacher talk about trans people from the pulpit before I left evangelicalism. It happened a few years ago when I was going to a Vineyard church in Georgia.

The pastor brought up a story about a trans kid in the pastor’s son’s school. According to the story, the son asked the pastor why the kid was transgender. The pastor, now making the point to the congregation, simply said “it’s sin.”

That was it, there was no look at biological, social, or even biblical factors for the existence of transgender people, just a dismissive, simplistic reason: “sin.”

Here’s the thing, this got my mind going about the impact of sin in the way I understood it at the time. If he was talking about an adult, I would have probably not have questioned his words, but the fact that he was talking about a child made me realize that the corruption of an individual’s own sin was not enough to make a child believe they were transgender at such a young age.

To me, at the time, the only logical conclusion was it had to be the sin of those around the child and the sins of the society at large that was corrupting them.

This was the moment that it made sense to me that the only way to follow my beliefs, protect children from “ruining their lives,” and save them from spending an eternity in hell was to eradicate those in our society whose sin was influencing and corrupting children.

To me, at the time, the only logical conclusion was it had to be the sin of those around the child and the sins of the society at large that was corrupting them.

Luckily, by this time, my experience in the military had introduced me to perspectives and people that were outside the evangelical circles I had grown up in. This enabled me to process this realization with a better understanding of the world. However, if I had this realization a few years earlier, I would not have had the experiences to keep me from becoming one of the militaristic people that we see today.

When I was first in seminary in 2010, we had a lecture in our “Biblical Worldview” class that asserted that the only reason that gay people existed was because of sexual abuse, which became my working understanding of anything queer for the next seven-ish years. Had I heard this sermon during that time, who knows where I would be now. However, the realization of the logical outcome of my beliefs made me seriously consider the way I understood sin and corruption.

One thing that stood out to me was the lack of evil in this “sin.” I had gotten to know enough queer people that I understood that the majority weren’t “intentionally evil,” but were in fact intentionally considerate and, to the best they could be, good. So, the level of corruption I thought it would take for sin to cause a young person to transition did not seem likely. In fact, it seemed impossible in light that I believed God also works in the world, not just sin, or demons, or some other force.

Ultimately, that sermon, which I now recognize was meant for evil, turned out to be good for me and helped me move towards the person I am today. However, not everyone has the same story.

In the news last week, a straight, cisgender woman was killed for having a pride flag in her shop window by a Christian who truly believed that queer people and their allies were evil, grooming children, and needed to be eradicated (all of which he publicly stated on his social media).

This story immediately struck me, because I know how much it could have been me doing the same thing.

It’s not that what this person did is out of the ordinary. The shooting in California happened because one man acted on the logical conclusion of the beliefs both he and I were given. I was just lucky enough to have been given other influences.

However, this also highlights the possible trajectory of certain religious beliefs toward marginalized groups. The beliefs that the man in California had were not simply his own. They are held by millions of people in the US alone. Most would say that they would never kill a person, but they will still vote for people who are actively using the same beliefs to enact legislative attempts at eradication against their own constituents.

Maybe not all will kill, but faithfulness to these beliefs creates harm nonetheless.

The holding to harmful beliefs without following the logical outcome enables those who will follow the outcome to their tragic ends. The truth is, I was onto something when I was looking at the corruption of sin, I was just looking at it backwards. The theology we had bought into enables those who will seek the destruction of others under the belief they are standing up for God and protecting children.

Marginalized people do not need allies that simply affirm them. We need allies that actively join us in countering the narratives that lead to death. We need people to be vocal about the harm done in the name of beliefs.

Adherence to theology over the intrinsic value of a human has and will continue to create harm in our world. The story in California is only the most recent. This issue has spread throughout Christian-European history and is ingrained into much of our tradition.

We must speak out and change the narrative from hate and violence to one of affirmation, solidarity, and love.

Kalie May
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