Here in the flood zone of south Louisiana, you would be hard-pressed to find a single church or Christian organization (like the school community of which I’m a part) that isn’t in some way helping flood victims. I’m not talking about simply giving money. I’m talking about doing sacrificial work to help those who are helpless. I watched a report on NBC News last night about what we’re going through here, and was struck by the enormous distance between what they showed on that short clip, and the reality that people here see every day. It is much, much worse than most Americans know (see this for one glimpse, and imagine this multiplied by tens of thousands). The need is so great that there is no way this or any government could respond effectively to it on their own.
It’s also true that civil society couldn’t handle it on its own either. We need both — and that’s what we’re getting here. Istrouma Baptist Church, for example, is one of the biggest churches in the city, and has opened its campus as a staging area for relief operations (if you want to help, click here to find out what you can do). The work of the local churches, both big and small, in bringing desperately needed relief to the suffering is irreplaceable.
I was thinking about this yesterday, and thinking about how to many Americans, the thing most important to them about churches like those in this conservative part of America is that they (the churches) hold “bigoted” attitudes about LGBTs. In the years to come, those churches will be forced to pay a significant penalty for holding those views. Some people say that loss of tax-exempt status, which is what many progressives would like to see happen to dissident churches, will be no big deal. Why should their tax dollars go to subsidize bigotry? they reason.
It will be a very big deal. All contributions to churches and Christian organizations doing relief work are tax-deductible at the present time. This will likely go away, dramatically hampering the resources available to conservative churches like Istrouma to help the suffering in instances like this. Far as I know, nobody has seen crews from the Human Rights Campaign mucking out houses or feeding refugees.
Of course if they lose their tax exemption, churches will still do these things. But they will have many fewer resources with which to do so. Progressives either have not thought about this, or, as I suspect, they just don’t care. Purity on LGBT issues is all that matters.
Last year, the Baptist ethicist David Gushee was quoted by gay New York Timescolumnist Frank Bruni as saying that “Conservative Christian religion is the last bulwark against full acceptance of L.G.B.T. people.” Gushee has fully embraced gay rights, and doesn’t simply tolerate gay relationships, but affirms their goodness. Now he has written an extraordinarily important column laying out the future for Christians who reject the Sexual Revolution in its latest form. Excerpts:
It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions.
Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.
By “the issue” he means those who will ferret out suspected thought criminals, interrogate them, and force them to come clean about their bigotry. Gushee lists all the kinds of people and institutions of American life that embrace homosexuality and transgenderism and, crucially, stigmatize those who do not. It is a sobering list for those who are not on it. And he’s right. He also says that the Republican Party might still be officially on the side of moral traditionalists, but it’s plain that that stance is fast eroding (he’s right about that too). More at: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/we-have-been-warned/