Pride Month has wrapped up for 2014, but not without two significant events hosted by the White House in the last week of June. On June 24, the White House hosted the first-ever Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights, headlined by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice. Two panels bookended Rice’s address and the forum was followed by a reception hosted by Vice President Joe Biden at his and his wife’s home.
On June 30, President Obama closed out LGBT Pride Month with a reception he and the First Lady hosted at the White House to celebrate the advances the Obama Administration has made for LGBT equality since taking office in 2009. President Obama gave an address highlighting the revocation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act with specific protections for members of the LGBT community and encouraged “national, state, and local community leaders, business leaders, grassroots activists, elected officials, and others” to not only continue to push for gay rights but also allow that energy to overflow:
“And that means fighting for poor kids. And it means fighting for workers to get a decent wage. It means showing compassion for the undocumented worker who is contributing to our society and just wants a chance to come out of the shadows. It means fighting for equal pay for equal work. It means standing up for sexual — standing up against sexual violence wherever it occurs. It means trying to eliminate any vestige of racial or religious discrimination and anti-Semitism wherever it happens.”
President Obama also made the comparison to the Civil Rights movement, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, by citing Dr. King’s famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Interestingly enough, some noted religious folk appeared at these two events. Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson was an avid participant in the June 24 forum. Post-Evangelical author and speaker Brian McLaren appeared in the first of the two forum panels and encouraged religious leaders to move to a place where they “oppose violence and replace stigmatization with equality in the name of God and religion.”
The June 30 reception guest list included formerly defrocked United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer and Southern Baptist pastor Danny Cortez, who have both achieved notoriety for opposing their denominations’ traditional stances on homosexuality. Cortez, pastor of New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, CA, received an invitation to the White House for himself and his son, aged fifteen, whose “coming out” finalized Cortez’ change of heart.
In addition to the invitations handed out to these four men, whose “religious voices” fit right in with other strong pro-LGBT voices, Rice’s address at the forum appear to reveal the government’s troubling desire to coerce religious groups to comply with pro-LGBT beliefs. Rice reached out to people of faith specifically:
“For the faith community, how can we reinforce to religious groups that God loves all the children of his creation equally? For the human rights community, how can we help activists work together to advance social justice for everyone? Because, if you care about equal rights for women or ethnic or religious minorities, you should care about LGBT human rights too. It’s all the same. And for the private sector, how can we make the strongest case that protecting rights is good business? These are the questions that I hope we’ll continue to work together to answer.
“Because when I listen to my own children and to the young people I’m privileged to meet with, I am filled with hope—hope that tomorrow will indeed get better for all people of the world, whether they live in Peoria or Peshawar. And I have no doubt that future generations will wonder why anyone ever sought to criminalize love or condemn another human for being true to him or herself.”
As a young millennial Christian, I find myself stuck in the middle of the supposed dichotomy Rice offers. This quote raises a significant question: do Christians who do not affirm homosexuality automatically reject the belief “that God loves all the children of his creation equally?” I have struggled to find a place to stand in the tension created between the teachings in Scripture about marriage and the far more numerous teachings in Scripture about love and compassion. I am taken aback by Rice’s accusation of Christians who don’t affirm homosexuality as unilaterally unloving, but I recognize that this issue does come down to loving people.
What then is love? Is the love of Christ which God calls us to reflect through the power of the Holy Spirit best represented by blanket affirmation and blind acceptance? Love of course involves affirming and accepting one another, but stopping there does a gross injustice to the love of God. Love instead calls us to be the best we can be and to fully live into the image of God found in each one of us.
Christians who step out and affirm homosexuality become popular in the eyes of our government (as evidenced by the four invitations mentioned above). Since when has acceptance from the powers and principalities of this world been a litmus test for faithful Christianity?
Soli Deo Gloria