Quoting Scripture but preaching intolerance

In an essay published Tuesday, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Peter Buttigieg writes that he was well into adulthood “before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay.”
In an essay published Tuesday, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Peter Buttigieg writes that he was well into adulthood “before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay.” Associated Press file

Evangelist Franklin Graham, heir to his father Billy’s ministry, wrote a column recently in which he said the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was boycotting Wells Fargo Bank because the bank was “gay-friendly.”

But what struck me along with his narrow-mindedness was his comment that his position was not based on polls or trends, or Supreme Court wisdom, but “upon God’s word, the Holy Bible, written more than two thousand years ago … and not subject to amendment or revision.”

If he takes “the Holy Bible” that literally, then it must follow that he also endorses slavery, the subjugation of women, the sacrifice of the firstborn and all matter or evil carried out in the name of religion centuries ago.

As we await a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, religious groups who profess to be Christian but often behave as anything but Christian also are weighing in and openly exposing their intolerance.

Just a few days after Graham’s misguided essay, the president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, Southern Baptist, vowed never to officiate at a gay wedding, and the Southern Baptist Convention urged the Supreme Court to declare same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

“We do not need to define what God himself has defined already,” said the Rev. Ronnie Floyd.

The theme of his address, as reported by The Associated Press, was “now is the time to lead.” A better theme would have been “now is the time to heal.”

Here, I have a confession to make. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church in Kentucky, but had no idea at that stage what being a Baptist meant. My parents stuck with it even after my dad, who drove a beer truck for a living then, was told by one minister he was not welcome.

That may have been the beginning of my awareness of the hypocrisy of the Southern Baptist Church and my belief that to be a Christian should not mean discriminating against anyone because of race, sexual orientation, occupation or any other reason.

In his convoluted reasoning against gay marriage, Graham argued that “being gay-friendly is not an option, especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians.” That does not strike me as following the teachings of Jesus, who, to the best of my limited knowledge, never condemned homosexuality or even ever talked about it.

I contrast the statements of Graham and Floyd with a piece written a few days ago by the young mayor of South Bend, Ind., Peter Buttigieg, making it clear to those who didn’t already know that he is gay.

An officer in the Naval Reserve who served in Afghanistan, Buttigieg wrote that he was well into adulthood before he was prepared to acknowledge “the simple fact that I am gay,” especially growing up in a comparatively small Midwest city.

“Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor,” he wrote.

But his comment I liked best, as opposed to the underlying hatred that seems implicit in the comments by Franklin and Floyd, was that what ultimately will guide us toward the path of equality “will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings (and) our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love.”

Seems to me that sentiment also can be found in Franklin Graham’s “Holy Bible,” attributable to the man he claims to follow.

William Endicott is a former deputy managing editor of The Sacramento Bee.